Are we fighting Satan? Does he make us sin? We are called to fight, but fight what?
[Nathan Ekama] If you were to answer the question… well, I'll just ask the question, how's that? We'll start off that way. What would you say we are called to fight? As Christians living this way, all the study that you've done, all the messages that you've heard, what are we fighting? Now, a lot of times… So I've grown up in church and going through Y.E.S. lessons and going to camp and talking about all the things, you know, we do have to overcome things. And a lot of times you can focus on Satan. Right? We're fighting Satan. We're fighting this battle, and there are a lot of scriptures that we might go to, and we'll go to some of those today. Last week we also talked about some of the other things. In the introduction, we were talking about what we can be enslaved to. There can be addictions. There are all sorts of things that we could maybe write out a list of what are we fighting. What are the difficult things that we have in front of us? Today, I wanted to dig into this. What exactly are we called to fight? Let's go to 1 Peter 5. This is a good reminder, 1 Peter 5:8. This is quite a visual picture. 1 Peter 5:8 says, "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour."
That’s a… if you think about that, you can kind of paint a pretty graphic picture in your mind that there's a lion that's running around. If you've gone to the zoo, you can see the lion. They usually have a rock. If you've watched Disney's, The Lion King, he's got them up… they're on a rock and they're very stately. I'd like to give you a reality, but that's not how lions work. Lions don't sit on a rock and make themselves known in that kind of like grandiose way. We all think about the male lions being the ones who are doing things, and you can have the male lion there, but really the male lion likes to wait until the lioness has gone and killed the animal. And then they try to take what the lioness and the pride has gotten there.
But they are in the open. They are very much in the open. It was one of those things where we had the opportunity, my wife and I when we were recently married, we went with John Elliot when he was the senior pastor for East Africa and we got to go and we worked with the brethren but we did get to go on a safari as well. And what you'll notice with the lions is, they're out in the open. I feel like, well, that's brazen. And there are actually these birds, these Guinea hens, and will go around and they make a racket. Everybody knows that the lion is there. So we read this scripture and we talk about this roaring lion that is seeking who he may devour. You're like, he's out there. We know that Satan is that roaring lion. We know he's there, but the way the lion hunts and works is that the lion relies on everybody knowing that the lion is there. The lion is there, the lion is there, the lion is there, the lion is still there, the lion is still there, and it just waits until you're so used to the lion that you're not watching for the lion because the lion's been there for so long. And then all of a sudden, boom, the lion gets you. That's how lions hunt.
And so when I first read this scripture, when I was hearing this growing up, I'm thinking about this roaring lion going about and I was like, "Watch out for the roaring lion." I'm pretty sure there's going to be a road sign, it's going to be in orange, it's going to say, "Lion ahead." Right? And I'll know exactly what to look out for. I'm going to know what to avoid, it's going to be easy. That's not really how it functions, but we do know that Satan does work that way. He'll have a diversionary tactic over here. We can see in Genesis how he worked with Adam and Eve to consider something else. It wasn't as in your face, but it was just like, "Oh, well, I'll think about this. I'm kind of going to ruminate on that a little bit and I'll consider it," and you get used to this idea of considering something else. And then all of a sudden you find that you're not quite where you started off, but Satan is there. He is, and we do have to be sober. We have to be vigilant because what happens is, if we're not sober and we're not vigilant looking around, if we're not paying attention, well, then it becomes normalized and we're not watching anymore. And that is where the danger comes, especially with lions.
So let's go to Ephesians 6:12. Here, looking at some of the aspects of what we fight. Ephesians 6:12. Let's start in verse 10. Ephesians 6:10 says, "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil." So we just read about how Satan functions, how he's like a lion. It says, "But we do not wrestle… For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places." So then we go through and we read about the armor of God and the different components of that armor. And we can talk about how it protects us, and we know that we need God to protect us against these… how does it say? These “spiritual hosts of wickedness” or these “principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, spiritual hosts of wickedness.”
And so we know, we're like, we're fighting against these. This is what we're battling, right? This is what we have to resist. What's interesting, so my university studies and background is in sociology and psychology, and so we'll talk about different things in counseling and family studies. They'll talk about what we as humans might tend to do. And one of the things that we like to do, is we like to… Well, there's actually a parable about it, the parable of the beam and the mote, right? It's very easy for us to kind of look outside. It's easier for us to look outside of ourselves and see issues, either in other individuals. It's also easier for us to consider that things outside of us and outside of our control are what are kind of making life difficult or easier or those, and it's called an external locus of control.
