The Devil is a liar and a thief. Okay, we all know that. The question is, “How does he steal?” You can know that the Devil is a burglar, but if you don’t know how he is gaining access into your life, then you can’t stop him.
Instead, things just keep disappearing from your life. One day you notice that the vase is no longer up on the bookshelf, the next you come to the realization that you have wasted your twenties or thirties believing a lie.
I read recently about a man who embezzled millions of dollars from the bank where he worked. The crazy thing is that he never touched any actual money in the process. Rather, he stole it the old fashion way, /.009 cents at a time. Somehow the man had figured out that if a deposit was valued at less then one cent then the computers would never pick it up. What the computers would do is add that .009 cents to his personal Swiss bank account. The money would disappear without a trace from where he worked but be credited half way around the world. This happened on every ATM, bank and online transaction the bank processed. Here’s the point. While it may not seem like much, .009 cents adds up to fortune when there are transaction every moment of everyday.
Satan robs our lives in the same way, except the currency of the spiritual world is our thoughts. The Devil is in a battle for our minds. At every opportune moment (Luke 4:13) the Devil will try and conduct a transaction in you mind. He does this by tempting us with just a small thought; something like, “Why are you still in your thirties and not married?” Perhaps it is the idea that your husband will cheat on you or the temptation to fear this or that situation? It really does not matter. Whatever turns your mind away from the truth of God’s Word and the abundant life (Jn.10:10) of the redeemed.
Last week I had a woman stop by my “ministry cubicle at the church.” Let’s just say that it is not the corner office. She shared with me that she was, “just so unhappy”. When I enquired as to why, she launched into a laundry list of problems and concerns. She told me that these thoughts had consumed her for an entire week. The first thing I asked her why she chose to think about all of these issues for a seven straight days?
I asked this because every time we are tempted to follow the trail of any thought, we have a choice. Will I allow this thought to distract or consume me or will I take it captive to Christ? There is no thought, even one that the Devil might present that does not have eternal and glorious potential if taken captive and made obedient to Christ.
2Cor. 10:5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
When we lack self-control and allow these thoughts to consume us, our life is being stolen from under our eyes. Every .009 millisecond that you allow a thought to run rampant over your mind, soul and emotions is another millisecond of your life taken.
I believe that much of the anxiety and depression that we are seeing in our society today started for each person with just one thought. That thought then became an avalanche. Remember the Devil is not satisfied with footholds. Satan wants a barricade himself in a stronghold deep within the far reaches of your mind.
Eph. 4:27 and do not give the devil a foothold.
If you know anything about how the brain works, then you will understand that eventually your mind will change to produce the necessary chemicals needed to keep this cycle perpetuated. Here is what I mean.
The brains job is to protect the body. The body hates being surprised. A callous is a good example of this. Rub a spot on your knee enough and you will eventually develop a callous to protect it. This is also why if you sleep with an alarm you will often wake up a minute or two before the buzzer sounds.
Depression and fear work in the same way. If you lack the self-control to protect yourself from negative thoughts and emotions, your body will do it for you. Before you can surprise your brain with a depressing or fearful thought, it will produce the chemicals to mask that emotion.
This is also why self-control over our thoughts and emotions is so crucial. It protects us and trains our minds to produce the makings of peace and joy as opposed to negative emotions. If you are not able to do this, then there are hosts of prescribed psychotropic drugs to do this for you.
1Pet. 5:8 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
1Th. 5:8 But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.
This is also how the Devil shackles us in bondage to thoughts of envy, bitterness and a powerful array of other emotions. The Devil understands the laws of God and he leverages them for his purposes.
Can you see why the Bible exhorts believers to meditate on the word of God? Unlike the Devil’s thoughts, God’s word comes with God’s eternal power to heal and prosper. Imagine what your life would look like if you took on the mind of Christ? How would your brain and emotions react to that? You might even wake up before the thief creeps in that window again!
