Here it comes again. That same old temptation is back to try to take you down, to pull you away from God, to fill you with depression, condemnation and especially a guilty conscience. Remember, as I heard a preacher say years ago, ‘Sin is not the problem. Sin is the answer. But it’s the wrong answer.’ You see you may have an itch and you want to scratch it, but you need to see if your answer to that itch is God’s answer. Or else you may be falling into a trap.
Satan doesn’t parade answers to your itch in front of you to help you. He doesn’t tempt you because he likes you. He’s trying to kill you.
In John 14:30 Jesus said about Satan, ‘he has nothing in Me.’ You could say it another way, ‘He’s got no hooks in me.’ He tries but he is not successful in tempting me. There is nothing left in me to tempt me with.
1Peter 4:1 “Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin”.
Can you imagine being done with temptation? Being in a place where Satan has no hooks in you? Being literally unresponsive to the temptations paraded before you to get you to fall? Can you imagine that? Most likely your flesh can’t imagine that. Your flesh still wants to have its own way. But this verse in 1Peter 4 says that he who has suffered in the flesh is ceased from sin. Does that mean if you’ve been persecuted with bodily harm for the Gospel that you have an immunity to being tempted? It could mean that. (Stick with me, I’ll unpack that.)
So there are two kinds of suffering in the flesh to discuss then: there’s the persecution where someone has received bodily harm and there’s the kind where we cause our own flesh to suffer through fasting, denying the flesh its appetite. Paul talks about putting the flesh under. He talks about beating it and making it his slave.
We can be ruled by the demands of the flesh, the itch that screams at us, the desire that tries to pull us off. Or we can rule over the flesh, put it under, make it obey us. But fleeing something is not as good as pursuing something. Often times when trying to avoid temptation people try to ‘turn off the darkness’ instead of ‘turning on the light’.
What do you desire? If its godly, pursue it. If its not godly, not only should you not pursue it but you should change your desires. Set your heart on something good instead of something negative. Most often you will pursue what you desire. If you pursue godly desires, temptation is nowhere in sight. Instead of turning off the darkness, turn on the light of good, godly desires. Set your affections on things that God wants. Desire them, and desire them strongly. Now pursue them. That’s turning on the light.
Last night before I went to sleep I sat down with my laptop and spent some time journaling, talking to God. I write down what I want to say to him, then I listen to hear what he wants to say to me. I write it down so that I can read it, discern it, keep a record of it, let it strengthen me, encourage me and comfort me. So last night was really sweet; the Lord was speaking some pretty neat things and personal approval and affirmation. I felt so good about my relationship with Him. So I went to sleep peaceful, happy, very contented. It’s easy to sleep good after all that.
When I woke up this morning my first thought was unsure, I wondered, ‘How am I doing?’ I was presented with an opportunity to pursue getting out of condemnation. ‘I must be guilty about something!???’ But then I remembered that God is not mad at me. I remembered where we left off last night.
Condemning thoughts are not from God. He may convict you about something He wants to teach you and have you change in behavior or direction. But he won’t tell you you’re no good, hopeless or helpless. He won’t put you in a mental state of being unaccepted. He is a gatherer. He wants to gather people close to Himself. He wants to cleanse them of all guilt so there is nothing hindering a free flowing relationship. He loves you.
He wants you close to Him.
So when you wake up in the morning get control of your thoughts. Stay convinced of the fact that God actually likes you. He wants you close to Him. He wants you to know that Jesus’ forgiveness of your sins is all you need to come close to Him without any guilt.
We’ve got to learn to relax in this state of being forgiven and accepted by God and let ourselves get to know Him.
This has been His desire from the start.
So when you wake up in the morning choose your thoughts wisely. Let them tend toward peace, acceptance, forgiveness and union with God. He’s not mad at you. He loves you. Have a good day with Him.
Your ability to resist the devil is directly tied to how resolved you are about the will of God.
