Sunday, July 19, 2015

Let's Be Caught in the Act of Believing God ... Armor of God # 5

In our lives we will always be confronted with a situation that will challenge our faith and belief in God and His promises.  When that happens, a doubt will always rise up to oppose our faith.  It’s then that we’ll have a choice will I believe my doubts or will I believe God and His promises.  Can I tell you that nothing pleases God more than our belief in Him. May we be a people caught in the act of believing God.  May we be accused of being a people just naive enough to believe that God can do anything that He can rise up to any challenge that He can comfort any hurt that He can meet any need that He can bring peace to any heart that no matter the circumstance, the situation, the obstacle may our faith be anchored in a God who still likes to show off His power.  There are far too many people today telling God what He can’t do.  Let’s not be counted among them.

I’ve been writing about the armor of God over the past 2 weeks.  This post will talk about the “shield of faith.”  The ESV translates Ephesians 6:16 “In all circumstances take up the shield of faith.”  Why?  Because there is always going to be a flaming arrow from the enemy trying to sneak it’s way in and set our lives on fire. (Moore) Now, something to remember about faith we don’t put faith in our faith.  We put faith in our God.  Because even a little bit of faith in an unstoppable God can move mountains.  So, don’t make the mistake of putting faith in your faith.  Put your faith in God. 

I know for me, there is no shortage of attacks on my trust in God.  And, I think this is true for all of us whether you are a follower of Jesus or not. We live in a broken world and in this broken world, there is always a circumstance looking to shake my faith.  A circumstance or a situation that requires faith will always be opposed by a feeling other than faith.  There will always be something, a doubt or a fear, that tries to make God appear smaller than He really is or less capable than He is or not who He is. Always.  I guarantee it. And, when that happens, I am always faced with a choice, and what I choose to believe will make all the difference in the world.

I think one of the greatest examples of this found in the Bible is the Old Testament story of Joshua.  Here is part of his story: 

 “After the death of Moses the Lord’s servant, the Lord spoke to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ assistant. He said, ‘Moses my serve is dead. Therefore, the time has come for you to lead these people, the Israelites, across the Jordan River into the land I am given them. I promise you what I promised Moses: ‘Wherever you set foot, you will be on land I have given you – from the Negev wilderness in the south to the Lebanon mountains in the north, from the Euphrates River in the east to the Mediterranean Sea in the west, including all the land of the Hittites.’ No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. For I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you. Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. This is my command – be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.’”  (Joshua 1:1 – 9)

Moses was a leader for the nation of Israel for 40 years.  He’s one of the greatest leaders of people who has ever lived.  And, for 40 years Joshua was at his side.  For 40 years this guy Joshua had been groomed to take over for Moses.  He was always with Moses.  He was always watching, always learning, always being given greater and greater responsibilities.  And, now the time had finally come for him to step up and make something happen.  Everything that had happened in his life had brought him to this place every failure and every success every win and every loss every victory and every defeat had forged in him and refined in him and developed in him a passion to lead the people God had entrusted to him.  All of his training brought him to this moment.  But, remember Joshua was a human as you and I. Imagine being in his position following one of the greatest leaders ever In charge of millions of people heading out not just to take possession of a land, but to take it by force. He had a lot of battles ahead of him. And, I’m speculating a bit, but I’m pretty sure he was feeling what any of us would feel stepping in to a situation like that.  He probably felt small compared to the task ahead of him.  He probably felt a little sorry he had volunteered.  He probably felt inadequate and unsure of himself.  Every insecurity he ever had every voice of fear he ever listened too was probably screaming at him: Who am I to do this? Am I qualified? What if I screw it up? Again, any situation that requires faith will always be confronted with a feeling other than faith.  And, so with those voices and feelings screaming at Joshua, God comes to him and says, “Joshua, no one will be able to stand against you because “I will be with you.”

