Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever. -1st John 2:15-17 (NLT)
We know as Christians that we have a friend, his name is Jesus. And we know as Christians that we have an enemy, and his name is Satan. Jesus is Lord in heaven, all authority has been given to him, and Satan is the prince of the Earth, he won control of it when he successfully tempted Adam and Eve in the garden.
So we face an ancient, deadly enemy. This enemy is at war with the human race, and seeks to destroy our souls. Essentially Satan is a suicide bomber. Satan's fate is already sealed because of his rebellion against God. Satan is going to outer darkness. So Satan is like the suicide bomber, blowing himself up, and seeking to take as many with him as possible. There is a malevolence here that staggers the imagination, but there it is.
The world is at war with Christianity, and seeking to subvert it. The church is essentially the forward front of Christ's expanding kingdom. The chief General and strategist of this expansion of the church is the Lord Holy Spirit. He is the strategist battling our enemy Satan. Our job as Christians is to go about holy sabotage efforts to the kingdom of Satan. And Satan is attempting to subvert us, diminish us, discredit us, and destroy us.
Satan has a framework of attacks he levies against us. None of them are new, there is nothing new under the sun, and these are the same attacks he's levied against humanity since the beginning of time. Satan's chief weapons are temptations and lies.
As Christians we must be shrewd, cunning, innocent and brave. Because we have an enemy, and he'll take any opening we give him. Let's look at a few of the enemy and his tactics to destroy Christians.
1. Affair - Yes, the dreaded extra-marital affair. That receptionist, that friend, that person on Facebook, and it always begins with tiny, miniscule compromises. It's a bit exciting, so we toy with it. We let it go on. We make tiny little compromises in what we would normally do. We enjoy how it makes us feel, and pretty soon small compromises give way to larger compromises. And eventually your in bed with that person, wondering what has happened, and the flood gates of guilt descend. The affair on husband or wife is of course the cornerstone of destruction. It destroys trust, it will usually destroy the family, ending in divorce, and the children are crushed. That of course isn't the end, especially in regard to those in ministry. Jesus helps us to counter this enemy attack through prayer, through swift action and through a firm commitment to covenant with our husband or wife. The solution is to flee that situation. The solution is to build those boundaries. The solution is to pray and ask God for a new revival in the marriage that will return it to normality, that of true love between husband and wife. Amen.
2. Pornography - No new tricks indeed. Our enemy knows us too well I think. Sex, especially for me as a man, and yes, you as a woman, is our weak point. Time and again in the New Testament the lists of sins are given, and almost always first listed is: Sexual immorality. Pornography is so destructive. It decimates the mind. Pornography as it's been studied has a similar effect on the brain to cocaine, heroin and other drugs. Yet Jesus can break every chain. Yes, Jesus wants to break every chain. So we must pray, and cry out to him, and beseech him in this area, and then get to work with whatever tools we have available to battle and defeat this sin in our lives. Pornography destroys us, it destroys marriages, and it destroys people and feeds the sex slave industry. Defeat it in Christ.
3. Going too Fast - Too much of a good thing? Oh yes, this can happen. The enemy can get us rushing and rushing doing so many good things that we're beginning to subtly burn out. Maybe we're doing great, we're living the dream baby, we're a pastor, we're rocking it, we're loving people and Christ is changing lives through ministry. So satan sees this, and attacks with a different tactic, he seeks to burn you out. So many good things begin to pile up that they subtly begin to destroy. The devotional life vanishes, the family and marriage take a back seat, the prayer life disappears, and pretty soon stress, depression, and exhaustion are piling on our back. And then the door is open for Satan to bring up the mistress, or the Mr. the man or woman "who understands" everything we're going through. Too much of too many good things can and will destroy us. Christ saves us from this by giving us freedom to slow down. Christ invites us to remove things from our schedule, to close down ministries that we can't maintain at our current level. Christ invites us to slow down, and seek Him, and know peace.
4. Crushed Devotional Life - If you're studying to become a minister, like I am now, or you're involved in ministry, and you don't think you need to pray or be engaged in daily devotionals, then you should quit right now and do something else. I'm serious, you should quit. Because your just wasting everyone's time and money and you're going to burn out, destroy yourself, and have a useless ineffective Spirit-less ministry. To be a pastor without prayer and devotions is to be nothing. Doubly nothing, nothing to God and nothing to those you serve. So get real about prayer and devotions, it's 100 percent necessary or you will fail.
Jesus invites us to ask Him for help in this. I struggled so hard with this because I go so fast, I'm so often on the computer, on the web, and I thought how could I possibly slow down and have enough discipline to read my Bible at night, and pray for an extended period, and pray in the morning and read a devotional book. So I just prayed to God, look Lord I can't do this, so you'll have to make it possible. After many petitions, it all became possible, and happens regularly now.
