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Three Degrees of Deception

Living free from sin begins with breaking free from deception. Jesus was tempted in every way we are, yet he was without sin (Hebrews 4:15). The secret was that he was never deceived; he was and is the truth! Because he was never deceived temptation had no power over him because he had no evil desires. His soul was completely satisfied in God. Deception is anything that allures the soul away from its place of complete satisfaction in God! Deception is far more powerful than temptation because apart from deception temptation has no power! This is why the truth sets us free (John 8:32) and sanctifies us (John 17:17). This is why the Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of truth who comes to guide us into all truth (John 16:13). His task is to lead us out of every place of error and deception and into the fullness of the truth of Jesus Christ. In this post I'd like to discuss three of the primary forms that deception takes and how to avoid them.

1. The Jedi Mind Trick: In Genesis 3:13 Eve reveals why she ate from the tree that God commanded her and Adam not to eat from: "The serpent deceived me and I ate." How did he deceive her? He created a hunger where no hunger previously existed. In essence, he played a Jedi mind trick on her. He held the fruit out in front of her and said, "You want this, you really want this!" This is the primary form deception takes. The enemy will do anything to convince you that sin is something that you want, something that you need, something that you cannot avoid, something that is necessary. When you resist it he will tell you you're being legalistic, holier than thou, and self-righteous. He will tell you that to be a human being is to be a sinner, and to resist sin is to resist your humanity. All of these lies are designed to give power to temptation in the hopes that you'll be overtaken. This is the first degree of deception.

2. The Old Switcheroo: The second degree of deception is illustrated in Genesis 29:25 in which Jacob wakes up the morning after his wedding day to discover that he married the wrong lady! His father Laben had switched Rachel for Leah and Jacob didn't even know it because he was too drunk! He thought he was climbing into bed with one woman, but in actuality he had become intimate with a whole nother woman! To make matters worse, Rachel was young and beautiful, but Leah was hard to look at! He thought he was climbing into bed with something attractive, but ended up becoming intimate with something ugly! This is classic deception: once the Jedi mind trick works and Satan convinces you to climb into bed with, let's say, sexual fulfillment, you wake up next to pornography addiction; you climb into bed with casual drinking and wake up next to alcoholism. All the devil needs is a foot in the door and he'll throw the old switcheroo at you!

3. The Treaty: The third degree of deception is found in Joshua 9:22. The Gibeonites heard that Joshua and the Israelites were taking out every city in the region, so they sent out a couple messengers dressed in rags and carrying spoiled bread to meet them. The messengers claimed that their land was far, far away and that making a treaty with them would not hinder the expansion campaign of the Israelites. Once the treaty was made, the Israelites discovered that the Gibeonites lived a few blocks away! Now the Israelites are forced to honor a treaty with their enemies. Once Satan has played the Jedi mind trick on us, and executed the old switcheroo, he tries to get us to make a treaty with our sin by assuring us that its consequences are far, far away and that there is no chance of our being harmed by it. This is the worst deception of all because sin's consequences are always right around the corner! Making a treaty with sin means accepting its presence in our lives. Now we are really deceived because we have stopped contending for victory over it.

I believe that freedom from sin is a theme that God is highlighting in the body of Christ right now. Bondage to sin is rampant in the church. I believe the key to breaking free is the infusion of truth. It is the truth that sets us free. We don't have to be ignorant of Satan's devices! We can walk free and clean by the power of the Holy Spirit if we walk in him who is the truth and let him set us free from every power of deception! What are your thoughts?

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How to Fall into Sin in Three Easy Steps

If your goal is to fall into sin and be stuck there for a lifetime, I've got good news for you! The program that I prescribe below will allow you to accomplish your goal quickly and easily, and without diet or exercise! Just follow each of these three simple steps and you will be on your way to a life of bondage and shame.

1. Allow Satan to Deceive You

The first step to falling into sin is to fall for Satan's deception. In Genesis 3:13 God confronts Eve with her sin of disobedience, and she responds in these words: "The Serpent deceived me, and I ate." Notice she doesn't say she ate the fruit because she couldn't resist it, or because she desired it. She had no desire for the fruit at all. Satan played a Jedi mind trick on her, convincing her that she wanted the fruit, when she didn't want it at all, and convincing her that she needed the fruit when she didn't need it at all! Sin does not begin with desire or need, it begins with deception. The first step to falling into sin is to allow Satan to deceive you into believing that you need something that God is not providing for you, or that you want something that God is not giving to you. Once deception has set in, you are off to a good start, but you are not there yet. You still have two steps to go!