What I love about this story is that God never says to Joshua that he can do it because of his abilities he can do it because he’s such a great person he can do it because he’s such a good leader he can do it because of his personality or because he makes a lot of money or because he has a degree in this or that.  God never says anything of the sort.  God says to Joshua, “You can do this because I will be with you.” And, in that context, God then says this “Be strong and courageous for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them. Be strong and very courageous do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Courage, for the follower of Jesus, doesn’t come because we believe in ourselves.  Courage for the follower of Jesus doesn’t come because we believe in our abilities.  Courage for the follower of Jesus comes because we believe in our God!

Joshua’s faith was not in His faith.  His faith was not in his sword.  His faith was not in his abilities.  His faith was in His God.  And, because of His faith in God, he was willing to go in to the battle and face the flaming darts because His faith was in a God bigger than any arrow coming his way.

Many times we don’t want to arrows.  We want God to remove all the obstacles to our faith in Him.  Make it easy, God.  Make it easy for me to believe.  Take away the obstacles and the temptations and the doubts all the flaming arrows.  Take them away.  But, what pleases God the most is to see you placing your faith in Him when everything in your life is screaming out to believe something else!  (Moore) God did not give us a spirit of fear, but don’t mistake that for never being afraid.  Hard things do happen.  Scary things do happen.  Don’t mistake a Spirit-filled life for a carefree life.

I heard Beth Moore share this story and I thought it was incredibly appropriate for this post.  After the siege of Dyrachium, there was a Roman commander named Sceva and after this huge battle, he wanted to help Julius Caesar see what great courage the men of the army had shown as they went in to battle for him.  So, they did this: they took their shields and pulled out all of the arrows or arrows heads that their shields had stopped.  The story goes on to say that Sceva alone counted no less than 220 darts sticking into his shield. And so what they did is they pulled out all of the arrows from the shields and they laid them in front of Caesar as a sign of saying, “We will follow you in to battle anywhere.”  Caesar was so overwhelmed by this display of loyalty, that he rewarded his commanders with a double portion of pay and gave them all promotions in the army.

Having a shield of faith with no arrows in it is not the point.  The point is that we do!  (Moore) That means we're in the battle, taking the hits, getting involved, and raising our shield of faith because we are trusting in our God.  One day we will get to lay those arrows at His feet and say "I will follow You anywhere" and He will be pleased because of our faith in Him (Hebrews 11:6). We can take the hit and stay in the battle because we put our faith in our God.  Hold up your shield and trust Him.  Faith is not just something we believe, but Someone we believe in.   Our faith in Him impacts what we do and how we live. You can step in to the battle because God is with you God is able God is for you He is on your side.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Peace Is Not the Enemy's to Take Because of How It's Been Given ... Armor of God # 4

If you’ve been following the blog for the past few days, you may remember that we’ve looked at the “belt of truth” the idea that our opponent is a liar and is allergic to truth. And, so we confront the lies with God’s truth.  It’s not enough to simply not think about our enemy’s lies, we have to replace them with truth.  Believing and living the truth protects us.  We also looked at “righteousness” the idea of living out who we have been called to be.  Jesus gives us right standing with God which then enables us to do the right living for God.  We live out what we believe.  So, when we believe we truly are who God says we are, through His grace and strength, we can like out who God says we are, and this protects us.

This post is about having our “feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.”

I heard one speaker say that “if we are in a spiritual battle, we have to have a solid foundation something stable.”  Four different times in Ephesians 6:10 – 17, we see the word “stand.”  If we’re taking a stand, we need stability.  If we’re going to take a stand, we need stable footing.  And, what keeps us stable is the fact that we are at peace with God!  As one author said, “We may be at war with Satan, but we are at peace with the God.  What this means is the devil may be against you, but God is for you.”  God is for me!  Four words, none with more than one syllable or three letters and yet, believing them is life changing. Knowing and believing that God is for you can bring peace in any situation.    

