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Overcoming Spiritual Dangers

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Introduction

      I've always been puzzled by the warning signs that you see on the highway just outside of Calgary which say "wind gusts." I mean, what is the point of telling you that? Are you supposed to sit heavier so your vehicle doesn't blow away? I know, it probably means that you are supposed to hold your steering wheel tighter.

      My favorite warning sign is at the end of the street where my mother lives in Arizona. The sign says, "duck crossing." The sign is no joke because we have seen ducks, geese and coots cross the road in orderly fashion quite often.

      I am thankful that the highways department warns us about upcoming dangers. Yield signs, stop signs, men working signs, curve ahead signs all help us know of potential dangers that we can avoid if we observe them. The problem is that sometimes we don't heed them.

      The other day Carla and I were driving along the highway and we came up to a sign that said "bump." I had driven past a number of these signs and nothing happened so I thought they must be meant for someone else. Well this particular sign wasn't meant for anyone else, it was meant for me and I was sorry that I hadn't slowed down.

      God has given us warning signs about the spiritual dangers which we encounter in life. Ephesians 6:12 says, "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."

      This tells us that we are in a battle and that the battle is against a powerful spiritual enemy. Behind every human attack, is the work of the devil trying to gain a victory. It is a spiritual battle for our souls. If we do not remain actively aware that we are in spiritual peril, we will find ourselves yielding to temptation, we will yield to doubts, we will do things that do not please God, we will harm ourselves and others. How can we have victory over the spiritual dangers which face us regularly?

I.                   Victory Through Awareness

      I was walking along one winter day, minding my own business, when all of a sudden "whack" I got hit on the side of the head with a snowball. I was stunned for a moment. The suddeness of the attack surprised me and for a moment, I didn't know what hit me or where it came from. If I had known it was coming, I would have been prepared and it probably wouldn't have hit me.

      But how do we prepare for surprise attacks? I get a kick out of the Pink Panther movies. Inspector Clouseau has a servant whose task it is to attack him at any time in any place. I suppose this is a way for him to learn to be prepared at all times.

      In the battle we are in, we too need to have readiness training and the Bible provides us with it.

      Paul says in II Cor. 2:10 that we are not unaware of his schemes. God has warned us about the ways in which Satan operates and so the first line of defense is as Peter says in I Peter 5:8, "Be self-controlled and alert." We must live in "unrelaxed self control and alertness."

      Satan is described as a lion prowling around looking for someone to devour. On the Serengeti plain, the lion wakes up every morning with fresh antelope on his mind and the antelope who does not keep alert to this fact will become lunch.

      We must be alert to the presence of Satan and also to the tricks that he uses to deceive us and draw us into spiritual danger. As we are aware, we will be able as Ephesians 4:27 says to "not give the devil a foothold."

A.                 Of Our Deceptive Hearts

      One of Satan's primary tricks is to deceive us by our own desires. Look at James 1:14, 15. There we read, "but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed..."

      When we used to go camping at the lake, some people who were camping there would go snorkling and had devised a snare for catching fish. They had a wire loop on a stick and they caught fish like that. If the game warden would have caught them, they would have been in trouble because a fish is supposed to be caught by presenting it with bait or a lure and the fishes own desires entice him to take the bait and he is caught.

      That is exactly what Satan does to us. He does not have a wire snare to grab us in such a way that we do not have a choice about it. He lays out the bait and our own desires get us into the trap. Moffat writes about,  "...the imagination toying with a forbidden idea, and then issuing in a decision of the will."

      The Bible has examples of this trick of Satan. In Acts 5 it describes what happened to Ananias and Sapphira. "Peter said, "Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land?" Satan put the bait of looking good in front of others and Ananias bit on it and died.

      In I Timothy 6:9 it talks about "People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction." The desires of those who want to get rich cause them to yield to Satan's bait and to fall. For such people, their "moral sense becomes blurred as a result of their overmastering passion."

