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Posts tagged ‘strongholds’

THE SEARCH FOR FREEDOM: Demolishing Strongholds

(Adapted from the The Search for Freedom by Robert McGee)

Strongholds are those things which control us –they are compulsions.  Compulsions are those behaviors that we regret doing, but continue doing.  No matter how negative these behaviors are to us and no matter how we hate them, we still do them.  When we were very young, we developed patterns of responding to two worlds: our inner world and the outer world.  For most of us, the inner world of our thoughts, dreams, feelings, fears, and imagination is even more powerful than the outer world of people, places, and things.  As we move through each world, we encounter pain and pleasure.  Although we gravitate toward that which gives us pleasure, pain is usually a much greater motivator.  This is especially true of emotional pain.  The way we respond to emotional pain creates the most important behavioral patterns we have.  It is, in fact, these patterns that create the core relationship problems in our lives.  I can tell what I really believe by how I respond to life, not what I say I believe.  Here’s how the process usually works:

1) We are born and know little if anything about truth;  2) As we’re growing up, the people around us teach us what life is all about – Who I am, Who to trust, What’s good or bad, What I’m worth, What life and this world is all about…and so forth;  3) The things we are told become a system of beliefs upon which we evaluate all new incoming information accepted or rejected as we compare it with our basic beliefs (i.e., Basic Beliefs vs. New Information); 4) Our definition of “truth” becomes whatever it is that we have been taught, and our beliefs begin to dictate our behavior.  Then, as other people respond to our behavior, their responses tend to reinforce what we believe to be true.

In John 8:32, Jesus says, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  Is it possible to hear truth and not be free?  Sure it is!  It’s not enough to intellectually know truth.  We must know the truth experientially as well.  Intellectual knowledge can become dangerous if it is not put into practice.  Many people think their intellectual knowledge of Scripture makes them more spiritually mature than others.  Yet such people are not always better off for all their so-called knowledge.

God’s Word can be profitable only as the Holy Spirit provides understanding.  Scriptural principles that are learned and applied apart from direct interaction with God may be worthless and perhaps even destructive. But when we include God in the learning process, He helps us know and experience the truth.

God makes it clear that freedom is possible if we only put what we know into practice.  Although strongholds exist and hold power over people, they are problems that can be overcome.

In 2 Cor 10:3-5, God’s promise is:  “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.”

Contrasted against the ineffective weapons of this world, God’s weapons wield His power.  And because His power is infinitely stronger than the power of the flesh, only His weapons are capable of destroying strongholds.  These strongholds are so named because they are stronger than the flesh.  It takes a higher power to destroy them. The flesh is no match for the power of any spirit – God’s or otherwise.  Strongholds exist because of the influence of ungodly supernatural forces.  They can only be destroyed by God’s Spirit, Who is not only infinitely powerful but also is motivated by love.  God is Truth.  Satan is a liar.  As long as we believe Satan’s deceptions, we will not experience the freedom God intends for our lives.  We will live instead as slaves to the strongholds that are built upon false beliefs.  So many of the false beliefs we suffer from are negative messages we learned as children that continue to control us.  That’s why it is so essential to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor 10:5).  This is a key step.  It is one of those specific truths that must be experienced – not simply absorbed intellectually.  Spiritual maturity means consistently conforming one’s own thought life to the thoughts of God.

THE C.R.O.P. PROCESS – CONFESSION,  REPENTANCE,  OBEDIENCE,  PRAISE

Confession. To confess literally means “to agree with God.”  We need to agree with God that our strongholds are evil.  We need to acknowledge our sinful behavior as a major obstacle on our road to freedom.  True confession of sin is more than agreeing with God about the actuality of sin.  It must go beyond and help us to realize the reality of sin’s destructiveness.  Until we see evil for what it is, we will never understand the full depth of God’s forgiveness.  In addition to helping us see the destructiveness of our sin, confession helps us by revealing the connective ness of our sins.  We may confess the sin of lying, and God may show how the lying is connected to pride or a need to keep everyone pleased with our performance.  Our sins are usually connected to other sins.  If we allow God to show us the connections, we can clear out a network of evil from our lives.

With confession we are dependent on the Holy Spirit to show us: (1) our surface sins, (2) how each sin might be connected to other sins, and (3) the extent of destructive evil in our lives due to our sins.  Attempting to discern these things apart from the Holy Spirit will only lead into morbid introspection and the unveiling of hurts that will not be comforted.  The Holy Spirit knows exactly what and how much we are capable of handing.

Repentance. The concept of repentance is one of “turning back.”  Through repentance we turn from our self-willed approach to life and reestablish a face-to-face relationship with Jesus.  We often think repentance involves promising to do something to become more worthwhile to God.  By focusing on our performance, we miss out on what it really means to be in a relationship. When we truly relate to God, we can do no less than relate to Him as LORD.  We must accept His leadership and lordship in our lives through the Holy Spirit. Some of us find it hard to accept a complete yielding to God, especially those who have lived with great hurt in their lives.

Ironically, the more we need to control this yielding process, the less control we have.  Fear begins to rule because we feel if we lose control something bad will happen to us, something hurtful, so we refuse to yield to anyone – including God.

Trust is a precious commodity.  The Lord challenges us to: “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him”  (Ps 34:8).  Through repentance we “turn back” the control of our lives to God.  He’s the only One capable of handling it without all the hurts and fears that would otherwise result.  Associated with repentance is reliance.  For too much of our lives, we have relied on the patterns of childhood.  We cannot be in a state where we are not reliant on something or someone.  We will rely either on the patterns of our flesh, or the guidance of the Spirit.  Scripture states this clearly in Galatians 5:16 when it says, “Walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh” (NAS).  Unfortunately, we often try to turn from something without turning to the God who can set us free.  Pray for the courage and exercise of faith that only God can give so that you can repent and rely on God.

Obedience. In the step of obedience, we need to turn our attention to God’s power.  By the time we discover strongholds in our lives, we also see that we are incapable of doing away with them using our own power.  If we are to discover what God can do through us, we must learn to respond to Him differently than we have in the past.  If we have failed to respond to Him, or have responded in wrong ways, we need to change how we relate to Him.  If our confession and repentance are genuine, we should see things from God’s perspective.  Obedience shouldn’t seem like an unpleasant alternative.  It’s a change of response that we should be more than willing to undertake.  If we have prepared through true confession and repentance, we have tapped into God’s power to confront the darkness of our souls.  Does this mean our battle against evil is won?  Not by a long shot!  That’s why obedience is such an important step.  Continued obedience results in continued victory.  But it’s easy to revert to our old, self-centered ways. When we seek to take back the control of our lives, we set ourselves up for failure.  Yet God is quick to forgive us when we see the error of our ways and turn back to Him.  When it comes to obedience, we can learn by trying even if we fail.  A far worse mistake is to refuse to change how we respond to God and fall back into the same patterns that have always controlled us.

Praise. We are commanded throughout Scripture to offer praise and give thanks to God.  Probably praise is the highest form of spiritual warfare.  After genuine confession, repentance, and obedience, praise is not optional – it’s automatic.  The first three steps will produce freedom from our strongholds and an overriding sense of freedom in our lives.  As we experience this freedom that only God can provide, our hearts will praise Him.

 

AN EXAMPLE OF HOW THE C R O P PROCESS WORKS  (With Bitterness) –

Confessing Bitterness. We need to pray that God will search our hearts and find anything that might be there which would trace back to bitterness.  As we yield to the illumination of the Holy Spirit, we might recall events we have not thought of in years.  Allow the Holy Spirit to bring the truth to light.  It’s also important not to argue with the Spirit when such things are revealed.  Our first instinct will be to defend our actions.  Often, we give ourselves permission to react in destructive ways – rebellion, drug use, sexual activity, withdrawal, self-will, or passivity.  Things such as these can be connected to bitterness, and we need to deal with each stronghold.  Ask the Holy Spirit to show you how these responses have destroyed or limited your life.  Take your time.  Unless you experience with God what these improper responses have done to your life, you will not be ready to go forward.  When God says you have seen enough and you have confessed these things, then you are ready to go to the next step.

Repenting of Bitterness. Bitterness and its related behaviors are the products of a self-willed life.  The thought of living any other way will be frightening.  You may have heard about, talked about, and sung about the lordship of Christ for most of your life.  But at this stage, when you actually begin to experience it, you may experience a sensation of death within your soul.  You are, in fact, putting to death your old ways of responding to life.  This will feel uncomfortable and frightening at first.  As we repent and turn back toward God, there will be an awesomeness about the experience.  We clearly see who we are only by first seeing clearly who He is.

Obedience as a Replacement for Bitterness. Much of our behavior is not what it should be due to the bitterness we have harbored for so long.  God has shown us the problem areas and we have repented of them by agreeing that they are wrong and seeing the extent of their destructive influence.  But now we have to replace each of those errant behaviors with obedience to God.  In some cases, we already know what we’re supposed to do.  In other instances, however, we might need to continue to search God’s Word and seek His will for how to stop being so bitter.  Again, take your time.  God does not reveal problems without also revealing solutions.  As we begin to conform to His will in the ways we know how, we will begin to see what we need to do in the other areas as well.  It is through obedience that you see God’s complete power over the stronghold of bitterness.

Praise for Victory over Bitterness. The struggle against bitterness has been a long and difficult one, even with God’s help.  It has taken time and energy to see the extent of the effects of bitterness in your life.  It has been painful to repent of each of these things.  Replacing improper behaviors with godly ones has taken a lot of effort as well.  When you experience release from the devastating weight of bitterness, joy will fill your soul.  Praise will flow from your lips.  This newfound feeling of freedom will affect everything you do.  You don’t have to understand it.  You can’t understand it.  Just enjoy it and appreciate it.  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:6-7).

