Newsletter for Nov 2009
One of the worst mistakes any Christian can make is to underestimate the devil’s ability to deceive. Don’t misunderstand; I’m not in any way giving him honor. But he has had approximately 6,000 years of experience in observing human behavior. Though lifestyles and technology have changed, people have become very predictable. This is why we see generation after generation committing the same sins and fighting the same wars; have you ever heard the term “history repeats itself”?
Satan tries his best to destroy lives any way he can. People say that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link; well, the devil is constantly looking for the “weak link” in people’s lives so as to tear them down. This is true for Christians as well as the lost.
I have heard Christians talk about struggles they’re facing: their lousy job, the constant conflicts with people, problems at the church they attend, family strife, etc, and how all these problems make so difficult to spend time in prayer and Bible study. They begin to reason that if they could change their circumstances or move to such-and-such a city and attend a specific church, things would quiet down and life would be much better.
What they don’t understand is that their struggles are not with the circumstances, but with how they react to the circumstances. In other words, there is a weak area spiritually within that is being overpowered by the emotions associated with the events they so dislike. Sure, they can move…but they will be taking that weakness with them. After a time, their “honeymoon” with the new job, new house, or new city and church will wear off and the same issues will arise. I have witnessed this happen more than once.
“Brother Martin, are you saying that God will never tell a person to move to another city for the purpose of attending a particular church?” No, that is not what I am saying. But God is not going to tell a person to relocate just so they can escape their problems. He knows that a change of scenery will not change what is really going on inside the individual. The truth is He is more likely to tell people to move after they have “conquered themselves” and are walking in peace regardless of the problems around them…because He knows they will be ready to face the new attacks in their new surroundings.
You see, the deception in all of this is that the devil is telling the person he will be much better off by moving. Nothing could be further from the truth. Why? Because Satan has already developed a strategic plan to take that person to a deeper level of conflict when he moves to the next city. If this person moves now, he will be moving under the influence of a lie and his life will end up worse off than before he moved. The sad part is that every person I know of who has followed through with such a decision has always said that God told them to relocate.
A variation on this theme has to do with prison inmates looking forward to their release. I have no idea how many times I have warned that life will not be everything they think once they are out. Over and over they have written to me and explained how their lives are different now that they are born again and Spirit-filled; that they are not the same person and are now living totally for Jesus.
Basically, what I tell them is this: While you were free, Satan convinced you to get involved with something that was illegal. For you, it might have been selling drugs; for the next person it might have been bank robbery. Regardless, he found a weak area in you and exploited that weakness. The result is that you ended up in jail.
While in jail you have been separated from the temptation to which you originally succumbed. You probably feel very confident that you will not do “it” again or anything else that opposes God’s word. But what you need to understand is that, as far as Satan thinks, you are just as weak as you were the day you were arrested. He already has a plan to tempt you with the same lifestyle you were living before jail.
The deception that he is trying so hard to sow into you is that you are strong enough to handle anything that comes your way and you won’t fall. I agree that it is very possible you have grown past those temptations of old; but the truth is, most inmates like you have failed to realize that their confidence is based on how they feel, not on true spiritual strength. The greatest thing you can do right now is swallow some pride and accept that you are probably no where near as strong as you think; as soon as you are released, use your freedom to separate yourself unto God.
Sadly, I have never had one inmate write back and tell me that he agreed with me. Instead, they tell me that I don’t understand, that things really have changed, that they really do know what it is like to live for Jesus, and that they are ready to stand up to anything the devil throws in their direction. Then, when released, they are hammered with the very things I warned them about. In some cases, they caught so off guard by the attack and the spiritual weakness they refused to acknowledge, they don’t make it one day without giving in to something they swore they’d never do.
Along with this, numerous inmates have told me that my teachings have helped them grow so much in God; that through prayer, God has clearly told them they are to be a part of our church when released. To date, only two of those inmates have ever visited our church, and not one of them is attending! I do not doubt that God gave them such an instruction; but again, they ignored my warnings how that Satan will be waiting for them at the prison gate to derail them from God’s plan.
But what happens to these inmates also happens to many non-incarcerated Christians. Because they feel confident, they assume that not even the subtlest of Satan’s plans and tactics will be effective. Yet, it is just a matter of time before they step into a trap; or, they leave (or never start attending) the church where God wants them.
In Luke 22:31, Jesus speaks of the very things I’m writing about:
And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat
Jesus was warning Simon Peter that Satan had already developed a plan to destroy his life. Wheat is sifted in order to extract the impurities of chaff and other debris. What Satan wanted to do was sift Peter in order to bring to the surface every fault, character flaw and weakness for the purpose of turning him away from serving God. He almost succeeded, for it was just a few hours later that Peter was cursing and denying that he knew Jesus.
“Brother Martin, if Satan is so good at this, what hope do we have?” That is a very fair question, and God has the answer in His word.
This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16)
That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. (Ephesians 4:22-24)
When we live according to our born again spirit (the new man) we will not give in to the temptations and traps of the devil. I had been taught for years that giving in to sin was inevitable; but when I finally comprehended the truth of 2 Corinthians 3:18. I realized that it is possible to be become stronger than anything the devil lays before me!
But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Corinthians 3:18)
As I read the Bible and examine the life of Jesus, I see in Him the example of how I am to live as a Christian. Scripture becomes, if you will, the mirror in which I am observing the living glory of God. The more I conform to the image before me, the less I give in to the wiles of the enemy.
“But Brother Martin, when will God bring about this change in me? Well, I don’t know how to break this to you, but He won’t…at least not without your cooperation.
For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith… (Ephesians 3:14-17)
What Paul was not saying in this verse is that God is holding anything back from us. Keeping in mind that this was written to Christians, we could read it this way, As you walk in faith, you will be strengthened in your spirit by God’s might and the riches of His Glory; and the life of Christ in you will grow and fill your heart.
Consider what else Paul wrote,
That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.
The more we seek God, the more He is able to release into us spiritual wisdom and knowledge about who He is and what we have in Christ. This leads to a deeper understanding about the power He has released to us; the same power He used to raise Jesus from the dead. By that power we can exercise authority over every devil and every form of temptation. In other words, the power of our born again life enables us to live daily in victory over Satan!
The key to this is willingly accepting that, no matter how far along we are in our walk with God, there is room for improvement. We must also accept that if we do not diligently spend time in His presence through things like prayer, worship and meditation in scripture, we will not make those needed improvements. The moment we begin to believe that Satan won’t be able to trip us up, or that things and people are the reasons for our emotional upheaval, we are falling prey to deception.
For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. (Romans 12:3)
Emotions and feelings are very unreliable. Even human reasoning and logic cannot enable us to overcome every adversity and scheme of the devil. It is only when we live by faith and the life that God has given us that we can begin conforming to the image of Christ. The more we rely on Him, the more His strength will empower us.
Jesus has defeated Satan and passed that victory on to us. The devil’s only hope is that he will be able to deceive us. But if we continue to diligently seek the Lord through intimacy with Him, we will become more and more sensitive to the lies of the enemy. Through Christ, we can…and will…live as more than conquerors!
May His grace fill your life,