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 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.

Excerpted from S.T.A.N.D. Spiritually Trained And Not Defeated: Our Position in Christ, Our Mission in Christ A Handbook on Spiritual Warfare.  Buy it on Amazon.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Serving God versus Following God

I have been debating within myself for awhile the difference between serving God and following God.  I have surmised that they are not the same; yes, they can overlap, but far too often they are not one and the same.

Let us take a brief respite from spiritual warfare to discuss this.  It all started when my daughter mentioned the One Word idea at the beginning of the New Year (2017).  I loved the idea of having one word from the Lord be my northern star for the year ahead.  My former pastor and I were having difficulties and I was trying to extricate myself from the church as graciously as I could.  I love serving God and so that is the word I picked:  "serve."

Sitting at my new church one morning, the Lord gave me the word He wanted me to have: "follow." At first I thought, "There really is no difference between following and serving God."  I have come to discover most emphatically there is.

Let's start with Jesus. How often do people gloss over those verses where Jesus is saying that all He does is in direct response to His Father?

John 5:19: "Jesus gave them this answer: 'Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.'"

John 12:49: "For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken."

John 8:28: "So Jesus said, 'When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.'"

Now, we as believers would say that Jesus served His Father.  I would rephrase that and say He served His Father only by following Him.  He spoke what His Father commanded Him to speak.  He did only those things commanded by Father to do.  

Perhaps we see Jesus going from person to person, event to event, with His Father's name on His lips, with His heart in the right place.  I now see Him differently:  I see Jesus up in the mountains, praying and asking His Father what He would like Him to do and say on this day.  Of course, Jesus wanted to serve His Father, but only by following His Father's lead.  

I have spent many years serving the church.  Serving God.  Serving others.  Same thing, right?  No. Now, serving the church is not wrong.  But, serving the church when God has not asked you to do so is.  For example, a well-intentioned woman asks you to serve in the nursery.  It's not wrong she asked you--there is a need to be sure--and she knows you love children.  It's already decided.  Right?  No. Serving the church and serving God are not identical.  If we think they are, then we risk several spiritual mishaps:

1.  I burn out because I am not operating in what God has called me to do.
2.  I am stepping in and doing something that God wanted someone else to do.
3.  Church leaders see a need and want it filled.  Have they waited on the Lord for guidance?  Is the overall program under God's leading?  
4.  Good intentions are not God-intentions.  It is not wrong to help out but only if I am acting in accordance with His direction.

How do you prevent those four things from happening?  Church leaders want us to serve God by serving the church.  So we always say, "Yes, I will be happy to help!" when approached.  

What if we said instead, "I will pray about it." 

Are we afraid that we won't sound spiritual?  That we will disappoint the person asking us?  That we will be disappointing God?  

Again, look at Jesus.  He went into the mountains to pray all the time.  He prioritized a relationship with His Father over serving Him.  Serving someone is not spending time with them.  Jesus wanted to spend time with His Father and His service, words, actions and thought all flowed from those intimate encounters with His Father.

Why do we do it differently?  We want to serve Jesus.  Why not instead of running out and serving soup in a homeless shelter, why not pray and spend time with Jesus, asking Him what He wants you to do?  It may be that He does want you to go to the shelter or perhaps He wants you to pray about the shelter.  

In James, he argues that good works come out of faith: "What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?  If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,' but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead."  (2:14-17).  

Faith is our response to God's grace.  God initiates reconciliation and we, by faith, appropriate it.  We then want to show our gratitude to God's grace by reaching out in His love to others.  That's the order I am talking about:  God's grace + our time spent in Him =  His will for us.

If we are always working on His behalf and do not spend enough time in fellowship with Him, what we do may be for Him but not of Him.

In closing, consider the prodigal son's brother.  He's out in field serving his father.  He's not in the house with his father.  He is furious with his brother, to be sure.  But his words to his father are even more disturbing.  Let's set the scene:   

Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

'My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours...'
(Luke 15: 25-31)

The older son is so angry he won't even come in to see his father.  Yet, this brother was serving his father.  But because his relationship with his father has been replaced with serving, he was angry at his father's generosity to the other brother.  In fact, this brother sees his serving as "slaving."  Serving God without a relationship will lead to that sense of being enslaved to a church, and we serve not out of love, but out of obligation.  