I don't quite have control over these other things, and these other things out here are what are affecting me. It's called an external locus of control, and you can have a defeatist attitude as a result of that because, well, it's just, you know, "If only my boss were nicer to me, if only I didn't have this just grinding down on me, I would really be able to be a much better Christian. If only I didn't have…" And we can kind of have that mentality of things, of life, and that external locus of control can kind of, you know, “The devil made me do it. This woman who You gave to me, had You not given her to me, God, I would have been just fine in this garden. It was perfect. I was alone, I was alone. But it would've been great. It was fine.” And you go to woman, "Well, that serpent." It's this external locus of control. It's not really me. It's not you. It's this other thing that's outside of us. It was Satan, and Satan made me do it.
Let's go to James 1. James 1. It is very important for us to really truly consider what we're fighting. James 1:13. James 1:13 says, "Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone." This is huge. We need to remember this. God doesn't tempt us. He cannot do that. He's not tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and sin when it is full grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. That's a pretty powerful section where you're like, "Well, what are we fighting?" Are we fighting Satan? Now, we know that we're not fighting against flesh and blood in that context, but are we actually fighting against Satan? Does Satan make us sin? You know, evil company corrupts good habits, right? So it's these other things that are affecting us. But it's very intriguing. When I read this scripture, it says, "When desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and that desire," it says in verse 14, "each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death." Consider again… Well, let's turn to Genesis. Let's go to Genesis 3. I don't have it in my notes, so we're Genesis 3, where we look at the what is often dubbed the fall of man.
Yeah, 3 verse 1, Genesis 3:1. If you wanted to keep your finger back in James, now that you're all turned back to Genesis 3. But if you want to… follow that, follow along with what you're seeing written in James, and go back to Genesis 3. It talks about when there's a desire, we're tempted through that desire. That desire, when it's conceived, grows into sin, and then sin brings forth death. Let's go now, thinking of that, letting that be in our brains as we go to Genesis 3:1. It says, "Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, 'Has God indeed said, 'You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?’ And the woman said to the serpent, 'We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.'"
“So the serpent said to the woman, ‘You shall not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God,” “Let's have a conversation. I'm just here talking to you. I'm not really going to eat you. I'm not really a lion trying to, like, get a meal here. We're just having a conversation.” “God knows that in the day you eat of it, your eyes will be opened, and you'll be like God, knowing good and evil. So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food,” and she knew that God said not to go and eat it. She knew that, but now, huh, okay. So I'm not really going to die. “God knows that in the day you eat of it, your eyes are going to be opened.” “Oh, this is new information. I did not realize that. Did you know that you're not actually going to die?”
“So she saw it and it was pleasant to the eyes, and the tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.” Is that not exactly what we just read in James? Now, did Satan say, "You're going to eat this and I'm going to shove it down your throat. And you have no choice"? If that was a little bit over the top, I'm sorry. But no, he doesn't. He doesn't do that. She chose. Adam chose. Now he presented an alternative, right? But nobody was there. As we might say today, there was no gun to their head forcing them to do this. There was a desire. The temptation was presented, right? The desire was there. It grew, it expanded, and, "Oh, no, what have we done? We have to go hide from Dad now, and we're going to go off over here in the bushes and pretend we didn't do it." If you've been a kid and gotten into the cookies, right? Do you eat the cookies in the middle of the kitchen? Not usually, right? You find somewhere and maybe you made a pillow fort. You go somewhere dark. You go and you do the things in the darkness so God says, you know, the sins that are in the dark, people go and they do them. So they go and they run and they hide from their dad.
But Satan didn't make him do it, and I think that's an important thing for us to remember. There is a quote that goes back, it's attributed to Walt Kelly back in 1970. He was actually paraphrasing Oliver Hazard Perry. But he said this, he says, "We have met the enemy, and he is us." Oliver Hazard Perry were all in Ohio. You remember Lake Erie, the fight over there. Ohio history. Okay, we got some nods going on. So people remember social studies. But Walt Kelly's quote, "We have met the enemy, and he is us." It is so easy for us to look out and say, "I am my way, the way that I am now because of…" whatever it is. And there may be a lot of baggage in our lives, but the beautiful thing about what God does when He calls us, He says, “I don't care about that.” Not like I don't care about that, but it doesn't matter that that's what we came from. It doesn't matter that that's what we have.
