At Gateway Church in Austin, we concluded our series on the spiritual realm. The Scriptures tell us our prayers can move the spiritual realm, and forces in the spiritual realm can move us – for better or worse.
You can watch the entire series at www.gatewaychurch.com/podcast.
Each week, there are Next Steps to help us apply the message to our lives.
Here is the message John Burke shared:
John Burke shared some of the following insights:
“Today I want us to understand how to fight evil. You can’t fight evil if you don’t understand how evil works.
Just consider the evil I can manipulate you to do if you just believe my lies. We’ve seen this happen over and over again in our world – Nazis, KKK or perhaps more personally – people who love each other turn towards hating each other (divorce, broken friendships, resentment, bitterness, anger…).
Jeff Russell, professor of history at UCSB and the foremost authority on evil says: “As none of us has a life in which no evil befalls him, none of us has a life in which he does no evil…at least part of the answer to the question of evil lies within me.”
Why doesn’t God overcome evil with His power? Because He loves us all! If someone murders, or rapes, or defrauds, the power of our government can lock them in prison but cannot change their hearts. Power can’t triumph over evil, it can only isolate evil. God is holding off removing evil in the world because we are plagued by evil within us. God is holding off for a reason:
“The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise to return [and do away with evil], as some people think. No, he is being patient for our sake. He does not want anyone to perish, so he is giving more time for everyone to turn back to him.” – II Peter 3:9
God has a plan to overcome evil, but it happens one heart at a time. Love overcomes evil when anger, resentments, lusts, and greed get displaced with God’s love and forgiveness and security so that we let God lead our lives. God’s love overcomes evil! It starts when we turn back to God, believing he will forgive us and take us back, because of what Jesus did. At that point we are set free from evil’s eternal consequences, but we still must learn how to fight evil and overcome. The lie that Christians cannot be deceived and controlled by evil has probably done more damage to the cause of Christ than anything. If Peter was deceived, if Paul was deceived, you and I can be too! We can learn to overcome just like they did. How?
Know the Enemy’s Schemes
Paul tells the Ephesian church:
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. – Ephesians 6:10-12
Several important principles you need to see here: First, people are not your enemy! Second, our REAL struggle is against unseen forces that try to deceive you. Not every thought you have is your own! You have power over your thoughts and over thoughts that come to you, but not every thought is your own.
“We are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5
In Christ, you’re not alone and you’re not powerless. You can stand and resist. Paul said: “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” Ephesians 6:10
God is with you, He will make you strong in His power to stand and overcome evil. But in order to do this, you must pay attention to your thoughts and uncover evil’s lies with truth.
Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my [followers] if you keep obeying my teachings. 32And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free…[Satan] has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies. ” John 8:31-32, 44
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. John 16:13
This is exactly how we fight evil! The power of evil is in the lie, so the antidote is in the truth. So we must pay attention to our thoughts, catch his lies, and let God’s Spirit lead us to stand in truth. Since so many of us are unaware of his schemes, we can be fooled into thinking they’re the truth. Let’s look at some of the enemy’s most common schemes against us:
Scheme #1 – Provoking Doubt about Your Identity.
Last week Rick looked at the temptation of Jesus. Satan tempted Jesus every time, “If you are the Son of God…turn these stones to bread. If you are the Son of God…jump and prove it.” Satan knew Jesus’ identity, but he provoked doubt.
What provoking thoughts make you doubt your worth, your value to God, or your identity so that you’ll try to prove yourself? If you believe his lies that you have to prove yourself, then you will get led astray. In Christ, you have been spiritually adopted as God’s own son or daughter. You are secure, loved, you have all the rights of a citizen of Heaven.
Scheme #2 – Questioning God’s Intentions
This has been a favorite lie of Satan’s from the beginning. The serpant asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?” – Genesis 3:1
God had said they could eat from all the trees, except one. But do you see the scheme? Just place a little sliver of doubt about God’s intentions. He doesn’t want you to have anything. He’s ruining everything for you with this restrictive commands. Eve bites the lie about God’s intentions, and so now we experience the evil God tried to protect us from.
Where does evil try to get you to doubt God’s good intentions?
- “He just wants to take away all your fun.” That’s a lie! All fun you’ve ever experienced, God created.
- “He wants to make you poor and send you somewhere you don’t want to go.” That’s a lie! If God wanted to make you do anything, He already would have.
- “He wants to rob you of love. If you follow Him you’ll never be loved.” Once again, that’s a lie! God is love, and His desire is to lead you into a life of love.
I’ve heard and believed all these lies because I didn’t realize they were schemes to keep leading me toward evil.