If you speak to a storm and it does not comply with your words, do you immediately assume that it was not God’s will for that storm to stop? What if that storm then comes and wreaks havoc in people’s lives? Do you still assume it was God’s will for that storm to have its way? Or do you refocus your resolve, go back and determine what IS the will of the Lord?
“The Thief comes but for to kill and to steal and to destroy, but Jesus has come to give us life and abundance” (John 10:10). So then if the storm begins to kill, steal and destroy what is the source and power behind it? Is it Satan? Or has God changed His mind that He now wants to kill, steal and destroy?
In the mind of Satan if he is trying to enforce his will and there is a Christian, a resolved Christian standing in his way, speaking with biblical authority and he senses a slow-down or a halt in his progress, what must his strategy be? How can he overcome a resolved Christian, full of faith, speaking with authority? He must attack the resolve. He must come against that Christian’s willingness to stand. The quickest way for him to do that is through the door of doubt. “Hath God said?” It’s literally the oldest trick in the book. If Satan can seed your thinking with some way to doubt your resolve, to let up on the choke hold that is literally strangling his forward motion, then he can make it past you. Once your resolve is gone, you are gone, as far as he’s concerned.
So, know what you know! Fiercely! Believe what you believe. With unflinching resolve.
Oh, did you feel that? Did you feel your conscience being piqued? Did you sense some guilt that you were thinking anything with absolute certainty? “Who, by the way, are you? Do you think you can just command God around? Do you really think the Devil just bows to your resolve? Your motives are impure!”
Actually, most of the time the Devil won’t speak in the voice of second person, but in the voice of first person, so it will sound more like this: “Who am I? I can’t command anything. God is in charge. My motives are impure!” These weakening signals are not coming from a pure-motived Holy Spirit within but from a fearful Devil trying to intimidate you and get you to back off of your single-minded spiritual authority which to him is a great threat.
Know your righteousness!
To get to this place of single minded authority that is full of faith and effectiveness you must be trained by the Holy Spirit to be guilt-free. Since guilt is a handle with which Satan can jerk you around, you must have that handle spiritually and surgically removed. You must be cleansed from a guilty conscience. This doesn’t mean you are hard-hearted and immovable. This doesn’t mean you have no conscience, it just means you have become deaf to internal accusations claiming your guilt for things Christ has already forgiven and cleansed.
If you are in Christ there is no reason to continue in faith-crippling guilt. You must understand that you are loved by God. If you don’t know that you can’t be effective in spiritual warfare of any kind. Just go back and sit in the Heavenly Father’s lap. Go back and listen to some teaching that convinces you of God’s love for you. Go back and get wrecked emotionally by His overwhelming and unflinching love for you. Get saturated. Get deeply convicted. Get overwhelmingly satisfied of His great love for you. (If you think the last few sentences were excessive or superfluous in describing God’s love, then you don’t know His love yet. You need to get to where these words don’t describe it extravagantly enough.)
After you know God’s love for you and are confident in your relationship with him; when you have that sense of son-ship, where you know He’s your Father, He loves you and delights in you, then and only then comes a time when He points you outward to begin to govern over the creation He has made. This is the manifestation of the sons of God that all creation groans for. The Beloved. The ones who know they’re loved. Walking into this world knowing they own it all. Of course they own it all, this world is Daddy’s and He put us here, in charge, full of His authority. We have the precious name – Jesus. We have power of attorney. Nothing is impossible. All the promises already come with a yes and an amen. If I ask for a promise to be fulfilled He says “Yes”. If I turn toward the world and the spirit-world and command something to happen – like a mountain to move – He just stands behind me with His hand on my shoulder and affirms my command with an “AMEN!” I love it when He says “amen” to what I say. I know He loves it when I say “amen” to what He says. Amen says I’m totally with you on this, our hearts are one about this, we are in full agreement. He likes it. I like it. Being one with God is the deal. It’s the bomb, as they say. Nothing better. So now, after you know all these things, how could you doubt the will of God? If a storm wants to wipe out your neighborhood its easy to stand up and say, “No, you are not from God therefore I have complete authority over you. Stop!” From this position of faith – that storm will stop. I know. It’s happened in my life many times.