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER –

Going through the C.R.O.P. process will be difficult at first.  But as you begin to use the steps of Confession, Repentance, Obedience, and Praise on a regular basis, the process won’t seem nearly as cumbersome.  Since you are following the same pattern, you’ll quickly become accustomed to going through the steps.  When handled correctly, these steps are weapons.  No stronghold – not even Satan himself – can stand against them.  Strongholds can only be formed when you let a problem go unattended for a long period of time.  When you were younger, you didn’t know any better.  Your strongholds took advantage of your childhood patterns, your fears, and your desire to avoid pain at any price.  Now that you can see things a bit more clearly, you can eliminate those strongholds.  They will try to come back.  However, you will have destroyed the power of Satan in those stronghold areas.  So as long as you continue to draw on God’s power to face down your strongholds, they should never regain control.

AVOIDING COMMON FAILURES AND SETBACKS –

“I’ve tried this before, and it didn’t work for me.”

Some people don’t give it a chance.  These doubts are what Scripture calls “fiery darts” or “flaming arrows” (Eph 6:16, NAS).  Go back through the process and see where you may have gone about it in an ineffective manner.

“My case is worse than other people’s.  God can’t fix me.”

This excuse limits God’s power.  You will remain in bondage if you think God is not strong enough or willing enough to set you free.

I’m afraid.  What happens if I try and fail?”

Many people continue to do nothing because they fear the solution won’t work.  What do you have to lose?  It’s as if one has lost most hope of getting well and isn’t willing to risk the little that remains.  As long as you do nothing, you can hope your problem will go away by itself.  The thinking is if I try something else and fail, the little hope I have will be lost.  However, without overcoming this passivity by taking some kind of action in God’s power, the problem will never go away.  Indeed, it will only get stronger and harder to deal with.  If we direct the little bit of faith we have toward God, He will provide us with “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Eph 3:20).

“I don’t want the responsibility of freedom.”

While some people are afraid of seeking freedom and not succeeding, others are reluctant to risk freedom because they fear they will succeed.  They realize their strongholds are a prison, yet they’ve learned to cope with them.  They now know their way around. The pain is intense, but they are managing it…so far, at lease.  They may even realize that it’s a fairly sick way to operate, but it’s gotten them this far, hasn’t it?  It scares them to consider change.  If they become free of this stronghold, what will happen? The thought of freedom is just too scary.

“I gave it a shot, but forget it.  I quit!”

Some people simply quit too soon.  The pain generated by trying to break free seems too much for them.  Jut when they get to a breakthrough point, they give up.  Quitting before acquiring freedom makes it very difficult for a person to attempt the C.R.O.P. process again.  Patience and perseverance are required to get all the way through.

The Process of Developing a Life-Controlling Problem

SOURCE:  Living Free

John and Becky are 50-year-olds who attend church every Sunday and on Wednesday evenings. To look at them on Sunday morning, it would seem they are a happy Christian couple; however, the police know their address very well. During the last two years, they have become regular visitors to this home.

There are two life-controlling problems in this home.

John has uncontrolled anger, and Becky, though frequently physically and verbally abused, covers for his violent behavior because she believes it is the Christian thing to do. This violent behavior and unhealthy cover-up have gradually worsened over the years. John, who was abused by his father when he was a child, has been abusing his wife for years, but it has escalated to the point where her wounds can no longer be covered up.

These mastering problems have not only trapped John and Becky, but because they have been covered up and not dealt with, their children have also been caught in this web of pain.

A life-controlling problem is anything that masters (or controls) a person’s life. Many terms have been used to describe life-controlling problems. Someone may speak of a dependency, a compulsive behavior, or an addiction. In 2 Corinthians 10:4, the Apostle Paul uses the word stronghold to describe an area of sin that has become a part of our lifestyle when he writes that there is divine power to demolish strongholds.

The easiest life-controlling problems to identify are harmful habits like drug or alcohol use, eating disorders, sexual addictions, gambling, tobacco use, and the like. Life-controlling problems can also include harmful feelings like anger and fear. The word addiction or dependency can refer to the use of a substance (like food, alcohol, legal and/or illegal drugs, etc.,), or it can refer to the practice of a behavior (like shoplifting, gambling, use of pornography, compulsive spending, TV watching, etc.). It can also involve a relationship with another person. We call those relationships co-dependencies.

The Apostle Paul talks about life-controlling problems in terms of our being slaves to this behavior or dependency that masters us. He writes in Romans 6:14, Sin shall not be your master. In 1 Corinthians 6:12b, he says, Everything is permissible for me ‘ but I will not be mastered by anything [or anyone]. According to 2 Peter 2:19b, A man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. Anything that becomes the center of a person’s life if allowed to continue will become master of that life.

Because we live in a world today that can be described as an addictive society, most people are affected in some way by a life-controlling problem — their own or someone else’s. Everyone has the potential of being mastered by a life-controlling problem. No one plans for it to happen, but without warning, an individual (and those who care about him) can be pulled into the downward spiral of a stronghold.

Addictions and Idols

Idolatry leads to addiction. When we follow idols, a choice has been made to look to a substance, behavior, or relationship for solutions that can be provided only by God. We have a felt need to serve a supreme being; if we choose not to serve God, we will choose an idol to which we will become enslaved. Jeffrey VanVonderen says:

Anything besides God to which we turn, positive or negative, in order to find life, value, and meaning is idolatry: money, property, jewels, sex, clothes, church buildings, educational degrees, anything! Because of Christ’s performance on the cross, life, value, and purpose are available to us in gift form only. Anything we do, positive or negative, to earn that which is life by our own performance is idolatrous: robbing a bank, cheating on our spouse, people-pleasing, swindling our employer, attending church, giving 10 percent, playing the organ for twenty years, anything!

Following idols, which leads to addictions, prevents us from serving and loving God freely. All kinds of substance and behavioral dependencies lead to enslavement because everyone who makes sinful choices is a candidate for slavery to sin (see John 8:34). Jesus states in John 8:32 that the truth will set you free. God spoke to Moses in Exodus 20:3, You shall have no other gods before me. Sin, when unconfessed, strains the relationship with God that is meant to be enjoyed by the believer (see Proverbs 28:13; Jonah 2:8).

A very controversial question arises: Is an addiction a sin or a disease?

Those who believe addictions are sin point to the acts of the sinful nature which include a substance (drunkenness) and behavioral (sexual immorality) problem in Galatians 5:19-21. Another reference to the sinfulness of addictions is 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 which shows that a definite change occurred in the lives of the Corinthian Christians: 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.

Those who believe addictions (particularly alcoholism and other chemical dependencies) are a disease state the characteristics are progressive, primary, chronic, and fatal. In the latter stages, the victims are incapable of helping themselves because there is a loss of control and choice. In the 1950s the American Medical Association voted approval of the disease concept of alcohol dependence. The term disease means deviation from a state of health (Minirth, 57).

When sin and addiction are compared, they show similar characteristics. Both are self-centered versus God-centered and cause people to live in a state of deception. Sin and addiction lead people to irresponsible behavior, including the use of various defenses to cover up their ungodly actions. Sin and addiction are progressive; people get worse if there is not an intervention. Jesus healed the man at the pool of Bethesda and later saw him at the temple. Jesus warned him about the progressiveness of sin: See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you (John 5:14). Sin is primary in that it is the root cause of evil. Sin produces sinners as alcohol causes alcoholism. Sin is also chronic if not dealt with effectively. Finally, sin is fatal with death being the end result.

Although addictions do have the characteristics of a disease, I must stand with the authority of God’s Word as it pronounces various addictions as being a part of the sinful nature (see 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Galatians 5:19-21). They are sinful because God has been voided as the source of the solution to life’s needs, and these choices often develop into a disease. A noted Christian psychiatrist says:

Physiologically, of course, some people are more prone to alcoholism than others, even after one drink. And often guilt drives them to more and more drinking. But then some people also have more of a struggle with greed, lust, smoking, anger, or overeating than others. Failure to contend with all of these is still sin (Minirth, 57-58).

Anything that becomes the center of one’s life, if allowed to continue, will become the master of life. If God is not the center of a person’s life, that person will probably turn to a substance, behavior, or another person for focus and meaning. David describes his enemy in Psalm 52 as one who did not make God his stronghold but trusted in his great wealth and grew strong by destroying others (v7).

The young, rich ruler described in the gospels (see Matthew 19:16-29; Mark 10:17-30; Luke 18:18-30) came to Jesus asking how to receive eternal life. When Jesus told him he would have to sell everything he had, give it to the poor, and follow him, the young man went away sad. This rich man’s stronghold was the love of money. Everybody, not only the rich, must guard against this greater love of the rich young man. Paul writes: People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs (1 Timothy 6:9-10).

This stronghold, the love of money, is the root cause of most addictions that plague our society. Although alcohol is a major cause of deaths, sicknesses, broken families, and relationships, it continues to be advertised with marketing strategies which appeal even to America’s high school and elementary-aged children. The demand for cocaine and other substances would soon cease if there were no profits to be made. Sexual addictions are fed by an $8 billion industry of pornographic materials, appealing television commercials, and provocative movies. Compulsive gambling is fed by state-run lotteries. I wonder how much the love of money contributes to eating disorders. Many young women starve themselves to sickness and even death because of a greedy society that promotes an unhealthy thinness as beauty through media appeal and modeling agencies.

As the creation of God, each of us has a need to be dependent. There is a vacuum in the heart of every human since the fall of Adam and Eve that can be filled only by Christ. After our first parents disobeyed God, they immediately recognized their nakedness. Without God’s covering, they hid themselves from the Lord God among the trees of the garden (Genesis 3:8). They soon learned they could not escape from God.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there (Psalm 139:7-8).

It is interesting that Adam and Eve hid among the trees. They hid there because of guilt. Idols, which are false gods, can also become hiding places. Isaiah writes: for we have made a lie our refuge and falsehood [or false gods] our hiding place (28:15).

In a life where Christ is not the focus, a person is likely to center attention on a substance, behavior, or another person which will eventually become a god to them. David recognized the need to have God as his tower of strength.

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior from violent men you save me (2 Samuel 22:2-3).

The disease concept of addictions should be approached with caution. Assigning addictive substances and behaviors to the disease model tends to overlook the sinful nature of mankind. Although it is popular to label every stronghold as a disease, the Church must warmly care for those caught in the web of deception with ongoing support. It takes more than a pat on the back to cure them of their stronghold. Sinful choices develop into lifestyles that are self-centered and destructive. The fall of man puts us all in need of recovery.

