Saturday, May 27, 2017

What is Satan's Endgame? Spiritual Warfare, Part IX

The Bible, in 2 Corinthians 2:11, translates the plotting and planning that Satan does into various words, depending on the translation:
·         “devices,” (KJV)
·         “designs,” (ESV)
·         “schemes,” (NIV)
·         “wiles” (ASV)
·         “methods” (PHILLIPS)  

I call it an “endgame.”  Satan’s endgame is to kill you.  He doesn’t care which poison or method you choose. His goal for you is to end up six feet under...be lion chow…be six fathoms deep…in other words, to be completely destroyed.  It’s not what you do or how you get there.  Satan is interested only that you end up dead, having lived a life without Jesus and now heading for Hell. 
Because once we are dead, this game of life is over.  The time for deciding whether or not to live it for Jesus or ourselves is also over: "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment…"  (Heb. 9:27)

The Bible is utterly clear on Satan’s intentions, as we have seen: "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour…" (1 Pet. 5:8)

Jesus taught that "The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." (John 10:10)  

Paul reminds us, "Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices." (2 Cor. 2:11)

Satan wants to capture you and ensnare you.  He doesn’t want to take you to a tea party.  He wants you to lose yourself in what you do, and soon what you do becomes who you are—this becomes your identity. Then you become very invested in your lifestyle and forget it started out as one encounter, one sip, one smoke: "And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will." (2 Tim. 2:26)  Paul equally warns Timothy and us: "But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived." (2 Tim. 3:13)

So, if Jesus' name in Hebrew, Yeshua, means "salvation," then someone might ask, "Saving from what?"  If we are following Jesus, we will respond, "From sin and death, of course!"  We then would boil Jesus' ministry down to: "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh." (Ezek. 36:26)

If someone said, “Why would Jesus do that?” 

We would answer confidently: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)

Then we would quickly add that Jesus came to give us abundant life.  The two greatest obstacles we face from fully experiencing God in this life is sin and death.  Sin controls our lives and death causes us fear.  Jesus came to give us victory and life.  We have passed Theology 101.  Or have we?  Let me share a key point about Satan and his endgame that I had driven home to me recently.

My husband is an eminent scholar in the field of gun rights.  He was asked to speak to the Texas Bar Association in Austin, Texas.  The presenter who spoke before him had been involved in two gun-related criminal cases as an expert witness.  The stories broke my heart.

Both involved domestic violence.  Two different women had hooked up with two men who were involved in the biker subculture.  The first woman was a Christian.  When she met him, he was willing to go to church with her.  Over time, his drug abuse and ill treatment of her led her to kick him out.  

Her fatal "mistake" was saying disparaging things about his biker patches and biker club.  After screaming, "I’m going to kill you!" he jumped on top of her with a knife.  She was able to get the knife and she stabbed him to get him off of her.  He went to the hospital with fourteen stab wounds and later died.  She was convicted of 2nd degree murder.  Her case was overturned, however, and the judge agreed that she had indeed acted in self-defense.

The second woman, after twelve years of being involved with her biker partner, and having found him in their home with another woman, said disparaging things about his club and his patches.  He later menaced her with a knife and having threatened to kill her and her family, she drew a gun and fatally shot him.

The presenter discussed self-defense, juries, and women whose self-esteem is so low that they cannot see themselves with any other guy, thereby putting themselves at risk.  It was a sobering presentation, complete with ER and autopsy photos.  

My point?  We Christians tend to focus on the sins that people commit.  We look at the adultery, the homosexuality, the greed, the pride, the abuse, the whatever, and say, "You should not do that." 
We are horrified at what people do.  The presenter did not mince words about what losers these two men were; he repeatedly used the phrase, "***holes" in describing them.  Looking at their tats, their pictures sporting attitude, it was a label that fit.  In fact, the audience laughed every time he used that word in describing these two men.

I was horrified at what he presented.  I felt anger that these men had pushed these women to such a breaking point that one man was stabbed and the other shot.  I felt awful that these women had been so deceived by these men that they stayed with them.  These women then became criminals in the eyes of the law.

