Spiritual Warfare 201: How to Prepare Yourself for Spiritual Battle
From the series Invisible War
Condemnation. Doubt. Guilt. Is it possible that the enemy of your soul is using these common emotions to keep you from experiencing God’s love and power? The question is, how do you get rid of them? Chip lays out how you can prepare yourself for spiritual battle and win in Spiritual Warfare 201: How to Prepare Yourself for Spiritual Battle!
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About this series
What Every Believer Needs to Know About Satan, Demons, and Spiritual Warfare
Beneath our tangible landscape lurks an invisible spiritual realm where unseen battles rage. It's real. And it's dangerous. If you're prepared to remove the blinders and gaze into the unseen world, Chip Ingram is ready to take you there. Hang on to your seat. It's going to be a journey inside the very folds of our Bibles, a journey that will teach us about our greatest foe, Satan, also known as Lucifer, the Dragon, Serpent, and Son of the Morning Star. Although this lying thief comes to "steal, kill, and destroy," God details, in Ephesians 6, the battle plan to uncover Satan's cunning deceptions and to resist his sinister schemes. The cosmic conflict exploding all around us will have eternal implications, for us and those we love. This series will prepare you to do spiritual battle with the enemy of your soul... and win! You'll learn to clothe yourself with God's spiritual armor so you can be confident of certain victory over the scheming enemy.More from this series
My father was in the South Pacific, Guam, Iwo Jima. He had a purple heart. And when I get to be around fellow Marines it is just exciting the camaraderie they have and the respect and the bond that they have. I once accidentally said my dad was a former Marine and a Marine came up to me and said, “There are no such things as former Marines.” And I have stand corrected.
But if you know anything about the South Pacific and World War II, and it will date some of you, but there was a treaty signed, the bomb was dropped, the war was completely over, but on multiple islands there was guerrilla warfare.
And then my father was fighting on those islands and part of the Japanese culture, especially at the time, was it was far better to die then to go back as a coward. And so, my dad talked about his role as a .50 caliber machine gunner and they wanted to clean up these islands. And here’s what you need to get. The war is over, treaty has been signed, but there’s still fighting.
Before the treaty is signed, bullets, mortars and young men die. The treaty is signed, the war is over. There’s guerrilla warfare. There are still bullets. There are still mortars firing and young men are still dying. The war is not in question, but that doesn’t mean the battle’s over. And what I want you to know is that is your position in Christ. The war is over.
Satan was defeated at the cross. Sin’s penalty was paid for all time. Sin’s power was broken. Yet Satan and his host of fallen angels engage in guerrilla warfare. Now notice the goal: to discourage, to deceive, to divide and destroy God’s people and God’s program.
And what you need to understand is that believers, we’re commanded to equip and prepare ourselves in the strength of the Lord and His mighty power so that we can stand firm against the enemy’s schemes and that in these battles, though the war’s not in question, we can repel his multi-faceted attacks and engage and defeat in these very specific battles.
Here’s what I want you to get: when you study Ephesians chapter 6, Paul is giving an example in his day because he lives in a world where there was Roman soldiers all over the place. There’s not some mechanical, I’m going to pray on the helmet, I’m going to pray on this, and I go through some rigamarole. He’s talking about how you actually live the life preparing for spiritual battle and he’s giving them a picture or a metaphor so it’s practical in their day.
The best insight I can give you before we jump in is this: when we look at each piece of the armor, just ask yourself: where does Satan attack so why this piece of armor? So by way of overview, if there’s a belt of truth, deception. If there’s a breastplate, it’s about the heart, condemnation. If it’s about stability, it’s doubts. What the enemy wants to do is he wants to deceive you. He wants you to live under condemnation and guilt and he wants to cast doubts about you, your worth, your relationship to Christ, doubts about God, doubts about God’s will. Does that make sense?
So, I kind of want you to get that overview. So listen in that way so you’re asking, “Lord, what are You saying to me? Where do I wrestle with these issues?” Rather than getting stuck in the grammar or the picture of a Roman soldier because I’m going to go through the grammar and we’re going to get a picture of the Roman soldier.
So, if you’re ready, notice this. The question is how it works and here’s the answer. First, we must become aware of the battle. Aware of the battle.
Second, we must learn to appropriate the ongoing protection for daily living. We have to ... how in the world do we put on this armor?
Third, we need to learn to engage the enemy with supernatural weapons that God has given us.
And then finally we’ll utilize God’s means of deliverance when spiritual attack occurs.
So, with that, how do you prepare yourself for satanic attack? The answer to that is Ephesians 6 verses 13 through 15. “Therefore, since you’re strong in the Lord and the strength of His might, since you are to put on the full armor of God, since you are to take your stand and having done everything to stand. Therefore, take up the full armor of God that you may be able to resist the devil in the evil day. And having done everything to stand firm, stand firm therefore.” Then notice the tense of these verbs. “Having girded your loins with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace.
Verse 13 is a command. I want you to think of a military battle going on and I want you to think of Jesus not just as the Savior and friend and lover of your soul, but like a military commander and we’re in the army of God and He is saying, “Okay. You’re in a battle. I’ve defeated the foe, but I urgently command you to pick up your spiritual armor and put it on.”
Here’s what you need to get. I could go through the grammar, but the issues are this. You’re responsible to put your armor on. God has provided it, but He will not put it on for you. It’s in a tense of the verse where this is provided, this is what God does, but this is what you need to do. And it’s also a tense that has the idea of urgency. This isn’t a passive, lollygagging, when it feels good. This is get ready. Be alert. And then He gives us the reason. “For the purpose of being fully prepared and able to withstand the grave and difficult,” literally the dark times when the enemy attacks.
