United Church of God

What's Your First Step?

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What's Your First Step?

MP3 Audio (18.99 MB)


What's Your First Step?

MP3 Audio (18.99 MB)

God's goal is to add to His family, but Satan is doing everything he can to prevent us from having a relationship with God and entering that family. Satan does this by appealing to our selfishness, pride, and desire for power. How do we combat these things and develop a relationship with God?

Sermon Notes

These are the notes taken live during services as captioning for the deaf and hard of hearing. This is not a word for word transcript. For the exact wording, please consult the audio recording.


In certain sports like football and basketball, there are things players can do to sneak things by the other team. They deceive the team to think they are going one direction and then go the other. They do this to try to get by the other team. In wars, they do similar things. They send memos and assemble their armies here and then sneak around the back side. Deception is a key to the success of these kinds of attacks. They don’t raise a flag and say we are over here, but we are going to attack over there. They don’t do that in basketball, either. They are looking for a way to deceive the opponent so they can gain the advantage. Let’s read of a type of attempted deception between Christ and Satan. Satan was trying to get Him to acknowledge certain things.

Matthew 4:1-10 Vs. 7 – Here we read of an offer Satan made to Christ. He was offered incredible opportunities. Christ could have had it all; all He had to do was to submit to Satan. From a human viewpoint, we may think Satan won’t come at me like that bluntness. You may think Satan doesn’t influence your life in such a dramatic way. His main goal is to thwart any relationship with God. In doing so, all he has to do is get you to take one step. He wants you deviate just one time from the law of God. He wants you to compromise one time with what you believe. He wants you to make one excuse to break the law. After that, it becomes much easier. Once you break one Sabbath, it is easier the next week. Once you skip a tithe check, it is easier to rely on the “income”. Once you give an inch to Satan, he owns you. If Christ had done that, where would it leave us? Tomorrow night, at home. There would have been no need to kneel down and wash feet. He would not have been the savior of mankind. Vs. 8-10 – At any step, Satan wants to enslave us. That is exactly what sin does. It makes us responsible for the penalty that comes with. Satan becomes the priority in our life. It is okay if we use this rationalization, we say this time, we are going to let you rule in my life. In the first part of the chapter, there are three primary steps Satan uses to get at us. To deceive us. To break a law. The first one is in verse 3. He attacks Christ’s hunger and selfishness. The fleshly desires and feelings. He goes after the idea that we and our family are taken care of first. Turn this rock into bread and stop those hunger pains. He tries to entice us to self focus on ourselves.

The second thing is in verse 6. He goes after our pride. Nothing can hurt us. You are invincible. He told Christ He was so important that the angels would save Him. You are okay. He plays on that pride we have in us. The third thing is in verse 8. He tried to give Christ power and control. What human doesn’t like that? You tell someone to go do this or clean that up. To watch that gives you a swell of excitement. We like power. We like to be in control. Today in the sermon, I want to discuss these big three and how Satan uses these to try to keep us from the kingdom of God and being a god being. He wants to keep us from that prize. He uses the big three to do it. Right after the first humans were created, Satan wasted no time to attack them. He didn’t wait generations. He was Johnny-on-the-spot trying to destroy them.

Genesis 3:1-6 Vs. 1 – His ultimate goal is to break up that relationship with God. He cleverly avoids mentioning all the other wonderful things God created; the foods that He gave; the crystal clear pure water. He just went after this one tree that was forbidden. Vs. 3 – Eve carries on a conversation with the serpent. She has to be nice. Perhaps she thought she could explain her side and God’s side and they could all be friends. Vs. 4 – He introduces his first lie. This tree will not kill you. Vs. 5 – Here is another lie. He slanders God by accusing God of holding back some information. Satan is a very good salesman. We know the rest of the story. Eve ate and then so did Adam. He has deceived man over and over. Satan didn’t talk to Adam directly.

2 Corinthians 11:3 1 Timothy 2:14 Peer pressure is huge. If Satan can deceive one of us and then use that person to get others to break God’s law, he is happy with that. Peer pressure encourages people to go along. How many have had a conversation with someone who has gotten hung up on one point in the Bible? Maybe it is holy day timing point, or a sacred name thing. They throw everything away for that one point. Satan will take one point. If he can get us to get hung up on one point, he has won. He wants us to concentrate on what God forbids. He wants us to want it. He wants us to find an issue in the Bible and hang our salvation on that one thing. This story of Eve is fascinating. Satan is a master of persuasion. He tries to get us to focus on anything other than God. If he can do that, he has won. He doesn’t want us to focus on all the positive things God has done for us. He wants us to focus on the forbidden things. To ask why. It looks good; it tastes good; why can’t I have this? He is the greatest advertiser. He wants us to see him as something good. He wants his product – sin – to appear enticing. From the beginning, God has had a great plan for humans. He wants to give us eternal life. Look at the other religions.