I had focused on what everyone had done.  It had started out so simple for these women.  They were probably excited when they first met these guys, unaware of their poisonous character.  But these women were deceived and paid dearly for it.  So did the men. 

The bottom line is deception.  You say, I am in control, and for awhile, you will beBut given enough time, you wade in deeper.  The deeper in you go, the more the poison works its evil in you. 
Deception is one of Satan’s most effective weapons.  He says to you, as you are wading deeper into sin:

You are the only one who understands this person.  You’ll be the one to help and change them. 
·         You’re fine.  You can stop this any time.
·         You’re not like those other people, who clearly have a problem.
·         The others are light weights.  You can handle this.
·         Your needs will be met with this. 
·         This won’t lead to anything else. 
·         You are in control. 
·         If no one gets hurt, then why not?

We’ve either thought those things, or know someone who has.  A life so lived will be sadly affected by Satan’s deception. We are warned to “give no opportunity to the devil.” (Eph.4:7)  A little lie is still a lie.  A little poison is still poison. Even a cracked door is still open. Let me bring up a quick analogy.  A person walks into a room filled with numerous bottles of poison. The person is trying to select which one to drink. We run in and focus on each bottle, listing the consequences of drinking that particular poison:
·         
       That one’s cyanide!  It will steal your oxygen and turn you blue! 
·         That one’s anti-freeze!  Drink that and it will shred your kidneys!
·         Whoa!  That’s mercury and it causes insanity!
·         No way!  That’s dioxin and it causes cancer!
·         That one’s strychnine and it will shut down your nervous system!

While we are talking, the person turns around and gulps down a bottle of cyanide.  We quickly say, "How could you do that?"  We then repeat all the horrible things cyanide does to the body.  Only after much detailing of the poison’s effects, we yell, "It'll kill you!"  

We focus on what the person did and the consequences of drinking that particular poison.  Then we say, "It will kill you."

Now, let's go back to our presenter at the Texas Bar Association.  I listened to the horrible aspects of these people's lives and what they had done.  It was almost an afterthought that these people’s behaviors resulted in their destruction and death.

Then it hit me:  Satan does not care what you DO.  He could care less what bottle of poison you drink.  His endgame is your death:  six feet under and cold as dirt.  
Did any of those four people wake up that morning and say, "What we are doing will lead to our death.  We need to stop now!"  No.  The dead man laying on the coroner's table never thought he'd end his day like that.  We need to stop just focusing on what people DO now and focus on what will happen to them in the future if they continue. We need to lovingly and forcefully point out to people the consequences of sin, and not just dwell on the particular sin itself.   Let’s go into another room filled this time with “sin’s poison.”  We see a person reaching for a bottle and we quickly yell:

·         That’s adultery!  It could ruin your marriage!
·         That’s homosexuality!  It leads to many impersonal and empty relationships!
·         Whoa!  That’s alcohol!  It can lead to addiction, DUI’s and job loss!
·         No way!  That’s pride!  It offends others and leaves you empty and unhappy!
·         Yuck!  That’s unforgiveness and it leads to a bitter spirit!
·         Stop!  That porn you’re looking at is destructive to your spirit!

Then, almost as an afterthought, we tell the person that whatever sin they are engaged in is deadly. 
WHAT? How so? Damage, yes, but death? Let’s take the consequences further.  Let’s look into the future and after a long engagement with the sin, see where the sin will lead:

·         That’s adultery!  You will someday lose your marriage; contact with your kids;  lose the house; resort to drinking; carrying on in impersonal relationships;  depression; getting a DUI; dying in a crash while under the influence. 
·         Whoa!  That’s homosexuality!  It leads to an empty life; impersonal relationships;  depression; ending life with possibly AIDS, suicide or a drug overdose. 
·         No way!  That’s alcohol!  It can lead to cirrhosis of the liver; causing you to do things you would never do while sober; brain damage and dementia; suicide; early death from a debilitated body; family and friends leave; loneliness. 
·         That’s pride!  It will cause you to lie; steal; hide; lie some more; cover up; be ruined; lose self-respect; lose respect from others; suicide; a life lived isolated and alone.
·         Whoa! That’s unforgiveness! It leads to a bitter and lonely heart; ill health; depression; misery; dying estranged and alone from family and friends.
·         Stop!  That porn you are looking at degrades you and your partner.  Soon, your dissatisfaction with your partner will lead you to isolate more and more.  Your degraded spirit will find giving love harder and harder.  Your partner, alienated and hurt, will leave.  You will end up alone, your self-respect gone.

