At Gateway Church in Austin, we concluded our series called “Bad Lip Reading”
When times get tough for people around us, it can sometimes be difficult to figure out what to say. We often resort to trite sayings like “God never closes a door without opening a window,” hoping to offer comfort and a sense of direction in times of uncertainty or disappointment. But since sayings like these are often misattributed to God and His Word, is the saying even true? When God does seem to close a door, how can we make sure that He’s the one guiding us to our alternate destination?
These discussion questions are designed for your life group or family dinner to help you apply the message to your life.
Audio of the Message I shared at Gateway South:
Here are notes from the message Melissa Fisher, Kenny Green, and I shared:
Did the Devil Make Me Do It? Is there some unseen evil force that can make us go down the wrong path?
Just for a moment: think back to your childhood. Think back to your earliest memories. Can you remember choosing to disobey your mom or dad? Can you remember doing something mean to a friend in preschool or your brother or sister?
Why would we do that?
Is it possible that there is something bigger than us out there making us do things we don’t want to?
Can the devil really make us do it?
Now, I know for some of you here for the first time or checking out faith…it can be hard to imagine or believe that there really is an unseen world of demons and a diabolical dark leader named Satan. Maybe you doubt that there is a source of evil, out there impacting the world, but let’s be real for a moment.
Have you ever done something you look back and think, how did that happen?
Have you ever had a thought pop in your head that was so dark or evil it scared you? Like out of nowhere you just had this thought that you should run your car off the road??
What if the source of that evil thought or action had a name?
What if that source of evil really does exist in the spiritual realm?
Now, I am not talking about the cartoon character with the pointy tail, pitchfork, horns and goatee or a halloween costume from the halloween store.
Instead, I am talking about the real spiritual forces that are working to bring destruction, oppression, injustice, racism, abuse, and evil in the world today.
Historian Jeffrey Russell points out that although modern people have tended to believe less and less in a supernatural evil force, the practical experience of evil has not decreased, but maybe even increased in our society. Our educated modern views have done nothing whatsoever to conquer the reality of the spiritual forces of evil that seem to be at work in the world. Russell notes how most cultures have attested to demonic spiritual forces at work throughout history.
As we dive into scripture on this question, I believe we can see that there is something bigger than us going on. That there is a real war being waged in a realm we can’t see. That yes, there are dark forces at work in this realm, and we see the results of their evil work done by men and women.
This unseen world can be hard to grasp as all the horror movies that are shown this time of year can so easily desensitize us. Demon possession and ghost stories just seem so ridiculous, right? ….or if we do start to believe it, does it mean we need to live in fear cause the devil and his demons can actually make us do stuff?
Let’s look together at Scripture and see what the Bible says about the devil and the invisible war going on around us…..
We’ll start with the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 6:12 which says:
“For we are NOT fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”
– Ephesians 6:12 (NLT)
What we hear Paul say in this verse is that all those issues that you might be having with your co-worker, your spouse, your neighbor….There’s something bigger going on…..That there IS an unseen world going on around you and us…and it should be factored in…That there are some truly dark, nasty rulers, authorities, evil spirits, demons at work….
Peter jumps in and agrees that yes….There’s something bigger going on..in 1 Peter 5:8 as he gives us a warning about this enemy. He says:
“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” – 1 Peter 5:8 (NIV)
Don’t believe Peter or Paul? Even Jesus in John 10:10 refers to Satan as a thief that comes to steal, kill, and destroy…..you…and me…
But if this really is true….should we be afraid? OR Is this a battle we can win?
I say, in Jesus name, Oh yes, this is a battle we can win.…!
You see, Peter doesn’t leave us hanging at verse 8.
“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour….
His next verse doesn’t say, so go home, grab your kids, and hide under the bed….No…he goes on in verse 9 to say….
9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” – 1 Peter 5:8-9 (NIV)
I love Peter’s words here to “Resist Him”….He doesn’t say fear him. Or ignore him. He say’s Resist him…He let’s us know this is something we can do. We can stand firm. We don’t have to be pushed around. That friends..the devil can’t make us do it!
I know some of you here are asking…but how cause I’ve been shoved around all week? How can I stand firm? What does standing firm in this spiritual war really look like?
I believe there are a few things we can learn about fighting a spiritual war by looking at a physical one…As many of you that have served in one of our military branches know…One of the first things you need to do before heading off into war is to learn about your enemy’s tactics and schemes.
Which is where we will start… Satan’s tactics and his schemes…
The good news is that Satan really has only one tactic. It’s to lie. That’s the only thing he knows how to do. But the bad news is that he often times is very, very good at it. And these lies can take on different forms. .
Enemy Lie #1: God can’t be trusted.
This was Satan’s first lying tactic in the Garden of Eden and it’s been his favorite ever since. He’s tried to use this tactic so many times throughout my life. The latest I’ve noticed is how much he tries to get me to believe that I can’t trust God with my future. That relationally, I will always be alone. That I won’t get married or have a family.
So, I start to feel down and hopeless and who wants to feel that? So a little shopping therapy at Target or wherever happens instead!