Circle that little word where it says resist the devil and underline the evil day. That word resist is when there’s difficulty, when it’s challenging, when it feels almost impossible, you have to stand up. You have to resist. And then it says, “the evil day.” Do you remember when Jesus was tempted? And you know the story, He’s tempted in those three ways. “It is written,” “it is written,” “it is written,” and then the text says in Mark chapter 4, “And he departed from Him until a more opportune time.” So, what I want you to get is that in different seasons and times in your life, you’re more vulnerable. Satan is finite, he can only be at one place at one time. He’s not all knowing. But he’s a student of human behavior.
And so, I would like you to just write the word H-A-L-T in your notes. It’s not in there. HALT. I think there’s four predictable times in every human being’s life when temptation will feel more powerful and if you’re not aware that this is when you’re vulnerable, you’ll give in.
The H stands for when you’re hungry. You know, when you’re hungry, you haven’t had something to eat and you’re vulnerable. Even when you’re hungry, do you notice your temper’s a little bit shorter?
The A is for when you’re angry. In fact, you might put a little star by this one. The Scripture says, “Be angry, but don’t sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger lest you give the devil a foothold or an opportunity.” There’s probably no more common way that we allow deception and condemnation and the enemy to get into our lives when we have unresolved anger.
The L is for lonely. Maybe you’re traveling on a business trip. Maybe you miss kids. Maybe you find yourself surrounded by people, but you feel lonely. When you’re lonely Satan will come up and provide some opportunity for some companionship. It might be on a screen. It might be a person. It might be an activity. But he’ll provide something that says: I can solve that loneliness problem. And it might even be a good thing, but it might be a good thing in a bad way or a bad time.
So, when you’re hungry, when you’re angry, when you’re lonely or when you’re tired you’re vulnerable. You will do things, say things, watch things and give into temptations. And what he’s just warning us is: look, you have this equipment, I want you to pick it up. I want you to get ready, but I want you to know because there are different windows of times in different days – and are you ready? In different seasons of your life.
There are different temptations for a single person. There’s a different temptation for the early years when there are all these kids in diapers and there’s no time for anything.
There are different temptations when it’s the empty nest and of course you love one another, but the kids are gone and the focus has been work and all of a sudden you’re with this person that you love very much but you didn’t realize that most of the time you talked about either the kids or work. And you kind of look at each other and go, “Ooh, we got a gap here.” And if there’s unresolved wounds, then it goes to, “You know, if you’re ever going to find someone new, you better do it pretty quickly because you’re not getting any younger.”
And then the enemy whispers and pretty soon there’s lies and then you go to the gym and someone talks to you or you’re at work and someone really listens way better than your husband. And you would never ever think of doing anything. I mean, you’re active in your church and you love God. You even read the Bible a couple times a week. And you find yourself thinking thoughts and going down a path, and by the way, and it’s almost like getting in the water and it feels kind of good and you would never intend to do anything.
And have you ever been either at the ocean and you’re out playing, or your kids are out playing and then you look up and you’re, like, three hundred yards down and you didn’t even know it because the current took you? That’s how the enemy works. That’s what He’s warning against. Wake up. Be alert.
Notice verse 14, after picking up our armor in preparation, we’re commanded to consciously and vigorously make a decisive act to stand our ground firmly and fearlessly against the enemy’s assaults as he seeks to deceive, accuse, and discourage us. So, I’m going to take up the whole armor of God. And then, don’t think so much of stand firm of things coming up against you by yourself.
Think of, let’s say this line right here is that’s the kingdom of darkness and beginning right here, this is the kingdom of light. And you’ve been born again and you’ve received the gift of God and the Spirit has entered you and you’re sealed with the Spirit and you have this new inheritance and He’s deposited spiritual gifts and He’s redeemed you and He’s got a plan for your life and a purpose and a meaning and you’re a part of this whole ... He’s saying you have been given all this position. Now what I want you to do is hang on to what you have.
If you would read Ephesians chapters 1, 2, and 3 carefully you would realize you are wanted. You are valuable. You are redeemed. You are a son. You have an inheritance. You have a purpose. You matter. And He says, [15:05] Don’t let, don’t let the – I want you to stand firm against the lies that say God doesn’t have your best in mind. You’ll never get married. Unless you have this or that you’ll ... He wants you to stand firm and hold on to the position, the reality of who you are in Christ. That’s why spiritual warfare first and foremost is about understanding: this is who I am in Christ. This is my new identity. Yes, I was dead in my trespass and sin. I’ve been born again. The old things pass away. Behold, all things become new. And that’s what He wants us to hold on to.
And so, now using the metaphor of this Roman soldier, He’s going to give us three pieces of armor that are a prerequisite for standing firm. There’s one verb and there’s actually four participles, but we’ll cover three of them. The verb is and the command is: stand firm. And then the participles are something, the picture is you’ve already done this and you need to actively do it. “Stand firm, having,” and I love this phrase, “girded your loins with truth.” Anybody been girding your loins lately?
I remember, and I actually am using this translation on purpose. Because if you understand the phrase it really makes a lot of sense. So let me, each time I’m going to give you the metaphor, I’ll explain what the metaphor is, then I’ll look at the word, explain what the word is, and then I’ll talk about the actual attack and we’ll talk about how to practically work it out.
