Don’t be Outwitted by Satan

so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs (2 Cor. 2:11).

The first Christians took seriously the spiritual realm.   They knew that there was a war being waged for their hearts and knew that any successful battle strategy would have to involve knowing the enemy.  

I’m reading through a set of books called The Christian in Complete Armour written by Puritan preacher William Gurnall in the 17th century.  Gurnall seems well acquainted with spiritual warfare, much like most if not all the writers of scripture.    Throughout the first volume he traces the designs of the enemy, Satan, and arms the saint with strategies to both flee and upend him.   

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Here is a brief excerpt which I read this morning, describing the saint’s need to cling to the promise of justification, and know it intimately, as one means of fortifying oneself against the wiles of the devil: 

When Satan comes to take away your peace, if you do not understand the full significance of your justification in Christ you will be easily overcome.   A saint without assurance of salvation is as unprotected as the rabbit that darts into a thicket to escape a fox, but is easily followed by the print of her own feet and the scent she leaves behind.  In Christ you have a hiding place where the enemy dare not come: ‘the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs’ (Song of Sol. 2:14).  While the devil may be in hot pursuit of your soul, the very scent of Christ’s blood, by which you are justified, is noxious to him and will stop him in his tracks.  Run straight into this tower of the gospel covenant, and roll this truth on the head of Satan, as the woman cast the stone on the head of Abimelech: ‘To him…that…believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness’ (Rom. 4:5).

 

The blood of Christ is “noxious” to the devil, the enemy of your soul who “prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).   Scripture’s mindfulness of Satan’s designs are never reduced to excuses for our sinfulness (as in, “the devil made me do it”) and therefore fatalism is never an option for the child of God.   Rather, scriptures repeated warnings to be on guard, to be vigilant, to be of sober-mind, to put on the whole armor of God, only serve to heighten our responsibility to know who we are up against, and to Whom we can turn for help.   

For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places (Eph. 6:12).  

May you and I learn well the tactics of our enemy, and know even more the blood of Christ, which sends him scampering for the hills.  

 

 

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You Have a Need-To-Know Spirit

You’ve got a need-to-know spirit.

I heard this once or a thousand times from the staff at Pure Life.   Any time someone was found desiring to know something they had no business knowing, looking around trying to pick up conversation others were having, asking “Who are you talking about?” to anyone, etc., they were told they have a need-to-know spirit. 

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To the average person that might sound like making a big deal out of nothing, but to the addict it will make a lot of sense.   The addict knows all-to-well the urge from deep within to know more than they really ought to know, to experience something or someone they have no business experiencing, to find what lies just beyond the next pill, hit, bottle, hookup, website, etc., etc.    Addicts have a thirst to know stuff, and to be known by stuff.

Just the wrong stuff. 

Our desire to know more than we ought has been with us from the beginning.   It was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that God forbid our first parents to eat from (Gen. 2:17), and it was the prospect of knowing that enticed them both to grasp beyond that which God prescribed.   Since then we have been consumed with an insatiable appetite to know and be known, partaking of anything forbidden in order that we might be like God.  That we might know

You have a need-to-know spirit.  

The writer of Ecclesiastes realized the vanity of such a life near the end of his own.   The wise man who would not deny himself from knowing anything his eyes desired (Ecc. 2:10) finally came to know something we are learning today: 

For in much wisdom is much vexation,
    and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow (Ecc. 1:18)

We live in an age today where we know more stuff than at any other time in history.   At my fingertips on this laptop is a world of knowledge, anything my heart desires.    And yet, is it not true that the more we know, as the preacher of Ecclesiastes states, the more sorrowful we become?    A recent study done by the University of Michigan concluded that the more people use Facebook, the less happy they are.   They found that the more people knew about what other people were doing, the less satisfied they were with their own lives.  

Our desire to know can cause us to be anything from being dissatisfied with life to being addicted to pornography.    This is why the staff at Pure Life were intent upon squashing the need-to-know spirit in all of us.   

How can you squash it in yourself?   Apart from having someone in your life who will call you on it every time it rises up, you can do this: 

  • Name it.    Recognizing that this spirit exists in you, and that it works against God’s desire for you.  Confess your pride of life and repent.  
  • Pray for humility.    It is a prideful heart which thinks it deserves to know more than it ought.   Seek ways to purposefully humble yourself.  Ask God to provide them.  He will! 
  • Two books I highly recommend are Andrew Murray’s Humility: The Journey Toward Holiness and Irresistible to God by Steve Gallagher.    Both will help you better understand the nature and workings of pride and the beauty and freedom of humility, which is a gift from God. 
  • And finally, and most importantly, direct your thirst for knowledge God-ward.   Commit yourself to chunks of time each day to gorge on God’s word.   Spend time talking with God each and every day.   Get to know God.   Pray to know, and be known, by Him and Him alone. 