What about you? What’s the area of your life satan is trying to get you to believe that God can’t be trusted with? Your financial security? Your dating life? Your job? What school you will get into?
Do you notice all the you’s and your’s in those last sentences? It’s because Enemy Tactic #2 is so closely related to Enemy Tactic #1….
Enemy Lie #2: It’s okay, You _________!
This is the fill in the blank lie that we always love to hear. It’s that fun, approving little voice that says, “Oh it’s okay!, You deserve it” You’ve earned it! “It’s okay….you know what you need. You do you!…..” It’s that lying seed that grows so well in the soft soil of pride. Of entitlement….
It’s that little voice that tells us we deserve a drink or three to take the edge off the day, when no…I don’t need one. It tells me I deserve pancakes, bacon, and chocolate cake at all hours of the day. After all, I’ve earned it! I mean, I showered and adulted three days in a row this week!…..
It’s that voice that says….anything it needs to…as it tugs on pride. To get you to do something for you. Which can have such consequences…as all our choices affect others….After all, there’s something bigger than you going on, right?
We see this play out in 1 Chronicles chapter 21….At this point in the story, David has taken over after King Saul tragically died. For those of you unfamiliar with this story, King Saul was Israel’s first King and David was appointed to replace him. King Saul wasn’t too happy about that, tried to kill David a few times. But at this point in Ch. 21, David has finally become King after Saul tragically died in battle.
So David is now King, and had won a few battles over some bad guys. He even started work on trying to get the ark of the covenant back to Jerusalem… He’s been up to some good things…..
But we see pride and this lie step in and trip David up. Which again, can be dangerous….cause there’s something bigger going on….
Vs 1 says….
“Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel.” – 1 Chronicles 21:1
Satan incited David…. Incited means….to urge, persuade, to lure, to talk into….And what does he use? A lie!!!
“It’s Okay David, You can count your men.” It’s no big deal! This won’t matter! It’s okay…you deserve to know how many men you have! After all, you need to know for future battles….! But the truth is….he didn’t need to know.
Remember, we are reading a story about a man who lived in a very different time in history. 3000 years ago most of the world acted like Isis so people groups were constantly at war. When we don’t understand something we read in the Scriptures, we can use the Scriptures to interpret the Scriptures.
Earlier in the story of David, he asked God for wisdom before every decision he made. This time, he was giving into a temptation from darkness.
So why was this so evil?
- A census was also evil because in those times, a man only had the right to count or number what belonged to him. Israel did not belong to David; Israel belonged to God.
- Perhaps David was overconfident by his recent military successes and now he was trying to expand his kingdom for HIS wealth and glory (not God’s).
- Just a few verses before we discover that David had enslaved the Ammonites. David who loved God was now acting more like the godless and evil Egyptians who had enslaved the David’s people. He was becoming more and more like the other evil kings around him and less and less like the noble King God desired.
David didn’t need to know the numbers, or the figures or the data…Which absolutely goes against what we so often think…That before we take a step, we run the numbers.
Knowing the numbers was all about him getting to rely on spreadsheets of soldier data instead of having to rely on God.
And why was Satan inciting, luring, or lying to David?….Who was satan really after?
“Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel.”- 1 Chronicles 21:1
Israel. The whole country. Remember…there is always something bigger going on. Satan knew if he could lie to David and GET him to do something….notice I didn’t say make him do something….Cause the devil didn’t make David take a census….David just listened to the lie and did.
Even with Joab, one of his commanders saying no, David….don’t do this!! David pushed wise counsel away.
Have you ever done that? Someone try to get you to hear some truth about a situation or circumstance and you just pushed it away?….Well David just pushes Joab’s words aside as he commands Joab to make the census happen. We read in the rest of Ch.21 just how painful the consequences of David’s prideful actions were as 70,000 Israelites ended up dying because of David’s choice.
And why….? David had the opportunity to resist the lie. But he didn’t. He had to make it happen now….
Which is another lie satan loves to use to make us do things:
Enemy Lie #3: It has to be done NOW!
Satan is very good at talking us into into doing something now…that could have waited. Instead he lies as he says, “Do it now! Now, Now, Now….Don’t wait on God (After all, you can’t trust Him.) You don’t have time to pray about it or You don’t have time to check it out with someone you trust!”
Enemy Lie #4: You can handle this on your own.
This is the isolation lie! It’s the lie that keeps us little ol sheep standing alone in the pasture… And remember that whole imagery that Peter used about Satan prowling around like a lion around looking for someone to devour?
In the world of predator and prey….Loner sheep don’t last very long. They are easily picked off as he whispers “You should be able to handle this by yourself. And if you ask, no one will show up for you anyway.”
How often do we get blown off course when we aren’t anchored in our relationship with God and with community? All because we are living off the lie that we could handle it on my own.
And we believe it so often, don’t we?
And when satan can control what we believe, then he can control how we live.
Which then begs the question, what are we to do?? Is there a way to resist the devil and find a way out?
1 Corinthians 10:13 says,
“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” – 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV)
Imagine. Satan whispering an enticing lie. That as he does…this verse says there will always be a door offering us a way out. Because, remember….. it is not a sin to be tempted. We just get in trouble when we don’t look for that door!