How the Trap Works
Addictions and dependencies generally fall into three categories: substance addictions, behavior addictions, and relationship (interaction) addictions.

1. Substance addictions (the use of substances taking control of our lives)

  • Drugs/chemicals
  • Food (eating disorders)
  • Alcohol Other addictive substances

2. Behavior addictions (the practice of behaviors taking control of our lives)

  • Gambling
  • Compulsive spending
  • Use of pornography/other sexual addiction
  • Love of money
  • Sports
  • Other addictive behavior

3. Relationship (interaction) addictions (You may have heard a relationship problem like this referred to as co-dependency. )

Everyone has the potential of experiencing one or more of these life-controlling problems at some time. Maybe you find yourself already involved in an addiction or another problem behavior that has taken over your life. Sometimes it is hard to identify a life-controlling problem.

Here are some questions that may help in that process:

Is my behavior practiced in secret?
Can it meet the test of openness or do I hide it from family and friends?
Does this behavior pull me away from my commitment to Christ?
Does it express Christian love?
Is this behavior used to escape feelings?
Does this behavior have a negative effect on myself or others?

These questions help us identify problems that have reached (or are in danger of reaching) the point of becoming life-controlling problems.

The next step is to look at the ways these behaviors and dependencies tend to progress in a person’s life. Researchers have identified a pattern that follows some very predictable steps. Most people get involved with an addiction to receive a feeling of euphoria. Alcohol or other drugs, sex, pornographic literature, gambling, and so forth, produce a temporary high or euphoria.

Vernon E. Johnson, the founder and president emeritus of the Johnson Institute in Minneapolis, has observed (without trying to prove any theory) literally thousands of alcoholics, their families, and other people surrounding them . . . we came up with the discovery that alcoholics showed certain specific conditions with a remarkable consistency. Dr. Johnson uses a feeling chart to illustrate how alcoholism follows an emotional pattern. He identifies four phases: (1) learns mood swing, (2) seeks mood swing, (3) harmful dependency, (4) using to feel normal. Many of the observations made by Dr. Johnson and others, including myself, can also be related to other types of dependencies although the terminology may differ.

We call it the “Trap” because it often snares its victims before they realize what is really happening.

Every person has the potential of experiencing a life-controlling problem. No one is automatically exempt. Even though no one plans to be trapped by such a problem, it can happen without a person’s even being aware.

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Material from Understanding the Times and Knowing What to Do
Copyright © 1991, 1997 by Turning Point Ministries
All Rights Reserved

Habitual Sins & Failures — The Ones That Won’t Go Away

SOURCE:  /Ligonier Ministries

How Should Christians Handle Besetting Sins?

One of the great Christian classics is a devotional booklet written by Saint Thomas à Kempis called  The Imitation of Christ.

In that book he talks about the struggle that so many Christians have with habits that are sinful.

He says that the struggle for sanctification is often so difficult and the victories that we achieve seem to be so few and far between, that even in the lives of the greatest saints, there were few who were able to overcome habitual patterns. We’re talking about people who overeat and have these kinds of temptations, not those who are enslaved to gross and heinous sin. Now Thomas à Kempis’s words are not sacred Scripture, but he gives us wisdom from the life of a great saint.

The author of Hebrews says that we are called to resist the sin that so easily besets us and that we are admonished and exhorted simply to try harder to overcome these sins. You say, How do we escape these pockets of sin that we have such great struggles with, that we have an honest and heartfelt desire not to commit? If the desire not to do it is really honest and penetrates the heart, we’re 90 percent home. In fact, we shouldn’t be locked into something.

The reason we continue with these pockets of repeated sins is because we have a heartfelt desire to continue them, not because we have a heartfelt desire to stop them. I wonder how honest our commitment is to quit. There’s a tendency for us to kid ourselves about this anytime we embrace a pet sin. We need to face the fact that we commit the sin because we want to do that sin more than we want to obey Christ at that moment. That doesn’t mean that we have no desire to escape from it, but the level of our desire vacillates. It’s easy to go on a diet after a banquet; it’s hard to stay on a diet if you haven’t eaten all day. That’s what happens particularly with habitual sins that involve physical or sensual appetites. The ebb and flow of the desire is augmented and diminished. It increases and fades. Our resolve to repent is great when our appetites have been satiated, but when they’re not, we have a growing attraction to practice whatever the particular sins may be.

I think what we have to do is first of all be honest about the fact that we really have a conflict of interest between what we want to do and what God wants us to do. I think we have to feed our souls with the Word of God so that we can get what God wants us to do clear in our mind and then build a strong desire to obey.

Temptation: Is There Any Way To NOT Fall?

SOURCE:  Charles F. Stanley/InTouch

WHEN TEMPTATION KNOCKS

What makes a person successful at resisting temptation?

I believe the best way to discover how to overcome temptation is to look to the One who dealt with every temptation successfully and consistently. The writer of Hebrews wrote of Christ: “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15).

Since Jesus successfully overcame temptation, we would do well to study His strategy for dealing with it. Unfortunately, we have only one clear passage of Scripture describing Christ’s encounter with temptation. We know from the passage in Hebrews cited above that He was tempted more often than this, but the Holy Spirit chose not to include these in the gospels.

Strangely enough, Jesus’ approach is so straightforward and simple that many believers tend to overlook it entirely. Others, after hearing it, make the most ridiculous excuses as to why they can’t follow His example.

What was His strategy?

After 40 days of fasting in the desert, Jesus used Scripture—and only Scripture—to resist Satan’s temptation (Matt. 4:1-11). This is hard for me to comprehend. The Son of God—the One who knows all things and has the power to do all things, the One whose words we study, memorize, and meditate on—never made an original comment during the entire interaction.

He never drew on His own wit. He never relied on His own power. He simply responded with the truth of God’s Word. That’s all it took. Nothing fancy. Just the plain truth directed at the deception behind each of Satan’s requests. Jesus verbally confronted Satan with the truth, and eventually Satan gave up and left.

There are four primary reasons why a well-chosen passage or verse of Scripture is so effective against temptation.

First of all, God’s Word exposes the sinfulness of what you are being tempted to do. One of Satan’s subtle snares is to convince you that sin is really not so bad after all. God’s Word allows you to see things for what they really are.

A second reason the Word of God is so effective against temptation is that you gain God’s viewpoint through it. Since many temptations carry a strong emotional punch, you tend to get caught up in your feelings. Once you identify with the feelings temptation evokes, it becomes increasingly difficult to respond correctly. The truth of Scripture allows you to separate yourself just far enough mentally to deal with it successfully.

Another reason for turning to God’s Word in times of temptation is what one pastor calls “the principle of displacement“.1 This principle is based on the premise that it is impossible not to think about a seductive topic unless you turn your attention elsewhere. When you turn your thoughts to the Word of God during temptation, you do just that (Phil. 4:8).

If you don’t shift your attention away from the temptation, you may begin some form of mental dialogue: I really shouldn’t. But I haven’t done this in a long time. I am really going to hate myself later. Why not? I’ve already blown it. I’ll do it just this once, and tomorrow I’ll start over. When you allow these little discussions to begin, you’re sunk. The longer you talk, the more time the temptation has to settle into your emotions and will.

The fourth reason the Word of God is so effective against temptation is that you are expressing faith when you turn your attention to His Word. You are saying, “I believe God is able to get me through this; I believe He is mightier than the power of sin, my flesh, and Satan himself.” Nothing moves God like the active faith of His people.

To effectively combat the onslaughts of the enemy, you need an arsenal of verses on the tip of your tongue—verses so familiar, they come to mind without any conscious effort on your part. If you have to dig them up from the caverns of your memory, they will do you no good. There isn’t time for that in the midst of temptation.

Begin memorizing Scriptures that address the area that troubles you the most. Quote them audibly when you are tempted. When you speak the truth out loud, it’s as if you have taken a stand with God against the enemy. When I do this, I often feel a sense of courage and conviction sweeping over me.

Remember, if the perfect, sinless, sovereign Son of God relied on Scripture to pull Him through, what hope do you have without it?

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

Adapted from “Winning the War Within: Facing Trials, Temptations and Inner Struggles by Charles F. Stanley, 1988.

1. Bud Palmberg, “Private Sins of Public Ministry,” Leadership magazine (Winter 1988)

The Choice: Denial, Delusion, or Truth

SOURCE:  Living Free/Dan Strickland/Jimmy Ray Lee

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.” 1 John 1:8-10 NIV

When a life-controlling problem has trapped people, they become deluded by the lies they tell to cover up their problem.

Denial is the refusal to believe the truth about one’s own actions. People in denial know what they are doing is wrong, but they refuse to admit the truth. Instead, they choose to rationalize their behavior. Continued denial leads to delusion, a condition where people no longer recognize the truth about their actions. They believe their own excuses and become blind to the truth. They cannot see the destruction they are causing to themselves and those around them.

After a stronghold has developed, the delusion that blinds the person becomes difficult to penetrate. Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee puts it this way: “Delusion is not seeing, recognizing, or acting in truth.”

Is someone you care about living in delusion? It is important to lovingly and patiently continue to confront the person’s delusion and never give up—even when it seems the effort is not producing results.

Keep on loving him or her. Give them honest feedback about how their choices are hurting themselves and people who care about them. Pray that the Holy Spirit will reveal the truth and give them grace to face the truth about themselves and recognize their need for change.

Father, I pray that my loved one will see himself as he really is. Help him recognize his need for change. And I pray that the Holy Spirit will also reveal the truth to me about anything I am denying in my life. Give me the grace to face the truth about myself. In Jesus’ name . . .

 ————————————————————————————————————————————————————–


These thoughts were drawn from …

 Living Free by Jimmy Ray Lee, D. Min. and Dan Strickland, M. Div.

When looking for porn…begin in the heart

SOURCE:  Rick Thomas/Counseling Solutions

Where would you look to locate the primary problem with pornography?

In our culture?