Psalm 37:37 says, “There is a future for the man of peace.”  Proverbs 14:30 says, “A heart at peace gives life to the body.”  So, for those that experience peace, that are filled with peace there is life there is a future.  So, what the enemy knows is that if peace is taken away, it will seem like there is no future, no hope.  It will feel like the life is being stolen from our body.  This is what he does.  He steals.  He kills. He destroys.  And, I believe one of the things our spiritual enemy wants to do is rob us of our peace because a lack of peace keeps our life wobbly and unstable instead of secure and firmly planted. 

I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced a lack of peace in your life, but there are times in my life when I can look back and see a lack of peace and this was the result A lack of peace opened me up to fear to worry to distrust sleepless nights a horrible sense of feeling out of control inner turmoil that caused me to feel like I was giving birth to a porcupine it was all really pleasant stuff.  So, can you see why the enemy will work so hard to take away our peace?  A lack of peace can wreak havoc in our lives and he will throw everything in his arsenal at you in an effort to rob us of it. 

There are several ways he will try to do that.  He’ll try to rob us of peace in our circumstances.  He’ll try to rob us of peace in our relationships.  But, what I want to focus on is how he tries to rob us of our peace with God.  How does he try to do that?  I think our enemy has two favorite weapons:  guilt and shame.  He will try to use guilt and shame in an attempt to steal our peace with God.  Our enemy knows how to use both to torment our hearts.  He’s an accuser, always pointing out a flaw, always pointing out a mistake, always pointing out a failure.  And, it seems like his memory is a whole lot better than ours because once we forget about something, he seems to be right there to bring it back up again “Remember when you did that?  Yeah, you really messed up.  Remember how you hurt your wife?  What kind of husband are you?  Remember when you hurt your kids?  What kind of lousy dad are you?  Remember when you messed with that girl’s heart.  And you call yourself a Christian.  Remember when that happened to you yeah, you’ll never be the same after that.”  So, he will throw dart after dart after dart at the bull’s eye of our heart in an attempt to steal our peace through the tactics of guilt and shame guilt over what we have done or haven’t done shame over what we have done or what has been done to us. I heard someone once say, “Untreated guilt is the most fertile soil on earth to grow shame.” As long as we hold on to guilt and shame we’ll never experience peace in our lives. 

There are two types of guilt:  The guilt the Holy Spirit uses to build us up and the guilt the enemy uses to tear us down.  When we trust Jesus as our Savior, the Holy Spirit moves in to our lives He takes up residence inside of us and one way we know He is there is He begins to engage my heart. Romans 8:16 tells us that the Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.  The work of the Holy Spirit is not about pointing out external behaviors but rather the internal realities that lead to the external behaviors. My external actions point to internal places of my heart where I am refusing to believe God or trust God. The Holy Spirit will show me aspects of my heart that I have not allowed Him to begin to renew. 

The Holy Spirit moves in and begins to remind me of who I am as a child of God and shows me when what I am doing is not matching up with who I am as a child of God.  This is called conviction.   For instance, if I use my words to tear down my wife that doesn’t match up with who I am.  If I’m selfish with my money that doesn’t match up with who I am.  If I worry about everything that doesn’t match up with who I am.  That’s conviction the Holy Spirit is pointing out something (sin) to me and showing me that it doesn’t match up with the life I have been called to live.  And so, what I do is confess those things and turn away from them and allow the Holy Spirit to continue His work in me. 

The Holy Spirit will always use conviction to build us up into who we have been called to be.  A guilty conscience that comes before sincere repentance is the conviction of the Holy Spirit.  That’s a good thing.  It will be used to continue to shape us in to the image of Jesus Christ.

A guilty conscience THAT COMES AFTER sincere repentance is called condemnation.  That is not coming from God because God’s word tells me that I am no longer condemned (Romans 8:1). This is how our enemy uses guilt.  He uses it to tear us down.  “How could you do that?  How could act like that?  How could you say that?  What kind of Christian are you?”  The enemy always uses guilt to beat up never to build up.  And, this type of guilt and shame can torment our soul.  As long as we feel tormented, we’ll never feel peace.