Scheme #3 – Causing Division
This Friday we remember the crucifixion. You know what was on Jesus heart the night before his crucifixion? Look what He prayed for:
I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one…I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth. I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one…May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me. – John 17:15, 19-23
Jesus laid down his life so that we can overcome evil as we walk with God in truth. His truth is meant to unify us not divide us, yet how ironic that so many Christians and churches have divided over secondary issues.
The word devil in greek is “diaballos” – “dia” = apart, “ballo” = to throw. To throw apart and divide is what evil tries to do. He tries to incite divisive thoughts between friends, partners, spouses, church members. It works when we don’t catch those divisive thoughts and make them obedient to Christ who prayed for unity.
Marriages come under attack because marriage is God’s idea that is meant to reflect His nature. Marriage is two becoming one, spiritually, emotionally, physically and in love bringing forth new life. If you’re married, start praying together, pray for unity in your marriage, pray for God’s light and truth, pray against divisive thoughts, pray for protection for your kids, and you will overcome!
Scheme #4 – Accusing and Condemning
Satan means “accuser.” His favorite scheme is to tempt us so that when we fall he can accuse and condemn us for sinning. It’s the left jab of temptation and right upper-cut of condemnation.
You don’t fall into destructive patterns or habits over and over again unless you first go there in your thoughts. So the secret is to catch the first thought.
See, tempting thoughts lie to us in order to get us dangerously close to our greatest temptations. Remember: temptation is not a sin. Jesus was tempted in every way we were, yet he did not sin. So it’s not a sin to be tempted, it’s what you do with that thought.
If you do fall, the accuser will upper cut you with condemnation. You might hear thoughts like: “Man, you call yourself a Christian?! God’s disgusted with you! He wants nothing to do with you! Not until you get your act together.”
As long as we believe those lies, you will stay away from the very person you need – Jesus!
So here’s How to Fight
1. Take the First Thought Captive. Call the lie’s bluff. You’re trying to quit smoking, or drinking, or some other addiction. You hear, “Just one won’t hurt?” Is that the truth? You can have just ONE more? Call it’s bluff. If I smoke one more cigarette, will it be easier or harder to quit before the second cigarette? Harder. So if I smoke two, will it be easier or harder to quit before the third? Harder. Take any sin, greed, lust, bitterness, gossip whatever, and when tempted by it, call it’s bluff, where it’s headed? Say, “Okay, I’ll just keep giving in to this, will that get me what I want, really?” It never does, but you have to capture the thought and call it’s bluff. Then…
2. Stand in Truth. Just like darkness is always overcome by light, evil is always overcome by truth. Paul goes on in Ephesians 6 to say:
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. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Notice something: Paul’s metaphorically describing a soldier’s armor both to protect against attack, and to fight offensively. So you pay attention to thoughts that accuse, divide, condemn, shame, AND you protect yourself by standing your ground using the belt of truth that stops the lies. The breastplate of righteousness in Christ means you have right-standing with God. When Satan’s accusation comes to pierce your heart, let the truth protect you: “No! I’m not accused. I’m not condemned. I’m right with God not because I never do wrong, because Christ paid for all my wrongs.”
The shoes of the gospel of peace means you’re at peace with God, so you can confidently move forward in life and not fear any evil. The shield of faith (trusting in what God says) puts out the flaming arrows of false accusations. The helmet of salvation reminds us that nothing can change your eternal security in Christ. Let these truths protect you, but you can go on the offensive too.
3. Fight with Authority from God’s Word. Notice the last piece of armor is the sword, which is the word of God. Remember last week, Rick pointed out that every time Jesus was tempted or attacked, He fought back by quoting what God’s word said was true. He quotes scripture and that ended each attack. Even then, when Satan couldn’t get him from one angle, he tried another. Satan tried 3 times, and every time Jesus quotes God’s Word before Satan finally quit.
One thing God’s Word says: If you are in Christ, you have his delegated authority.
When the seventy-two disciples returned, they joyfully reported to him, “Lord, even the demons obey us when we use your name!” “Yes,” he told them… “I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy.” – Luke 10:17-18
Here’s what you need to know: If you belong to Christ, no evil has power over you. Jesus has all authority and His name is over every name, and He has delegated His authority to you. They have to obey you, but only if you belong to Him and only if you use His authority. Some of you are getting harassed by evil, but if you’re in Christ, you have the delegated authority to make them stop!
Here’s your assignment this week: download the Next Steps which will help you identify the lies that you hear. Write the lie on one side of a card and then go to www.Biblegateway.com to search keywords for the truth—write what God says is true on the other—pray daily against the lies with truth—it will set you free.