So, if you were a Roman soldier, the belt would be put on here and the rest of the armor connects to the belt. If you’re a Roman soldier, you would do a lot of different things, but they would have a long robe. They traveled. They were a fighting machine. And when you were off duty, the belt was loose. If you were on duty and your belt was loose, capital offense. If you fell asleep as a soldier, capital offense. In other words, there’s part of this metaphor that if you were a first century Christian, it would be like whoa. When he’s talking to us like that, this must be a very serious battle.
But girding your loins is you might be off duty and, “Okay guys, get ready. We’re going to go into battle.” Well, what does a soldier need to do? We need to gird our loins. I just say that, and it just sounds funny, doesn’t it? And what they would do then is okay, they’re going to tighten their belt and because many parts of the Roman Empire were cold, they had a long robe that they would wear like a tunic type thing. Girding your loins is you lift it up and you tuck your belt in. Because now, it’s just like when I taught basketball. Now you’re ready for movement. Are you ready guys? I want you to tighten the belt and I want you to get ready. And how do you tighten your belt as a Christian? Truth. It’s about truth.
Notice in your notes the word truth here means candor, sincerity, truthfulness. Now it’s rooted in the objective reality of the truth of God’s word, but the reference here is the subjective, practical application of truth. He’s really talking about it’s just being honest with God.
See, the attack is deception. He wants you to believe a lie about God or yourself and so the very first deception you remember with Eve. And it’s interesting, he mixes truth with lies. In fact, the enemy, he knows the Bible way better than you do. And so, “Eve, surely you won’t die.” That’s a flat out lie. “No, this is going to make you wise,” that was the truth. It sure did. And so, he’s going to come with a mixture of truth and a mixture of lies and the goal is to deceive you. And he’s the master of shortcuts. He’s the master of making shortcuts look good. He’s the master of getting you to believe that no one will ever find out or that there’s nothing really wrong with this.
The belt of truth is the man or woman whose mind will practice no deceit and no disguises in their walk with God. Let me give you a couple pictures. I have a friend and some of you know I’ve had some struggles with my back and I did all the kind of things you could do and found out during a church service a guy came up and he was kind of a big guy. He looked like he could still play linebacker for Michigan State and that’s what he did. And he’s a doctor and he’s a physiatrist. He’s a pain doctor. And he said, “You know, I think I could be of some help.” He goes, “You know, a couple years ago I let it go, but I was the doctor for the 49ers and I was the doctor for the Sharks.” And I’m thinking, “Whoa, those guys have a lot of pain. This could be really helpful.”
And so, we kind of became friends and I got this epidural and he shot stuff in my back and the first time it really worked and really helped and you can’t have someone sticking needles in your back, but if he misses you’re paralyzed, without becoming friends. And so, one, he was really good and we got talking and, “Hey, why don’t we have coffee?”
And at our church, one of the things we do with everyone who comes, we talk about discipleship, becoming a Romans 12 Christian. We have a book called True Spirituality. So, every visitor, anyone who comes, we always give them that book to say, “It’s just a gift, but this is the kind of Christians we want to be. We’re very imperfect and we’re going to be messed up like you and we all have our struggles, but this is the kind of people we want to be.”
And so, I said, “Hey Bob, you got that already?” He goes, “No, I don’t think I ever picked one up.” So, I gave that to him and he read some. And then we’d have coffee and, “How are you doing?” And so, I realized Bob was a cultural Christian. He was smart, wealthy, good looking, lived in a very, very nice part of town and came to church semi-regularly. Sort of, if you graded on the curve, a better moral person. Much nicer than most people. And yet I sensed: I don’t think Bob has a personal relationship with God.
And so, he read that book and then he said, “Can we get coffee?” I said, “Sure.” He read about being surrendered to God and separate from the world’s values and he said, “I read it twice.” And he goes, “And then I started.” He goes, “You know, I’ve never done this before.” He goes, “Could you tell me, is there like, this is really a big book, is there a place to start?” So, I gave him one. So, he starts reading the Bible and so, this is now two years. And he’ll just, “Hey, I’m ready for coffee.” And he’ll name the spot and we’ll go there. And I just got with him recently.
And I’ll never forget one day, and this is a good guy, he goes, “You know, if anybody would ask me, ‘Are you a Christian?’ I would have said yes. ‘Are any big issues in your life?’ I would have said no.” And he had this phrase.
I’ll never forget it. He goes, “You know, there’s a really big difference between being a church-going Christian and a Word-centered Christian.” I’d never heard anyone use that. A Word-centered Christian. I said, “Well, Bob, what do you mean?” This is a really smart, esteemed doctor. I said, “What do you mean by that?” He goes, “Well man, I thought I was good.” And he goes, “Man, I look back, I mean the idols in my life, the idols of success, the idols of money, the idols of do I look good, the idols of what people think, the idols that, I mean, I had a crazy life, but I wanted to be the 49ers doctor, you know?”
And then he says, “You know, my family, those guys, “What happened to dad?” He said, “I read the Bible every single day now.” And he goes, “Every single day it’s just like God actually speaks to me, a regular person.” And here’s his line. “Isn’t it amazing? I was absolutely convinced I was okay, doing the right thing and following the God that I perceived.” And then he, this is the line, “I was completely deceived.” Wow. And this is like a really intelligent person. You see, it’s not about how smart we are. It’s about really being honest with yourself.