Are you tempted to initially react to the sensual realities of our culture? You should react! You should be concerned! But when you address the porn problem, are you more inclined to begin the discussion with the prevalent, pervasive, cultural, immodesty issues?

Granted it should be part of the discussion. Certainly it is right to walk our wives and daughters through how to dress modestly. It is wise to teach them how to help guard the hearts of their male friends, by dressing in an appropriate manner.

However, the way they dress should not be the starting point in the pornography discussion.

Out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. – Luke 6:45

Jesus began the discussion regarding behavioral sins like porn, not with the behavior, but with the heart. In the quote above Jesus tied the behavior (tongue speech) to the heart. He placed the source or the genesis of our sin problems in the heart rather than on the lip.

Matters of the heart

A man’s struggle with pornography does not begin in his culture, but in his mind. Paul appealed to us to make sure we “renew the spirit of our minds” before we put on a new behavior (Ephesians. 4:22-24).

If we do not first attack our physical sin issues at the level of our minds, we will set ourselves up for the very real possibility of that sin reappearing. If we do not put the axe to the root of the tree then there will be sprigs, then limbs, and possibly full-blown branches reappearing.

And along with the ongoing, recurring behavioral sin problem of porn, there will be the real possibility of compounded frustration, anger, hopelessness, and even less faith to attack the behavioral pornography problem.

Responding to sin primarily at the level of the behavior will not ultimately work and will lead a person toward despair. All sin, including pornography, must be rooted out where it began. Find the source and you have positioned yourself for God’s empowering grace to extract the sin.

Pornography begins in the heart. Awareness of this truth brings hope. If a man believed the root of his porn problem was in his culture then he would set himself up as a potential victim of his culture and possibly controlled by his culture.

He would be at the mercy of his culture. He would be a victim, always reacting to his culture-how women dressed or not dressed. His energy, time, and focus would be spent guarding the wrong door.

Granted, porn in our world should be guarded, but that’s not the main door. There is no hope in being a victim. However, if a man believed his wicked heart was the main problem, then there would be hope because he could apply God’s grace, repent of his sin, and live in the good of God’s Gospel.

At that point he would be positioned for strength in the battle against lust. He can’t repent of his culture. He can’t make the women of our world dress the way he thinks is right, but he can repent of the sin in his heart.

The real issue

Porn is not primarily about breasts and bottoms. There most certainly is a physical attraction for men regarding the opposite sex. God made us to desire women and in a biblical sense we should be attracted to the opposite sex. However, because of original sin what was intended as love can easily darken to lust.

I’m not downplaying or ignoring the temptations that come with immodest women and physical attraction. I’m not saying she has no responsibility in the matter. However, what I want you to see is that if you are experiencing lust, then the source of your lust does not begin with the lady’s breasts or backside.

It begins in your heart. If you are lusting after another woman then you need to address what is going on in your heart first.

I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. – Matthew 5:28 (ESV)

In my years of counseling, the overwhelming external sin issue among men has been pornography. It rarely matters what their reason is for seeking counsel.

If they come with marriage issues, financial problems, kid problems, depression, anger, alcohol, bitterness, or any other problem it is not unusual there is the complicating problem of porn.

Porn is pandemic in our Christian culture

Part of the reason it is so prevalent is due to the ubiquitous expansion of the Internet. But the primary reason for porn addiction is because we live in a world of weary, frustrated, insecure, and angry men who slip into pornography because it is easy for the mind to be lured away.

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. – James 1:14 (ESV)

It is a private way of bringing temporary pleasure to oneself. Typically, it is despairing men looking for an escape and porn is a practical way to get away for a few minutes.

The theater of the mind

Though there is gratification in the behavioral experience of porn, it does go much deeper than the external benefit and instant gratification. Porn not only finds its source in the mind, but there is pleasure to be found there as well.

Porn is a private theater for the mind. Porn is motivating! It is where the insecure and frustrated man can beking for a day–in his own mind. The porn addict is in control when he enters his porn world, which is usually a far cry from the lack of control he has in his real world.

He can make the cyber ladies meet his desires. It is the one place in his life where he is in total control. He controls their speech. He controls their thoughts, particularly their thoughts about him. He controls their actions. He controls their responses to him.

He twists the script in such a way to be affirmed, applauded, and appreciated. The script writer enjoys his one-man show and when he is satisfied he closes the act with a brief moment of physical gratification.

In a real world where things don’t turn out as positive and where people don’t necessarily like him, the ladies of the Internet do like him–in the theater of his mind, where they fawn all over him. There is not only instant pleasure, but there is instant victory.

  • He wins.
  • He’s good.

And he feels good about himself–for a few minutes, just before he re-enters the real world where he lives with marital disappointment, disruptive kids, an over-bearing boss, an unforgiving world, and a host of other problems he can’t seem to control.

Porn becomes his quickie, self-made escape. Like the pot smoker of the 60′s–he takes a little trip, only to return to a hopeless world.

The controller is controlled

His continual foray into the cyber porn world creates another problem too. It is like a drug. It’s addictive.

Once upon a time in the theater of the mind, the addict was in control. He used to decide when he was going on his little escape adventure. But after several such adventures of lust, his heart began to have a “mind of its own.”

That which he used to control now controls him. He is now an addict and his addiction has its roots twisted around his heart.

There was a time when he determined when he wanted his fix, but now the fix wants him. It calls. It knocks. It crouches at the door, waiting to pounce. It blitzes his mind and overpowers him.

His wife runs an errand to the store. The temptation overtakes him. It comes before she’s out the door. He waits. She leaves. Now it’s his time!

Maybe he has some downtime in his frenetic, un-affirming world and he feels the heat rising in his mind. He’s being allured to the computer. The girls are calling. They want him. He gives in. It’s got him! He did it again, but this is the last time, he says.

Porn negates the Gospel

Porn-addictive-thinking is void of the Gospel. The Gospel is Jesus Christ going to His death in order to save people from themselves. This is God’s grandest expression of love and affection for any of us. Our sin needed to be satisfied and the satisfaction came when Christ paid the debt.

Yielding to porn negates this truth. A man’s porn pursuit begins when the Gospel no longer satisfies. He wants something else, something more. Living in God’s pleasure is not enough.

The Gospel is God’s clearest message of His affection, love, care, and concern for us. When we think about the cross of Christ, we are reminded there is no length God wouldn’t go in order to rescue our perishing souls.

Because the death of Christ is an infinite expression of His great love, if the Gospel is rightly applied to your life, then there is a lessening need to make yourself feel better about yourself through man-centered methods, like porn. The Gospel shrinks our cravings for man-centered affections, love, and affirmation.

Christ becomes the “escape” for the Gospelized man or woman.

  • Do you want to change your reality? Fling yourself on the cross.
  • Do you feel alone? Live in the daily realities of the cross.
  • Do you feel isolated? Abide hard by the cross of Christ.

The cross is your escape. Living in the good of the Gospel is your victory. This must be your starting point. Remind yourself daily of what Christ did for you, how He went through death to save you (Hebrews 2:14-15). If your world is challenging and you are tempted to find a brief respite in the midst of the chaos, then let me suggest a respite.

It’s Christ. Preach the Gospel to yourself today. Right now! Ask your friends to push you toward Adam’s tree. Memorize Philippians 2:5-11. Study this text. Learn of your Savior and what He did for you. Express gratitude for His great affection for you. Learn it. Live it. Enjoy it.

While there is no magic or silver bullet in the Philippians text, the idea conveyed in that text can be life-changing. The problem with the person addicted to porn is his affections are drawn away from Christ.

The person addicted to porn has a worship disorder, to where his affections are under the control of someone else other than Christ. The solution for such a person is found in Philippians 2:5-11 as well as other texts.

While that text is made up of words, the idea of the text is life-changing. We must have the mind of Christ, not the mind of this world. Begin the heart cure at this moment.

The heart cure is reminding yourself no matter how difficult your situation is, God loves you. He cares for you. “How do you know that?” That’s easy. The cross of Christ informs your thinking here.

When I am reminded of what He did for me then I know I’m not alone. God is for me, not against me. This is Gospel-informed thinking that will have an effect on your behavior.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? – Romans 8:31-32 (ESV)

Don’t fight the fight alone

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. –Galatians 6:1-2

As you repent of your self-focused heart cravings by informing your mind of the realities of the Gospel, as understood by the Word of God, another way you can keep from going at this alone is by adding external accountability into your life.

I have recommended through the years Covenant Eyes. Covenant Eyes is a very capable and non-cumbersome software program that allows another friend to have a report of all your Internet traffic for the week.

With Covenant Eyes you can fight the very real battle of being wooed to your computer to take a peek. Let others help you. Let others fulfill the law of Christ. Allow another person into your secret world of porn addiction. Once you do that then the battle is well on the way to defeat.

God gives grace to the humble (James 4:6).

Lastly, I exhort you to go to your local church. Talk to a trusted friend in the context of your local church. Let them into your world. Ask for their help. It would be their joy to come alongside you to help you walk through the entangling web of porn addiction.

How Can I Stay “Christian” in the Midst of Temptation?

SOURCE:  Jonathan Parnell/Desiring God

Joy Comes to the Rescue

Your heart matters. It really, really matters.

The heart, after all, is the “noble faculty of the soul,” as John Flavel explains in his 1668 publication now titled, Keeping the Heart. Most generally, the heart refers to the inner man, and most importantly, a person’s everlasting state depends upon its condition.

Writing in a style more practical than sliced bread, Flavel exhorts Christians to give their hearts upmost attention.

Be diligent in heart-work, he says, which eventually translates into two things: 1) preserve the soul from sin; and 2) maintain sweet communion with God (18). Said another way, repent and believe; or mortify and vivify; or put off and put on. This work is “one great business of a Christian’s life.”

The Hour of Temptation

After stating his case and laying a strong foundation, Flavel rolls up his sleeves to describe specific seasons in life that require our upmost care in this keeping labor. The ninth “season” is the hour of temptation, and this is where it gets wild.

How does Flavel urge Christians to stay Christian in the midst of temptation?

Answer: pleasure.