2. Give in to Temptation

Once you have given in to the deception of the enemy, temptation sets in. That is, you didn't know that you wanted what God said that you are not to have until the enemy convinced you that you wanted it. But now that you've tasted it, you realize that you absolutely want it! Now you needn't be deceived anymore. Instead you are tempted and led astray by your own desires (James 1:14). The temptation that comes from your own sinful desires is the guarantee that you will continue to return to this particular sin for the rest of your life! This is the real substance of falling into sin. Only one step remains to making it permanent!

3. Keep it a Secret

Once you have been overwhelmed by temptation, the only thing that can hinder you from reaching your goal of complete slavery to sin is confession, repentance, and submission to a godly leader. The way you avoid this is by keeping your sin a secret at all costs! Thankfully, this is just as easily done as it is said! While in most  situations secrets are hard to keep, sin secrets are easy to keep because they are powered by shame. Shame is like a good, strong girdle: just as a girdle helps you conceal, rather than lose, your gut, shame helps you conceal your sin so that you maintain the appearance of freedom and godliness!

So there you have it! If you follow these three easy steps, you are guaranteed a life of unrestrained, and incurable sin and debauchery. If at any time you feel that you've gotten off track, that you are somehow straying from your goal, simply return to these three steps and you'll find that you are back in bondage to sin in no time!

Question: With of these steps do you identify with the most? 

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From Self-Life to God-Life

There are two words that are often translated ‘life’ in the NT: psyches and zoes. Psyches is also often translated ‘soul’, and this is the better translation. The soul of a person is the life of a person in the sense that the soul is constituted by the mind, the will, and the emotions. The difference between psyches and zoes is that psyches is the personal life of a human person, and zoes is the life of God that comes as the gift of Jesus Christ. For instance, when Jesus said that he came that we might have life, and have it to the full, he did not say that he came that we might have psyches; he said that he came that we might have zoes. He does not come to give us the gift of soul; that was what God gave Adam when he created him out of the dust of the earth: “God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul” (nephesh in the Hebrew). The life that Jesus brings to us goes beyond the life of the self, constituting the life of the Spirit; it is deeper than self-life, it is God-life.

This does not mean that there was something wrong with the gift of soul that God gave Adam at creation. In fact, it was a perfectly good gift. To be a living soul meant that Adam was aware of himself, aware of God, and aware of the world that he lived in. The gift of soul that Adam possessed was pure and untainted by the corruption that comes from evil desires. Because this was the case, Adam was able to serve God in the garden with a pure heart, never seeking to obtain anything for himself, because his self (or soul) had no consciousness of any kind of need. Adam had no wants, no unfulfilled desires, no unmet needs. He simply did what God asked him to do without asking what he would get out of it or what it would cost him.

God was the one who recognized that something was missing in Adam’s life, not Adam. The Scripture does not say that Adam asked God for a wife, or that he realized that he was missing something. It was God who said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” God knew what Adam needed before he asked for it, and he made provision for Adam without him even knowing that he had a need. In other words, it wasn’t that Adam had no needs, but that he fully trusted God to meet them, and so he was not conscious of any needs. Thus, he was able to serve God with a pure heart without giving thought to himself. So when God asked him to name the animals, Adam did not ask God how much he would be paid for such a task. He never barters with God, or attempts to obtain something. Instead, he entrusts himself to God and to the work to which he is called and is conscious only of the fact that his needs are fully met and that God is the one who provides for every one of them!

It was the serpent that convinced Adam and Eve that something was missing, that they needed something that God had not provided them with. Once this lie took hold in their minds, sin was the next logical step. All sin begins with the idea that I need something that God has not provided me with. This is what it means to be in want. David says, "The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want," and by this he means that he fully entrusts himself to God, knowing that God will provide him with everything that he needs. The soul that has God as its shepherd does not experience want, but simply assumes that all of its needs are provided for. But Adam and Eve experience want in the garden, not because of real need, but because of a lie. The type of needs that bring us into bondage to sin are always based upon a lie, never upon reality.