B.                 Of Hardships

      Another trick that Satan uses is hardship. Hardship in itself is not evil and it may in fact be part of what God brings us through to teach us. But it can also be an occasion of stumbling if we become bitter or if we give up on God because of it. For example, in Revelation 2:10 it describes how the "devil put some in prison to test them." The hardship of a prison term was a trick of the devil. In II Corinthians 12:7, Paul talks about his "thorn in the flesh” as a messenger of Satan.

      This trick of Satan is sometimes intensified when we get older. Physical infirmities increase and hardships seem to multiply and Satan uses these things to try to trap us. As trials come, we need to remember the warning sign of God that we not allow this to be an occasion for stumbling.

C.                 Of Peer Pressure

      Another source of spiritual danger that we need to be aware of is other people. The source of temptations can sometimes catch us off guard. When Jesus described his mission to his disciples, they were astonished that he speak about dying. Peter told Jesus that this could never be and Jesus replied in Matthew 16:23, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men." "Peter's words caused Jesus to hear again the words of the tempter in the wilderness."

      Those close to us are most often our best advisors. We need them and need to listen to them. In the case of Peter, however, his words sought to draw Jesus away from what God had called Him to do. If we know God's will and even those close to us draw us away from God's will, then they become the voice of temptation. Awareness of this possiblity is the first step in avoiding it.

D.                Of Satan's Lies

      Satan is a liar and the father of lies and he will use lies to lead us astray. Somteimes his lies are very deceptive. II Corinthians 11:14 tells us that Satan marquerades as an angel of light. Sometimes the truth will seem to be present because it will be so well disguised. This is what happened to Eve in the garden.  II Corinthians 11:3 talks about it and says that "...Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning,..." Paul goes on to describe his fears for the Corinthians that "your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ."

      When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, Satan even used Scripture and twisted it and misapplied it in order to try to deceive Jesus.

      Many passages that warn us about overcoming spiritual dangers speak about false teachers who speak what looks like the truth. Satan will use these to deceive people and lead them astray. II Thessalonians 2:9 even says that there is a time when Satan will use counterfeit miracles to deceive.

      He is a liar and a deceiver and we need to be aware that he uses even the instruments of light in order to deceive.

      As we are aware of the tricks of Satan, they need not blindside us. The fist line of defence is to be alert and in our awareness, resist the devil. But can we do it?

II.               Victory Through God's Power

      We were driving home from The Pas one day in winter. At one point, as I looked down the highway, I saw in the distance that a deer was standing in the middle of the road. He was far enough away that I could easily stop and so I began applying the brakes. Suddenly I became aware of something I had not known. The road was icy. As I now came towards the deer much to fast, I noticed that the deer was also trying to get off the road and was having the same trouble with ice that I was. We did not collide, but it was a close call. I had ample warning and it is fine to have a warning, but if the road is icy, there isn't much you can do.

      Perhaps that is how you feel about the spiritual dangers. Satan's power is considerable. Someone told me this week about a conversation they'd had with someone who had been in a confrontation with demonic forces. It was not a comfortable experience to say the least. Add to that the deceptive nature of our hearts which so easily lead us astray and it isn't hard to feel that, even though God has given us plenty of warnings about the spiritual dangers, we are face to face with a dangerous enemy and are standing on ice!

      When Paul was preaching his message to King Agrippa, he told the story of his conversion, and also the story of his call to ministry. One of the things Jesus said to him, which is recorded in Acts 26:18, is that through the gospel it would be his task, "to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God..." The power of Jesus Christ on the cross and in the resurrection is the power that has overcome Satan and gives us the power to overcome our sinful nature.

      How do we overcome? James gives this advice for victory in the spiritual battle. He says in James 4:7, "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you."  "Satan's power is great, but he meets his match in the humble person who is subject to God."