But, when we believe we are at peace with God, our feet are firmly planted in God’s faithfulness and we can stand firm in His promises.  If you’re not standing firm, you’ll be sliding all over the place.

Some of us will slide actually toward legalism. Because we have not yet believed we are fully at peace with God, the enemy uses our guilt and our shame to cause us to slide toward, "I should do some things that will make God like me." If we don’t believe we are fully forgiven and if we don't believe God enjoys us, we’ll feel a need to work more and more in an effort to feel forgiven and to feel enjoyed by God.  We’ll easily slide right into trying to earn what is freely given simply in an effort to feel better about ourselves.  When we do that, we’re not standing firm in being at peace with God.

Matt Chandler has said, “The gospel declares we have the just judge of the universe declaring us holy, spotless, and righteous in his sight. Not only are we forgiven by the Judge, but we are loved by the Father. When you meditate on those two things, you think on those two things, you don't move away from those two things. Those become the fuel of love that moves to transformation.”

The enemy wants you to believe that if you feel guilty for something you’ve repented of, you can’t come to God because why would God want to hear from you? He will condemn with guilt that, in turn, creates a sense of shame.  This shame causes us to want to “hide” from God.  But, God doesn’t want us to “hide” because there is nothing we’ve done that He hasn’t already seen.  So, as Hebrews 10:22 – 23 tells us, we can “go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting Him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.  Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep His promise.”

Truth tells me to bring my guilt before God because my guilty conscience has been sprinkled clean with the blood of Jesus. Because of Jesus, I am “righteous” or “right with God” because Jesus took upon Himself the punishment I deserved.  If I have a guilty conscience, I can bring it to God.  “God, I’m coming to you with this and I’m going to believe Your Word over my guilty conscience.  I’m going to draw near to you.”  Colossians 1:19 – 22 “For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to Himself.  He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.  This includes you who were once far away from God.  You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions.  Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body.  As a result, he has brought you into his own presence and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.”

So, you can bring it to Him and ask for forgiveness and you can trust that you are forgiven.  One speaker said, “Now, you may wake up the next day and feel guilty again, but you don’t have to ask for forgiveness again.  You’re forgiven!”  Isaiah 38:17 says that God takes our sin and puts it behind His back which means if the enemy wants to get to your sin to rub it in your face, he has to go through God first.  That ain’t gonna happen.

We may be at war with Satan, but we are at peace with God through Jesus.  Ephesians 2:14 says that Jesus Himself is our peace.  It all comes back to Jesus.  Once we have believed that Jesus is our peace that His blood cleanses our guilt, Satan loses the bull’s eye, and we remember that peace is no longer his to take because of how it’s been given through the blood of Jesus.

Monday, July 13, 2015

You Can Do the Right Thing Even When You Don't Feel the Right Thing ... Armor of God # 4

I'm not sure if you've ever felt contested in your spiritual life ... like everywhere you turn, there is something trying to distract you from living for God.  You want to, but something seems to get in the way or something seems to ensnare you or trip you up or set itself up against your faith.  If you've ever felt contested in your faith, it's because you are.  We have an opponent ... an enemy ... someone who's desire is to steal, kill, and destroy, and keep you from living out the truth of who you are as a follower of Jesus.  So, as we continue to talk about the armor of God (truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, and the sword of the Spirit) I think it's important to remember that these are more than concepts.  These are more than words.  These are truths we live in and we live out.

Remember, armor was worn to protect areas vital for survival.  So, each of these pieces of spiritual armor must be specifically designed to help us "survive" spiritually and to live out our gospel identity.  If we are not living in them we will not be living them out.

The last post talked about truth.  You can read about it right here, if you'd like.  The idea is that we either kill the lies or they will kill us.  But, when we stand in the truth of God, we can live out the truth of God in our lives.

This post will look at the "breastplate of righteousness."  That sounds really "churchy."  What exactly does being righteous mean?  Well, in this context I think it has two meanings:  one is in the sense of who we are and the other is in the sense of how we act.  It's the idea of acting like who we have been called to be.  Again, armor protects.  So, remembering who we are and living like who we are must protect us from the enemy, and in particular, it guards our heart, because that's what a "breastplate" was designed to do.