We all have a need-to-know spirit.   But by God’s grace, we can overcome it.  I pray that this is as helpful for you as much as it is for me, and that together we can halt our grasping of that which we have no business knowing.  

 

 

 

Can You Really Change?

Today was a monumental day for me.  This morning I sat in a room full of pastors who would vote as to whether or not I should move forward in the ordination process as a United Methodist pastor.   It is nothing short of a miracle that this would even be a consideration.   That they voted unanimously to advance me forward is a testament to God’s ability to do the impossible.  

During my time in the “hot seat” this morning I was asked what my life is like today compared to before, and whether or not I consider going back to my addiction.    It is so awesome to be able to say along with Paul that my old self has been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I that live but Christ in me.    Am I perfect?  By no means.  I still struggle with things like pride and selfishness – I still battle with wanting my way.    But by God’s grace even that battle is not the struggle it once was.   

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Pastor Jeff Colon, President of Pure Life, wrote the following article called, “Can I Really Change?”    I recommend it to anyone who stumbled on this blog, whether you are struggling with habitual sin/addiction or know someone who is.     I remember a few years ago thinking that it was impossible to change.    How wrong I was!   The words from one of my favorite hymns are true:

He breaks the power of canceled sin,
He sets the prisoner free;
His blood can make the foulest clean,
His blood availed for me.

This can – and should! – be every person’s testimony.   Nothing is impossible with God!   You are not destined to live a defeated Christian existence.    If God can set this sinner free, God can set anyone free.  

Can you really change?   YES!  Praise be to God!

 

Do You Want To Be Healed?

What is freedom, and what is bondage?  Many Christians try to have it both ways.  They want the freedom of living their own lives, inviting God’s presence on their terms, but never entering into the life of liberty in the Spirit that God intends for them.  Undeniably lukewarm, they possess the worst of both worlds.  They neither live in horrible, outward sin nor in the wedded bliss of the first love.  Since they love their lives in this world, they will not abandon their lives to Jesus.  Therefore, they do not really get to enjoy the pleasures of sin nor the glorious, overcoming life in the Spirit.  Instead, they live in a dismal, gray world which exists between the two extremes – all under the nice sounding title of “being balanced.”  The reality is they live in a spiritual ghetto.

 

~ Steve Gallagher, “Living in Victory” (pg. 150)

 

For a long time I lived in the spiritual ghetto described above.   I became convinced that I had a “shadow side” which was simply part of my make-up.   So convinced was I of this that I insisted others must learn to either love me “as is” or get out of my life.    I once even told my own mother to never speak to me again because she was “toxic to my recovery” as an addict.    What was so toxic?    Her telling me that I was in bondage to sin, not sex, and freedom could be found in Christ.

When you are an addict – to what or whomever – the promise of freedom can sound like  a cruel joke.    When one is so wrapped up in a sinful pattern, as I was, it is nearly impossible to hear truth as something liberating rather than infuriating.  

There is a beautiful story John tells in his gospel of Jesus coming upon an invalid of 38 years.   Jesus asks this man what might at first seem to be a curious question:

Do you want to be healed?   (John 5:6)

Do you want to be healed?  What a glorious question!   And how equally terrifying!   An outsider might find this a curious question, but the one bent over from sin for decades knows it’s import.   We know this question is not always met with a resounding YES! welling up from the depths of a broken, needy heart.   We know that there is a huge part of ourselves that loves darkness more than light, that cherishes our sin like Gollum clinging to his Precious, that doesn’t want to face the responsibility that true freedom would entail.   Yes, it’s a pig sty, but it’s my pig sty, we cry. 

I have a hunch that Jesus learned to ask this question early on in his ministry after encountering far too many people who refused to be made well.  They refused the freedom offered them because they did not believe it possible to achieve.  

Do you want to be healed?

The question still lingers for each of us today whether you be an invalid, an addict, an impatient spouse, an uninvolved parent, a greedy employer or a prideful pastor.   

Jesus does not ask a question of us that he is not fit to deliver upon.   When he asks, he asks in hopes that perhaps this time you have had enough with living in a spiritual ghetto and would like to taste and see that the Lord is good.   He would love to introduce you to a life of freedom where his exhortation to “go and sin no more” no longer sounds like a cruel joke but an invitation to a life you never dreamed possible…until this very moment.

Do you want to be healed? 

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