At Gateway Church in South Austin we continued our series called “Who I Am.”
Evil, the world, and our own brokenness constantly claw at our identity. All pulling us to create a foundation of self-image on everything but God. These schemes and patterns are nothing new. When in doubt we can trust who God says we are.
Work through the following questions and scriptures on your own, and get together with your running partner, life group, or friends and family to talk through what you are learning.
Message Notes by Carlos Ortiz:
Last week we looked at how discovering who God created us to be and resting in who He says we are is the antidote to a lot of life’s problems. This week we are looking at how evil attacks us and tries to distract us from who God says we are.
Let me explain it this way using an example from Physics.
“For every action (force) in nature there is an equal and opposite reaction.”
Many of us know this as Sir Isaac Newton’s third law of motion. The premise being that if object A exerts a force on object B, object B also exerts an equal and opposite force on object A.
In other words, forces result from interactions.
Let’s give an even more practical example, let’s say you or I are driving down the road, and we are minding our own business, we are at peace, we are at rest, maybe we are even listening to music that Jesus would be proud of, but then we get cut off, or maybe someone honks their horn and gives you the gift of the middle finger.
We, being object A, have just been interfered with by object B, the other driver.
According to Newton’s law, Object A then has to take recourse in response to the force given by Object B.
So then we in turn do what? What do we do in this situation?
I know, I know, this isn’t the exact situation Newton was describing when he was hypothesizing this law, but it does give us a premise to wrap our minds around.
If we are made in the image of God, and fearfully and wonderfully made, then there is an inherent belief that God is for us.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that everything we do, how we act, what we believe or say, is ok, but it does mean that when we line up to God’s design for us and walk in obedience towards him, there is nothing that can truly stop us.
I John 3:21-24
21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; 22 and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24 Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.
That being said, we do have outside forces that try to impede on this confidence, this obedience to God and his design for us.
If we are Object A, then this outside force trying to rob us of who we are, is Object B.
But here is the working premise for today’s message:
Even when we have outside forces attacking us, we have the right, and the God-given authority, to respond accordingly.
Let’s say it like this:
“EVIL OPPOSES US, BUT GOD EMPOWERS US”
To better understand this notion, let’s dive into scripture and go almost to the beginning of the Bible. Let’s start in Genesis chapter 3, and we’re going to go right to Object B, the evil force, attacking Object A, the first of God’s human creation.
Side note: We do recognize that many of us don’t necessarily agree on how the world came into existence, but for the sake of this particular conversation I’m going to ask us all to lay down our preferences for the sake of understanding a deeper truth.
To better help us do this, if you’ve heard the story of Adam and Eve a 1,000 times, for today pretend it is your first time.
Let’s all approach this text as though we are seeing and reading it as our inaugural introduction to the story. I think this resource will help us to do so:
Outside of time and space God created the angels.
1/3 rebelled, one of whom was called Lucifer or Satan or The Accuser.
In this story, the Accuser has taken the form of a serpent.
You may be skeptical about this spiritual realm, but have you ever had a diabolical thought come into mind out of nowhere? That’s evil trying to tempt you. In those moments, remind yourself that is not who you are. It is not a sin to be tempted, but what we do with temptations determines the kind of person we will become.
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.
He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise,[b] she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.
Up front, I’m going to tell you how we are attacked, as we learn through this passage, and then we’ll unpack how God empowers us to withstand these attacks.
The enemy of your soul attacks with manipulation, doubt, and greed.
The enemy attacks with manipulation
“Did God really say…”
As we read about this interaction between the serpent and Eve, we see how a deceptive and crafty way with semantics begins to break down Eve’s trust with God.
The snake throws out the erroneous notion that they cannot eat from any tree, and Eve clarifies by quoting God’s request of not eating from one of the trees.
The interesting part of this is that the moment Eve begins to explain and say what she heard from God, is the moment she’s already initially deceived.
The moment she knows that, first off, a snake spoke to her, HELLO EVE, and second, it was not true, the end of the conversation needs to happen.
In 1 Thessalonians 5, there’s a charge given to the church with a list of things to do and not do,
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not treat prophecies with contempt 21 but test them all; hold on to what is good, 22 reject every kind of evil.
