Today we’re talking about a rather curious topic, I call it “love and spiritual warfare.” Love, because it’s valentines day, and spiritual warfare, because we’re in the midst of it at this church.
Love is the perfect state for the church, to be centered on the love of God, which flows through us, and properly ordered, we as the church are receiving the love of God from God, we’re enriched by it, constantly, and then the love of God generates love in us, that flows out from us, to others, which enriches them. Love bubbles up from the throne of God, pouring out into our hearts everyday as we access God. And as we access God, the love of god bursts forth out of us, like a spring of water, is what Jesus called it, when he said, “John 4:14, NIV: "but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.'"
And thus, that love, springs forth out of us, and flows out to others. Love is fundamental to who we are as Christians. And if we’re lacking in love, we’re in great danger.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8 ESV “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. Love never fails”
So the enemy seeing the love amongst us as believers, his goal, the Satan’s goal, is to destroy that love amongst us. And so he wages warfare against us.
As I’ve been studying, that is. An interesting book by Charles Stanley called “When the Enemy Strikes.” I want to make you wise to his tactics tonight. I want you to see how Satan and his demons try to harm us.
I knew from the very beginning that the enemy would strike our faith community. The enemy’s goal is to exhaust the saints. To divide them, hurt them, ruin their marriages, harm their children, and attack their families. It’s very real. Just because we don’t see it with our eyes, doesn’t mean it’s not happening.
So let’s consider a few of these tactics of the evil one. Charles Stanley breaks Satan’s deceptions up into four areas. The snare of debate, snare of division, snare of doubt, and the snare of deception.
First the snare of debate. You know, we as humans are masters of self-justification. We can figure out just about any way to sneak out of a biblical text, or try to re-interpret something. And pretty soon we’re justifying the most irrational nonsense in our minds. And what we’re really doing is trying to self justify ourselves.
I know the Bible says this, but I’m a special circumstance. God won’t judge me for that. And we start to debate in our own head, and Satan whispers lies to us and encourages us toward escaping the commands of God for our own desires. The snare of debate. We can justify just about anything in our own minds can’t we? A Christian alone is a dangerous thing, that’s why we need the body of Christ around us. I’ve seen Christians justify the most insane sinful conduct, because they decided to work it out all by themselves. No pastor, no church community, just me in my mind. Beware of the snare of debate. We can debate almost anything in our own heads and eventually decide it’s ok.
Second, the snare of division. Our enemy Satan is always trying to divide people. If Satan can keep us fighting each other, then we aren’t focused on fighting to win lost souls. It’s so easy for the enemy to stir up resentment in us, or anger, or annoyance. The snare of division, and within this, the snare of accusation. Satan is referred to in the bible as the accuser of the brethren who accuses them day and night before God. And how often we accuse each other and harm one another.
But it’s not always us, often it’s demons whispering to us. The enemy can only succeed if we agree to listen to his voice. It’s dangerous. I’ve seen people, just sitting listening to that voice of Satan day and night, and eventually they blow up at you, over things you didn’t even realize were going on in their mind, because they’ve been listening to that voice of accusation in their mind, instead of focusing in on prayer and study of God’s word. The enemy loves a vacuum, if we aren’t praying and studying the word, the enemy’s whispers will become louder in our minds. And we will be deceived, and we will be agents of division in the very church we love. I’ve seen people just up and leave the church over almost nothing, because that voice of the enemy whispered lies to them until they were so angry and upset they simply left. Never even talked to anyone. They just up and left their family. And alone, they became a prime target in the wilderness, for destruction.
So very dangerous. Satan whispering “they don’t really like you.” “they don’t respect you” “no one there is really your church family.” “they are judging you” “they don’t really care.” And all those lies build up, and people just leave. Very tragic.
Don’t listen to the lies.
Thirdly, the snare of doubt. Ah yes, doubt, the opposite of faith. Instead of focusing on the unseen realm of the spirit, we focus on the natural. No one new is coming. There’s no reason to stay. Nothing is going to change. Sometimes our unbelief, our grumbling and complaining is just horrendous. We act like the Israelites in the wilderness. God can’t change this. It’s over. Better go back to Egypt.
Or, we began to doubt the need to meet together in the church. We find our convenient excuses, well COVID, and I’m busy, and I have stuff to do, and once again we’re on our own, read to be picked off.
We start to doubt God’s word. Well it’s just the words of people. There are errors in it. It’s mostly symbolic so who knows what its really saying? What about all the other religions? We start to have these doubts. Instead of having faith in God’s word and what it says about God.
Or we start to doubt our relationship with God. We think, no I’ve sinned too much. Or God can’t forgive me. God doesn’t really love me. Or God is just a cruel task master. And we doubt God’s loving relationship to us.
No more doubts. The enemy sows doubts. We don’t have to embrace them though. Instead, have a radical trust in God, a firm, unshakable faith that God is trustworthy to the core. Don’t listen to the whispers of doubt from the enemy. Trust God.
Fourthly the snare of deception. The snare of deception is one of the most powerful the enemy has. I’ll give an example. Masturbation, or pre-marital sex. We know it’s wrong. But Satan starts to whisper, its no big deal, you aren’t hurting anyone, just consenting adults, God doesn’t mind, he loves us so its ok to do it. And its interesting, once you are actively doing that sin, you become snared. Where you become blind to the sinfulness of it. Satan blinds our minds to the truth. We’re so pinned down by it, that’s we’re actively deceived. If I’m caught in it, it’s a scary feeling of powerlessness. Like I’m trapped, and I can’t quite get out of it. And often this takes counseling with your pastor or mentor, fasting and praying, and often times a serious crisis situation to escape the deception. It’s like being taken hostage, by a lie.
So those are the four snares: Debate, division, doubt, and deception. Now let’s touch on the cures for these lies of demons.
For debate, the solution is rejecting the voice of the devil in your mind. Don’t debate with the evil one. Cast him out in Jesus name. And if you start struggling with debate in your own mind, talk to a trusted friend, pastor, or mentor. Get some outside input on it. You can’t win a debate with Satan in your mind. Just end the discussion. Cast the demon out in Jesus name.
For division, the solution is unity in love. In a situation of division, pride always makes it worse, and before you think you aren’t; the problem, well, you may be. We love to point the finger at others, but let’s look at our own conduct instead. What am I doing? Am I being prideful and allowing divisions? That’s the question. The solution is a humble, meek, love between one another that submits to one another. It’s hard to practice. Because we like to feel like big shots. But humble love is beautiful and holds the community together.
For doubt, we turn to God’s word. We can doubt and doubt and doubt. And begin to reject all the key tenets of the faith, and leave the church and ruin ourselves. Or we can cling to God’s word and trust his word and allow it to speak to us.
For the snare of deception, the solution is fasting and prayer. If we’re caught up in deception, caught up in sin because we’ve believed the lies of the enemy, we ought to humble ourselves, begin to pray for extended periods, fasting and praying for God to deliver us from deception and set us free in the truth. Perhaps a 3 day fast, or a 3 week Daniel fast, or 10 days.
But all these solutions are wrapped up together in one fundamental reality: The reality of the love of God, that lives in us as believers, and that is passed on from us to each other. If we love each other honestly, and in action, then the enemy will fail to harm us with his four snares. The humble love in action of the community of believers will win out in the end. God will win out in the end. Love is greater than anything. Faith, hope, and love, but the greatest of these is love.