His advice begins with our understanding the nature of sin.

He writes, “Satan suggests that there is pleasure to be enjoyed; the temptation is presented with a smiling aspect and an enticing voice” (89). Flavel goes on to mimic this enticing voice that rebukes the Christian for being so dull. Temptation is full of name-calling, you know. Oh come on! You’re not like that, are you? Are you so boring that you can’t have a little fun? And a thousand other lies.

Reader, Be Rescued

As if placing his hands on our shoulders, Flavel writes: “Reader, you may be rescued from the danger of such temptations by repelling the proposal of pleasure.” See what Flavel did here: we avoid the danger of temptation by repelling its proposal of pleasure. And how we repel temptation’s proposal of pleasure is by clinging to the hope of a greater pleasure.

Flavel again:

But why should the pretended pleasure of sin allure you, when you know that unspeakably more real pleasure will arise from the mortification than can arise from the commission of sin? Will you prefer the gratification of some unhallowed passion, with the deadly poison which it will leave behind, to that sacred pleasure which arises from fearing and obeying God, complying with the dictates of conscience, and maintaining inward peace? (90)

For Maximum Joy

There is a greater pleasure than the empty-promise of sin.

It is “that sacred pleasure,” as Flavel calls it. It is the life of fearing and obeying God, of believing the truth that God himself is enough, satisfying our deepest desires. And the only way, John Piper explains, to defeat the power of sin’s promise is with the power of this superior promise. The crux of temptation, then, is the object of our faith: Do we trust in the lies of sin? Or in the sufficiency of Jesus? This is the fight of faith, as John Piper writes,

Faith is not content with “fleeting pleasures” [see Hebrews 11:24–26]. It is ravenous for joy. And the Word of God says, “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11). So faith will not be sidetracked into sin. It will not give up so easily in its quest for maximum joy. . . .

Our chief enemy is the lie that says sin will make our future happier. Our chief weapon is the truth that says God will make our future happier. And faith is the victory that overcomes the lie, because faith is satisfied with God. (Future Grace, 335, 336)

Keeping our hearts means giving ourselves over and over again to “that sacred pleasure.”

It’s when, in that moment of temptation, real joy comes to the rescue.

Lord, Show Me The Way Out

SOURCE:  Living Free Ministry

“The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.” 1 Corinthians 10:13 NLT

Thoughts for Today
Enabling is anything that stands in the way of or softens the natural consequences of a person’s behavior.

God does not want us to enable others in their wrongdoing. Neither does he enable us when we choose to walk in disobedience to him. He loves us too much to enable us in our wrongdoing. He knows that we will not come to our senses and change our ways unless he allows us to suffer the natural consequences of what we do.

The great thing is that, just like the father of the prodigal son, our heavenly Father is loving us and watching for us. He wants us to come home and will run out to meet us, showering his love, mercy and forgiveness on us when we return.

Consider this … 
Do you need to return? Perhaps you have recently fallen into something you know you shouldn’t do … Your Father is waiting for you.

Perhaps you have been locked into a downward spiral and feel as though there is no way out. God always provides a way. He is just waiting for you to come to him with a repentant heart. His arms are open wide … no matter what you have done. Jesus has already paid the price for your sin. Receive his forgiveness. He loves you unconditionally and is waiting to help you.

Prayer
Father, I am so sorry for what I have been doing. Please forgive me and show me the way out. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …

Understanding the Times and Knowing What to Do by Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee. 

Some “Right” Things Are “Wrong!”

SOURCE: Taken from a devotion by  Stepping Stones/Lighthouse Network

Do You Have a Strategy to Resist Satan’s Sweets?

The Holy Spirit led Jesus to the desert, where he fasted for 40 days and the Bible says Satan tempted Him for the duration of that time. But towards the end, Jesus faced a significant temptation of hunger, a very realistic human physical need.

Is eating to satisfy our hunger wrong? Of course not. But Jesus had been led by the Spirit and had made a commitment to God to fast during this time period. Breaking the fast by putting His desire for food above His commitment to the Father would have been sin.

There are many desires we experience throughout each day that are normal and good: to succeed in a job, to dress nicely, to make or listen to music, to prosper financially and provide for our family, to enjoy shopping, to commit to a relationship, to participate in a ministry, to see someone we miss, to enjoy a skill or hobby we have. And the list could go on.

These things are not wrong in themselves, but they are wrong if they take priority over our relationship with the Lord. God’s plan and God’s leading must always come first.

Jesus responded to the temptation by quoting Scripture. “Man shall not live and be sustained by bread alone, but by every word and expression of God.” In other words, spiritual matters and faithfulness to God are life-sustaining and more important than physical resources could ever be, especially when it comes to meeting our basic needs.

Today, take a moment to think about your life. Is there an area that is taking priority that should not be … that takes up mind space or emotional energy and is pushing God and other important Earthly responsibilities out? Is it causing you to slide backwards in your relationship with God? Is it tempting you to make wrong choices? If so, now is the time to get back on track. As Jesus taught us, turn to God’s Word. Say “no” to the temptation. That choice honors God and is the best thing for you anyway. Develop a concrete strategy to break that hold on your heart.

Prayer

Dear God, I confess there are areas in my life that are causing me to slide in my relationship with You. Fill me with Your Spirit so that I seek and better understand your Holy Bible and allow it to guide me as it guided Jesus. Please help me put your word into action for practical living, and not just a part of my rarely visited spiritual-intellectual library. I pray this in the name of the One who always honored His ultimate priority, Jesus Christ; AMEN!

The Truth

Then the devil said to Him, If You are the Son of God, order this stone to turn into a loaf of bread. And Jesus replied to him, “It is written, Man shall not live and be sustained by (on) bread alone but by every word and expression of God.”

Luke 4:3-4

 No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.

1 Corinthians 10:13,14

The Stages of Life-Controlling Problems (1)

We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.”

2 Corinthians 10:4-5 NLT

Life-controlling problems usually progress in four stages:  (1) experimentation, (2) social use or practice, (3) daily preoccupation, and (4) practicing just to feel normal.

Experimentation: We learn that the substance or behavior makes us feel good. We don’t notice serious negative consequences. Return to normal feelings soon follows isolated indulgences.

Social phase: We practice the behavior regularly but set limits for ourselves about when, where, or how we do it. The rules make us feel safe and appropriate, but we are trusting in the behavior or substance for our needs, not in God. Normal feelings are punctuated with more frequent uses, and we seek friends who also indulge.

Consider this … 
During the experimentation stage, we will usually rationalize our behavior. We might give excuses like peer pressure, thrill-seeking, curiosity, or a need to relax. As we enter the social phase, we may tell ourselves we want to be with new friends who don’t judge our actions. Or we need something to do on weekends or just want to have fun.

But all the time we are falling into “The Trap.” Today’s scripture refers to “strongholds of human reasoning” and “false arguments.” It also says to use God’s weapons, not our own, to overcome. When we feel ourselves being entrapped, we must make a choice. The only way we can be free is to recognize our need for God and to ask for his help.

Prayer

Lord, I’ve been making excuses for what I am doing, but deep down I know it’s wrong. Please forgive me. I need your help. In Jesus’ name . . .

 

These thoughts were drawn from …

Living Free by Jimmy Ray Lee, D. Min. and Dan Strickland, M. Div.

Being “trapped” is exactly where Satan wants us

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

Addictions – the Stone Gods

As kids, none of us set out with the goal of feeling trapped in an addiction.

Sadly, after a slow and insidious beginning, that is the ultimate end for all addictive behaviors: enslavement.

Addictions make us slaves to that object. Some people can feel the enslavement very specifically. Others are fooled into thinking they aren’t enslaved, because the takeover is so subtle and usually occurs over a big chunk of time. The reality is, 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 enslavement pathway.

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, control, relationships, anger, spending, Facebook, the phone, sports, TV, anxiety, panic attacks, guilt, fear, hobbies, money, power (think parent 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.

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 life as an understanding resource, tool, friend, or savior quickly became a cruel master.

The problem with idols is that they are chosen 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, so we give them 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, know and spread the news that for believers there is great hope. We are not alone in our addictions. No matter where we are, the Holy Spirit is within us and intercedes for us before God.

When you are uncomfortable emotionally, notice what you turn to for soothing. 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. When we are focused on Him, we can find the strength we need for freedom and victory over all our addictions. Your decision, so choose well.

Prayer

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, dreams, and 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

Trapped by a Life-Controlling Problem?

SOURCE:  Living Free

“We are tempted by our own desires that drag us off and trap us. Our desires make us sin, and when sin is finished with us, it leaves us dead.”

James 1:14-15 CEV

When we choose to look to a substance, behavior, or relationship for help only God can provide, we have chosen to follow an idol—and we find ourselves dealing with a life-controlling problem.  Life-controlling problems usually trap a person slowly and progress through a predictable pattern.

A person is often lured into experimenting with a dangerous substance, behavior, or relationship because it provides a feeling of exhilaration. We call this pattern “The Trap” because it often snares its victims before they realize what is happening.

Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee, founder of Living Free, states, “Addiction is death on the installment plan. No one ever plans to be trapped by a life-controlling problem, yet it happens all the time.”

Consider this … 

Life-controlling problems usually progress in four stages:

(1) experimentation,

(2) social use or practice,

(3) daily preoccupation, and

(4) practicing just to feel normal.

Not everyone progresses through all these stages; however, there is no way to predict which people who begin the pattern will continue to stage four. The best time to deal with a life-controlling problem is before it begins. We need to be honest with God and with ourselves.

Is there an issue in your life that is tempting you and dragging you into a trap?

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24 NIV

Prayer
Father, search my heart. Help me see anything within me that is developing into a life-controlling problem. Forgive me, and help me turn from it. In Jesus’ name . . .


These thoughts were drawn from …

Living Free by Jimmy Ray Lee, D. Min. and Dan Strickland, M. Div. 

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).

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.

Our Soul Enemy

SOURCE:  Tom Eisenman/Discipleship Journal

The first rule of war is to know your enemy.