The father gently reminds him that all the father has is his.  Did the son ever sit down with his father, and ask him for a party?  Did he ever spend time and see the grief in his father's face and have compassion for him?  Listening to his words, I think not.

Serving God?  Following God?  I choose to follow Him.  I will say to those who mean well when asked to serve in the church, "I will get back to you." I will pray, spend time with the Father and then do what He has asked me to do, and only that. 

Now, I bet some of you are saying, "What?  Ask God about everything little thing, or every time someone makes a request of me?"  That's exactly what I saying.  How did Jesus sustain His intense ministry for three years?  Read again the scriptures I gave at the beginning.  

If He orders it, He's in it with you.  

If you are just being nice, disappointment and burnout are around the corner.  

Saturday, May 13, 2017

S.T.A.N.D. on Who Satan Is--Spiritual Warfare VIII

     We are seeking to be Spiritually Trained And Not Defeated, so we can S.T.A.N.D. on the promises of God.  As a good soldier, you need intel--accurate information as to who the enemy is and how he operates.  Let’s go down the list of Satan’s names.  In the Bible, a name equals  character.  So, it’s not just a label; a name is a profile, a character sketch of who someone is.  Satan’s names describe who he is and what he does. Satan also compared to things we can relate to; whether it’s a name or a comparison, we need truth, the whole truth and nothing but the Truth to understand who our foe truly is. Jesus is that Truth.  Satan is the utter opposite of that.

Satan:  The name means “adversary.”  Doesn’t that cover it all?  He is God’s, ours and the Kingdom of God’s.  In everyday terms, he doesn’t play nice.  Ever. "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour…" (1 Pet. 5:8)

Devil:  The name means “false accuser” or “slanderer.”  Look at how he slaughtered Job’s character by insinuating that he only loved God because of what God had blessed him with:
“Does Job fear God for nothing?’ Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.” (Job 1:9-11 NIV)

The Tempter:  Satan baits us, unpure and simple.  He knows our weakness and goes after us in that area. "For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain." (1 Thess. 3:5 NIV)

The Evil One:  Satan loves to snatch the Word out of our hearts as quickly as he can, so we are left with our own understanding or listening to his dark whispers: "When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path." (Matt. 13:19 NIV)

Jesus prayed for his disciples and for us: "My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one." (John 17:15 NIV)  No goodness and no mercy exists in Satan.  He aims his arrows at our heart, knowing that is the very place God desires to inhabit with His love.  Satan shoots to kill: "In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one."  (Eph. 6:16 NIV)

The Prince of This World:  When Adam and Eve sinned, they lost dominion over this planet.  The physical realm hates a vacuum, and so does the spiritual.  Satan happily took over the planet.  If the Garden was the headquarters for Adam’s dominion, then when Adam was exiled due to his disobedience and sin, his authority was exiled as well.  Satan grabbed that leadership and took on this title.  But, he is not King.  Only Jesus possesses that title.  The Word states Adam's task: "The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. (Gen. 2:15 NIV)

But having bit into that fruit that allowed him to live his life with his own knowledge and thus no need of God, God removed Adam: "So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life." (Gen. 3:23-24 NIV)

Adam was cast out and so was Satan.  We are prey and he is a predator.  But Jesus is our Protector:  
"Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out." (John 12:31)

The God of This World:  Satan wants our devotion and worship, counterfeiting God’s desire for devotion and worship from us.  God allows us to choose; Satan loves blind obedience. "In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them."(2 Cor. 4:4)

The Prince of the Power of the Air:  Satan travels back and forth from his spiritual realm to this earth.  He has one purpose in mind and that is to harass and deceive human beings: "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…" (Eph. 2:2)

An Angel of Light:  Satan pulls out his shiny angel costume and flaunts himself to those whose spiritual discernment is lacking.  Ugliness in unappealing; beauty with ugliness at the core is deadly to those who don’t recognize it: "And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light." (2 Cor. 11:14 NIV)

Lucifer: (“Morning Star”) These verses in Isaiah describe a king whose arrogance causes his fall.  It is striking how pride, whether in human beings or in the heart of an angelic being, leads to the same fate:  a fall.