      We also gain victory as our minds are renewed. Romans 8:6 says, "The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace;" What a great thing to know that as I Corinthians 2:16 says, "we have the mind of Christ." By relying on the power of the indwelling Spirit on the basis of the crucified and risen Lord, we have the means to victory over spirtual battles.

      It is when we forget about Jesus that we are unable to gain victory. In Colossians 2:18, Paul describes false teachers who have gone astray from the truth. The problem they have is that they have "lost connection with the Head." One means of execution is beheading. When you lose connection with your head, you die. The same is true spiritually. If you lose cnnection with the head, that is Christ, you die. When we go away from Jesus and from the gospel in Jesus, we put ourselves in spiritual danger. If we put ourselves in the presence of Jesus and retain a close connection with Him, we put ourselves into the way of power to overcome the spiritual dangers we might face.

      We are not on ice bearing down on a disaster. We have been given the power by the blood of Jesus, through submission to God and by a mind renewed by the Holy Spirit to gain victory in the face of spiritual dangers!

III.            Victory Through Prayer & God's Word

      What specifically will help us?

      I was reading over Jonathan's application for Bible School this week and I came across this sentence, "reading the Bible daily really helps you from stepping in the mud." What a great perspective! When Paul speaks about the armour for overcoming in the battle, one of the things he speaks about is the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God." Jesus made it plain that it is the truth that sets us free. I believe that one of the important tools we have to counter many of Satan's tricks is a good knowledge of the Word of God. If we are constantly made aware of the wonder of God's gifts in salvation and his love for us demonstrated through those gifts, we will not be overcome by crisis. If we remember that Jesus died on the cross, we will not allow our deceptive desires to lead us away from the purity in Christ that is ours. If we have a good knowledge of the Word of God, then the lies and false teachings motivated by Satan will not fool us. In order to overcome, we must know this word! God provides His truth and His guidance in that word.

      God has also given us another line of defence and that is prayer.

      When Jesus was with his disciples on the last days before his crucifixion, they were together in the upper room. Jesus warned Peter that Satan was going to test him. It says in Luke 22:31, 32, ""Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat." However, Peter had a means of defence that saved him from destruction. Jesus went on to say, "But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers." Jesus prayed for Peter so that the great trial he was about to enter into would be a trial, but would not destroy him.

      The Bible promises us that Jesus continues that intercessory work and is now in heaven praying for us so that our spiritual battles will not destroy us. Hebrews 7:25 says, "Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them."

      But He also tells us to pray. When Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemene about to undergo the trial of crucifixion, he was praying. He knew that the disciples would also soon undergo a difficult trial, and he warned them in Mark 14:38 that they should "watch and pray."  This reminds us again that a powerful line of defence in our spiritual battles is prayer for ourselves and for one another.

Conclusion

      And so I want to appeal to you to be overcomers. God promises that we do not need to be overcome in the spiritual battles that come along. I Corinthians 10:13 says, "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. 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 stand up under it."

      We need to look for the ways out and not let Satan deceive us into thinking that his way is the best way. The temptations we face, although they are from Satan are not uncommon to our human condition as it says here. We may have to endure, but God will provide a way out and so we need to look for those ways out.

      When Joseph was in Potiphar’s house and temptation presented itself to him, his way of escape was to run out o the house.

      It is always worth fleeing from spiritual dangers because the alternative is trouble. I Timothy 6:9 says, "People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction." Yielding to the temptations of spiritual dangers is always trouble. It is a trap and leads to ruin and destruction. I got a quip on email this week that said, "Forbidden fruit creates many jams." That is bad enough, but in the end, James 1:15 tells us that it leads to death. "Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death." Allowing ourselves to fall into spiritual dangers will always lead to death. Satan is the master of death and as good as some temptation may seem, it will always lead to death.

      On the other hand, if we seek victory in spiritual dangers, we gain peace, joy, hope, life, fruit and salvation?

      What is our response? Notice the road signs! Realize the power in the gospel given us in order to overcome and use God's Word and prayer to overcome.

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