He says, "Okay, so, but I've called you now. Even with all of that, wherever we're coming from," He's like, "I called you from that for us to move forward and let go of that. And let's stop letting that be something that we use or blame as an external locus of control for why we are the way we are." And He says, "Let's actually start a fight." And we already read in Ephesians 6 that He's giving us tools, and we know we heard in the first message the wonderful miracle and blessing of His calling so that we understand so that we have hope and all these other things that are outside of the scope of this message. But He's given us so much so that we can actually move forward and actually fight the fight that we're called to fight. Which is not in reality really all that much farther than right here in our hearts.
Because God looks at the heart and He says, “Are you allowing that to be molded and shaped into who I want to have in My family? Or are you saying, you know, ‘I don't think the tools You gave me are good enough. I don't think that I'm ready. I don't think I can do that’ because there are all these other things"? Are we looking outside? So, today, again, we're going to look at what we're called to fight. We've talked about how it's more internal, how really it is about our desires, our choices and how we proceed from there. But how do we do that? That's like, wow, nice light topic to talk about. How do we actually accomplish fighting the fight that we're called to fight? And it can be the easiest thing and the hardest thing for us to fight ourselves because we can be our own worst critic because we know. And if you've ever been working on something, whether it's a project at work, something within your own character and somebody brings up a failing about that one thing, "I know, I know." And we're all on edge because that's what we're working on. We've been thinking about it. It has been just churning inside of us, and the last thing we want to hear is somebody else criticize what we know we're already working on because I already know about it. And so we can be our own worst critic.
But then on the other side of the spectrum, we can also be, "You know, I've been working on that for ages," and we can let ourselves off the hook because “I don't feel I've been making enough progress. God knows that I've been really working on it, so he'll understand if I shelf it for a little bit.” Or we can rationalize why we don't have to work on something or why we can let it slide for a little bit. We'll come back to it. I won't just leave it go, but I'll work on it. And so it can be easy and it can be hard for us to really, really know ourselves. But it's good for us to take stock and to see how we can do this. And so, we'll just do three points today, three things that we can do as we're striving to actually fight the fight that we're called to fight, going over what we're called to fight and how we can do that.
The first thing we want to do is fess up. Like I say, you know, admitting fault or admitting the problem is half the battle, right? I don't think that's quite the case. If it was that easy if it was half. You can admit things all day long. You can have confession. Doesn't mean you're doing something about it, right? It's not half the battle, but fessing up is important. We need to recognize that we are the problem. You see because at baptism, do we repent of having been friends with Satan and say, "Well, I hung out with him, and that was probably not a good choice. I did what he said. I was a slave to him" and that's what you're repenting of? Is that what we repent of at baptism? It shouldn't be. What do we repent of? We repent of who we are. We killed and caused the death of our big Brother. We're responsible for that. Nobody else. We don't stand before the judgment seat of God and say, "Well, Satan made me do it." It's about us. We're repenting about us. We are the problem. We are the one who caused the death.
Now, Satan will have his consequences for his willingness to go about and try to deceive everyone, but he puts it out there. He says, "Consider this, think about it from this perspective," and we say, "That might sound good." And if we're not too keen, he will deceive even the very elect, as we heard in the first message. Right? But we have to be sober and be vigilant in that way. Let's go to Romans 8:7. Romans 8:7. At our very core, and I'll put caveat when we start off, you know, because hopefully as we're growing, what should be occurring as we're growing, and we all grow at different times, at different speeds, right, in different areas of our life. We can look around and we could see someone having great faith in keeping the Sabbath and be like, “That's amazing. You know, I've struggled with that at work.” And then we might be warriors of faith in another area where we just keep in mind people who are going through difficult times and we're really good about sending cards and keeping in touch and making sure that people don't fall through the cracks.
So we all have strengths and we all have weaknesses, but we should be growing and progressing along our growth arc with God and how he's guiding us along. But when we start off, Romans 8:7, this is where we start from. It says, “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.” This is something that we need to remember. It's not that this is necessarily how we are, but that's what we start off working with. That's where we begin. If we don't start changing that, if we don't hang out with different company, if we aren't resisting, then we don't get there. Verse 8 says, "So then those who are in the flesh cannot please God." Our mind, our heart, who we are as carnal human beings is the problem. This is not like a, you know, just beating yourself and, you know… I can't think of the word right now, what it is, but just, you know, just we're not trying to just beat and grind ourselves down and say, "Oh, you're the worst, and you can't possibly get out of this hole. And so, why even try?" We're not doing that. But it is good to take stock of where we are starting from because then we can start looking at what we need to do to move forward.