5. Garbage of the Soul - Would Jesus pour garbage into his soul? I doubt it. So why do we? Why do we watch Game of Thrones and the Walking Dead? Why do we go see movies like 50 Shades of Grey and It? Why read trashy novels that would strange ideas into our minds? We're called to purity, and as part of a Wesleyan holiness movement I feel that it's doubly important for me to watch what I put into my soul.
Clear it out! That's what one of my professors told us about. Her and her husband trashed the magazines, the music, and the novels; they got rid of the cable TV and got rid of the movies. Holiness is what Christ calls us to. I'm not trying to judge you, Christians can get really upset about this topic. Maybe it's a soft spot for us, but we should address it. Jesus calls us to a higher standard, and if we're Christians in leadership, honestly, let's get real here.
6. Lording It Over - Glorying in self leadership - A church leader, or a business leader, or any leader can quickly move from a humble biblical servant leader to a lord leader. We're not called to lord it over those we serve. Beginning to bully and lord it over our people is a recipe for pride, ego, and eventually the development of a babylonian self-based church.
It can start as a self-less project to glorify Christ, and pretty soon it can be a multi-campus mega church movement with my name plastered all over everything, Justin Steckbauer ministries, Justin Steckbauer's awesome preaching, God forbid, God forbid that I turn any church into a self-exalting babylon Justin worship experience. What a nightmare! But we see it all the time don't we? Yes we do.
Are we building our own name brand? Or are we building Christ's kingdom? Are we in charge or is the Holy Spirit guiding our efforts? Those are important questions to ask. But Mark Driscoll is a good example of repentance in this area. He built up his kingdom of churches in the Mars Hill network, and there were many problems, so he broke up the empire, left his role as it's king, and went to pastor a small church elsewhere. The self-kingdom was dissolved. Could we do the same in such circumstances?
7. Pride - Pride comes before the fall. It's a well known proverb, but it also happens to be true. I think we know this one pretty well. Cultivate humility in submission before God, on your knees, in prayer. That is a humbling experience, make it daily.
8. Doubting God's goodness - This is one of Satan's favorite tactics. He's done it twice with two big names: Eve and Jesus. He dared to suggest to Eve that God was hiding some blessing from them when God had commanded Adam and Eve to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Satan suggested that Eve would become like god if she ate from it. He put the lie into her mind that God wasn't really good or true. Eve believed the lie. When Jesus faced down Satan in the wilderness the third temptation Satan offered was to give the world to Jesus, and in this Satan attempted to call into question God's goodness in sending Jesus to the cross.
When terrible things happen do we immediately ask: How can a good God allow this to happen? Or do we dare to trust in God even when we don't understand why? That is the question isn't it, can we have such radical faith and trust in our Lord that we know his goodness remains even in the face of terrible evil? Yes Jesus calls us to this great trust in God's character.
9. Worldly Wisdom - We can start to rely on studies, and the latest research, instead of the word of God. We can start to rely on the cultural views more and more so, inch by inch, instead of the Bible. And it's interesting how we can start educating ourselves into imbecility because we're no longer looking to the word, we're looking to social services research, to experts, to the latest research, and we've made biblical truth secondary.
The word of God is timeless and eternally true. It doesn't change with the times or trends. It doesn't need to be updated to please our culture. It doesn't need to be redefined or added to or subtracted from. It isn't wrong to seek wisdom in many places, but when the word becomes subservient to studies by experts, scientists, and academics, we're setting ourselves up for problems. Very often those experts are the very same people who a priori have ruled out the Bible, Christianity, and even the existence of God. We'd be wise to regard their research and data with a skeptical, discerning eye.
10. Toying with Old Sins - We've put our old lives behind us, but the enemy will bring back old things we struggled with, and entice us, not to all out jump back in again, but the enemy invites us to begin to just lightly flirt with those old sins. And that flirtation, as harmless as it may seem, begins to crack that door open, and over time... that old sin starts gaining power in the mind once again. Keep that door locked, bolted, and if necessary pour cement in the entryway.
Jesus Christ has set us free from all sin. Sometimes we sit in the prison cell of sin and impure thinking, but maybe we don't realize that though we sit in the cell, the cell door is wide open. Jesus breaks every chain. He has set us free. Let us not return to the trough of sin as the dog returns to it's vomit. So we are called to live in the Spirit, and to not gratify the desires of the flesh.
In conclusion I'd refer you to Genesis chapter three and Matthew chapter four to read and study how Satan successfully tempted Adam and Eve, and how Satan unsuccessfully tempted Jesus Christ our glorious victorious savior. Remember that Satan can and will appear as an angel of light, but if you know your Bible you'll be able to counter him.
And here's a tip for "god-mode" style temptations that occurred when Satan failed to tempt Jesus: Satan will quote the Bible itself out of context to try to deceive. So know your Bible in and out, cover to cover, understand how each book should be read, if it's history or letter or poetry or wisdom. And put on the full armor of God that you may stand against every attack of the enemy. We can stand against temptation. It's a battle, this world is warfare. But we can do this because Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior forever.