“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places”.
Ephesians 6:12, ESV
Satan attacks us in two distinct and recognizable ways.
First, he stirs up our desires and inflames our appetites for sin. He is very good at this. He knows all about you, and what you like.
Second, he accuses us of committing an evil against God. Scripture identifies him as “the accuser of the brethren.” He condemns us as perverse, rebellious, seditious and evil. “See what an evil wretch you are, your heart is small, black and hard.”
But the believer will run to the cross, and hold on. He will hear the blood of Jesus cry out for his soul. In this simple act of obedience and faith, he allows Jesus Christ to deliver him/her from darkness. There is absolutely nothing to be done except this, and this is enough. Sin can never hold a broken believer, who has a child’s heart of humility.
“And thus I shall always do, whenever you leave me to myself.” ~Brother Lawrence
I cannot fight this dark battle in and of myself. I have neither the armament nor the understanding to take on “cosmic powers”. I must become broken, and weak, and then the Spirit will shelter me. Being manic depressive can actually be of help. I know my own weakness, and it lays me at the feet of my Lord, with no pretenses of strength.
Romans 8:31-32, The Message reads like this,
“So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen?”
It is the ‘nerd’s’ dream, of being absolutely protected from his tormentors by someone with superpowers. And scripture makes it clear that this is not far from the truth. God defends us not just because he loves us, he protects us because his reputation is on the line.
“Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture“ (verses 33-34, the Message)
Oh struggling saint, you cannot battle alone. Apart from him, you can do nothing. Spiritually, cover yourself with the righteousness of Jesus. Do not venture out against these dark forces, when you have the love of One who cannot fail.
“No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.”
1 John 3:9
Without question God forgives all my sin. I have no doubts about His capacity and willingness to ‘pass over’ my sin and rebellion. The Father never ever will condemn me for my failure to follow Him completely. And yet I sin, each and every day.
But sin forgiven should be sin forsaken. We can walk clean and free, but only if we bid our sin, adieu. You can’t continuously sin anymore. I’ve been reading 1 John recently, and there is a clear statement against sinning repetitively, over and over again. To do so denies the specific reality of Jesus’ resurrection power within the true believer.
He always forgives, but I must forsake. To do this you must renounce and forsake your ‘favorite’ sin. It then means walking as someone ‘brand new.’ A completely new life.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
2 Corinthians 5:17
“The new has come.” The old things are no longer part of the equation. We are to shed the old which is now detestable in the eyes of God. We have been completely forgiven, of past-present-future sins. We are as pure as white driven snow. The foul has become clean. We are like the leper in the New Testament, we have become whole again.
He forgives, but I need to forsake. I no longer identify myself with the old– I’m a new creature. The word can be translated as “species.” I’m a brand new work of God, with a completely different DNA. I’m now categorized as someone new and distinct, new to this present age. (No wonder I don’t fit in anymore).
The act of choosing can’t be understated. In the ‘heat of the moment’ an easy obedience becomes easy to renounce. The temptation to sin becomes seemingly irresistible. This is true of habitual sins. We surrender to the inevitable, and deny the truth of our identity.
But God forgives us. You need to brush yourself off, declare your commitment, and get back in the saddle and finish your race. All heaven is on ‘tip-toe’ to see what you will do.
“Nothing in the church makes people in the church more angry than grace. It’s ironic: we stumble into a party we weren’t invited to and find the uninvited standing at the door making sure no other uninviteds get in.
Then a strange phenomenon occurs: as soon as we are included in the party because of Jesus’ irresponsible love, we decide to make grace “more responsible” by becoming self-appointed Kingdom Monitors, guarding the kingdom of God, keeping the riffraff out (which, as I understand it, are who the kingdom of God is supposed to include.)”
— Michael Yaconelli
Often there can be a frustrated hostility simmering just below the veneer of a religious person. It can be seen in sudden outbursts of irritation that seems to come from nowhere. It is often encountered when they feel the ‘spigot of grace’ has been open too long, too much water is being used, and the people are getting a little wild in showing their enthusiasm. “They’re acting like ungodly pagans.”
Regulating the watering hole becomes a compulsion, and a necessary work of the “Church.” Jesus’ love is for all is a confirmed fact, but we must have some standards of decorum and appropriate levels of conduct and respect. “We the keepers-of-the- spigot are called to take some responsibility in this,” we end up saying.
Celebratory shouts of joy are simply not acceptable. Dancing in the mud is way ‘out-of-line.’ But there is an outrageous element to grace. It is preposterous and disturbing. It is untamed and wild, and not at all logical. “We definitely prefer the thinking side of our faith,” we say.
Judas rebuked Jesus as he was getting a foot massage from the ungodly woman. She had no business to be there in the first place. And secondly, she has just poured this incredible fortune on the feet of Jesus! Judas said, “way out-of-line!” But there is a irrepressible love that always pushes its way forward.
For those of us who have first experienced God’s love and grace we must keep an alert out for our hard hearts. First, He is in charge of how the water is utilized. Second, [and we MUST believe this] when a man or woman connect with the water, there can be spontaneous displays of joy!
We must change our thinking, e.g. repent, and insist that we ‘cease and desist’. Our attitude is not acceptable or true to the Spirit of Christ. We are the ones way “out-of-line” and we have not been good witnesses about his grace and love. We had better turn from this sin, and ask Jesus to free us again.
“And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:32
“Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me.“
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
We can so easily process our faith to something respectable and somewhat pleasant. This is a natural tendency. But the cross has a stigma, we might think we can easily defuse it, rendering it as harmless. Acceptability is a wonderful thing to the modern day believer. It is easy to turn from all that would make us different, and grasp a crossless faith. It does seem we conform rather than transform.
Effort is being made right now to twist and nullify your belief in Jesus. It is a force that works on us, relentlessly. Satan intends to destroy you. He is frightened by the power of the cross, and the spiritual truth it contains. The cross (and resurrection) destroyed the devil’s kingdom of twisted darkness. He will never recover.
Just as Jesus carried the cross He was to die on, you and I are to follow His example. Jesus had to go to this place of death, and so are we. My cross is not purely emblematic or abstract symbolism. It entails a real death. I pick it up and go to die. Crucifixion is the end of me, it all comes down to this final point of termination.
Jesus escorts us to the point of death. This is to become the framework for a sincere discipleship. The cross, our cross, brings us to an end. To be worthy of Jesus is to bear it boldly. The cross develops into our thinking, and its dynamic pounds us into a spiritual reality. Jesus intensifies the cross, making it the mark of authenticity of a disciple.
We have no options, if we follow it must be with a cross. There is absolutely no room for us if we approach Him without it. The cross transmutes our lives, and transmits a signal that we have complied with Jesus’ wishes. If we advance at all, it will be through the cross only.
We must deny ourselves. That denial is an intense working. “I do not know the man” was Peter’s statement against Jesus. If we deny ourselves, we will take a stand against our own selves, turning against ourselves. We will be pinned to the mat.
Our focus should be on the cross. We must infuse it into our lives. A tea bag will flavor an entire cup. It turns a cup of boiling water into a wonderful beverage. The cross that belongs to us will have the same effect. It will make something where there was nothing.
“All heaven is interested in the cross of Christ, all hell terribly afraid of it, while men are the only beings who more or less ignore its meaning.”