I read again a little word from Dallas Willard because I think sometimes when we talk about this, part of our minds can go to: I want to keep the lights on and there’s these powers. And that’s true, but I think we so miss the way about ninety percent of all the enemies work. And this one little paragraph I think Dallas says it. He says, “God always looks at the heart for two reasons. First, our heart is the source of our actions and life.” Remember Proverbs 4:23, “Watch over your heart with all diligence.” Why? “For from it flow the issues of life.”
But more important here, “Second, our thoughts are where Satan implies his trade. He governs through images, through ideas, through feelings and fears. From this complex arena of our minds and our hearts comes most of our actions. So, this is the arena where Satan focuses his tasks.” It’s all so very, very subtle. It’s not like weird things.
He says, “Again I remind you, human beings cannot be forced to do evil nor can they be forced to do good. They must choose to do evil or good. Well, how do they choose?” Listen carefully. “By being persuaded that one course of action is better than the other. So, Satan works upon the heart through the mind as he did with Eve and as he still does today.
And I just share that because I think it’s so important for us to get a sense of the subtlety and where the battle is and not make it about weird creatures or all the scary movies or all the images that come to your mind. And the application here for me is Psalm 139 verses 23 and 24. I would like to say I pray this daily, but I pray the Lord’s Prayer or Psalm 23 almost every single morning just as I’m waking up.
I just know that the very first thing that I allow to go into my mind and there’s something about ... and when I pray the Lord’s Prayer because I knew it growing up. I mean, I could pray the Lord’s Prayer in probably under ten seconds thinking about whether Magic Johnson or Larry Byrd was on at two o’clock or four o’clock in the afternoon.
“Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done,” right? That’s not exactly what I think Jesus had in mind. But I do think when you pray, “Lord, search my heart.” Psalm 139:23 and 24, David is a man after God’s own heart and what I love about this is that he’s a man after God’s own heart despite incredible failure.
See, we tend to think that God always looks at our history and I think God looks at the intent of our heart. We mess up and when we’re humble and genuine and vulnerable and ask for forgiveness, He is a God who loves. We don’t have to twist His arm for Him to be merciful. He longs to not give you what you deserve. He longs to give you grace. He longs to do what is ever necessary to forgive and to restore and to pull His children back close to Him.
But the prerequisite is that we’re honest. See, the spiritual armor, as un-fancy as this sounds, the spiritual armor – you know what the belt of truth is? Being honest with God and honest with yourself and honest with others. It’s nothing more. It’s nothing less. And so, it’s knowing ... here’s the thing. It’s so funny when we talk about being deceived. Here’s – when you’re deceived, guess who doesn’t know it.
We kind of forget that. I mean, when you’re deceived it’s not like, Oh wow, I got to really work on this deception stuff. This deception is really messing with my life. When you’re deceived, you don’t have a clue. And so, he prays, “Search me oh God,” and listen to his words, “and know my heart. Test me and see if there be any anxious, any division or any wicked way in me. And then lead me in the everlasting way.”
That’s the very end of Psalm 139 where he says he knows God has intricately made him. He knows God is before him and behind him. He knows God is aware of all things. There’s no playing games with God.
There’s no positioning. There’s no bargaining. And he just comes really humbly and says, “I just want to be real. I just want to be honest. If there’s anything that I don’t see ... in fact, in another Psalm, David, it’s interesting, he says, “Forgive me for these things,” and then he says, “And forgive me for any presumptuous sin.” In other words, “I’m sure I’ve messed up other places that I don’t even know about. Could you forgive me for them as well?”
And you might jot down Psalm 34 verse 17 and it goes on to verse 18. But this has been such a comfort to me. “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and He saves those that are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 145:18 says, “The Lord is near to those who call on Him, to all who call upon Him in truth.”
For years and years, I felt somehow like when I really did something wrong and I thought wrong and I had lust over here and I did this here and I lied about that, and you know, as a good Christian, of course. Okay, now I’ve got to feel really bad for a while and I won’t read my Bible for a couple days and God’s going, Chip, you think any of that surprised Me? Just come the millisecond that you get real. The millisecond that you say, Oh God, I don’t want to be like that. And here’s the deal. You own it. You know what the word confession means? It means to acknowledge. It means: I gossiped about her. I shaded the truth and I presented myself like this and the truth is I was really like that. I made myself out to be the hero of that story and that was just all about me. And you know when you see that, isn’t it ugly?
But what happens it’s so painful to see, our temptation is to push it down, push it down, push it down. And like a thin little layer followed by another thin little layer followed by another thin little layer, pretty soon your relationship with God, the light, it gets more and more opaque. And then instead of being an authentic, genuine follower you start faking it.
And if you’ve been around the game for a while, you know a few verses. Throw out a, “Praise the Lord” here, read the Bible now and then. You’ve got five or six verses that can keep you going. And you can kind of, right? All the while, while your soul is shrinking. And the enemy, you’re neutralized. You’re neutralized and that was the goal. And then you don’t feel worthy of praying, right? Then you don’t feel worth of being used. Then you don’t feel worthy.
So, here’s the thing, the enemy is so shrewd. He gets you deceived and then we mess up and then he condemns you for messing up. But he’s the one who tempted you to do the very thing that’s wrong. You know, this is ... he’s got a real business going on and it’s been very, very effective.
So, the first step is to be honest. I think this is the most challenging because it’s often painful and it leads to brokenness, but brokenness is where we meet God. It’s where you experience His compassion. By the way, when the Spirit or sometimes, obviously, he uses people, this is a little thing I put a little asterisk for me is if I’m deceived, it would be nice if we had like a little light on the dashboard that when you were being deceived it would go beep, beep, beep. Or like when the cars back up? You know, I like these cars now because I get carried away, I’m thinking about something, put it in re- ... beep, beep, beep. Oh, I’m glad I didn’t hit them.