And there's so much there, it reminds me of the… You know, Paul was talking to one of the churches, and he says, he lists all these horrid things. He says, "As such were some of you." Yeah, that was us. That's what we've come from. That's how living a life where we don't stay sober or vigilant, and where we're not resisting Satan. That's who and what we are, and we have to come out of that. We have to resist that. Romans 7, just back a little bit, verse 14, Romans 7:14, it says, "For we know that the law is spiritual, but we are carnal, sold under sin." And we talked about this again last week and we were talking about the concept of slavery or bond service. We're sold under sin. "For what I'm doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; for what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but the sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good, I do not find," and that is the struggle. That is such a struggle. "For the good," verse 19, "that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil that I do… that I will not to do, that I practice."
This is just… I mean, if this isn't one of our prayers on a regular basis, it's like… if you've ever gotten to hang around kids for an extended period of time and you realize that they are also creatures of habit, you're like, "I have to tell you this again?" How many times are we there going to God and saying, like, sheepishly, "Yeah, I'm repenting about this again" right? It's over and over. And here we see Paul sharing this. He is like, it is a real struggle. Verse 21, "I find then a law, that evil is present with me, and the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” And he goes on, who delivers us from that body? It's Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Again, we have been redeemed and we have been bought, and yet our previous master so desperately wants to regain control. Forgot to turn. Let's turn to James 4, just as background here as we're looking at what we're called to fight. We see here James 4:7, it says, "Submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded." Tells us what we need to do. We're supposed to cleanse our hands, purify our hearts, and work on our minds. How many of those are an external thing? Those are all us. They're our choices, our actions, and our thoughts. And God says, "I'm going to give you the tools to do that, but you need to resist and not hang out with poor company, not go down the road and, you know, fail to be sober and vigilant and watching what you should be doing." “Oh, I just happened to find myself down this road.” There's another parable about the young man. Is it a parable? I think it's in the Psalms or Proverbs where it's talking about seeking wisdom. There's a young man who just finds himself down in the bad end of town. What do you mean you just found yourself down there? You know where the bad end of town is. Don't go walk past it so you're not tempted by it. It's the same principle. It's all through it. It's throughout the Bible. God is telling us over and over and over, the same thing. As you start reading, you realize He's just a parent repeating Himself to us because we're kids and we need to have things repeated to us.
But anyway, let's go to Matthew 26. We read in Romans 8 and Romans 7 that really at the core, it is us and we have that war going on within us as we're struggling, trying to follow God, just like Paul was. But in order for us to really accomplish that, we have to do what we just read in James 4, we have to resist the devil and he flees from you. Bullies like an easy target. If we don't make ourselves an easy target because we're hanging around with a bigger God, an actual God, our Dad, my Dad is stronger than your dad. That's what God does. And we also reference Elijah in the first message, where the prophets of Baal. He's like, "Oh, we'll see whose God is better, whose God is going to show up." Our dad did. So if we resist and we fight and we push back there, then we get reprieve from Satan. Matthew 26:40. Here, nearing end of life, Jesus Christ has taken His closest friends with Him to pray. And at verse 40, after He had left them to go off and pray for a little while, a little ways away, “He came to His disciples and found them sleeping, He said to Peter, ‘Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.’"
We may have a desire, but the flesh is very weak, and that is our struggle. The struggle is, we're physical human beings. We are carnal human beings and we're weak. We are the problem. It's not that we're just trying to overcome Satan. We're trying to overcome our own weaknesses, our own failings. But God gives us His Spirit. He gives us His Spirit, and that leads us to the second thing that we need to do, and it may seem obvious, but if once we recognize and admit that we are the problem, the next thing is, after you fess up, you need to own up to what you need to do. Right? You admit that you're the problem, then you need to own up. And that is very easily just… I just lost my train of thought. But we need to repent and become baptized.
Let's go to Luke 22. And if we are baptized, well, that's great. We have opportunity then to reassess, and we do that hopefully more than just once a year as we're coming into Passover. But we take stock in our relationship when we see, who are we listening to? Are we actually using the tools that God has given us? Are we actually making use of what He has blessed us with, with His Spirit? But Luke 22:31, Luke 22:31, “The Lord said,” speaking to Peter here, He says, "Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat." That's a pretty big statement and kind of hearkens back to Job and what happened there. But "Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren." That's a pretty amazing thing to say because you actually hear what Christ is saying, He's like, I know you're going to fail. I know you're going to leave. But when you come back to me, when you come back to me… Christ knew Peter's weaknesses. Christ knew what was going to happen.