When the satellite TV company offered us—their “preferred customers”—a three-months-free package of movie channels, my wife, Judie, and I said, “Sure, sign us up.” If nothing else, we’d save a bundle on movie rentals while the kids were visiting us over the holidays.

What were we thinking?

Judie and I had known we’d need to make discerning choices about what we watched. But we totally underestimated the tsunami of violence, nudity, bad language, and unabashed affronts to a godly lifestyle that would flood our home once we got hooked up. Two days later, we called and cancelled.

This experience brought to mind again the Apostle Peter’s warning: “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). In this case our relationship with God was at risk of being devoured with each image and sound bite.

Devilish Tactics

The Bible clearly teaches that a powerful evil being called Satan rules over dark powers in this world and also over forces of evil that inhabit the heavenly realms (Eph. 6:12). He appears to be motivated largely by anger and envy; he was banished forever from the very paradise to which we, as God’s children, are now heirs. And so he aggressively opposes both the people of God and the work of God (1 Thess. 2:18,Mt. 13:37–39).

Satan’s aliases suggest the typical strategies he employs against us. He is called the tempter (Mt. 4:3), the father of lies (Jn. 8:44), and the accuser of God’s people (Rev. 12:10). He is always looking for ways to wreak havoc in a believer’s life and will employ any or all of the above tactics—tempting, deceiving, accusing—to diminish or demoralize God’s people. Knowing his tactics will help us stand against him.

How tempting! First, let’s look at Satan’s role as tempter. How does Satan entice us? James describes the evil process this way: “Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed” (Jas. 1:14).

James leans heavily on fishing imagery in this verse. We are like hungry fish, lured by the bait. The evil fisherman knows us well: our appetites, our obsessions, the potentially dangerous power in our suppressed angers. His lure will be personal and powerful. Whatever our particular desire, he will dangle it in front of us to entice us and drag us away from God.

If you are captivated by sex, Satan will make certain that opportunities to satisfy your fantasies are readily available. If your battle is with envy or jealousy, you will meet people at every turn who have more than you do or who have succeeded in areas where you have failed. If you are susceptible to anger, you will struggle to forgive a person who has offended you, finding it nearly impossible to get the incident out of your mind.

Weapons of mass deception. One can visit the Garden of Eden for a revealing picture of Satan’s next role: deceiver. The entire entrapment of Adam and Eve is a network of lies, deception, and half-truths (Genesis 3).

Satan asks Eve what God said about the tree in the center of the garden. She says God warned them not to eat of it or they would die. Satan responds,

You will not surely die…For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God.

—vv. 4–5

In two brief lines he calls God a liar and implies that God has ulterior motives for withholding His best from the first couple. Further, Satan deceives Eve by suggesting that she can gain equality with God by taking things into her own hands.

Satan will similarly engage each of us. He will subtly invite us into dialogue about what God actually said or, more slippery yet, what God might have meant by what He said. We may find ourselves rationalizing why something we’ve always considered to be wrong might be acceptable in this particular case. Or an inner voice will convince us to indulge in something that will ultimately deliver only grief and pain. I deserve it, we reason, as hard as I’ve been working lately. Besides, everybody else is doing the same thing, and it doesn’t seem to be hurting them.

Remember, the devil has been around aeons longer than we have. He has been studying human nature and behavior from the beginning. He knows what lies we are most likely to believe. And he will not hesitate to use them against us.

I stand accused. Accusation is Satan’s third attack strategy. He uses this tactic to demoralize us and make us feel unworthy of a relationship with God.

Satan moves to the “accuser mode” after he has succeeded at tempting and deceiving us. In his roles as tempter and deceiver, the evil one whispers how sweet sin will be. “After all,” he reminds us, “God is a God of grace, mercy, and love. Nothing to worry about! You can always repent. Forgiveness will be easy.”

But once we take the bait, Satan changes his tactics. We’ve sinned, the glow has dimmed, and now reality hits. In that moment when the shame and emptiness of sin strikes, we’ll likely also hear a sneer within: “And you call yourself a Christian!” Now Satan is all over us about what losers we are, how unworthy we are to name the name of Christ, how undeserving we are of His costly love.

Have you noticed the common thread in these three strategies of the enemy? Whether he is acting as tempter, deceiver, or accuser, all these assaults are launched as attacks on our minds.

Messing with Our Minds

Let’s look at some specific ways Satan may try to invade the territory of our minds.

Commandeering our imaginations. Imagination is a wonderful gift from God. I believe it is given to us so that we can envision all we might do and become according to God’s power at work in and through us. But our imaginations are also vulnerable to Satan’s enticements, lies, and accusations.

Consider Eve. Satan shrewdly set her up to fantasize about grasping equality with God. The image was powerful, exciting, irresistible; any thought of following God in obedience and devotion paled in comparison. She ate, and then she became the devil’s advocate by inviting Adam to join her.

Fostering obsession. Another common strategy Satan employs to keep us off-balance is to feed our tendency to obsess. He will do anything to get our focus off of God and onto ourselves or our problems.

For instance, one person’s obsession might be guilt. As Satan keeps the image of her failures vividly alive, a healthy, active conscience is usurped by obsessive thoughts about how bad she has been. Remember, Satan is the accuser. His barrage of condemnation locks her inside herself and blinds her to the light of God’s forgiving grace.

One of my weaknesses is out-of-control worry. When my concerns are infected by the evil one, it’s like I have a video tape in my mind that won’t shut off. Over and over I replay an ugly list of what-if’s: What if this happens! What if that happens! Satan is playing on my fears, and fear always takes my focus off of God and places it on myself.

We are all vulnerable in some area. The evil one is prowling around, looking for host cells in which to plant one of his powerful obsession viruses.

Confusing our sense of what’s right. As we have seen, the deceiver loves to convince us that taking an action that is against God’s will can actually produce something good.

A person may conclude that it makes perfect sense to murder the doctor at the abortion clinic to save the lives of unborn children. Another might slip into a sexual encounter with a coworker, thinking that a temporary fling is just what’s needed to recharge the romance in a lackluster marriage.

Supersizing the initial pleasure. Satan also messes with our minds by ensuring that a first foray into sensual sin yields the greatest possible pleasure. By supersizing that initial experience, he hooks us into a pattern of committing the sin again and again in an attempt to recapture that first-time intensity. When indulging in the same experience doesn’t do it any longer, we up the ante.

A friend of mine started down this road when she tried marijuana. Over time she wound up addicted to heroin, which gave her the rush she could no longer get from other drugs. Finally clean after years of struggling with the addiction, she described her experience to me as “one big high, and the rest was killing pain.”

This is the nature of bondage to Satan: He works to produce in us a greater and greater appetite for a steadily decreasing pleasure. In the end, there is no pleasure at all. Only the raw hunger remains.

Encouraging isolation. In another mind-messing tactic, Satan tries to convince us that we can deal with our struggles on our own. Once we buy into this deception, we are less inclined to seek help and prayer support when we need it most. So we fail, and fail again, and fail again—and tell no one. Ashamed, we slip away altogether from fellowship with other Christians. Finally, isolated and alone, we pose no threat to the evil one’s deadly devices.

Distorting the truth about the reality of evil. The most effective mind trick of all is to downplay the truth about evil. If we don’t believe we have an enemy, we will spend no time preparing for spiritual battle. The truth is, as soon as we name Jesus as our personal savior we pick up enemies—all those evil beings pitted against the purposes of God. A spiritual battle is raging, and we are in the thick of it. If we refuse to believe it, we play into Satan’s hands.

Master Minds

Though these tactics may sound harrowing, we haven’t been left defenseless. Following are a few biblical strategies for defending ourselves against these attacks on the mind.

Guard your thought life. The Apostle Paul was apparently no stranger to assaults on the mind. He wrote,

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.

—2 Cor. 10:5, emphasis mine

In Phil. 4:8, Paul urges us to fill our minds with those things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. This is strong encouragement to make choices that strengthen and guard the territory of our minds.

This strategy helped me recently with a man I have struggled to forgive. He pretended to be my friend but behind my back was spreading rumors about me that helped advance his career. The evil one loves to use a situation like this to plant anger and bitterness. Yet I remembered Jesus’ admonition to love and pray for our enemies (Mt. 5:44). Praying for an enemy is a powerful way to stake out the territory of our minds for the Lord.

Every time ugly thoughts about this man popped into my head and I felt anger rising again, I chose to pray for him. More than once, right after praying for the man and his family, I ran into him in a store or saw him drive by. Encountering him in person helped me sense immediately and thankfully how my thoughts had changed for the better.

Remember who you are. Often we don’t realize the full range of spiritual resources that has been passed on to us. In Ephesians 1, Paul prays that Christians will

know the hope to which [God] has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

—vv. 18–19

If we know the truth about our victory in Christ, nothing the evil one does can steal our hope. A growing knowledge of our heavenly inheritance will sustain us when Satan loads on the doubt or tempts and accuses us. And if we know and really grasp the fact that the very power that raised Jesus from the dead is available to each of us, we will not fear the enemy’s attacks.

I have found it helpful to fill my mind with the truths in Ephesians 1. I’ve not only read this chapter repeatedly, I’ve also committed it to memory so I can carry it with me at all times. When temptations, doubts, or accusations assail me, my immediate response is to choose to remember who I am in Christ and all the heavenly resources that are at my disposal through my relationship with Him. When compared to the reality of God’s truth, the counterfeit pleasures of Satan grow dim. Instead of a one-time supersized thrill at the front end, the pleasures of true intimacy with God keep growing through time.

Give and receive prayer. Nothing will keep our minds more focused and actively engaged against evil than intercessory prayer. Prayer for one another was the mainstay of the early church. For instance, Paul mentions Epaphras, saying, “He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured” (Col. 4:12). Intercession is the primary ministry through which the community of faith can stand shoulder to shoulder with each other while joining with Jesus in our mutual struggle against the powers of evil.

Never give up.

It is important to remember that, no matter how much we learn about Satan’s strategies, we will not be victorious in every struggle against temptation, deception, or accusation.

As I wrote this article, I was often aware that I had—again—fallen short in some area. As always the evil one was right there to accuse me: How can you write about guarding your mind? Look what you’ve done. Yet I did not stop writing.