They quote this: John 3:16 You see this on banners at sporting events. Satan has taken this and twisted it. Vs. 16 – That is God’s goal. He wants to give us eternal life. And not just us. There are no restrictions on height or skin color or nationality or body shape. It is a blanket statement. He wants everyone who has ever lived to be a god being. Not just an angel, but a true god being with all the powers and rights that come with that title. God wants to vastly expand His family. It is currently just two; they want to add billions. It is not just us; those that are baptized. Sometimes we read this and cap it there. We think of this as the adults in the church. But God wants the same thing for all of our kids. He wants all of them as part of His family. The little babies that didn’t make it; He wants them in His family. Anyone that will submit to Him. God wants a relationship with mankind.

Revelation 21:7 God refers to the future from the perspective of a family. He refers to us as His son and daughters. Not a broken family with all the drama. God wants a perfect family. 2 Corinthians 6:18 It is not just about having shareholders or employees; it is family. It is Dad. It is the kids. John 14:23 God wants to begin a close family relationship with us now. He wants to be a family with us now. In the future, when Christ returns, immortality will be given us. A great wedding will occur. Satan wants to thwart that relationship. He wants to destroy it all. He wants to thwart God’s plan any way he can. He knows doing so will prevent us from being members of God’s family. This boils down to obedience. If we put sin out of our lives, what are we backfilling with? If we live seven days without leaven, we are living without sinning. That means we are obeying God. The Days of Unleavened Bread are all about obedience.

Romans 8:19 (NASV) The creation is anxious for all of us to become spirit beings. Remember, Satan wants to use the big three to thwart this relationship. To cause problems between God and man. He is powerful and intelligent. His plan is to keep us all from the kingdom. In a sense, it is fairly easy. His three main tactics are ingrained in us. He is easily able to cause us to attach to that and sin. Romans 8:5 (NIV) Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires. Romans 8:7 “Enmity” literally means “hostility”. If we let Satan pull us to his big three, we become hostile toward God. I think it would be a simple poll: Do any of us want to be hostile to God? Plainly, no. But if we are self focused, in God’s eyes, we are hostile toward Him. That selfish nature is hostile to God. Read Matthew 22. The middle part. The greatest two commands focus on others. Satan’s tactics are the opposite. Make sure you are taken care of; make sure your family is taken care of. God says to focus on others. Satan tries to get us to turn inward and focus on ourselves. This is one of the first steps Satan uses to deceive us.

Genesis 3:6-7 It seemed like Adam and Eve had an outward focus during creation week. After Satan’s deception, they focused on themselves. Vs. 6 – It tasted good. It was pleasant to the eyes. It was inward focus. It makes me wise. It makes me happy. It was not a fruit that made them look out for others. Oh, look, that person needs something. Oh, look, let’s build something to serve others. It caused Eve to turn inward. It caused them to take on a selfish outlook. Vs. 7 – The deception set in. They became focused on how they felt. Mr. Armstrong wrote to the ministry in 1980, and gave this definition to deception: A voluntary choosing to follow a way of life contrary to God’s law. Adam and Eve had a voluntary choice. The snake didn’t wrap Eve up so she couldn’t move and force the fruit into her mouth. Satan didn’t take Eve captive and threaten her unless Adam ate. You may think that you are forced to sin. But there are always two choices. But the sin choice is the easier choice. It is easier to break the Sabbath. It is easier to (fill in the blank) than follow God’s law. There is always an option. There is the sin – the Satan’s deception – version. And there is the standing up for God’s way version. That shows God that you won’t compromise. Passover is only one day away. It is tomorrow night. We need to pray and meditate. It is not too late to fast. Do some last minute prayer. Make sure you are not voluntarily choosing to follow a path contrary to God.

1 John 1:8 It is interesting evaluating the days we are approaching. Cars have been cleaned. Bedrooms have been cleaned. We have done a lot of work. How many didn’t find leaven? Probably no one. It is guaranteed there is leaven in your home. Just like it is guaranteed that you have sin. We have a shag rug in our living room. I know you think of the old ugly burnt orange things. It is not like that, but it has a high nap. I put the vacuum on high and cleaned it. Then I turned it another way. You would not believe the stuff that went up. Again. Again. I must have spent ten minutes on this rug in our living room. Our life is the same way. With God’s help, we can find the sin. It is there. We just have to look for it. Pray for help finding it. Only Jesus lived without it. So it is there. Is it just a quick pass through the room? Or are we spiritually searching for those areas where we are voluntarily choosing to live a life contrary to God’s law? You may think, “I’m retired, what was Satan want with me?” Or, “I’m a widow. No sin here.” Or, “I proved this in the 90s. I’m good.” Maybe you are second or third generation. I’m a shoe-in. I know all there is to know. Maybe you are a teen. You will do just what your parents do. I’m okay. Regardless of where you are spiritually, Satan wants you to fail. He wants you to deviate one step. He wants you to make an excuse to break God’s law one time. Don’t underestimate Satan and his gigantic, burning desire to see us fail.