Sin led to the death of the soul. God had promised concerning the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, "In the day you eat of it you will surely die." The death they died in that moment was a soul death: they suffered the loss of themselves. By believing the lie and embracing want, Adam and Eve plunged themselves into a world characterized by want and need, and suddenly the soul - which originally was anchored in God and God alone - took on a life of its own; a self-life detached from God's life. The consciousness of want and need led to fear, and fear led immediately to shame. They look at themselves and realize they are naked, so they hide from one another. Then they hear God coming and are afraid, so they hide themselves even further. Now that the soul has asserted its independence from God, it turns inward, collapsing upon itself, and becoming completely consumed with a three-fold pursuit: self-preservation, self-gratification, and self-actualization. These three drives are the impetus behind all (fallen) human action from that day forward, for we all must protect ourselves from pain and death, we must find ways to fulfill our own desires, and we must find a way to fulfill our potential and actualize our dreams. This is the activity that characterizes the life of the dead soul; it is always in danger, always in need, and always in process. It is never safe, never satisfied, and never settled.

Paul distinguishes not only between the flesh (sarkos) and the Spirit, but between the soul (psyches) and the Spirit. The flesh, to Paul, is the realm of sin's operations; it is the inner impetus to rebel against God that we are all born with. But to Paul the life of the believer is not constituted by a war between the flesh and the Spirit, as is popularly believed. Paul does not believe that every believer must constantly fight the sinful nature every day of their lives! Rather, Paul says that those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh, with its passions and desires (Galatians 5:24). However, once the flesh has been put to death, the believer must make a conscious choice to live by the Spirit, rather than the soul. In fact, Paul says that "The soulish (psychikos) person cannot receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Corinthians 2:14), meaning they are only discerned and understood as the Spirit of God comes in contact with the human spirit. This is because the soul is fallen, and thus it is incorrigibly focused upon self-preservation, self-gratification, and self-actualization. The soul is the place where hurt resides and where pain is stored up. Living from the soul means living to unravel this pain, to get through it and find gratification and fulfillment in life. Living from the soul makes life one big self-therapeutic exercise! Soulish living is self-life; it is life of the self, for the self and by the self. When we live this kind of life the Spirit of God can't get a word in edgewise. 

We are living in a day and age in which soulish living is in! The pervasive hegemony of the soul in our culture screams through our slogans and popular sayings: do what you like, express yourself, have it your way right away, obey your thirst, be yourself, march to the beat of your own drum... The list goes on and on. The message behind each of these slogans is that we should be self-determining individuals who assert our independence and take responsibility for our own destinies. We have even given voice to this secular way of living in the church, and the result has been the pervasive abandonment or abuse of the concepts of submission and authority in contemporary Christianity. We either teach that you should obey God, and God alone (ignoring those very prominent passages of Scripture which command us to obey our leaders and submit to their authority), or we teach people to arbitrarily submit to their leaders to the point of manipulation and control, and we are so afraid of manipulation and control that we have virtually abandoned the concepts of submission and authority all together. And this goes both ways; pastors are afraid to assert their authority because they are afraid of being perceived as being abusive, and members of churches are afraid to submit to authority because they have had the experience of being manipulated and controlled. But the fact of the matter is that submission and authority are the only means to the healing and conversion of the soul. For it is only through submission and subjection to authority that our souls are set free from the undo assertion of the desires of the self.

Look at how the 2011 version of the NIV has softened the biblical mandate of submission to godly leaders in Hebrews 13:17.

"Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account."  

Now look at it in the NKJV, which stays closer to the original Greek:

"Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account."

There is a big difference between having confidence in a leader and obeying a ruler. But we have a problem with the idea that someone could rule over us! I don't need a ruler, I just need a coach! I just need a spiritual advisor who will make suggestions that I can either take or leave. But the bible says that the only way your soul will be shepherded is if you allow someone to rule over you, and you obey them; you submit to their rule! The soul must be subjected before it can be healed; only through full submission can it be extracted from its focus upon itself. Submission is the only way that this extraction becomes real, because if I only submit when I agree with my leaders, I am really not in submission at all, but simply in agreement. I am still soulish because I am still bent on self-preservation (how often do we fail to obey our leaders because we don't feel safe?), self-gratification (how often do we become angry with our leaders because we feel that they are depriving us of something that we deserve?), and self-actualization (how often do we distance ourselves from our leaders because we are afraid they will hinder us from an opportunity to enlarge ourselves?).