Here’s a little beeper for me. Just write the word defensiveness. When someone says something to you, when you’re praying and you feel sort of a little barrier come up, when you’re defensive, when you have to explain your behavior, when, “Oh that’s not really true.”
The moment I’m defensive it tells me, You know what Chip? There’s probably a little something to this that you need to take a look at. It doesn’t mean it’s all true, but the moment you find yourself defensive. That’s not a…
You know the position God is looking for? He’s looking for a man or a woman who, remember when Samuel was a little boy and he went to the prophet and he didn’t know what was going on and the prophet said, “I’ll tell you what, Samuel. Here’s what you do. The next time you hear that, you just go back in there and say, ‘Speak Lord, your servant is listening.’”
And God may speak to you through someone you don’t like. God may speak through a boss that really is unfair. God may speak through circumstances. But when you start to feel that, I think that’s the response. Lord, speak to me. I want to be open.
And then the devil uses a second strategy. You’ve put on the belt of truth. Second, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness. This was made of bronze. If you were a more affluent officer, it was a chainmail.
If you’ve seen one of the gladiator movies, you know the shield, the round shield that they have? That’s not the shield. This is a shield that went from the neck down to the knees and it had a hook on both sides. This was the most formidable fighting machine on the face of the earth.
And so, what they would do is they would be in long, long rows and they would put the shield here and they had a helmet on and they would hook up together and they would just march en mass. And we’ll learn about the shield. It was interesting, the shield was actually made in such a way that when an arrow came in they left a gap so a fiery arrow could come in and there would be a gap of air so it would extinguish.
And so, what he’s saying is this breastplate of righteousness that would be in front of them and then the shield would be the faith that we’ll talk about a little bit later. But this breastplate that’s underneath all of that, it’s the upright living. It’s the integrity in one’s lifestyle and character. It’s conforming our will to God’s will.
And again, we already are righteous positionally, chapters 1, 2, and 3 of Ephesians. But this is talking about practical righteousness. The application of truth to our lives. And so, the darts are going to come in and we’re going to learn about the shield of faith, but he’s saying you have to protect your heart. This is the breastplate. This is what went over your heart.
Satan’s attacks aren’t merely deception, but accusation. He’s the accuser of the brethren. Guilt and condemnation of the believer. This happens when we willfully turn away from what we know is God’s will. We open ourselves to satanic attack. And we all do this, right? We know what’s right to do.
I remember I really think it was a great prayer in the tradition that I grew up in we had a lot of rote prayers and one of the prayers went something like: “Forgive us for the things that we have done and forgive us those things which we should have done.”
I don’t remember it very well, but because there was a lot of ought to have dones and ought not to have dones and I can’t remember the old English, but when I know this is what God wants me to do, if the belt of truth is nothing more and nothing less than being honest with God and honest with yourself, the breastplate of righteousness is the application of the truth to your life. You know what’s right, are you obeying? When we don’t, it opens you to demonic influence. And again, when I use that word “demonic influence,” oh, that sounds so weird and out there.
I think some of the most deluded, satanically influenced people in all the world are religious people. And not just in Christianity. The most dangerous people in the world is if you actually believe something that’s such a huge lie. I mean, ponder. This is happening all over the world right now, little boys in Saudi Arabia. Little boys in Iran. Little boys in parts of Indonesia. They’re being taught that this is what god wants, these infidels are ruining the world. There is another life and your greatest contribution, and the great reward is if you kill them. These are kids. They’re just kids. An 11-year-old straps a bomb on himself and waves to the soldiers. And the Humvee comes by and he pushes a button and he’s convinced and the parents may even get a little payoff and be esteemed in the community because of what your son has done.
I mean, this isn’t just delusions in Christianity and wickedness and lies. This is very, very, very serious. That’s why truth matters. And that’s why if there’s not truth in my heart and your heart, if there’s not truth in your small group and in your family, if there’s not truth in your church and if there’s not truth in America, wow. You can see where we’re going and why.
And so, here’s the application. “Therefore, to the one who knows what’s right to do and doesn’t do it, to him it is sin.” Now I want to clarify something because, at least in my experience, I think Christians get confused between the difference between conviction and condemnation and we have many different personality types in the room.
There’s my kind of personality and many others and there’s personalities like my wife. But we are on the opposite ends of the continuum and most of you are in between. I’m sort of a big picture, the end can kind of justify the means, the rules were primarily made for other people, it’s the spirit of the law not the letter of the law, you know?
And some people is when you talk about being honest and scrutiny, they literally I mean, my wife is the other end of this world that is like she may live more purely than most people and she will just agonize over some little thing she said in some way at some time.
And so, what I want you to know is if you don’t know the difference between condemnation and conviction, you’ll get very, very confused. Conviction is very specific, and the goal is to restore you to your heavenly Father. Condemnation is vague and it makes you feel worthless and makes you want to go away from your heavenly Father.
And they can both be around the same issue. You’re a man and something pops up on the screen or a very beautiful young woman who doesn’t have many clothes on and you can’t control the first look, but the next three looks you could have controlled, and your mind went somewhere else.
Or it could be a woman and you walk into someone else’s house and you’ve been thinking about it, wanting about it, talking about it, your husband isn’t quite on board, but you want to remodel that kitchen. They remodeled their kitchen. Not only that, but they landscaped the backyard and they got the little fountain and and your heart is starting to grow with envy and resentment towards your husband all at the same time.