Rom. 8:6 The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace;
1Cor. 2:16b “But we have the mind of Christ.”
So many people I meet with are not satisfied with where they are in life. Since I work mostly with 30 and 40-year-olds I come across heaps of people who are waiting for the magic turn of the key that will usher in the life they always wanted. Many feel that they have missed out on someone or something that should have been their destiny. Others wonder if their divine destination will ever present itself.
This waiting and wanting can be crippling. The reason for this is that it is very difficult to live inside out for God today when your eyes are set on the future or the past. Does this mean that we are not to desire good things for our life. No, it does not. The problem is when we allow our desire for the future to devalue who we are in the present. So how do we live well in the present while hoping for the future of our dreams?
David is one of the Bibles greatest examples of this. In the pages of 1st Samuel we find the story of a boy who was anointed King, but spent years developing and leading a nation before he would ever where the crown. This ability, the ability to be the person who he was called to be in the present is what set David apart. David acted like the king he was long before he ever wore the crown. Even though David understood his divine calling, he did not allow it to cloud his present.
This fresh Biblical perspective is so far removed from how I have lived much of my life. For years I have sought after a crown or a pulpit that would bring meaning and worth to me. Once reaching this plateau I believed I would then be released into my authentic life. This imaginary life was the one I wanted and longed for. It was the life that had value. It was the life where people would finally discover how important I was to God’s cosmological plan. Give me a break! Thankfully God has freed me from this delusion.
I use the word delusion, because this is what it was. The bible is clear that the vision of my life that I can imagine is a faulty and incomplete view of all that God has for me. If I spent the rest of my life thinking up my best plan for this life, I would still never come close to the glorious plan God has determined for me.
1Cor. 13:9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part,
1Cor. 13:12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
2Cor. 1:14 as you have understood us in part, you will come to understand fully that you can boast of us just as we will boast of you in the day of the Lord Jesus.
Eph. 3:20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us
When we look at David, we see a king that was not defined by a crown or a thrown. David’s integrity, leadership and courage, the ways of a king, were intact long before his physical coronation. As a matter of fact, David never really needed a kingdom to confirm his calling. In God’s eyes David was a king long before he sat on Jerusalem’s throne. Instead of pining for an unattained future while wasting today, David seized the day by being the king he was called to be. May we be able to do the same.
Last Saturday, Lucy, our three-year-old and I went on a little date day to the park. After about 12,000 pushes on the swing we decided on a game of hide-and-seek. This is one of my favorite games to play with my girls. The problem is that Lucy is horrible at it.
I’m not saying that Lucy does not find great hiding spots. Sometimes I’m not sure if I could find her with three Sherpa’s and a search and rescue team, she is that good. Where Lucy fails in the game is where her sister also struggled as a toddler. Lucy just can’t keep the location of her strategic hiding spot a mystery. Literally within two seconds of me finishing the count to ten, she is either laughing or yelling, “Here I am Daddy.”
Each time Lucy did this I would coach her in the strategy of the game. She was just not getting it. My hopes in her professional hide-and-seek career were fading fast.
After about 15 rounds of hide and seek, God allowed me to see a deep spiritual truth within a child’s game. Lucy wanted to be found. As an adult I had put the emphasis on the hidden element of the game, but Lucy valued being found. Lucy valued the heart of the gospel.
Sometimes I am astounded by how my children lead me in the ways and perspectives of God. Is not the word of God a story of the lost being found? Are we not all in some way wanting to be found and truly known?
Unfortunately, the older we get, the less we want to be found. Like Adam and Eve we have created coverings for ourselves in the form of false personas based on things like power, prestige and body type. We are no longer naked and unashamed. We no longer cry out, “Here I am Daddy. Come find me. Here I am.”