A few years ago my dad went in for a random checkup.  During that check-up, it was discovered that all of the arteries in his heart were more clogged than clear.  So, it was literally only a matter of time before he had a heart attack.  Two days after the check-up, he was having open heart surgery.  

The next day ... the very next day, my dad is able to eat food.  Guess what he has for his first meal ... Kentucky Fried Chicken!  KFC!  He just had open heart surgery, gets all the junk cleaned out, and he's eating KFC original recipe fried chicken with it's 11 secret herbs and spices of greasy goodness!

Maybe that's a poor illustration, but I think it's a picture of what we go through as followers of Jesus.  Jesus has given us, literally, a new heart!  When we put our trust in Him, we are not the same.  He also gives us a new address.  Colossians 1:13 - 14 remind us that Jesus "has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of His dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins."  He has transformed us and He has taken us from one place and literally set us down in another place. Spiritually speaking, we have a whole new zip code.  We no longer live in the kingdom of darkness zip code.  We live in the Kingdom of Jesus zip code.  There is now royal blood flowing through our veins.  Jesus has done His part and has done what only He can do.  Jesus and only Jesus makes us righteous.  He alone gives us right standing with God.  

So, Jesus gives us right standing which then enables us to do the right living.  So, the breastplate of righteousness tells us who we are (we are righteous in the eyes of God) and reminds us how to live (rightly because we are righteous).  Because we are "right" with God, we can now live "right" for God.  It's living out who we have been called to be.  You have a new heart so you don't eat the KFC because the KFC is what gave you the bad heart!  "Finger-Lickin' good" is not who you are anymore.  Because we have a new heart we live as people guided by and directed by a new heart instead of being guided by and directed by our appetites.  So, that means there are certain things we turn to and certain things we turn from ... and this protects us.  But how?

The truth of the Gospel tells us that God's faithfulness to us is not based on what we do but rather on what Jesus has done.  So, we don't earn God's faithfulness.  But, I think the reality is this ... our belief in God's faithfulness will impact what we do.  When we really believe we are who God says we are, our decisions and our behaviors will begin to reflect that.  When we fully believe that we have been transferred to the Kingdom of Jesus, we start acting like citizens of the Kingdom of Jesus.  In my study on the armor of God, one speaker said, "How we behave overwhelmingly flows from what we deeply believe."  That speaker went on to say, "What that means is we are able to do the right thing even when we don't feel the right thing."(Moore) There are a lot of times my feelings tell me to lash out in anger when someone cuts me off on the highway (which is like every day) or when my kids create a huge mess that they don't clean up (which is like every day).  My feelings often tell me to act one way, but my belief tells me that I should act another.  This creates a huge tension in my life because I don't always want to stay calm.  I don't always want to show self-control.  I don't always feel like staying pure.  I don't always want to use kind words.  I don't always feel like being fair.  My feelings tell me to take the credit, to promote myself, and get ahead no matter who gets in the way.  The problem is that these feelings are in direct opposition to my belief as a follower of Jesus.  It's an incredible tug of war going on in my soul.  How can we live righteously when our feelings are begging us to live differently?

One way is by remembering who we are.  We are righteous in God's eyes.  I can do the right thing even when I don't feel the right thing when I remember who I am.  This is why I think it's crucial to focus on our identity rather than our behavior.  If armor protects, one of the main things the breastplate of righteousness protects us from is trusting in our OWN righteousness.  Tim Keller puts it this way: "Most people in the world today believe that if there is a God, you relate to God with your behavior.  Most religions are based on that principle.  It may look different, but when you sift through all the variations, the basic idea is 'If I can just do enough good things and stay away from enough bad things, I'm accepted.'  Yet, the Gospel of Jesus is not only different from that, it's diametrically opposed to it!" 