Jesus said that he came that we might have life (zoes), but the only way to obtain that life and live in the flow of it is to lose your life (psyches). Jesus said that to seek to save your life (psyches) will result in your losing it. But losing your life (psyches) for his sake will result in your saving it. The only way to save it is to lose it. In the living of the self-life we are like sheep going astray, but in self-denial and self-surrender we return to Jesus, the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls (1 Peter 2:25).

David says, "The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want." The soul that has the Lord as its shepherd is a soul that does not know want or need. The Lord was able to shepherd David's soul because David knew how to make his soul an offering to God. "To you oh Lord I lift up my soul" (Psalm 25:1). Jesus is called the Shepherd of our souls (1 Peter 2:25). With Jesus as our Shepherd, we will not know want. But he will only be able to shepherd our souls if we learn how to make them an offering to God. The offering of the soul is the surrender of the self, the renunciation of our independence. At every place where the soul asserts itself it must be offered to God, rather than validated. Learning to live by the Spirit requires that we first make the soul an offering, transcending the life of the self (psyches) and entering into the life (zoes) of the Spirit of God. Then we will not only sing that popular worship song, Lord I give you my heart, I give you my soul, but we will live it!




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Yahweh is a Man of War!

The Exodus event is the penultimate redemptive act of God in the Old Testament. It was also the inaugural act which brought the people of Israel into being. Prior to the Exodus event the people of Israel were a collection of tribes, all descendants of Jacob, who moved to Egypt at the request of his 11th son, Joseph -- then Prime Minister of the nation. But generations of slavery can do terrible things to the self-understanding of a people, and this is especially true of the peoples of the ancient world. In the ancient world the stronger people were believed to worship the stronger god. If your people were defeated in battle it was because your god was defeated by the god(s) of your attackers. For the people of the ancient world, self-image was directly connected to god-image; in other words the peoples of the ancient world tended to project upon their gods the images that constituted their own identity. This, of course, is the basic meaning of idolatry: creating a god in your own image and likeness and projecting upon him all of your personal strengths, weaknesses and desires! So for the people of Israel to be made slaves in Egypt meant that they were servants of a god who was inferior to the gods of Egypt.

The people of Israel had no doubt heard stories of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They had heard that his name was Elohim, or El Shaddai, and that he had made covenant with their fathers... They had heard of him but had not yet heard from him! This is why God's number one priority before bringing them out of Egypt was to introduce himself to them as the victorious God, rather than the defeated god. In each of the ten plagues God judged one of the gods of Egypt. The Egyptians worshiped the Nile river; God turned it to blood as a sign that he had put to death the Nile god. The Egyptians worshiped the image of a frog; God sent a plague of frogs on the land as a sign that he was powerful than the frog god. The Egyptians worshiped the sun; God turned it to darkness. The Egyptians worshiped Pharaoh; God struck down his first born son. After each plague God made sure Pharaoh hardened his heart again because he was not yet finished introducing himself to his people. With each plague God was saying to his people, You think I'm weak because you're weak. You think I'm defeated because you're defeated. You think I'm a slave god because you're in slavery. Well I'm about to show you otherwise! By the time I bring you out of this land you will know who I am! You will know that I am greater and more powerful over all other gods! You will know that there is no one like me! I'm not done with Egypt until you know who I am!


By the time the people of Israel arrive at the other side of the Red Sea and the waters come crashing down upon Pharaoh's army, they are good and acquainted with the power of their God! They instantly break out in worship and rejoicing, and they have a Holy Ghost party! Listen to the new-found theology that flows from this moment of powerful worship:

"Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord: 'I will sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted. Both horse and driver he has hurled into the sea.'" (Exodus 15:1)

When Moses and the Israelites sang about God's exalted status, they did not mean that he was somewhere on a throne in a cloud being worshiped by angels. That theology hadn't come around yet. Instead, they looked at the dead bodies of the Egyptian soldiers and said, this is what it means that God is highly exalted!