Galatians 5:19-21 Let’s look at some ways deception can occur. Let’s break this down a bit. Vs. 19 – We need not stop at the obvious here. Next week, look up these words and see what they really mean. Sometimes the translators missed the word. Vs. 20 – Idolatry is anything that comes before God. You may think you have no trinkets that you honor. But do you put things before God? Sometimes we do. You get up late and you get to work and it is lunch time, and you realize you forgot to pray. Do you stop and pray then? Or do you say you will do better tomorrow? Jealousies. Do you comment about what other people have or say or do? Selfish ambitions. Do you milk the system for that little extra? And the like. Everything else that looks like these things; that smells like these things. If it walks like a duck and looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it must be a duck. If it looks like these, God hates it. This list in verses 19-21 are Satan’s big three. They are all in there. Next week, take a paper and make three columns: Selfishness, pride, and power or control. Go through the list and categorize them. These are the things Satan uses to deceive us.

2 Timothy 3:1-5 More of Satan’s big three here. These are all examples. Just do one of these, Satan says, and we will be pals. I’ll give you the world. If the world is on a downward slide and you are trying to maintain this distance, you are going down, too. God’s standard is the Bible. Regardless of what the world is doing, we must do what God says. We must keep holy what He says to keep holy. We must align ourselves with God’s standards. Satan has deceived the world. But what would make him happier is to get one of us. This is our day of salvation. We don’t get another chance. If we don’t prove to God that He can fully trust us – that we will submit to Him – we have problems. Revelation 3:11 God wants to welcome us with gigantic fatherly arms. Satan has deceived humanity throughout history. The Israelites were happy to leave Egypt and not be slaves. But they fell back into sin. God would send a judge. The generation was okay, but they would slide back in. It was a repeating cycle throughout history. Romans 1:28-32 Here, Paul describes the results of being hostile to God. Vs. 32 – The last phrase is very sobering. It is not just those that practice this way of life that God has issues with. But also those who approve of those who practice them. “It is their life, they can do what they want.” If we approve, God takes issue with us, too.

1 John 2:15-17 John summarizes the big three. The selfishness, the pride, the power. Vs. 16 has Satan’s three tactics. The lust of the flesh. The selfishness that we sometimes have. The inward looking. Making sure our needs are met before others. The lust of the eyes. In the Greek, this translates to the faculty of knowing. The mind’s eye. The pride aspect. Hey, look at me. The pride of life. In Greek, Thayer’s says this is an insolent and empty assurance that trusts in its own power. G212 ἀλαζονεία alazoneia al-ad-zon-i'-a From G213; braggadocio, that is, (by implication) self confidence: - boasting, pride. Thayer Definition: 1) empty, braggart talk 2) an insolent and empty assurance, which trusts in its own power and resources and shamefully despises and violates divine laws and human rights 3) an impious and empty presumption which trusts in the stability of earthy things Part of Speech: noun feminine A Related Word by Thayer’s/Strong’s Number: from G213 Citing in TDNT: 1:226, 36 John summarizes the three tactics of Satan. How do we resist Satan? If he is that great powerful being, do we have no hope?

James 4:7-8 It is interesting that God places in His word a formula to cause Satan to flee. If we want to be in God’s kingdom, we must be very familiar with this. The promise for Satan to flee is clearly directed to those who submit to God. We have to submit to God. We have to acknowledge Christ as our living Savior. Society stops at His death. To us, He lives and sits at the right hand of God. We must commit to obedience. Once we do, Satan flees. He turns and runs. He leaves the area. Pretty neat. God gives us a formula to get rid of Satan. But it is a life of hard decisions. There are always two decisions. We have to stand up for our beliefs. We have to have daily communication with Him. Think about those you work or go to school with. They might be obnoxious. They cause you to keep your distance. He stinks or smells or tells bad jokes. The closer we draw to God, Satan can’t stand that. But Satan is clever and powerful. No human except Christ can resist him. He is always on the lookout to see if we slip up one time. He will be there, Johnny-on-the-spot, guaranteed. Brethren, we have to take action to be in harmony with God. We have to seek sin and put it out.

Run the vacuum multiple directions, spiritually speaking. Work on them. Ask God for help. You can’t do it on your own. How many have tried? I have. The spring holy days are very similar to baptism. Think back to your baptism. Think why you were baptized. Remember when you realized you should be baptized and the studying. The spring holy days mimic the process of baptism. Realizing the sins and who we are and what we are worthy of. That Christ made it possible for that to go away. The more our character resembles God, the more uncomfortable Satan is around us. Ephesians 4:13-14 That is what Satan wants to do; he plots deceitfully against us. He is rooting for our failure. We know he is alive and well. We know he wants our crown. We know he wants us to compromise, to make excuses for our sins. Let’s search for Satan’s big three: Selfishness, pride, and control. Go back and break down those words and see if any of those apply to our lives. Let’s actively be a part of God’s plan for mankind. It is a tremendous blessing to worship such a great Father.