Yes, I’ve sinned. Yes, I still sin. But I get up, dust myself off, and keep going because I know my security does not lie in a perfect record. I take comfort in God’s promise through Paul: “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Ro. 8:1). The Spirit gave Paul this breakthrough insight as he was lamenting his own repeated failures (Ro. 7:14–25).

So yes, it is wise to know the tactics of our enemy. This knowledge will help us stay in the fight and make headway. But the enemy should never be our focus. Our focus needs to be on Christ, who saves us and in whom we have our victory. We finally and fully rest our minds and hearts in the truth that “the one who is in [us] is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 Jn. 4:4).

Ten Aspects of God’s Sovereignty Over Suffering and Satan’s Hand in It

SOURCE:  John Piper/Desiring God

1. Let us celebrate that God is sovereign over Satan’s delegated world rule.

Satan is sometimes called in the Bible “the ruler of this world” (John 12:3114:3016:11) or “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4) or “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2), or a “cosmic power over this present darkness” (Ephesians 6:12). Which means that we should probably take him seriously when it says in Luke 4:5-7 that “The devil took Jesus up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, ‘To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.’”

And of course that is strictly true: If the sovereign of the universe bows in worshipful submission to anyone, that one becomes the sovereign of the universe. But Satan’s claim that he can give the authority and glory of world kingdoms to whomever he wills is a half truth. No doubt he does play havoc in the world by maneuvering a Stalin or a Hitler or an Idi Amin or Bloody Mary or Saddam Hussein into murderous power. But he does this only at God’s permission and within God’s appointed limits.

This is made clear over and over again in the Bible. For example, Daniel 2:20, “Daniel answered and said: ‘Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings.’” AndDaniel 4:17, “The Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.” And when the kings are in their God-appointed place, with or without Satan’s agency, they are in the sway of God’s sovereign will, as Proverbs 21:1 says, “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.”

Evil nations rise and set themselves against the Almighty. “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his anointed, saying, ‘Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.’ He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision” (Psalm 2:2-4). And do they think that their sin and evil and rebellion against him can thwart the counsel of the Lord?Psalm 33:10-11 answers, “The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.”

God is sovereign over the nations and over all their rulers and all the Satanic power behind them. They do not move without his permission, and they do not move outside his sovereign plan.

2. Let us celebrate that God is sovereign over Satan’s angels (demons, evil spirits).

Satan has thousands of cohorts in supernatural evil. They are called “demons” (Matthew 8:3James 2:19) or “evil spirits” (Luke 7:21) or “unclean spirits” (Matthew 10:1), or “the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41). We get a tiny glimpse into demonic warfare in Daniel 10 where the angel who is sent in response to Daniel’s prayer says, “The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me” (Daniel 10:13). So apparently the demon, or evil spirit, over Persia fought against the angel sent to help Daniel, and a greater angel, Michael, came to his aid.

But the Bible leaves us with no doubt who is in charge in all these skirmishes. Martin Luther got it right:

And though this world with devils filled
Should threaten to undo us
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us.
The prince of darkness grim
We tremble not for him,
His rage we can endure
For low his doom is sure.
One little word will fell him.

We see glimpses of those little words at work, for example, when Jesus comes up against thousands of demons in Matthew 8:29-32. They were possessing a man and making him insane. The demons cry out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?”—they know a time is set for their final destruction. And Jesus spoke to them, one little word, “Go.” And they came out of the man. There is no question who is sovereign in this battle. The people have seen this before in Mark 1:27 and were amazed and said, “He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.” Theyobey him. As for Satan: “We tremble not for him; his rage we can endure.” But as for Christ: even though they slay him, they always must obey him! God is sovereign over Satan’s angels.

3. Let us celebrate that God is sovereign over Satan’s hand in persecution.

The apostle Peter describes the suffering of Christians like this: “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world” (1 Peter 5:8-9). So the sufferings of persecution are like the jaws of a satanic lion trying to consume and destroy the faith of believers in Christ.

But do these Christians suffer in Satan’s jaws of persecution apart from the sovereign will of God? When Satan crushes Christians in the jaws of their own private Calvary, does God not govern those jaws for the good of his precious child? Listen to Peter’s answer in 1 Peter 3:17, “It is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.” In other words, if God wills that we suffer for doing good, we will suffer. And if he does not will that we suffer for doing good, we will not. The lion does not have the last say. God does.

The night Jesus was arrested, satanic power was in full force (Luke 22:322:31). And Jesus spoke into that situation one of his most sovereign words. He said to those who came to arrest him in the dark, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. Butthis is your hour, and the power of darkness” (Luke 22:52-53). “The jaws of the lion close on me tonight no sooner and no later than my Father planned. ‘No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord’ (John 10:18). Boast not yourself over the hand that made you, Satan. You have one hour. What you do, do quickly.” God is sovereign over Satan’s hand in persecution.

4. Let us celebrate that God is sovereign over Satan’s life-taking power.

The Bible does not take lightly or minimize the power of Satan to kill people, including Christians. Jesus said, in John 8:44, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning.” John tells us, in fact, that he does indeed take the lives of faithful Christians. Revelation 2:10, “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.”

Is God then not the Lord of life and death? He is. None lives and none dies but by God’s sovereign decree. “See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand” (Deuteronomy 32:39). There is no god, no demon, no Satan that can snatch to death any person that God wills to live (see 1 Samuel 2:6).

James, the brother of Jesus says this in a stunning way in James 4:13-16:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that. As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.

If the Lord wills, we will live. And if he doesn’t, we will die. God, not Satan, makes the final call. Our lives are in his hands ultimately, not Satan’s. God is sovereign over Satan’s life-taking power.

5. Let us celebrate that God is sovereign over Satan’s hand in natural disasters.

Hurricanes, tsunamis, tornados, earthquakes, blistering heat, deadly cold, drought, flood, famine. When Satan approached God in the first chapter of Job, he challenged God in verse 11, “Stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” And then the Lord said to Satan (in verse 12), “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.”

The result was two human atrocities and two natural disasters. One of the disasters is reported to Job in verse 16: “The fire of God fell from heaven [probably lightning] and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” And then the worst report of all in verses 18-19, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, and behold, a great wind came across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people, and they are dead.”

Even though God had loosened the leash of Satan to do this, that is not what Job focused on. “Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord’” (Job 1:20-21). And the inspired writer added: “In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.”

Job had discovered with many of you that it is small comfort to focus on the freedom of Satan to destroy. In the academic classroom and in the apologetics discussion, the agency of Satan in our suffering may lift a little the burden of God’s sovereignty for some, but for others, like Job, there is more security and more relief and more hope and more support and more glorious truth in despising Satan’s hateful hand and looking straight past him to God for the cause and for his mercy.

Elihu helped Job see this mercy in Job 37:10-14. He said:

By the breath of God ice is given, and the broad waters are frozen fast. He loads the thick cloud with moisture; the clouds scatter his lightning. They turn around and around by his guidance, to accomplish all that he commands them on the face of the habitable world. Whether for correction or for his land or for love, he causes it to happen. Hear this, O Job; stop and consider the wondrous works of God.

Job’s first impulses in chapter one were exactly right. When James wrote in the New Testament about the purpose of the book of Job, this is what he said, “You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful” (James 5:11).

God, not Satan, is the final ruler of wind—and the waves. Jesus woke from sleep and, with absolute sovereignty, which he had from all eternity and has this very moment, said, “‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm” (Mark 4:39; seePsalm 135:5-7148:7). Satan is real and terrible. All his designs are hateful. But he is not sovereign. God is. And when Satan went out to do Job harm, Job was right to worship with the words “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

There’s not a plant or flower below,
But makes Thy glories known;
And clouds arise, and tempests blow,
By order from Thy throne.
(“I Sing the Mighty Power of God,” Isaac Watts)

6. Let us celebrate that God is sovereign over Satan’s sickness-causing power.

The Bible is vivid with the truth that Satan can cause disease. Acts 10:38 says that Jesus “went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.” The devil had oppressed people with sickness. In Luke 13 Jesus finds a woman who had been bent over unable to stand up for eighteen years. He heals her on the Sabbath and in response to the criticism of the synagogue ruler he says (in verse 16), “Ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” There is no doubt that Satan causes much disease.

This is why Christ’s healings are a sign of the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God and its final victory over all disease and all the works of Satan. It is right and good to pray for healing. Christ has purchased it in the death of his Son, with all the other blessings of grace, for all his children (Isaiah 53:5). But he has not promised that we get the whole inheritance in this life. And he decides how much. We pray and we trust his answer. If you ask your Father for bread, he will not give you him a stone? If you ask him for a fish, he will not give you a serpent (see Matthew 7:9-10). It may not be bread. And it may not be a fish. But it will be good for you. That is what he promises (Romans 8:28).

But beware lest anyone say that Satan is sovereign in our diseases. He is not. When Satan went to God a second time in the book of Job, God gave him permission this time to strike Job’s body. Then Job 2:7 says, “Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.” When Job’s wife despaired and said, “Curse God and die” (2:9),” Job responded exactly as he did before. He looked past the finite cause of Satan to the ultimate cause of God and said, “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not accept evil?” (2:10).

And lest we attribute error or irreverence to Job, the writer closes the book in the last chapter by referring back to Job’s terrible suffering like this: “Then came to him all his brothers and sisters . . . and comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him” (42:11). Satan is real and full of hate, but he is not sovereign in sickness. God will not give him even that tribute. As he says to Moses at the burning bush, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?” (Exodus 4:11; see also 2 Corinthians 12:7-9).

7. Let us celebrate that God is sovereign over Satan’s use of animals and plants.

The imagery of Satan as a lion in 1 Peter 5:8 and as a “great dragon” in Revelation 12:9and as the “serpent of old” in Genesis 3 simply makes us aware that in his destructive work Satan can, and no doubt does, employ animals and plants—from the lion in the Coliseum, to the black fly that causes river blindness, to the birds that carry the avian flu virus, to the pit bull that attacks a child, to the bacteria in your belly that Drs. Barry Marshall and Robin Warren just discovered cause ulcers (winning for them the Nobel Prize in medicine). If Satan can kill and cause disease, no doubt he has at his disposal many large and microscopic plants and animals.

