Targeted By The Devil

Have you ever done something to paint a target on your back? Did you know that whenever you’re doing something for God’s kingdom, that’s what you’re doing? Not just from people, but spirits, the Devil’s army of demons. The higher you are, the more obvious the target.

How Do You Keep From Getting Picked Off?

By doing what one of my comic heroes, Batman, does–prepare for it. You see, Satan wants to destroy you and any impact you’re making or have made. What do you do?

Know his weapons of choice, chief among them, temptation.

Resist him immediately by just saying no, slamming the door and cutting off the source of temptation. When you’re tempted, shift focus from that to God. Don’t even try to debate the issue.

You can fight with confidence because God won’t allow you to be tempted beyond what you can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13). He’ll provide a way out. Being immersed in the Bible will give you the offensive weaponry you need. Jesus’s knowledge of the Scriptures let him counterattack and see through the Devil’s desert temptations (Matthew 4:1-11).

Beware The Danger Zones

There are times that you’re more vulnerable than usual. One is after a spiritual victory which can lead to pride or complacency. When you’re alone or physically drained are two other danger zones. One no one can hold you accountable, the other; your defenses are weakened.

Another time is when you’re waiting on God’s timing, that’s what happened to Abraham (Genesis 16:1-6). To have the “promised son“, he cheated on his wife with her servant to have a son. Calamity ensued.

Even church is a danger zone; remember, the devil loves a church fight. The devil also attacks when you’re starting or joining something great for God. Truthfully, we’re walking into one or several danger zones almost all the time.

Here’s a personalized promise from 1 John 4:4 for you to say to yourself.

I am from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in me is greater than the one who is in the world.

Why Is This Important?

Why I’m writing this is because an opportunity came up, and I realized my wife and I will be even bigger targets. We had to prepare, and it was a wise decision. Twice in one night while doing kingdom work, I had a nearly audible voice whisper in my ear, trying to stoke the fires of jealousy and distract me from my task.

The first time, I opened my Bible app and played the book of Romans being read aloud. The second time, I commanded it to leave in Jesus’ name. I’m sure it was a demon using my weakness against me rather than my natural weaknesses surfacing on their own.

Personal Boundary Setting

This highlights the importance of boundaries. Then you can pick off a temptation with a sniper shot from a mile away. After the Stand Out series, I began to take what I learned and put boundaries in place from the book of Titus.

Here is my list, you can make your own or use my list. For my friends that read these, please help me stay accountable to these.

  • Say no to anything that may cause another believer to stumble or misrepresent Jesus to a non-believer if they see me doing it.
  • I can say all the good things I want about people, but never anything to tear them down.
  • Don’t promise anything I can’t fulfill.
  • How I act at church is how I act everywhere else.
  • Be friendly and respectful.
  • Always do right, be honest and handle my obligations.
  • Lead my family well.
  • Be self-controlled by making principle-based decisions in advance like “If ________ happens, I will do _________.” And then I’ll manage the decisions.
  • Be peaceful, every conflict I can either throw gas or water on it.
  • Don’t seek power, money, or fame for me, be trustworthy.
  • Serve others, don’t demand others to serve me. Don’t tell others to do anything for me that I cannot do for myself.
  • My motives should always be right.
  • Follow Jesus’s commands, do as I say, not as I do, doesn’t work for leaders.

Do this to protect yourself and your ability to represent Jesus.

For more on Temptation here’s the sermon series I got some of my information from; Temptation: Standing Strong When The Enemy Attacks

The War

Over the past month, the world has started to resemble a war zone. Not one of human actions but in the form of natural disasters. The western US is on fire, the eastern half of the country was slammed by two category 4 hurricanes in less than two weeks. Island nations like the Dominican Republic and Cuba were laid waste in their fury. Earthquakes, monsoons, and mudslides in other countries.

I began thinking about the Fall of man, angels, and creation.

In The Beginning

God created everything and it was good (Genesis 1). All was well until there was a rebellion and an attempted coup in Heaven. A civil war broke out and the rebels were cast out.

Unable to defeat God, their leader set his eyes on a different, much more vulnerable target. I have a question for you. How do you hurt someone that you can’t touch?

You go after who they love.

That’s what the Devil did. He began a destructive espionage campaign on earth with half-truths and propaganda (Genesis 3). It worked so well he got humanity on his side. An impurity spread throughout creation and earth began to feel the effects of the war.

The War

At one point nearly everyone is wiped out. God had stepped in, preserving the righteous and destroying the evil. Then He set aside a people, a group of nobody nomads called Hebrews, as a part of His plan to get even more involved.

Throughout the centuries there is a rumble of a savior coming. Then he arrives and evil is met head on. The world isn’t meant to be like this, but it’s corrupted by sin and its effects. Death is pushed back, sickness is healed, people restored, and destructive storms stopped by a firm command.

The espionage campaign was continuing but meeting resistance. Demons were using people as their playthings and God the Son was stopping them. He even gave authority to do so to his followers.

Jesus had to be stopped. So through the people that God had set aside, their pagan conquerors, and a friend who betrayed him, Jesus was arrested, tortured, and killed. It looked like evil and death had won.