When Nancy & I were first married, probably the second or third week after the wedding, one night I was awakened by loud claps of thunder and the sounds of a raging storm, Nancy was already awake running through the apartment closing all the windows then she runs back and jumps in bed and says, “Tell that to stop!” I’m barely awake and I just say “Stop in Jesus name.” There was a sudden silence. There were no more claps of thunder. The violence of the storm was gone immediately not gradually. We looked at each other somewhat surprised but confident of the cause and effect we just observed and participated in.
Two weeks later the exact same scenario, middle of the night storm, me just waking up, Nancy running through the apartment closing the windows to keep the rain from coming in, running back and jumping in bed telling me to tell it to stop. Barely awake I said, “I command you to stop in Jesus name.” We heard a loud clap of thunder and then complete silence. I wondered for years why that storm didn’t stop immediately but there was one more clap of thunder? I currently believe as I wrote above that Satan was trying to test my resolve or he was trying to introduce doubt of my authority.
Some summer, about my seventh or eighth year of pastoring there was a serious heat wave going on in Chicago. Temperatures were in excess of 100 degrees Fahrenheit. At our church staff meeting we were planning a church picnic at a local park. One of my staff members said, if the heat is like this you can’t have a picnic. So I asked the staff, what temperature do you want it to be? What should we agree on? We all agreed that for the picnic it should be 82 degrees with a few clouds and slight breeze. Now remember you don’t pray for the weather, you speak to the weather. Too many people want the weather to change but never speak to it. Remember, Jesus spoke to a fig tree, He spoke to the storms, you can too. Imitate God. So we spoke to the weather to comply with what we said: Sunny with a few clouds, 82 degrees with a slight breeze. The picnic was still a few weeks out, so when we announced to the church we were having a picnic we asked who was in agreement that the weather should be such and such. Most nodded in approval. So I led the congregation in prayer and spoke to the weather in front of the congregation, they all agreed and rejoiced. So now the moment of truth comes. If I remember correctly when I woke up the day of the picnic it was around 85 degrees. When it came time for the picnic the temperature was descending from 83 to 79. It was sunny with a few clouds and a slight breeze. Toward the end of the successful picnic I turned my heart to the Lord and said thank you for the great weather, I felt Him bounce it right back to me and He said, “Son, I didn’t do this. You did.” Man, that really baffled me at first. But then we remember how the people were in awe at what Jesus did. They marvelled that God had given such authority to men.
Another time a couple had opened their home for the church to have a picnic there. They had a pool and a beautiful back yard. We had prayed about the weather and spoken to it. But half way through the picnic a storm came. Actually it wasn’t really a storm so much as just a quick rainfall. So people were speaking to it to stop. We had all the food outside on tables. The woman of the house said, “If you’re going to pray, now would be a good time.” I said, “I have been.” But I can tell you that I did not have an internal resolve like I did the other times. This could have been from different factors, but I believe the reason was the same as when Jesus could do no mighty works when He was in His hometown. They all just knew Him as the carpenter’s kid. So there was plenty of doubt about Him. Remember it didn’t say He would not do any mighty miracles but that he could not. When we were in church that Sundaymorning taking authority over the picnic weather there was a strong atmosphere of faith. I wasn’t feeling the same level or authority when the rain came. It only interrupted the picnic for a few moments then we were all back outside having fun. So we don’t take any guilt or let any condemning thoughts reside in our thinking. We are not created to carry guilt – it is harmful to us. I could have let the thoughts come, “You’re not a man of faith. You’ve got nothing. All the other times were just coincidences. You sure are prideful to think that you could have authority over the weather.” And on and on those thoughts could continue if we let them. But knowledge of the truth can set you free and it does. Knowing that I’m loved by God. He’s not mad at me. I’m here just like Jesus was, representing the Father. I’m His son. He approves of me. With me He is well pleased. From this place of confidence and God-approval I can face the next challenge that comes to me with confidence.