It says, "when you come back to Me… when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren." Peter said to him, "Lord, I'm ready to go with You, both to prison and to death." And Christ responds, He says, "I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you deny three times that you know Me." So this is kind of the lead up prior to Christ's crucifixion. Now, let's go a little bit farther down to 54, verse 54 of Luke 22, and they arrested Christ and “they led Him and brought him into the high priest's house. But Peter followed at a distance.” They got one, they got the leader. And so, obviously, the logical thing to do is you hang back because you don't want this movement to stop. So you have to allow… It's not really what you want to do, but you have to allow that individual to be taken so that we can sustain this movement.
Maybe that's how Peter was thinking because, obviously, you don't want everyone to be gone. Somebody has to continue teaching. Whatever his justification was, but he's hanging back. He's not right there with Jesus Christ like he said he was going. “I'll go with you to prison.” Well, he just got taken. So where are you, Peter? He's following at a distance. “And when they kindled a fire in the midst of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them. And a certain servant girl, seeing him as he sat by the fire, looked intently at him and said, 'This man was also with Him,’ but he denied Him, saying, ‘Woman, I do not know Him.’ After a little while and another saw him and said, ‘You are also of them.’ But Peter said, ‘Man, I am not!’ And after an hour had passed, and another confidently affirmed”. It's not just like, "Oh, maybe in the firelight you sort of look like the guy that was with Him." No, this is confidence, “confidently affirmed, saying, ‘Surely this fellow also was with Him, for he is a Galilean.’ And Peter said, "Man, I do not know what you're saying!’”
“And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter… He looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had said to him, ‘Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.’ So Peter went out and wept bitterly.” That is intense. Peter recognized his failings. He realized, I just… it's just the look across the room. And sometimes as parents, we've been able to do something like that with kids, and you look and they're like, "I know I'm not doing what I'm supposed to be doing." Well, this is that you know, exponentially. Peter knew that he had messed up. He knew that he had just gone back on everything and all the braggadocious words that he had said about what he was going to do and how he was going to be there and how he was going to defend Him, and he wasn't.
Let's go to Acts 2, because this is the amazing miracle of what God does, and it's what He does in each of our lives, what He can do in each of our lives if we get out of the way in that sense and let Him. Because you see Peter before this, I mean, he was on fire, right? He's like, "I'm going to cut off the ear of the high priest's servant. I'm going to tell you, you're not allowed to wash me because that is beneath you. I’m going to do…” I mean he was out there, zealous guy. He knew what was going on. After Christ's resurrection, he's actually… he’s like, "We need to make alters, three alters." He actually gets interrupted by God. God's saying, "This is My Son." You know, but he's just very out there. He's out in the front. And we see now here in Acts 2, what God has been able to do with Peter, 2 verse 14. It says, "Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, 'Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words.'"
So he starts to give a public address in the temple complex. Now, he was at the high priest's house, hiding and lurking in the shadows before. This is a very different guy. It says, “For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it's only the third hour of the day. But this is what was spoken of by the prophet Joel.” And he goes through. You can read all the way through to verse 38. This is a very different guy. He is not only just zealous for whatever he thinks is right, which he had been before, and you can see that in his actions and how he was doing. He thought he knew the answers. And here now, he gets that stare. He gets the look and he realizes that he messed up.
And then another wonderful thing, Jesus Christ stayed with him after his resurrection for 40 days, 40 of the 50 days. You think about that, it's 40 out of the 50 days counting towards Pentecost that Jesus Christ was there with His disciples, caring for them, taking care of them, teaching them. Because, I don't know, maybe humanly, I don't know if I would have lasted for 40, 50 days had he not done that. You see, they were going to go back and go fishing. He calls them back and He says, "Come on over here. Now we're going to start teaching and really getting into what you need to know and what you need to understand." But He prepped them, and this is a very different guy. This is a very different guy.
Again, seven weeks earlier, he had gone… this is all in a very truncated timeline. Seven weeks earlier, he denied Christ three times, realized what he had done and was ready to just kind of go off and go back fishing, until Christ pulls them back together, teaches them, says, "Peter, you are the rock upon which we're going to build this. Take care of My sheep, feed My lambs." And He worked with him and He cultivated him to where Peter was usable. Peter was a tool there in his arsenal, in his toolbox that could be used.
Let's go to 2 Timothy 1. The Holy Spirit made an immense difference in the boldness and in the lives of the apostles, as it should be doing in ours. 2 Timothy 1:6, it says, “Therefore…" This is Paul speaking to Timothy, and he goes through the introduction and he's remembering Timothy's history, how things have gone. He says, “Therefore…" He's just kind of reminding Timothy, “I knew you when you were growing up. I saw you, your mother, your grandmother. I have taught you. Remember those things, remember the miracles, remember the amazing things that God has done in your life and how He's brought you to where you are. Remember that.” “Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
Think about Peter before being given the Holy Spirit and think about Peter after. There were some decisions that he did beforehand, you know, not so sound. There were some things that he did beforehand, not very much of confidence. They had fear. He's hiding. He's lurking. He's not really able to do what he said, what he promised he was going to be able to do, and yet after that, what did they do? They got beaten and they're like, "Woo. We were beaten for the name of Christ, to bring this gospel out. What a blessing! What an honor to be able to do that!” That's a very different mindset, right? That's a very different perspective.