Now listen to the theological conclusion that flows out of this experience of deliverance: "The Lord is a warrior; the Lord is his name" (Exodus 15:3). First, we need to understand that the term 'Lord' is not in the Hebrew text. The text actually contains the name that he gave Moses at the burning bush: Yahweh, I Am. The reason the name has been replaced by the title 'Lord' is because the people of Israel who returned from the exile to Babylon in 539 took the third commandment ("You shall not misuse the name Yahweh your God") so seriously that they understood it to mean that the name Yahweh should never even be spoken! So they went throughout the Hebrew Scriptures and circumlocuted the title 'Lord' in every place where the name Yahweh appeared. The text literally says, "Yahweh is a man of war."

We often miss the significance of the Exodus event! God is introducing himself to his people and setting the paradigm for the way in which they are to relate to him. In this event he is communicating the essence of who he is, and the first thing he reveals to his people is that he is a God of war! Make no mistake, he is no pacifist or punk! He is not mocked and he ultimately will not tolerate opposition! He comes with vengeance and divine retribution! He is the God who kills! Yahweh is a man of war!


What does this mean for us? First, it means that we must do the opposite of what the ancients did in relation to their gods; instead of forming God in our own image, we must allow ourselves to be formed in his image. In other words, we can't be a punk people and serve a God of war! If he is a God of war, then we must be a people of war! We must come out of the civilian mentality and show up for battle! True warriors dream of victory in battle, but civilians dream of nice cars and houses and a quiet and peaceful life! Our God is a God of conquest, and he expects us to be a people of conquest. He is our King and our General, but he has so few warriors among us who are willing to ride with him into battle! We've been overtaken by civilian affairs, so much so that we neglect the call of kingdom warfare, and we are paying the price for it!

In 1 Samuel 11, Saul hears that the Ammonites had besieged the city of Jabesh Gilead. Everyone else who heard the news began to weep, but verse 6 tells us that Saul had a different experience: "When Saul heard their words, the Spirit of God came upon him in power, and he burned with anger." Did you know that when the Spirit of God comes on you in power you get pissed off? When the anointing of God's Spirit came on Saul, he burned with anger, and then he took a pair of oxen, "cut them into pieces, and sent the pieces by messengers throughout Israel, proclaiming, 'This is what will be done to the oxen of anyone who does not follow Saul...'" The ox was the power of the harvest in Israel. Without an ox you could neither sow nor reap because you could not plow. Saul says, If you don't show up for war, the power of your harvest will be taken from you and you will become barren and unfruitful. What we are seeing in the body of Christ today is that the oxen of many believers are being cut to pieces because they are refusing to show up for war! We hear of what the devil is doing to our families, to our friends, to our fields and to our harvests, and like the people of Israel, we weep and mourn. But God is looking for some angry Christians! The problem is that we don't have enough believers who are burning with anger!

Now don't get me wrong, I do recognize that the church is filled with angry believers, but most of them have aimed their anger in the wrong direction! They are angry at the church because they've been hurt there, angry at their families because of what happened when they were young, angry at other believers because of something that happened, angry at their pastors for not spending enough time with them, and worst of all, angry at God for letting bad things happen to them! But we have forgotten that your church is not the enemy of your soul, and neither is your family or your pastor or God. Satan is the enemy of your soul! He is the thief that comes to steal, kill and destroy! He is the lion who prowls around looking for someone to devour! He is the accuser of the brothers, the author of confusion, your adversary, that ancient serpent...

There are all kinds of wars going on among Christians, but most of them are fools wars. David armed himself to the teeth to go kill Nabal, a fool (Nabal actually means 'fool') who simply said something disrespectful about him (1 Samuel 25)! David was ready to take the fool out! But thankfully, Abigail was there to remind David that his job was to fight the Lord's battles, not to engage in fools wars! Fools wars happen in church board rooms, in congregational meetings, behind closed doors where believers engage in gossip and slander. No spoils or plunder come from these wars because we're fighting the wrong enemy! My spiritual father always says that he sees high level men of God being taken out by low level demonic powers because they are engaging in fools wars. We must once again learn how to fight the Lord's battles and dispense with these fools wars!