How you have fallen from heaven,
   morning star, son of the dawn!
You have been cast down to the earth,
   you who once laid low the nations!
You said in your heart,
   “I will ascend to the heavens;
I will raise my throne
   above the stars of God… (Is. 14:12-13)

Pride is the center, the very core of evil:  "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall." (Prov. 16:18)

A Wolf:  Predators look for the weak.  Predators show no mercy.  Predators don’t rest.  Neither does Satan: "The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it." (John 10:12)

A Lion:  A lion hides in the grasses.  It waits and waits.  The lion may crouch so long that the herd forgets it is there.  The herd may even think it has moved on.  But at the right moment, when the herd has let down its guard, BAM! It strikes with lightning speed and takes down its lunch for the day.  Satan is no different and like a lion, he is on the prowl, 24/7: "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour…" (1 Pet. 5:8)

An Angry Bird:  Throw down seed, and watch out, here come those hungry birds.  Throw down the Word of God, and here Satan comes, beak wide open.  He wants to gobble up that Word planted in your heart before it can take root and make a difference in your life: "As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up... Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path."(Matt. 13:4 & 18-19 NIV)

Great Dragon, Serpent, Deceiver of the Whole World:  That covers it all.  Reptiles have cold eyes and a desire to hunt.  Whether it’s a giant dragon metaphorically destroying all in its path, or a stealthy snake, slithering through a tree to catch the attention of a young woman, the motivation is always the same.  He wants to deceive so as to destroy: "The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent, called the devil or Satan, who leads the whole world astray.  He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him." (Rev. 12:9 NIV)

Father of Lies and A Murderer:  Deception is crafted from truth laced with lies.  Satan is the master craftsman of the lie.  It worked in the Garden and still works today, with tragic results. Lies and deception are a potent brew, for they lead to death: "He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies."  (John 8:44 NIV)

Ruler(s) of the Darkness:  Satan has his kingdom and his methods.  But we are not to be ignorant of his schemes: "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." (Eph. 6:12)

Thief:  Jesus’ definition is unsurpassed.  Satan will never change: "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)

Author of Confusion:  If you are running around, confused and angry, that is not of God, even when you are doing the work of God.  If you are exhausted, guess who is hounding you?  God’s work leaves us spiritually refreshed, although we may be physically tired.  Inside, we know that we have made God smile.  If we are bitter, resentful, angry or numb, the work is not of God. We need His wisdom to do what He has called us to do, no more and no less: "For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace…" (1 Cor. 14:33)

"Who is wise and understanding among you?  Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.  But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.  Such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven, but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil.  For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice."  (James 3: 13-16 NIV)

God’s words are simple, direct and quietly spoken to your heart.  Satan gives you lots of detail and keeps giving you more and more to ponder, for now he has your full attention.  God’s voice is still, small, yet powerfully to the point as the prophet Elijah found out: "And he [the Lord] said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice." (1 Kings 19: 11-12)

If you review this catalogue of names, what do you find? 
Don’t be ignorant.  We obey what Jesus calls us to do:  "Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices." (2 Cor. 2:11). 

Whatever you are facing, God’s Word charts your course: "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths." (Prov. 3:5-6)

"The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand." (Ps. 37:23-24)

"In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps." (Prov. 16:9)

"Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way.  Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.  I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep thy righteous judgments." (Psalm 119:104-106)

Any deviation from God’s Word and the principles He sets forth in it will lead straight into Satan’s gaping jaws: "There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death." (Prov. 16:25 NIV)

What is Satan’s endgame?  What is his ultimate goal for us?  We will cover that next. 

Excerpted from S.T.A.N.D. Spiritually Trained And Not Defeated: Our Position in Christ, Our Mission in Christ A Handbook on Spiritual Warfare.  Buy it on Amazon.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

S.T.A.N.D. on Who Satan is Not--Spiritual Warfare VII

I have been on vacation and now I am back!  Thank you for reading my blogs.  Remember that STAND means:  Spiritually Trained And Not Defeated.  The more intelligence we gather, the more we know our enemy and the less power he has over us.  