But God's Spirit, if we allow it to grow and to work and to stir up, as Paul told Timothy “if we do that, well, then we can have those same effects. We can have that same outcome in our life. We need to have the Spirit to be able to do that.” And it's not just about, okay, if you're not baptized, go ahead and get baptized because you need this. We need to stir it up as we go on because there are a few things that are a greater casualty for the church than time. I mean, when you're doing this for ages and decades and you watch your friends no longer come and then you watch your family not come. Why are we doing this? Time goes on, and it hurts. And who wants to keep doing something that hurts?
We need to stir up the Spirit. If we don't have it, we ask God and we go through the process of baptism to request that. If we do have it, we need to be asking for it because there's no possible way that we are going to win without that component. We went through Ephesians a little bit when we were talking about the armor of God and the things that He gives us. We need to have those because, without it, we're sitting out there in the field. Yeah, we know the lion's there, but you can only stay up so long. You can only keep turning guard, you know, for so long before the lion's going to get you. And so God gives us the tools and He gives us everything, all the equipment that we need, but we need to, again, fess up. We need to own it, repent, have that Spirit. And if we have the Spirit, to stir it up and ask for that.
A third thing that we must do to actually fight what God has commissioned us to fight, which is, again, we're talking about our hearts and talking about how we need to grow, is we need to look up. So we fess up that we're actually the problem. We own up to what we should be doing. All the “therefores” in Scripture, if you go ahead and if you do a word study of therefore and read everything after that, that is Christianity, that is following God.
Everything else is kind of the justification. “So you should know all of these things. These are all in place, therefore do this.” Go to the “therefores," and that's what we're supposed to be doing. So we need to be owning up to what we should be doing. And then we need to look up. We need to request God's guidance. Because we can think we've got a great plan. You can give all the armor you want to somebody. And like David said, he's like, "This armor doesn't quite fit. I don't think it's what I need." You can have a lot of armor and you can be out there in a field with a lion, and you might still get tired and you might say, "What am I supposed to do with this now?" And so that's actually the question. David was like, I don't know that I could do anything with this. And so he went out with God to take on Goliath.
Another thing is like, how many people here like to do projects? Any kind of project, whether it's a craft, working on something at home. What is one of the best things about doing a project?
Man: Finishing it.
Nathan Ekama: That's a new one. I have to try that. Finishing it. Getting a tool. I mean, because you have to have the tool to do the project, right? I mean, you got to have the specific snips if you're going to do jewelry, or if you get a new wrench if you're working on a car. I mean, maybe it's just me. I like tools. I like having the right tool for the job. How many of you ever had a tool you bought, you're like, "I'm going to do this project"? And a few years later, you see it on the desk with the rest of the supplies still in the package. Anybody ever? Anybody else ever do that? Maybe. Maybe you've done it. If you have a tool to do a job, you kind of need to use the tool, right?
So if we're saying, "God, I recognize that I am the problem and I would like to have your help." So we ask God for His help, and He says, "Here's the help, here's the tool." And you go, "Okay, I got it," and you hang it up on the shelf. It's not very useful, is it? We need to do something with that. We need to do something with that. Let's go to Psalms 51, Psalms 51. This is probably one of the more popular psalms to go to as we look at overcoming and we look at the recognition that we battle our human nature and the very core of who we are more than anything else. This is a psalm of David and his repentance after his sin with Bathsheba.
But in verse 10, we'll start there. He asks such a… it's a big request because not that it's just of and by itself an amazing thing, but can you think of that from the human standpoint? He says here, he says, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me." That means he has actually admitted that he's at fault. You think about how he responded to Nathan, you read about that in the book of Samuel. Read about how Nathan came to him. He says, "You're that man." And he had to admit that that was actually the case. That's a tough pill to swallow. You wonder how long it was going on that everybody knew and maybe he thought he was hiding it. But to get to the point, where he's saying, you know, "Create in me a clean heart, O God."