So how do we do this?

We are in the middle of our 21 Days of Prayer campaign at Living Hope; every year we gather at the church for 21 nights to seek the face of God and press for new dimensions of his glory and power. Two nights ago (day 8) I received a phone call 30 minutes into our prayer meeting from the sitter who was watching our daughter, Alethia. She frantically explained to me that Alethia had tripped and face-planted against a hard surface. She had a huge knot on her forehead, a bloody nose, and a fat lip! Immediately I felt in my spirit that this was a distraction of the enemy. I asked her a few questions about Alethia's behavior (did she vomit, seem woosy, want to go to sleep, act strange in any way...?) and then instructed her to put an ice pack on her head and lip and call me if any of those symptoms appeared. Then my wife looked at me and said, "Now let's go beat up the devil!" We went to the front and I took the microphone, explained to the church what had just happened to my daughter, and said: "This is a distraction! Satan saw that we were making too much progress in the Spirit tonight, so he thought he'd distract us by messing with my family! But we're going to set a precedent tonight! If we were going to take a foot, we're going to take a mile now! If we expected break through in a year, we're going to have it in a week now! Tonight the kingdom suffers violence, and we are the violent who will take it by force!"

I can't tell you what happened in that prayer meeting next! The people rose up and just went after God with a passion, and went after the things of the Spirit with a vengeance! I was immediately reminded of my first trip to Indonesia in 2002. On Sunday morning I called my wife before heading to the church where I was scheduled to preach. She told me that the devil had attacked her all night long in her dreams. I was so angry that as I hung up the phone I prayed, Lord, the Scripture says that you were made manifest so that you might destroy the works of the devil! Today I am going out in your ministry: wherever I see the work of the devil today I'm going to destroy it! When I got to the church I ministered under an unusual anointing. At the close of the service a woman came forward for prayer saying that she had tongue cancer. She had been scheduled to have her tongue removed because they couldn't get the cancer out. I laid my hands on her and prayed, and later received the report that she had been completely healed!

It dawned on me that God allows things like this to happen sometimes so that we will get angry enough to do some damage to the kingdom of darkness! We've got to stop making treaties with the enemy and start making war! We can't stand by and watch him carry off our sons and daughters, our flocks and herds, our seed and harvest anymore! We've got to rise up and fight the Lord's battles, because Yahweh is a man of war!


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The Good Fight of Faith

The first thing we must understand about faith is that faith is the only thing that pleases God. Hebrews 11.6 tells us that God is not pleased by anything but our faith. We can be sacrificial, sanctimonious, compassionate, and upright, but without faith God is not pleased with any of it. But the converse is also true: faith pleases God! When God sees his sons and daughters walking in faith, refusing to doubt, refusing to be moved by what they see in the natural, he is truly and fully pleased! Faith pleases God more than sacrifice! This is an important point for us to understand! We all think that if we pray more, God will be more pleased. But so much of our praying is simply a religious substitute for our poor faith, and God isn't pleased with it at all. You can pray for hours, fast for weeks, and memorize every Scripture in the Bible, but if you aren't believing for what you are praying for and trusting in what you are memorizing, it is all religious nonsense!

In fact, James tells us that the person who doubts is like a wave tossed by every wind (James 1:6). A wind of adversity will blow the doubter toward discouragement, and a wind of victory will blow the doubter toward encouragement. But none of it sticks, because the doubter is double-minded and unstable in all his ways (1:8). The instability that comes from doubt makes us feel powerless, like a wave that is doomed to be driven in whatever direction the wind blows. Doubters feel that they are out of control, that they live on an emotional roller coaster... they feel powerless and helpless and incapable of moving anything in any direction. When I studied English Literature in College I learned a poem that exemplifies the worldview of the doubter:

Life, the hound: equivocal
comes at a bound
either to rend you or befriend you.
I cannot tell the hound's intent
till he has sprung at my bare hand
with tooth or tongue.
Till then I stand and await the event.