We are going to explore this biblical profile of Satan from Ezekiel  28:11-19 (NIV). The prophecy is aimed at the King of Tyre, whose own fall describes Satan’s to a tee. Whether the fall is that of a king or an angel, pride destroys the beauty within and drives that individual from God’s holy presence and influence. 

11 The word of the Lord came to me: 
12 “Son of man, take up a lament concerning the king of Tyre and say to him: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: “‘You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.
13 You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone adorned you… Your settings and mountings were made of gold; on the day you were created they were prepared.
14 You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you.  You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones.
15 You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you.
16 Through your widespread trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned.  So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you, guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones.
17 Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor.  So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings.
18 By your many sins and dishonest trade you have desecrated your sanctuaries.  So I made a fire come out from you, and it consumed you, and I reduced you to ashes on the ground in the sight of all who were watching.
19 All the nations who knew you are appalled at you; you have come to a horrible end and will be no more.’”
Let’s begin.  The fall is a sad one. 
The word of the Lord came to me: "Son of man, take up a lament concerning the king of Tyre and say to him: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: “You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.'"
This is a lament. God takes no pleasure in castigating this king whose pride has become such an abomination. Likewise, God took no pleasure in casting Satan out. The lament comes from remembering what Satan was and what he has now become.  The bigger they are, the harder (and from greater heights) they fall. Satan was beautiful, and filled with wisdom.  But wisdom without humility is arrogance.  Arrogance was the seed that grew inside of Satan, leading to his downfall.  He had forgotten the One Who bestowed that beauty and wisdom on him in the first place.

You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone adorned you… Your settings and mountings were made of gold; on the day you were created they were prepared.
Satan was in the Garden of Eden.  But with arrogance already brewing in his heart, did he really enjoy the sight-seeing tour of God’s creation, or was he on a secret scouting mission to see what God had made and how he could sabotage it?

You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you.  You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones.
Despite Satan’s resumé that he hands out to us, he is not omniscient.  He cannot be everywhere at once.  He is a created being.  Thus, he has limitations.  As a fallen angel, he can move to and from the spiritual realm to the physical: "One day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD and Satan also came with them. The Lord said to Satan, asked him, 'Where have you come from?'
Satan answered the LORD, 'From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.'” (Job 1:6-7 NIV)  But, as a created being, he has limitations.  Don’t let him tell you otherwise.  He had beauty, honor and amazing power.  No longer.  But, and this is key in understanding spiritual warfare: Satan still has a presence on earth.  He still accuses God about us.  He still accuses us about God.   

You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you.
What was that “wickedness”?  Pride, pure and simple.  Look at all he possessed.  It wasn’t his beauty that tripped him up.  It was forgetting Who bestowed that beauty, that wealth, and that position of a guardian cherub upon him in the first place. He started looking to himself, and thought, at some deep level, that he was responsible for what he had.  God warns His own people of falling prey to that same kind of thinking:

"When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. He led you through the vast and dreadful wilderness, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. He gave you manna to eat in the wilderness, something your ancestors had never known, to humble and test you so that in the end it might go well with you. You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today."(Deut. 8:10-18 NIV)

This is exactly what Satan did.  He probably said in his heart:  My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.  I did it.  And it’s all for ME.  That’s pride at its ugliest.

Through your widespread trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned.  So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you, guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones.
Pride leads to entitlement.  Entitlement says:  I want MORE!  I shouldn’t have to settle!  Why?  Because I deserve it!  Thinking you deserve more means that if others do not agree with you, then you have to take it.  If persuasion doesn’t work, then take it by force. Sin motivates, alienates and then retaliates.  Do not forget this simple truth.  That sin in Satan’s heart led to his expulsion from God’s presence.  Once out of the redeeming holy presence of God, Satan was under the full sway of his prideful heart.  Satan lost his position of being a beautiful angel in God’s holy court and resented that greatly.  Nothing makes you strike even harder than suffering a loss you do not think you deserve.

Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor.  So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings.
Now corrupted by pride and sin, Satan loses whatever heavenly wisdom he possessed and trades it in for darkness: "Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.  For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.  But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere." (James 3:13-17 NIV)  The result of Satan’s corruption?  A one-way ticket out of God’s holy influence.