The desire to hide is based in shame. In Genesis we see that Adam and Eve were no longer comfortable in their own skin. This sense of shame was appropriate for Adam and Eve. After disobeying God they were now under the curse and wrath of God. Because of their act of disobedience, everyone who would be born after them would also inherit this character trait, original sin and its corresponding shame.
This proclivity to hide in shame is the primary reason we give up the gifts and gold of our true identities for the putrid rags of false identities based on shifting worldly standards. It is in our nature to do this. The seclusion of our true naked personality is ingrained into our flesh.
This shameful desire to hide is fueled by fear. Once again, Adam and Eve had appropriate reasons to hide from their God. They were now under His judgment. Hiding then, and now its always based in that original fear.
Paradoxically, we as humans create phantom personas to create a sense of security in order to relieve this fear. The only problem with this is the greater the deception of your mask, the greater the fear and shame you experience. Does that make sense? As you increase in the proficiency of your masking it will increase fear and shame. This is due to the fact that the desire to hide was birthed from fear and shame and they cannot be separated. Neither can increase without a parallel movement of its counterpart.
I believe that this paradox is one of the reasons why we are seeing such a rise of anxiety and depression in our culture. The more our society highlights th false personas that we use to seek our identities the more we hide our true selves in their pursuit. As I said earlier, fear and shame, which lead to anxiety and depression, are the automatic fruition of this striving.
Without a strong sense of your God-given personal identity it will be nearly impossible to chart your life’s true course. Instead of living out who you know yourself to be in Christ, you will instead continue to be drawn to false idols to find your security and peace of mind.
Jesus’ death and resurrection has removed this shame and allows us to once again be found naked and unashamed. True freedom comes not only when we know who we truly are, but understand that this image which was created by God is fully accepted by Him. This is the way of the redeemed, the unashamed and the authentic self.
John 18:10 Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)
Why was Peter carrying a sword on the night that Jesus was betrayed? Where did he get it? Did he tell Jesus he had it or was he hiding it from him? What did he think was going to happen that he might need a sword? One thing you can be sure after reading John 18 is that he was not afraid to use it.
The other thing that intrigues me in this passage is Peter’s abrupt turn around after discovering that the plans he had for the future were obviously not Christ plans. One minute Peter is brandishing a sword in a spirit of courageous rage and the next he is calling down curses on himself to attest the fact that he never knew Jesus.
So what happened? The simple fact is that Peter had created a Christ that did not exist. Peter had done what so many of us do. Peter had picked out what he wanted of Jesus and left the rest. Peter had heard what he wanted to hear. He had chosen a sword when the way of Christ was a cup.
Luke 22:42 saying, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.”
I think that this is such a powerful message for us. Peter’s courageous faith was built on a lie. When considering this passage we must ask ourselves if we have done the same thing? Are there areas in our life where we have fashioned a Christ of our own understanding? We must always remember that Jesus is who he said he is, not who we always want him to be.
When thinking about Peter’s lie, we need to keep in mind the substance of all lies. Lies are always based on the truth. It is impossible for lies to subsist apart from the truth. In contrast, truth can stand independently. In this way, truth stakes a claim of dominance over deception.
One of the primary tools of the Devil is to get us as believers to buy into an aspect of the truth but then disorganize that truth so that it becomes a lie. When Peter realized that his faith in a rebellious and conquering Jesus was unfounded his knees became weak.
The truth in Peter’s lie was that Jesus had come to establish a new kingdom. While this kingdom would one day lay claim to the temporal, it was based in the eternal and had more important matters at hand then restoring Jerusalem. This is where Peter’s understanding failed him. This is also the place where Peter lost his faith.
As a believer I constantly need to allow the Holy Spirit to search me and purify the areas in my heart and mind where my picture and hope in Jesus do not stand up to scripture. The temptation to build a Jesus of our own understanding is strong, but in the end it is really a form of an idol. Unfortunately, too many of us continue to defend these images with a sword when God is asking us to drink of his cup. May we put down our swords that we might never lose our faith.