And that’s floating around and the enemy always working with the heart can say to a man, You’re worthless. You call yourself a Christian? You know, how could you have thought…? How could you? It’s one thing, but look at how you logged on. Look at how you acted. You’re a terrible person. You think God’s going to listen to you? You think your kids or your wife ought to respect you? What a loser.
You know what that makes a man feel like? This whole life’s impossible. I can’t do this. And you start believing that. And by the way, you become what you believe. Period.
It’s really interesting to me when people tell me, “Well I believe this or I believe that or I believe that.” It’s a bunch of baloney. You want to know what you believe? Just look at your behavior. That’s what you believe. What you actually believe is how you act. “Oh, I believe everything that I have belongs to God.” Really? So, do you give first and foremost off the top? Are you creating a heart of generosity? Are you? “I think the most important person in the world is God, but I don’t have time to read His word. Don’t have time to be with other people. I don’t have…”
In other words, what I actually believe. And see, that’s where the deception is. Especially in a world where we intellectualize things.
I, over hear, “I actually think I believe this,” but if your life doesn’t tell the same story as your thoughts, there’s a word for that that we don’t like. Hypocrite. The Greek word comes from wearing a mask in the Greek theater.
And that’s why Paul says in Romans 12, “Let love be without hypocrisy.” In other words, take off your mask. Love can only happen when the real you shows up. But the real you can’t show up if you feel condemned, if you feel worthless. You’ll hide it. You’ll pose. And by the way, I love the way you guys are looking at me. We’re really having fun together.
The issue is not if you do this. It’s just how much and when. You’re human. We all pose. We all project that we love more, that we’re more holy. We’re more this. We’re more that.
But the more we can be honest and realize the most beautiful person in the whole world is the real you. Not who I can project. I mean, I want to project that I’m a really good husband, I’m a good pastor, and I’m a good grandfather, and I really love God. And I’m trying in all those things, but I know there’s a presentation even unconscious, that I just want it to be a little bit better than it is. And so do you.
But what I do know is I spend time with God and even as I’m walking, when He brings those to my mind and to my heart, if I can learn to pause and in real time, Oh, you know that was a lot of Chip and not too much of You. Then it restores that connectedness. You understand what I’m saying? And so, condemnation is: you’re a bad person. Conviction is: you logged on. You looked at this. You knew it was wrong. You continued to do it. That put a division between you and Me.
You sat there and you smiled and you told her you loved her kitchen and down deep you hated that she had it and you don’t. And condemnation is: what kind of terrible person would not be happy for my best friend who has a good kitchen? I feel terrible. I drive home, I drive home and I feel like I’m a terrible person. I can’t believe I thought things like that.
Well, why? Don’t humans sin? Aren’t you human? You just sinned. But if it’s condemnation, you know what? There’s only one thing to do. Stop off. “I’d like a triple latte, six shots. I’ll have two of the chocolate cakes. I think I’ll feel better.” No, what you’ll do then you’ll feel guilty for what you ate, right? And then you’ll look in the mirror and go, “I just can’t believe it. I am such a loser. I’ve gained three pounds, you know?”
The difference is God will say, “That was envy. Can you rejoice for what I’ve given her and recognize that I’m a good God and I’ll take care of you?” And the moment you agree with God about that, not hide it, not deny it, the moment you agree, You know, it’s wrong. I am pulled like a magnet into these naked bodies and then I feel dirty afterwards and then condemnation. God, You understand. You confess it and you’re cleansed from all unrighteousness.
Now, getting help and overcoming things we’ll talk about a little bit later. But could I ask you just for a moment, is there any personal issues you need to address? I mean, the goal here is not that we just like Wow, let’s learn about this. So, let me give you a list of areas that I find that we tend to struggle with and just lean back. This is not like, Oh, I got to get this down. No. You don’t need to get this down. You need to get this in. Just lean back, pencils down.
Is there anyone you need to forgive? Any unresolved relationship?
God, show me. And by the way, if it’s real vague, you don’t have to try and conjure up sin. The Holy Spirit’s really active. It’s Bob, all right? It’s Lucy. You know?
Or how about, what about someone that’s not with us anymore? And there’s still resentment in your heart? And they still exert power over your life. I’ve actually had to write letters to people that have died to get out of me: this is what happened and this was wrong and this was hurt and I forgive you. It wasn’t for their benefit, it was for mine.
Any issues with purity in your thoughts? In your speech? Any issues in your finances? Are they where God wants them to be? Saving is a good thing, but has it become a security? Retirement funds are really important, but have you drawn some line that God can’t touch this because ... I’m just not sure they had all those rules in ages past. Is your generosity and your giving where you think God wants it to be? I don’t know. And by the way, Jesus is not asking these questions so you all can look as guilty as you look at me, okay?
I mean, hey. Let’s try this. Wow. I need to address that. Okay. My money is messed up. I probably should be giving way different than I am now. Great. Here’s Jesus. Wonderful. Now we got that on the table. You want more guilt? More condemnation? You want to keep living with this because you’re afraid and Satan’s giving fear because if you give then this will happen and this will happen. Or just want to confess it and why don’t we get on a new plan together? And why don’t you experience the joy of what I have and remember it’s not yours, it’s mine and together we’re going to do some really great stuff and here’s the thing, I promise to always take care of you.
And it doesn’t make you more holy if you give more than other people. Here’s what it ... Why don’t you give what I want you to give? Well, how would I know? He’ll speak to you. I think we’re having way too much fun in this very convicting time.