That door will always be labeled “TRUTH.”
And this is our main weapon friends! The TRUTH!!!
Paul says this very same thing in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 –
“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.”
So we don’t fight with grenades, guns, AK47s, or a surface to air missile rockets….These are physical weapons for a physical war. But our spiritual weapons?
“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.” – 2 Corinthians 10:4-5
Do you see that? Divine weapons….that help us demolish arguments…or lies…all those lies satan is throwing at you…about God, about yourself, about your life….You get to take those thoughts captive…what does it mean to make them obedient to Christ?
Simple….it’s asking…is the thought I heard trash or truth??? Because remember….God will always tell you the truth, satan will always lie to you, and you….well, when you talk to yourself….it might be 50/50 on a good day! So you start to slow down your thoughts and ask….Is what I am hearing trash or truth….
Now, if I’ve had a thought that is a lie and I agreed to it…The devil starts to get a foothold. A foothold isn’t great but it can be dealt with. (Tear one sheet of paper…) If I keep agreeing to it, over and over…. that foothold becomes a stronghold! (Show stack of papers) A stronghold is just that….a lie that’s gotten such a strong hold on my life that my actions, attitudes, and addictions are ruled by it.
Let me just add: remember it is not a sin to have a thought or be tempted. This is important because some of us have been making progress by taking our thoughts captive and replacing trash with the truth and then all of a sudden one of those evil thoughts pops into our minds. Just having that thought discourages us and the lie comes that says: “See you aren’t making progress! You will never overcome this! Just give in! This is who you are!”
In that moment, stop and take thoughts thoughts captive and replace them with the truth of who you really are – more than a conqueror because of Jesus!” (And remember…the thoughts may not even be yours!)
And if it’s felt like the devil made you do something once or countless times, there is grace and freedom being offered today in Jesus name. The devil may have gotten you to do it once or a thousand times….But you DON’T have to do it again….Remember…there is something bigger than you going on and that something is Jesus!
And as a follower of His you get to use the divine weapons he offers! Those divine weapons? Truth! The Word of God….It provides that open door that we can walk thru and then can slam in the Devil’s face and say “Don’t come around here no more!”
And we have other weapons!! Praise is a weapon! from the mouth of a child. You ever heard a child sing? They DO. NOT. CARE! They just sing and sing and sing…Something happens in the physical realm in our hearts and also in the spiritual realm when we sing with abandon! Want to see this in action? Open your heart to singing like a little kid on Sunday mornings! Come to the next 3rd Wednesday!
Another weapon?? Prayer…It’s a HUGE weapon! but before we go there…
We don’t just have weapons that we take into battle….We have an armor that we can put on and wear. In physical wars our soldiers wear helmets and boots and bullet proof vests, etc. In a Spiritual war, we wear spiritual armor that’s kinda similar in that it’s armor that helps me stay away from spiritually getting hurt! We learn more about this armor in Ephesians 6:
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.
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.
Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist,
with the breastplate of righteousness in place,
and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.
In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
– Ephesians 6:10-17
And that sword? The word of God. Notice it is the only offensive weapon. The others are defensive. Like the shield of faith…And do you know that shields are better used and more effective when used with others? (show braveheart or gladiator locking shield photo.)
And after Paul walks us through all of this armor that he instructs us to put on DAILY….
He closes with the last weapon….He says:
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. – Ephesians 6:18
And for some of you, you clearly know a lie that the devil has been trying to get you to believe. Pray. Confess and repent which means to change your mind. Tell God: “I take that thought of trash and do just that….I tear it up and toss it in Jesus name.”
“For others…the number of times you’ve believed a certain lie has stacked up. It’s now become a stronghold (like the size of a stack of copy machine papers.)….You need some specialists to come around you and help you get to Jesus tear up this phone book! We will have prayer team members down front at the end of the service to help with that.”
We see that there is something bigger than us going on here! And that something is Jesus. We are going to step into his bigger… His bigger love. His bigger peace. His bigger freedom. His bigger joy. His bigger purposes for our lives.
Which means we have to put on our armor and sharpen our sword friends. We have to dive into this bucket of truth and lather up! Those of you developing and deepen Christ-followers, what if you started trying to work on memorizing scripture? Keep those truth nuggets tucked in the most accessible place? Your heart!
The greatest weapon we have against lies is the Truth. The Scriptures tell us the Truth is more than a set of beliefs we check off a box. The Truth is not an intellectual assent to a set of facts. The Truth is a person, and His name is Jesus.
Jesus sets us free from darkness.
Jesus forgives us of our past and gives us new life in the present.
Jesus is the Light in the midst of the darkness.
At the name of Jesus, darkness trembles.
I want to challenge you to surrender your heart and your mind and your actions – past, present, and future to Jesus. I want to challenge you to sing this song with us taking what Jesus did on the cross as your source of new life! He is alive and here to bring us into the Light!
Next Steps Suggestions:
- Play trash and truth for a week with your running partner(s) or life group!
- Pray every morning for 7 days and put on the full armor of God.
- Pray through Daily Prayer for Freedom from Ransomed Heart.
- Go through the Gateway series: Realm (message notes and videos of the messages)