Is this, again, reminiscent of what Paul was saying? He's like, “I want to do this, but I'm not doing that. I'm doing this over here. I don't have the strength to do it. I recognize that the spirit wants to, but it is so… I just find myself falling back, doing the wrong things.” And David here says, in order to get around that, he's like… what do you need? “I'd like a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.” Verse 12, “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation.” This is a real prayer and a real request that we should be making because sometimes, trying to follow God and live the life that we are striving to live, it becomes more of a grind than a joy. And that's just the reality of it. It gets hard. It gets difficult as we were talking about earlier. But “Restore that joy of salvation and uphold me by Your generous Spirit… uphold me by Your generous Spirit.”
We have to ask God for help. We have to ask Him. “I don't know how to use these tools,” so today we go to Google or YouTube and we watch somebody else do the job that we or the project that we're thinking about doing, right? We go and we search those things out, or you find a teacher who can teach you how to do it. It's the same thing with what God has given us. He says, "Here are the tools," and you're like, "I don't even know what that one's called." He says, "Well, here, I'll give you the instruction manual to read about it. This is what love is. This is how you utilize this helmet of salvation I've given you to protect your mind and what it really means for you. It's all right here, and I'll show you. I'll tell you about it if you'll come and ask Me.” So that's why we should be praying before we get into His Scripture, to ask for the inspiration to show us. But we need to ask Him to do that.
2 Peter 2. God's Spirit is what upholds us. His Spirit is what gives us really the energy and the fire to continue to resist the devil so that he flees from us, to continue to say, "No, I've heard that argument before. That doesn't hold any water. Take a hike.” You know, “Go sell your wares somewhere else” because Satan will keep trying. You can also see as you go through Scripture, it's the same story over and over and over. He tries to just create a little bit of doubt at how amazing our Dad is. And we may have experiences with relationships in our lives where you have somebody try to put a wedge between individuals and you might start to question how amazing or how wonderful the person is who you thought was just magnificent only a moment before you were shared this little tidbit that cast doubt. And Satan wants to feed that doubt. And then where do we go with it? He's like, "Oh, just let your mind go. Figure out where that takes you." And where it takes you is division and it separates us from God, it separates us from one another. That's what Satan does. That's what Satan does.
We're here on 2 Peter 2:9. Let me actually get there. 2 Peter 2:9, it says, "the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment,” the first half of that verse, “the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations” if you don't know how to do something, it's probably a smart idea to ask somebody else who does, just saying, you know. My parents would tell me, you know, "You don't want to make that mistake. You would rather learn from somebody else's mistakes." They try to teach you. We try to teach individuals how to do something so they don't have the same pitfalls that we did. Right?
God says, "I know how to get you through that." But He also says, "Are you willing to ask?" He says, "If you don't receive, it's because you don't ask, or you ask and you don't receive because you ask amiss." He says, "Come and actually asked Me and I'll tell you how to do it. I'll help you through it. I've not only given you the tools, I'll also show you how to do the job. I'll also help you through it." He knows how to deliver us. And so we need, or we should go and actually ask Him, look up to Him, ask His guidance. As much as we did as kids asking our parents, there are times that I'm Oh, for the days of autonomy, right? When they're going to be fully self-sufficient from getting dressed, to food, to the restroom. Like, all the things you just want self-sufficiency for. But then you think about it and like, all these times that my kids come to me or my wife, and they're asking for something because they can't do it. And they recognize that we know how to do it, regardless of whether we have the actual time to help them, but they know that we know how to do it.
Kids go to their parents for stuff until they know more than their parents, know more than their parents, and then they don't need to go ask them. Are we the kid who knows more than our parent and be like, "No, I know how to do that because I have a friend who told me that one time they just looked it up on Pinterest and figured out exactly how to do it. And so, I just follow those" “No, I can figure it out just fine on my own. I'll Google it.” Or are we still willing to go to our Dad and actually ask Him? He says, "Come to He. I know how to do it. I'll tell you. I'll tell you the least painful way possible. I will help you."
We need to request His guidance. Let's go back to Matthew 17. Matthew 17, because we can think that we know how to do it. We can think that… you know, you open up that Ikea box and you're like, "I can totally figure this out. I don't need any of the directions." And then, after you can't find panel C and tell it apart from panel B and then go and find that other screw that’s… You know, they are so close in length so you can't figure it out anymore, then you're like, "Well, maybe… maybe I should go ask somebody." Matthew 17:14, “When they had come to the multitude,” and this is Christ and His disciples, “a man came to Jesus, kneeling down to Him and saying, ‘Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and suffers severely; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. So I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him.’ And Jesus answered and said, ‘O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me.’ And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the child; and the child was cured from that very hour. So then the disciples came to Him privately and said, ‘Why couldn't we do that?’ Jesus said” in verse 20, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to the mountain, ‘Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting."