Are your priorities where you think they need to be? I don’t mean a legalistic, but time with God. Are you taking care of your body the way that you believe God wants you to take care of your body? And I’m not looking for people to be in muscle magazine or on the front of US or, you know? But it is His temple.
Are there any habits that you’re just so tired of feeling like you’re condemned? And whether it’s media or food or all those different things that we do when we’re tired, when we’re hungry, when we’re depressed, and we’re discouraged. Right? We have patterns. And there is no condemnation for those that are in Christ. It’s: would you come and let Me help you? Are you beginning to see?
I’m sure we were, “Oh, going to talk about demons.” This is demonic influence. Some of you are neutralized in your faith and in trusting God and it’s over stuff like food. It’s over the Spirit has talked to you and talked to you and talked to you. And others it’s media. You know? It’s not even bad media, but just when it’s time to get up and do what you need to do you just, we’re lazy.
I’m sorry. It’s not one we use anymore. It’s like one of the seven deadly sins so it’s still in the game. Laziness isn’t like eating chocolates and watching TV and binging on Netflix for three days. Laziness is not doing what needs to be done when it needs to be done. And we get soft especially as we get older. Self-discipline is what? It’s a fruit of the spirit. It’s what God produces in our life.
And so, living with low-grade guilt and low-grade condemnation, it gives you this sense that you don’t measure up. This sense of depression. And then you and I have patterns that we live with and we do it with food and media and hopefully, I call them the more righteous sins. I don’t think there’s righteous sins, but there’s just ones that don’t have quite as much impact negatively. I mean, like going to the refrigerator is a lot better than having an affair only because of the consequences.
So, okay, I’m putting on my armor and so you’re really saying the real army against these evil spirits that are trying to destroy and deceive are about being honest with God, being in His Word and responding to what He already showed me? Yes. You’re protecting your heart. I love one commentator, he puts it this way. He ways, “Words are a weak defense against condemnation, but a good life is.”
The third thing is having your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. And here’s the metaphor. And it’s: Roman soldiers, they wore sandals, but they wore, there was a bottom and a bit of a top and they would wrap around and tie all the way up to the knee. And they would either have little knobs or in some cases actually have nails at the bottom. Historians say that it was invented by Alexander the Great in many of his great accomplishments he felt like it was his army’s ability because they were stable.
I mean, if you’ve ever seen a wide receiver, right? He makes his cut. If he slips, what happens? He doesn’t get the ball. Probably the other team does. Or a defensive back. “I’m going to go and go,” and he loses his footing. So having sure, established footing in your faith is critical.
The Romans then adapted this and the preparation means establishment. A firm foundation, it conveys the idea of readiness to share the gospel. And it’s an idea of understanding and living out of: I am a man or a woman saved by the gospel of grace. You understand the gospel. Understand that Satan always attacks grace. Always attacks grace. So much of cults, so much of performance-driven Christianity, it’s all about what you do instead of what God has done. And God loves me.
I can still remember this. I was so legalistic in my early years and the group that I grew up with, they did not intend this. They never said this, but my personality, my workaholism, it was like you really got rewarded if you spent time with God, so I did. If you had man-to-man time, so I did it with five people. If you were in a Bible study, so I was in a Bible study and I led a Bible study. If you would memorize Scripture, so they did one or two. Man, I started doing chapters. I have hundreds of verses memorized. And I got a lot of “that-a-boys”.
And what I did was I just took my same desperate insecurities that I had as a young man growing up and no matter what you did it never really measured up, but work, work, work, work, work, work, work, work, work, work. I was a workaholic by the time I was twelve. And then the first few months I was a Christian, suddenly it’s, I just, there was this joy and this freedom.
And then pretty soon I took those same old patterns. Just because you’re out of the kingdom of darkness, in the kingdom of light, it doesn’t mean that everything just changes overnight. It means you’re a new person and just like a baby is born, it has to learn to walk. It has to learn to take steps. It has to grow and has a responsibility.
And I became this person that was completely deceived. I remember it was two and a half years into my faith and I was walking, we had a, imagine a campus and all these beautiful brick buildings with ivy and then sidewalks in the center. We called it the quadrangle. And I remember walking the quadrangle and the sun was coming that way and there was a co-ed that I knew, not a girlfriend, just a co-ed.
And we were kind of friends and sort of had lost sight and we paused and talked for a minute and God really used this co-ed. And we got into a serious discussion quickly. She goes, “You know, Chip, I remember when you first came here as a freshman and you were just a really neat guy. You were just so happy and fun to be around. But boy, you’ve really changed. And I don’t care what the subject is, just it’s a verse pops out of your mouth. All I know is whenever I’m around you I feel bad about myself. And I don’t know if I’d ever want to be a Christian, but if being a committed Christian is what you are, I can tell you one thing, I’d never be one of those.”
You know what my first response was? I turned around, 1 Corinthians 2:12, “Those who do not have the Spirit of God do not understand the things given by the Spirit of God.” Completely defensive. Then I went back to my dorm room and the Holy Spirit said, That was not her, that was me. You have an external righteousness. Your joy is gone. You think because you pray every day, have a quiet time, memorize verses and are doing all this stuff you’re pleasing to Me. You are a jerk and a Pharisee. Here’s how I measure growth: do you love Me and do you love people? And this girl whom I love and I want to reach is repelled by you.