By your many sins and dishonest trade you have desecrated your sanctuaries.  So I made a fire come out from you, and it consumed you, and I reduced you to ashes on the ground in the sight of all who were watching.
Any good, any beauty, anything of value that Satan once possessed is gone.  His sin and grasping for more corrupted his very being.  Satan has been reduced. His power, glory and beauty are as ashes now. 

All the nations who knew you are appalled at you; you have come to a horrible end and will be no more.
When Jesus returns, Satan will receive his final sentence: he will be no more.  Until then, Satan will raise hell in God’s creation.  Satan’s target will be God’s most prized possession in all of creation:  us. Satan’s goal was and continues to be to have us doubt God and His Word, thus weakening our faith.  The weaker we are, the better target we are for Satan.  Wolves take out the weakest members of a herd.  Satan is no different.  OK, there’s the profile. Let’s now focus on what Satan is not.

Satan is not everywhere at once.

He cannot be everywhere at once.  That alone is reserved for 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. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast."  (Ps. 139:7-10 NIV) 

Satan only feels omnipresent because he doesn’t work alone.  He has a wolf pack of fallen angels working with him: "And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him." (Rev. 12:9)

Satan is not equal to God, because he is a created being.

Satan aspired to be God, but he was not and can never be.  God declares,
“You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord,
   “and my servant whom I have chosen,
so that you may know and believe me
   and understand that I am he.
Before me no god was formed,
   nor will there be one after me.
I, even I, am the Lord,
   and apart from me there is no savior.” (Is. 43.10-11 NIV)

Satan is not all-powerful.

He is diminished because he was cast out of heaven.  He has power, yes, but it is limited:  "And he [Jesus] said to them, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.’" (Luke 10:18 NIV)

Isaiah declares:  "How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ But you are brought down to the realm of the dead, to the depths of the pit." (4:12-15 NIV)

Satan is a dog on God’s leash.

God put limits on how far Satan could go with Job.  If Satan had unlimited power, this would not have been possible: "And the Lord said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand.  So Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord.  (Job 1:12 KJV)

Satan’s weapons are not invincible.  He just likes to pretend they are.

We know otherwise, because of who we are in Christ:  
"But in that coming day
    no weapon turned against you will succeed.
You will silence every voice
    raised up to accuse. 
These benefits are enjoyed by the
    servants of the LORD;
    their vindication will come from me. 
I, the LORD, have spoken." (Is. 54:17)

Satan is not able to operate on this planet unless he has a person to influence, 
inhabit or control to do his bidding.

Christ fills our heart and does His Kingdom work here through us when we allow Him to do so.  Satan is a counterfeit of Christ.  Satan likewise fills our heart and does his kingdom work here through us when we allow him to do so. When we have an empty, prideful, angry, lustful, wounded or irreverent heart (or all of the above), we provide the open door for him to slither in and do his work in us.  Maybe we have not given him outright permission, but he is on the prowl for someone whose heart’s door is even slightly open: "When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out. And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first." (Luke 11:24-26)

This person’s heart here is empty.  It appears swept and clean to those seeing the person from the outside, but its emptiness is disturbing.  Why is it empty?  Has pride replaced God’s presence?  Has anger drowned out God’s voice?  Has lust for the flesh replaced love for God’s Spirit?  Have deep wounds waved away God’s healing touch?  Has irreverence wrapped its ugly arms around a once respectful and sensitive heart that used to love the things of God? The physical realm hates a vacuum.  The spiritual realm is no different.  Emptiness doesn’t stay that way for long.  To quote a Bob Dylan song, “Ya gotta serve somebody.  It may be the devil, or it may be the Lord, but ya gotta serve somebody.”

OK, we have established that Satan has limitations.  We should not overestimate Satan and his power. But we should not underestimate it, either.  If we are in a war (remember, we put on the “full armor of God” not our dancing shoes) then we need to know our enemy.  What he can and cannot do, who he is and where this war is going is essential intelligence we need from the front lines.  The Word provides the necessary information.   In my next blog, we will focus now on what our enemy is.

Excerpted from S.T.A.N.D. Spiritually Trained And Not Defeated: Our Position in Christ, Our Mission in Christ A Handbook on Spiritual Warfare.  Buy it on Amazon.
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