When we make behavior the central focus of our Christian walk, we start to lean on our own "righteousness" and continue to believe that "More Right Behavior + Less Wrong Behavior = Godliness."  But, this type of thinking always turns me inward instead of outward because I'm living in this almost paranoid state of "How am I doing?"  And, this is when I can find myself making a checklist to keep track of how I'm doing and feeling good about myself when I can check things off the list.  As long as I'm checking off the list, God is happy with me.  If I'm not checking off the list, it's not the God doesn't love me.  He's just not as happy with me as He is the one getting more check marks.  Making behavior the central focus of Christian living is like looking in a mirror all the time.  I'm constantly looking at me ... "How do I look?  How's my hair?  That's a nice color on me.  Does my butt look big in these jeans?  What's that pimple doing there?"  Making behavior the point always turns my eyes toward me and my behavior. It also makes it a whole lot easier to judge you by your behavior.  The problem is, it never gets me looking toward Jesus and it certainly never gets me looking toward you.  

But, the more I look to Jesus, the more I'm going to see you.  Mother Theresa said, "I see Jesus in every human being.  I say to myself, 'This is hungry Jesus, I just feed him.  This is sick Jesus.  This one has leprosy or gangrene; I must wash him and tend to him.'  I serve because I love Jesus."  

Looking toward Jesus helps me remember that you have a soul.  The more I look toward Jesus, the softer my heart becomes for those around me, and it reminds me that I have been saved from an old way of life to a NEW way of life.  I am righteous.  I don't live right for God to be made right with God, but rather I have been made right with God therefore I can live right for God.  Standing confidently in the breastplate of righteousness reminds me I stand ONLY because of Jesus' righteousness. His righteousness is now applied to me and it literally transforms who I am.  I can live in Christ's righteousness and act like someone who has a new heart.  

Can I remind us, though, that none of us do this perfectly.  There are ups and downs, highs and lows, failures and successes.  But, grace is a beautiful thing.  The more I realize I need it, the more I realize I want it.  God remains faithful even when I am not.  I'm so grateful that His faithfulness depends upon Him rather than me.  Grace never excuses my sin, but it surely covers it and propels me forward and it empowers me to act out of identity rather than obligation.  

Saturday, July 11, 2015

If You Don't Kill the Lies, They Will Kill You ... Armor of God # 3

I've started watching the series Turn: Washington's Spies on Netflix.  Southwest PA, where I grew up, is full of colonial history, so this series definitely intrigued me.  The show chronicles the history of America's first spy ring.  I find it to be a very interesting show, but every time I watch it I'm reminded of lyrics from an old Charlie Daniels' song that say, "He's a snake in the grass, I'll tell you guys.  He may look dumb, but that's just a disguise.  He's a mastermind in the ways of espionage."  (I can now check off "Include Charlie Daniels lyrics in a blog post" off my bucket list).  Anyway, espionage is all about deceit, disguise, and lies when trying to defeat the enemy or gain the upper hand.

The Bible describes our spiritual enemy as a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44).  He is an expert at deceit.  If there was ever a "snake in the grass," it's him.  He's always scheming, always planning, always deceiving.  Jesus said that when our enemy lies, he speaks his native language (John 8:44), meaning that it is the natural thing for him to do.  My native language is English.  It's all I know.  It's all I speak.  Our spiritual enemy's native language is lies.  It's all he knows.  He is a liar.  There is no truth in him.

Although he is a defeated enemy, he is still waging war.  His weapon of choice seems to be deceit.  It's what he knows best and it's what can be most effective to keep us from living out our identity in Jesus Christ.  One author has said, "Look for the lie and that's where you'll find the enemy working because he is a liar and the father of lies."  

Think about the implications of that last statement.  Whatever lie you are believing about yourself, about someone else, about God ... whatever it is, our enemy is seeking to exploit that lie and feed that lie in an effort to keep us from living out our gospel identity.    He is constantly filling our mental tanks with deception in order to keep us from living out who we are.