Boy, you talk about tears. And I’d like to say that was a really big moment and I’ve had one of those. I’ve had a lot of those. I’ve had a lot of those over the years. And I thought I was doing such a good thing and the right thing and for the right reason. Deception. Condemnation. It’s grace.
But what he does, he wants to cast doubt. 2 Corinthians chapter 11 verses 3 and 4, he says, Paul is praying. He says, “I don’t want you to be deceived like Eve was.” And he then gives us the gospel. In fact, I want to take just a moment and you all know this and you don’t even need to turn there. But can I read the gospel just so we understand it is not going to church, trying hard, being a shade more moral and trying to be a nice person? Those are some of the results.
1 Corinthians 15. “Now I make it known to you brethren, the gospel,” literally the word just means good news, “which I preached to you which you also received in which also you stand. By which you were also saved if you hold fast,” or literally, “since you hold fast the Word which I preached to you unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you of first importance what I also received, Christ died for our sins,” literally in our place, “according to the Scriptures. And that He was buried and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. And that He appeared to Cephas,” that’s Peter, “and then to the twelve. And that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time most of whom remain alive until now, but some have fallen asleep. And then He appeared to James and then to all the apostles and last of all as it were to one untimely born, He appeared also to me.”
A historical event. Five hundred eye witnesses in space time history, God the Son came, lived a perfect life, died upon the cross to pay for your sin, my sin and the sins of all people of all time and it is a gift to be received and to turn from our sins and receive this gift. The gospel is good news. It’s not a program to become more moral.
When Jesus comes into your life and His grace begins to work, your life changes from the inside out and you become more moral in your thinking, in your speech, in your attitudes, but it’s a relationship.
Quick question: do you know and understand the content of the gospel? If you don’t, he will bombard you with doubts.
Second, do you know the basis for your eternal security and the assurance of your salvation? Eternal security, assurance. He was writing, 1 John, he was writing to the church there and he says, This is the record,” or, “This is the testimony,” or, “This is the truth, that God has given us eternal life.” In other words, a gift. “And this life is in His Son.” Now listen carefully, “He that has the Son has life. He that does not have the Son of God does not have life.”
I grew up thinking if you go to church, if you’re a moral person, if your good deeds weighed out your bad deeds, then God would kind of let you in. It’s not based on that. If you have the Son – it’s relational – you have life. Verse 13 of 1 John 5, “These things I’ve written to you,” are you ready? “that you might know that you have eternal life and that this in believing, life in His Son.”
I just want to tell you, not having doubts about these things, faith is based on facts not feelings. There are times when your feelings, right? If any of you have been married for very long or had a close relationship with a friend, don’t you have days where you don’t feel so good about them? There are days you don’t feel so good about God. There are days I don’t feel so close to God. That doesn’t change the facts. Facts: this is what happened. I trusted in Him. The feelings, they’re kind of the caboose.
Finally, sharing your faith is one of the most powerful faith builders available and often the best defense is a good offense.
And I’ll close with just a great story where I learned this. I played basketball in college and then I got invited to play on a team throughout South America. It was called Venture for Victory or Sports Ambassadors. It was sort of a precursor of Athletes in Action. We played every Olympic team in every South American country save Uruguay and then we would do a little clinic in the morning and might even play a smaller school and then we would share the gospel at halftime and then for about an hour and a half or two hours people would come down and we would talk and share our faith. I would share the gospel probably fifteen, twenty times a day. And I don’t know about you, but I had never done that before. And I saw all these people come to Christ. It was like Paul says, “For I’m not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God unto salvation to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”
And what I realized was the power is not in the messenger, the power’s in the message. And I just share this because when you can understand that this is a done deal because of who Jesus is and what He’s done. We were in Punta Arenas, it’s the southernmost city in the world. It was really cold. We did warm ups. They didn’t have a heated gym. We did warmups with our sweats on. The condensation on the floor. We had been traveling. We did every major city in Chile and I was super, super tired and we’d played a bunch of games. We had about forty games that we did in about thirty days. And just emotionally it was like forget it. But we had a really good team from a lot of major, we went seven-one, seven foot, six-eleven, six-ten from Oregon, point guard from New Mexico State. I mean, it was a great team. How this little NAIA got on the team, I don’t know, but I was glad I was there.
As a player you always want, “Give me more time, coach. Give me more time.” On this trip it was like, “Hey, anybody else want to come in?” You know? Like I am so exhausted. And so I just got mad and I just said, “You know what? I’m not sharing Christ afterwards. I’m tired. I’m done. I’m discouraged. In fact, I’m depressed. You want someone to hear about You? You can bring them to me.” I mean, that was not how you pray, but I’m telling you that’s how I prayed. It was like a child tantrum, bad attitude. So, the game’s over and people are coming down and all the players are talking with people. I’m sitting right here. Some kid walks up. and I’d memorized my testimony in Spanish and I knew enough to get along and this kid comes up.
“Well, how do I learn about Jesus?” “Beat it, kid.” So that had happened and so then a group of people came down and they wanted to talk and they asked me questions and got my hard heart sort of softened and I got up and I sort of talked to people and everything like that and I gave the gospel clearly and inwardly repented of my sin. And then I said, “Has anyone ever had that experience where you’ve trusted in Christ?” And this little kid goes, “I have.” I looked over and said, “What?” “Oh, no!” And then he explained it to me. You couldn’t share the gospel worse with a worse attitude. See the power’s not ... now I’m not saying that’s how you should do it, but that day reminded me. You know something?
The power of God is in the Word of God and in the gospel itself. The more you share it and you see its power, the more you’ll recognize the grace of God for yourself.