Hope Was Lost

Until death was defeated. This man, Jesus, came back to life. God had used man and the Devil’s evil schemes for good. God plays the long game. Centuries before He had instituted a system for man to reconcile with Him. It involved purity laws and blood sacrifices for sins.

Mankind was so corrupt, it wasn’t enough (Hebrews 10:4). The debt was too high, and justice eventually had to be served. It was in the form of a pure animal dying in your place because the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).

Jesus was the once and forever sacrifice, defeating sin’s grip on humanity (Hebrews 10:8-14). God provided the ultimate sacrifice, Himself, for us, His enemies. Then Jesus rose, having paid the sin debt, death no longer had a grip on him.

Then he began an interesting guerilla/espionage campaign himself (Matthew 28:19-20). This unit he commands is called ‘the church’, and it started with 120 people in it. He tells them to wait, and returns to Heaven, promising to send help (Acts 1:1-10).

Days later, God, the Holy Spirit makes His Presence, equipping this odd little unit. In a day the 120 grew to over 3,000 (Acts 2). They run around fighting moral and natural evil with good while telling people about the Jesus whose authority they were under. It continues to this day.

The Mission

The goal of the campaign isn’t to kill the enemy. God wants them to surrender and come to His side to be reconciled and restored. The war continues, though it has been won. The universal church under Christ has its agents everywhere, in all spheres of life, helping, rescuing, and pushing back against evil to bring as many as we can to Jesus. His earthly army is indeed odd, being filled solely with his former enemies.

When the last one surrenders to him, and it could be you, it’ll come to an end. The war will be over, the war criminals who refused to surrender judged and sentenced to Hell, and everything set right again. No more pain, tears, suffering, or death.

Until then, when you look around, realize that you’re looking at a world at war. You, me, God’s side, the Devil’s side (though many don’t realize it due to his propaganda campaign).

Prepare For Battle

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Ephesians 6:10-18

 

Cheap Salvation and Casual Christianity

You know what I like about the Jehovah’s Witnesses? Their unity, they’re centralized. If the universal church (all believers) were that unified, we could do an even mightier work. Why don’t we?

A couple of reasons come to mind, we take it for granted, and we think of our churches as Burger King, where we can have it our way.

What do you mean ‘take it for granted?’

Our salvation and God’s grace and favor in offering it to us. We can’t earn it, it’s a free gift that came at the cost of Christ’s life. Say a prayer, and then keep on doing what you do, without even trying to make a Kingdom impact.

Statistics show that people attend church 3 out of every 8 Sundays. Try that with work. Reasons are given, too busy and don’t have time. That’s a pretty good indicator where God is on a person’s priority list.

In the parable of the Sower (Mark 4:1-20) Jesus says “Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.” Is that you?

How can I prevent that?

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left,but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?

Hebrews 10:19-29

There’s a lot of deep theology in there. It’s challenging. I spent weeks on grace and salvation after a challenging sermon. Is the reason you’re not in church because it doesn’t feel good? You feel convicted?

If you never walk out of church feeling convicted, I warn you, your heart is hardening. Jesus cares for and lifts us, but also disciplines when we are wrong.

What can I do?

Endure, cling to Christ and don’t let go. Be tender-hearted and mature enough that when the Bible or Holy Spirit says to do this or don’t do that, you listen and obey. That’s being trained by, and walking in the Spirit (Galatians 5:13-26).

God’s grace, His undeserved favor, isn’t to be wasted, cast aside, and we can’t negotiate the terms of it. It’s the most important thing ever. To do otherwise cheapens it.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer had a lot to say about cheap grace in The Cost of Discipleship…

Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our church. We are fighting today for costly grace…Grace without price; grace without cost! The essence of grace, we suppose, is that the account has been paid in advance; and because it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing…In such a church the world finds a cheap covering for its sins; no contrition is required, still less any real desire to be delivered from sin…

Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. 

It calls for a life of ongoing repentance.

Ongoing repentance?

Yes, an awareness of the cost of your salvation, and the joy that the deliverance from hell into eternal life is yours. “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. (Philippians 2:12-13)”

Working it out, not working for, means growing in God’s grace by trusting Him more because faith is the only way to be saved. Because you trusted God to save you, it’s easy to follow and listen to Him. Because you love Him for what He did for you, you seek to please Him and avoid anything that doesn’t.

When you sin, and you will (I did right before I typed this), ask for forgiveness with a repentant heart, not one wanting a rubber stamp.

What’s this have to do with going to church?

The universal church–actual followers of Christ–is called the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27). Christ is the head of the church (his body), and as such, that means we have to sacrifice our preferences so long as it doesn’t go against the essential doctrines.

Why is this important?

Paul says it best in 1 Corinthians 12:12-26.

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

You have a purpose, and you cannot do it very well lone-wolfing it (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12). You need encouragement, relationship, and people who love you enough to confront you when you’re wrong. Find a Bible-believing healthy church that’s like a family and go get involved. Do more than listening to a preacher for an hour and singing some songs. Serve, make friends, make a difference for the kingdom.

That spiritual drought will end with a torrent of living water.