Paul Tripp said this, "No one is more influential in your life than you are, because no one talks to you more than you do.  Whether you realize it or not, you are in an unending conversation with yourself, and the things you say to you about you are formative of the way that you live.  You are constantly talking to yourself about your identity, your spirituality, your functionality, your emotionality, your mentality, your personality, your relationships, etc."  

Truth, which is the first part of our spiritual armor talked about in Ephesians 6, is vital if we are to live out who we are as followers of Jesus.  Armor protects us.  Armor guards some part that is essential for survival.  So, if we are not "armoring" our thoughts with truth, our identity with truth, our spirituality with truth, our emotions with truth, our personality with truth, our relationships with truth ... then each of those areas of our life are left unprotected and our spiritual enemy will take full advantage of that, continuing to feed whatever lies we may lean toward.  

We do not live out what we know.  We live out what we believe.  For that reason, it is crucial to believe the truth about who we are as followers of Jesus because if we do not believe who we are, we will not live like who we are ... exactly what our enemy wants.

The best way to fight a lie is with truth.  It's simply not enough to ignore our enemy's lies or refuse to listen to them.  We have to replace the lies with truth.  I find truth in the word of God.  Jesus described the words of God as "truth."  (John 17:17).  Psalm 33:4 tells me that "The word of the LORD is right and true."  I may not always like what I hear, but the Bible is always going to speak truth to me.  It is used in my life to "teach me what is true and to make me realize what is wrong in my life.  It corrects me when I am wrong and teaches me to do what is right.  God uses it to prepare and equip His people to do every good work."  (2 Timothy 3:16 - 17) So, what I have to try to do every day is learn how to take the lies Satan throws at me regarding my identity, my relationships, etc. and replace them with truth.  Weed out the negative and feed the positive.  

The Apostle Paul touches on this in 2 Corinthians 10:4 - 5 when he says "The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  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."

I absolutely love the quote from the movie Taken when Liam Neeson's character says, "I don't know who you are.  I don't know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don't have money.  But what I do have is a very particular set of skills .. skills I have acquired over a very long career ... skills that make me a nightmare for people like you.  If you let me daughter go now, that'll be the end of it.  I will not look for you, I will not pursue you.  But if you don't, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you." Love it!

This is what we have to do with the lies that deceive us and keep us from living out our gospel identity.  We need to hunt them down and kill them.  We kill them with truth.

So, for instance, when I feel like I have nothing to offer ... that's a lie.  God's word says, "For we are God's masterpiece.  He has created us anew in Christ Jesus so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago." (Ephesians 2:10)

If and when I feel like my worth needs to be based on my performance and what I do ... that's a lie.  God's word says, I "have been given fullness in Christ ... made alive with Christ."  My worth is because of Him not because of what I do. (Colossians 2:9 - 15)

The more we fill our minds with truth, the less room there is for a lie.  But, it's important to remember that we can't just know the truth, we have to believe it because we live out what we believe.  So, there are times when I think we literally need to speak these truths aloud ... not simply so we can hear it, but so the enemy can hear it as well.  We remind him of who we are.  We take a stand ... we stand our ground and say "This is a lie and I am no longer being held captive by it!"

Our enemy wants to keep us from believing who we are as followers of Jesus because if we don't believe it we won't live it.  So, he feeds the lies.  But, you are not powerless here.  As one speaker said, "Either you have control over your thoughts or your thoughts have control over you.  There is no middle ground."

If you don't deal with the lies, they will not go away.  They will not get smaller.  John Acuff wrote, "Every time you believe a lie about yourself, it gets easier to believe it the next time ... if you don't kill the lies, they will kill you."

So a few questions ... 

  • How do you view yourself?
  • What are the things you regularly say to you about you?
  • Do you see yourself in need of grace?
  • Do you find yourself seeking approval through what you do?
  • Do you believe God at His word?

The enemy's lies will completely mess up our thinking and weaken us if we believe them.  God's truth will strengthen the core of our being.  When we stand in His truth, we can live out His truth.

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