Every day, every moment in a Christian’s life is soaked in spiritual warfare. Whether we’re aware of it or not. I know I struggle with stuff all the time with the attitude that it’s just sort of generic “struggling”; often, I don’t consider the spiritual fight–-what’s really taking place. These battles are usually launched by yet another encounter with my sin nature, and they typically begin with a self-demeaning thought.
When we consider why we did something wrong, or why we didn’t do something right, many of us immediately feel frustration and self-directed anger. Thoughts just seem to enter our minds out of nowhere hurling words like: ”I’m pathetic! I can’t believe I did it again! I swore I never would! I’m such a failure! What a loser! I’ll never be free of this!” My “default” handling of these is to treat them as my own ideas, borne of disappointment with myself. But this assessment completely ignores the spiritual world! To accept these judgements as true is to agree with Satan as he assails our identity, denying who we are in Christ, the New Man.
The assault often continues: “You should be over this by now! Maybe you’re not really saved? How can you say you follow Jesus?” Satan is attempting to persuade us we still wear our grave clothes; the Old Man apparel was never removed; our prayers are soiled. All of this is contrary to God’s word (Isa. 61:10, John 11:44, Acts 10:15 [NASB], 2 Peter 1: 5-9). But if we’re obtuse to the spiritual realm, we don’t question those statements–-after all, they’re just thoughts that “popped” into our heads, so we often do not attach any malice to them.
If we accede to this initial penetration of our defenses, additional agreements follow: Liar – you say you’re a new creation, but you’re still filthy and disgusting; Phony, Unworthy – there’s no way a person who can’t even stop doing this should be serving in a church or leading anyone in anything; Hopeless – you’re just not capable of change, since you haven’t overcome this after so many years; and, ultimately, Rejected – God’s word says only those who remain pure will be saved, so you’re destined for condemnation and Hell. Do the words “depression” and “despair” ring a bell?
What’s the worst part of all this? Many modern Christians have not detected this infiltration in the spiritual realm, and so, out of perceived necessity (based on experience), many have integrated these debilitating beliefs into doctrine. We are taught that salvation is God crediting Christ’s righteousness to our account (true), but some are also taught there may be no real change in us this side of Heaven (lie) and that we’ll never truly be free of a particular sin until we die and meet Him (deception). I say deception because, in some cases, it may be true that death will finally end some specific resilient sin. But it is certainly not true that there’s some specific sin that’s so powerful it can not be overcome prior to Heaven. This belief is simply a limitation of what God can do, restricting His power to what I can imagine in the moment of my suffering; or, more precisely, to what limits I have agreed to place on my usefulness to Him.
Now, who is it that wants to limit my usefulness to God? Hmmm.... We must let God’s word interpret our experience, not vice versa. Remember who you are! And, if you feel like you’re forgetting, well, open up the Scripture and He’ll remind you. Need a place to start? Try 2 Corinthians 5:17-19 in the New Testament.