So if the scheme of our attacker is to manipulate, then we are empowered by God to Hold on to what is Good and REJECT EVERY kind of evil
The enemy sows a seed of doubt.
“Does God really want what’s best for you?”
Another way to put the lie- “God is withholding good” Or, “God is a buzzkill” when He had actually given them everything in the garden to eat and enjoy, but ONE tree- and the law was for their protection.
Satan is tempting Eve to question God’s character in this- God isn’t the good God you think He is, He’s trying to keep you from something better.
The reality is, they would have come to know good and evil, but it would have been in God’s way rather than their own.
When our attacker gives us seeds of doubt, we are empowered to respond with CONFIDENCE.
…being confident of this (our partnership with God), that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6
With that confidence we turn off the reports from the television, we stop the scrolling of our social media feeds, we turn off the notifications of our friends, and we go to scripture that speaks to the truth to us.
“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” Matthew 7:11
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” James 1:17
The enemy attacks with greed
“He knows your eyes will be opened and you will be like God”
The irony is we were created in the image of God so we were already like God!
The tragedy here is that we were made to rule the earth with God- to have dominion over the creation. At the fall, this was reversed. Instead of humanity ruling over the creation, the creation rules over us. We allow the creation to define us, rather than our Creator.
There’s something broken in us that wants more than what God has for us which is actually more than we could ever imagine.
This snake figure is no different, Ezekiel 28 alludes to the fact that although he was in God’s inner circle he still wanted more
17 Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings.
Now juxtapose our attacker’s approach with that of Jesus who in Philippians 2 is described with having the same opportunity but responds very differently.
… did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant…
8 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name
Our identity problem is a worship problem. We were made to worship God and reflect Him like mirrors in creation. Satan lost sight of this, and yet we see Jesus hold true to it even as he took on flesh and came to the earth. The word for image is actually the same as Idol. We were supposed to be living, breathing representatives of God in the world.
“The human heart is an idol factory, churning out new idols like the conveyor belt in a manufacturing plant rolling out new widgets.” -John Calvin
The enemy tempted Eve to question God’s character, that maybe God was withholding something good from them, they believed that lie and made the choice to decide for themselves what is good and evil.
Eve SAW that the fruit was pleasing to the eye and good to eat and TOOK and ATE.
This is the decision we make when we determine for ourselves what is good (James 1:14-15). It looks good to me, therefore it must be good for me.
The enemy causes us to look inward instead of upward, to take our eyes off of our Creator.
We face these decisions daily and no matter what we choose, we are being formed and shaped into some sort of image:
- Sex feels good, therefore it must be good in whatever way I deem it…
- Money can buy me happiness…
- Just one more glass of wine… I need it! Or I deserve it!
- I’m just following my heart…
- I decide my truth, so I’m going to be true to myself…
- I’m going to do me…you do you
How isolating is this? By going in, we rob ourselves of the very thing that helps us when we face trials and evil…God’s empowerment to overcome.
When evil opposes us with GREED, we are empowered to respond with WORSHIP.
When we worship God, our hearts are exposed, we are filled with gratitude for the work of Jesus, we are more in line with our soul’s intent. Worship brings humility, uproots what should not be there, and takes our eyes off of ourselves.
Recently I have been in a funk.
I shared in recovery that losing my Dad has triggered some of my struggle with anxiety and my desire to be in control.
My Dad was diagnosed with Alzheimers and then a few months later he was diagnosed with cancer.
Reading articles warning about the dangers of stress, not sleeping, Unhealthy eating including too much sugar. Those are all my struggles!
Forgetting words from time to time.
Not sleeping enough at night.
Have you ever been anxious about being anxious?
Maybe you’ve felt constantly bombarded by your past, by your pain, or by your circumstances, and maybe your identity is completely shattered because of it.
But God’s plan for you is not to feel overwhelmed by hurt or shame.
His desire is that you would be overcome by the amount of love He has for you.
For you to know that through the darkness of night He’s WITH you.
When you can’t take another step, He’s carrying you. Like a good Father He’s holding you, saying,
“Baby girl, baby boy IT’S GONNA BE ALRIGHT.