We can think we know how to do everything. We can think we're equipped. I mean, we're walking around and Peter knew, he's like, “You are the Son of God. You are the Messiah.” He knew who they were with. “We can go out and take care of this.” Done. Nope. Can't do that one. Don't quite have the faith to do that one. And Jesus Christ says, "This one doesn't come out except by prayer and fasting." There are things in our life that we will come in and, you know, I'm very good at continually pushing on the pull door or beating my head against a brick wall. I would just keep running into it. I'm very good at that. You know, but there are times that God will graciously say, "Hold on, hold on, hold on. The door, you have to pull on it," or "Wait, wait, the wall, you walk around this way." And maybe we can keep trying to do things on our own and we're not ready yet to ask Him. But He says, "Ask Me because I have the know-how. I have the guidance that you need in order to be able to get through this difficulty," and we just have to go to Him. We have to say, "You know what? I don't. I am not equipped to handle this. I need help. I need help."
God's entire plan is about calling us, getting us to the point where we recognize that we need to repent and have His Holy Spirit to be baptized. We have that given to us to guide us then and direct us on to expand His family. Again, same thing we talked about last week. God wants to, you know, have a family at the end. I think I said family over here. So He wants to have a family, right? But it has this process that goes along. He says, "Okay, recognize where you are. You're a slave to sin. Move along this process with Me. I will give you the tools. I will give you whatever resources you need, shy of your will and My will to actually do this. You have the willpower. Come to Me. I'll give you what you need. I will take care of you, I will help you. I will guide you. I will teach you. I want you to end up being one of My children. I want you to be there."
Let's go to Exodus 20:7. I love the opportunity to look at the 10 Commandments from a, I don't know, with a deeper lens, I guess. I think many of us have gone through and we memorized the 10 Commandments, but when you look at them a bit more with the underlying foundation of God's plan and what He wants to do with us and ultimately, hopefully, with all of mankind, those who are willing to repent, right? But Exodus 20:7, it says, "You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain." And so we say, don't curse. Don't say bad words. Don't say, "Oh my," fill in the blank. Right? But when we take on the name, you go and you can read in Revelation about Jesus Christ coming back with a new name and the saints are going to have a name. When you're adopted, what happens? You get a different name. We have the opportunity to have that name. Don't do that in vain. He says, "This is the opportunity that is set before you. I want you in My family. I want you to have this new name. Here's what you need to do. Therefore, because I want you in My family… therefore recognize that you have to overcome something. Not something out here, not something that you can't control, not even your past, but something that's right here that we can work on right now from where you are, and I will give you everything that you need to overcome the difficulties, the pains, the hurts that you've experienced in life. And I will take care of you." And that's what He tells us. And it's an amazing thing. It's an amazing opportunity.
Let's go to Matthew 5 here. Matthew 5:13. This is one of my favorite sections of Scripture, just because it encapsulates what we should be doing and what we should be striving for just in three verses. Matthew 5:13 says, "You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing… nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house." Consider all the things that we've been talking about, about, you know, what I will do that I don't do, and what I will… He’s saying, here are the things that I want you to be. Here's how I want you to live. This is what I would like you to become.
You know, not just fighting and waffling and going back and forth with that struggle, but you can overcome those things by asking me for the tools and for the equipment to overcome. And it culminates here in verse 16. It says, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." This is what we're called to do. As we go along that process for moving from a slave and having the calling and the understanding and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the continual changing and growing and maturing until we choose to be, say, “No, I would like to stay in Your house. I want to be a servant and a slave to You, and I want to be in Your family.” And He says, "Okay, well done, good and faithful servant. You can be a part of My family."
He wants us to do all of that process so that other people can see it. And when you think about the relationships and the individuals who you know in life, do you like to hang out with people who are constantly externalizing things and saying, "Well, it wasn't actually me. It was this thing over here that caused X, Y, Z to happen"? Or “I would have, but there was traffic.” Or “I would have, but my alarm didn't wake up” or whatever the excuse might be, something that's outside of ourselves. Or do we find that we're drawn to the people who will own up, fess up, and then look up to ask for the help? Those are people that we'd like to have on our teams at work, doing projects. Those are the people who we like to be around because you know what? They're actually moving forward and progressing. And that's the only way that we do that or that we can do that in this life, doing what we were supposed to be doing with God. We need to make sure that we're taking ownership. That's what we're called to fight. Because we look in the mirror every day, and when we do that, “we've seen the enemy, and it is us.”