But he cannot make them do what God forbids them to do. From the giant Leviathan that God made to sport in the sea (Psalm 104:26) to the tiny gnats that he summoned over the land of Egypt (Exodus 8:16-17), God commands the world of animals and plants. The most vivid demonstrations of it are in the book of Jonah. “The Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah” (Jonah 1:17). And he did exactly as he had been appointed. “And the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land” (Jonah 2:10). “Now the Lord God appointed a plant and made it come up over Jonah” (Jonah 4:6). “But God appointed a worm when dawn came the next day and it attacked the plant and it withered” (Jonah 4:7).

Fish, plant, worm—all appointed, all obedient. Satan can have a hand here, but it is not sovereign. God is.

8. Let us celebrate that God is sovereign over Satan’s temptations to sin.

Much of our suffering comes from the sins of others against us and from our own sins. Satan is called in the Bible “the tempter” (Matthew 4:31 Thessalonians 3:5). This was the origin on earth of all the misery that we know—Satan tempted Eve to sin and sin brought with it the curse of God on the natural order (Genesis 3:14-19Romans 8:21-23). Since that time Satan has been tempting all human beings to do what will hurt themselves and others.

But the most famous temptations in the Bible do not portray Satan as sovereign in his tempting work. The Bible tells us in Luke 22:3-4 that “Satan entered into Judas who was called Iscariot. . . . And he went away and discussed with the chief priests and officers how he might betray Him to them.” But Luke tells us that the betrayal of Jesus by Judas was the fulfillment of Scripture: “The Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas” (Acts 1:16). And therefore Peter said that Jesus was “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23). As with Job, the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away—the life of his Son, Jesus Christ. Satan was not in charge of the crucifixion of Christ. God was.

Even more famous than the temptation of Judas is the temptation of Peter. We usually think of Peter’s three denials, not his temptation. But Jesus says something to Peter in Luke 22:31-32 that makes plain Satan is at work here but that he is not sovereign: “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 [not: if you turn], strengthen your brothers.” Again, as with Job, Satan seeks to destroy Peter’s faith. God gives him leash. But Jesus intercedes for him, and says with complete sovereignty, “I have prayed for you. You will fall, but not utterly. When you repent and turn back—not if you turn back—strengthen your brothers.”

Satan is not sovereign in the temptations of Judas or Peter or you or those you love. God is.

9. Let us celebrate that God is sovereign over Satan’s mind-blinding power.

The worst suffering of all is the everlasting suffering of hell. Satan is doomed to experience that suffering. Revelation 20:10 says, “The devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” Satan’s aim is to take as many there with him as he can. To do that he must keep people blind to the gospel of Jesus Christ, because the gospel “is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). No one goes to hell who is justified by the blood of Christ. “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God” (Romans 5:9). Only those who fail to embrace the wrath-absorbing substitutionary work of Christ will suffer the wrath of God.

Therefore, Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:4, “In their case the god of this world [Satan] has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” This blinding is the most deadly weapon in the arsenal of Satan. If he succeeds with a person, their suffering will be endless.

But at this most critical point Satan is not sovereign, God is. And Oh, how thankful we should be! Two verses later in 2 Corinthians 4:6 Paul describes God’s blindness-removing power over against Satan’s blinding power. “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” The comparison is between God’s creating light at the beginning of the world and God’s creating light in the darkened human heart. With total sovereignty God said at the beginning and at your new birth, “Let there be light.” And there is light.

We were dead in our trespasses and sins, but in great mercy God made us alive together with Christ (Ephesians 2:5). We were blind and spiritually dead. We saw nothing compelling or beautiful in the gospel. It was foolishness to us (1 Corinthians 1:1823). But God spoke with sovereign Creator authority, and his word created life and spiritual sight, and we saw the glory of Christ in the gospel and believed. Satan is a terrible enemy of the gospel. But he is not sovereign. God is. This is the reason that any of us is saved.

10. Let us celebrate that God is sovereign over Satan’s spiritual bondage.

Satan enslaves people in two ways. One with misery and suffering by making us think there is no good God worth trusting. The other is with pleasure and prosperity making us think we have all we need so that God is irrelevant. To be freed from this bondage we must repent. We must confess that God is good and trustworthy. We must confess that the pleasures and prosperity of life do not compare to the worth of God. But Satan hates this repentance and does all he can to prevent it. That is his bondage.

But when God chooses to overcome our rebellion and Satan’s resistance, nothing can stop him. And when God overcomes him and us, we repent and Satan’s power is broken. Here it is in 2 Timothy 2:24-26:

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

Satan is not sovereign over his captives. God is. When God grants repentance, we are set free from the snare of the devil—and spend our days celebrating our liberation and spreading it to others.

Conclusion

The evil and suffering in this world are greater than any of us can comprehend. But evil and suffering are not ultimate. God is. Satan, the great lover of evil and suffering, is not sovereign. God is.

“He does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, ‘What have you done?’” (Daniel 4:35)

He declares “the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.’” (Isaiah 46:10)

“Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?” (Lamentations 3:37-38; see Amos 3:6)

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” (Proverbs 19:21; see 16:9)

“The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” (Proverbs 16:33)

Therefore, “if God is for us, who can be against us? . . .Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:31-37).

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

HEALING, HELP, AND HOLINESS IN THE PRESENT MOMENT

SOURCE:  BILL BELLICAN

A lot happens in life in the present moment.  Anything (good or bad) can happen at any given moment.  What’s even more real (and amazing) is how God desires that we grow in our ability to engage with Him about all things in all moments.  In other words, He desires to have a vibrant, interactive, moment-by-moment fellowship with each of us in each present moment of our lives.

Concerning the more painful side of life, God constantly invites us to commune with Him, to discuss with Him the hard realities of life as we are affected by and experience these realities, and to depend upon Him more.  As we do these things, we learn how to wait on and watch for His wise and loving involvement in all our life needs and situations.

Among the hard realities of life are that we are responsible for and experience the consequences of our own personal sins, we suffer at the hands of others who sin against us, and we live in a fallen and broken world that sometimes comes crashing down on us.  As a result, we encounter hurts, wounds, engage our own unhealthy coping behaviors, are subject to the attacks of Satan, and find ourselves constrained by various strongholds of negative thoughts and emotional responses. This all makes life, at times, exceedingly miserable and difficult.  Furthermore, any unhealthy or dysfunctional responses we make to these hard realities hinder our progress toward holiness and being made Christ-like which is God’s will for us.

As we learn to take full advantage of our present relationship with God and invite His involvement in every present detail of life we encounter, we learn how to talk with Him more deeply, intimately, and honestly and to trust in His good and loving ways to deal rightly and compassionately in our lives and makeus into the person He intends us to be.

The following are just some examples of various interactions I have with God in the present moment as I bring before Him my genuine needs for healing, help, and holiness in my life:

— I ask the Holy Spirit to help me acknowledge to the Lord any specific strongholds of thoughts — things that “feel” true to me in an unhealthy, negative sense.  I offer these strongholds up to the Lord  trusting Him to begin displacing them with His truths.

— I ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any lies or untruth unknown to my conscious mind that I am believing in the present moment.  Then I choose to bring this lie-based thinking into the healing presence of Jesus for Him to renew my mind.

— I ask the Lord for His Lordship over any specific behavioral strongholds (i.e., destructive coping behaviors and habits) that affect me.  I request He demolish the strongholds as I faithfully look only to Him to do what I am powerless to do.

— I ask the Lord to make it possible for me to hear and sense only His truth that I might receive it in place of lies and distorted thinking.  I willingly choose to dedicate my all (i.e, everything good and bad about myself) to the Lord, and I reaffirm my current situation/thinking/feelings belong to Him along with my desire to be enslaved only to Him.

— I confess to the Lord any aspect of actual sin or compromise on my part that occurs to me including my awareness of and regret about my fallenness and potential to sin.

— I realistically share with the Lord the hurt, wounds, pain, bitterness, and unforgiveness I feel as a result of what others have done to me.  I request His Power to release to Him these wounds/hurts trusting Him to take them away and deal with them as He will.  I ask for the ability to trust that He will right every wrong done to me in His way and timing.  I also ask to receive His ability to forgive and release others for what they have done to me. I even boldly tell Him about any anger or hurts I have toward Him and ask for His perspective about these while trusting He will lovingly carry my distorted perspectives away as He cleanses me.

— I recall who I am to and in Christ and ask that the Holy Spirit remind me about my God-given position, rights, and privileges as a member of the family of God that I might proclaim and experience the reality of these truths.

— I choose to proclaim (in the Name of Jesus) that I resist Satan, his demons, their influence, and all lies as I obediently seek the Holy Spirit’s filling/control and the empowerment to put on the spiritual armor  of God.

— I choose to rebuke (in the Name of Jesus) Satan, his demons, and their lies, and I ask the Lord to rebuke these, also.  I reaffirm that God chose me as His own forever.

— I proclaim to the Lord how I choose to rejoice in Him (with His enablement) regardless of what my circumstances, struggles, failures, feelings are, since Who He is and What He allows are rooted in His Goodness toward me.

— I ask the Lord to show me what obedience to Him looks like, to train me in obedience, and to motivate me to obedience as a way of expressing my love for and faith in Him as He demolishes strongholds in my life along with the unhealthy thoughts, emotional responses, and behaviors attached to these strongholds.

— I praise God for Who He is,  because of His total involvement and interest in every minute detail of my life, and for His indescribable love for me as He works within these details.

May these be of help to you as the triune God — Father, Son, Holy Spirit — engages you in a deeper, more intimate, real, more constant communion with Him in the present moment as He brings to you: healing, help, and holiness.

Scriptural References:  Pr 23:7;  Zec 3:1-2;  John 8:32, 36;  Ro 8:29, 12:2;  2 Co 10:3-5;  Php 4:8; 1Th 3:13, 4:3;   Jude 9

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