This poem views life from a perspective of passivity and powerlessness: life is a hound that will either bite you or lick you, and all you can do is wait to see what happens! The Bible teaches us that life is a gift, rather than an event. Jesus said that he came that we might have [or possess] life, and have it excessively (John 10:10). If life is a gift that you possess through Christ, then the question is not how is life treating you? The question is how are you treating life? That is, what are you doing to protect, cultivate, and utilize the precious gift of life that you received from Jesus Christ? Or better, do you even know what to do with that gift?

Three times Paul speaks of the fight for faith as "the good fight" (1 Timothy 1:18-19; 6:12; 2 Timothy 4:7). When I was younger we used to all gather around my uncle's big screen T.V. if there was a good fight. There are fights that are not good fights, and they are not worth watching. But the good fight? You and your friends will pitch in for pay-per-view to see that! Paul refers to the fight for faith as "the good fight" because it is the only fight worth fighting. "Fight the good fight of faith," says the apostle to his spiritual son, Timothy. "Lay hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses" (1 Timothy 6:12). The "good fight" corresponds to the "good confession." The good confession is the confession of the lordship of Jesus Christ, and through it flows the gift of eternal life. But the good fight follows the good confession because once the gift of eternal life is given through faith in Jesus Christ, the enemy of your soul makes it his chief goal to see to it that you live beneath your privilege as a child of God. Paul says "lay hold of the eternal life to which you were called." The good fight of faith is the fight to lay hold of, to grasp and hold onto, to obtain and maintain all of the prerogatives of the gift of eternal life, and to manifest them on a daily basis!

The devil is only interested in attacking one thing: your faith! He attacks your finances, but only to get to your faith. He attacks your family, but only to get to your faith. He attacks your health, but only to get to your faith. His goal is to get you to stop believing, to stop standing, to surrender your confidence and to start doubting. Because if he can get you to doubt, he can move you from solid ground to shaky ground. Peter was called the rock because of his confession of faith. But before he lived that out he was moved by the wind and the waves and Jesus took him by the hand and said, "Why did you doubt?" You would have been unmovable if you hadn't doubted! Nothing would have shaken you if you just hadn't doubted. But once you began to doubt, you began to sink. And once you began to sink you began to cry out, "Lord save me" out of sheer desperation and powerlessness. I respond to those cries, and here I am. But I'm not pleased by them, because if you had of stood in faith, you would have continued to be a water walker. And I'd much rather give you the power to walk on water than fish you out of every wave you sink into!


If you want to stop sinking, you've got to stop doubting! You've got to stop being moved by what you see! You've got to make a decision that you are going to believe God come hell or hot water! The problem is that you are doubting because you are sinking, and you are sinking because your doubting. You keep thinking that you will stop doubting when you stop sinking, but it doesn't work that way! That's like saying you'll stop poking holes in your tire when the air stops seeping out! That's like saying you'll stop cutting yourself when you stop bleeding! You must wake up and come back to faith, and come back quick! Don't delay, run back to the throne of grace and remind yourself of who he is!

We must always remember that the unbelieving heart is sinful and always turns from the living God (Hebrews 3:12). The goal of every demonic attack is to get you to turn your focus away from the faith realm (in which you see only what God is doing) and toward the demonic realm (in which you see only what the devil is doing). You cannot focus on what God is doing and on what the devil is doing at the same time. You can only cling to one and despise the other. You must choose to remain in the realm of faith, in the place where God is always working, always moving, always healing, blessing, creating and renewing!

The good news is that faith is the victory that overcomes the world! There is no power of opposition that can oppose your faith indefinitely. The enemy and the flesh can and will resist your believing, but that resistance cannot go on forever. The devil cannot fight a long fight! This is why the fight for faith is the good fight! Its the good fight because its a fight that you can win every time! The only way you lose that fight is if you surrender your faith! There is no other fight worth fighting than the fight to keep believing, and every devil in hell is arrayed against your believing! But you can stand against the devil by continuing to fight the good fight!

We all need rest, but you must never allow your faith to rest. We all need time off, but your faith must never take time off. We all need a vacation sometimes, but make sure your faith never takes a vacation! Your faith must be relentless in the pursuit of the manifestation of the eternal kind of life in the here and now! Its not enough to know you're going to heaven when you die! You are called to live an eternal kind of life now! You can and will have it if you lay hold of it by faith!

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