We are so focused on the horror of the sin, we lose sight of the most horrible outcome of all:  the death of the sinner.  Oh, come on, you say, how could my adultery lead to death?  Adultery is the poison in the bottle. Once you introduce it into your life, Satan now uses it to separate you further and further from God.  As the sin courses through your spiritual bloodstream, the more vulnerable you are to his attacks.  He isn't concerned what poison you drank; he just wants you to drink it and start the process.  He wants you dead.  How you get there is not his concern.  

Let me finish up what the presenter said.  At the end, all four lives were destroyed.  The two women served time.  One man was dead and the other severely injured.  Even though one of the women was exonerated, her life is forever changed.  Because she is a Christian, she has hope and assurance of God’s love. I pray for the other woman and the man who survived as well.  

Satan wants us to live a life with no hope in this world.  Then when we step off this planet, he wants to welcome us to an eternity with no hope.  The entrance to Hell should have a sign over it that says, “Abandon hope all ye who enter here.”

A word here.  Frequently people are angered by the notion that God “sends” people to hell.  I put the word “sends” in quotes, because otherwise you picture God angrily pushing a reluctant person out of His presence, towards Hell’s entrance.  God doesn’t “send” anyone.  A person who chooses not to live in Christ in this life would not want to live in Christ in the next one either.  A person who did not love Christ in this life would not love Christ in the next one, nor would they want to be forced to do so.  A person who did not believe in God or doubted His existence and lived this life accordingly would not want to live in His presence for all eternity.  So, God does not send people to hell.  They choose to go.  They have spent their whole lives walking away from Him, despite His invitation to join Him: "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matt. 11:28-30)

They chose to walk away from Him in this life and He honors their choice for eternity.  That is why a “death-bed” confession does not bother Him at all.  He wants to hear a cry, however weak and small, coming from a person before they leave this earth.  He wants us to join Him willingly, even if we don’t understand all the details and even if it’s at the last minute.  The two men who hung on either side of Jesus is the best illustration of this truth in Luke 23:39-43: 

And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.
But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation?
And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.
And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.
And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.

God does not condemn us; our actions condemn us.  The standard of right behavior is not what I do versus what others do; the standard is our behavior is measured against a sinless God.  God is not willing that anyone should “perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) Why?  Because of His love for us. But forced love is not love at all; it is coercion, a kind of rape of the soul.  God would never be involved with anything that is not love through and through.  Satan deceives; he coerces and lies to get us entangled in his schemes.  We are dead in our sins but faith in Jesus brings us to life:

And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;
Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:
Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:
That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.  (Eph. 2:1-10)

Satan does not want us to come to life in this world by accepting Christ.  Satan will not let up until we leave this world. In other words, Satan wants us to live dead and die dead. That is why Jesus is so focused on us bringing life.  He is the Antidote to the poison of sin and its result, death.  Jesus says that Satan the thief is out to "steal kill, and destroy."  As followers of Jesus, let's focus on the endgame.  Satan wants your death, by whatever means necessary.  Jesus wants your life to be transformed into His life in you. He provided the means:  His death on the cross. He wants you under His protection, guidance and love. 

Let Psalm 91 flood your heart:

He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.
Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.
He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.
Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day;
Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.
A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.
Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.
Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation;
There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.
For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.
They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.
Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.
Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name.
He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him.
With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation.

So often we Christians use the phrase, “Love the sinner, but hate the sin.”  I would like to amend that.  Let us love the sinner and hate the death that awaits them if they don't find Jesus.  Let's be loving and diligent to show people where their sin will take them.  Let’s not let the sin itself steal our focus, however ugly it is.  Let’s share the beauty of Jesus and His offer to save us from sin and death.  He is Salvation. He alone is what we need to counter the wiles of Satan.   Jesus wants to bring us life now and for eternity.  That is the good news.  That is The Gospel.

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