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Posts Tagged ‘Satan’

Jesus’ new community takes shape

The literary structure of Mark 3:22-30

Last week we saw how Jesus chose 12 apostles as leaders of his new community; a remnant of faithful Israel. Today we see how the leaders of old Israel decisively reject him. There’s a parting of the ways taking place here.

Next week we’ll see how Jesus’ family rejects him, although later they come to believe. So this part of Mark that talks about Jesus’ new community taking shape is also defined by rejection of Jesus by those who are not a part of this new community.

In our story today there’s a very serious exchange between Jesus and the scribes on the topic of casting out demons, the work of the Holy Spirit and what is sometimes called the unpardonable sin.

Mark 3:22-30

22And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.”

Jesus’ casting out of demons is emphasized in the gospel of Mark. Jesus’ authority over them is quite amazing. They’re afraid of him (e.g. 1:24). And he silences them and casts them out with a mere word.

Notice that there’s no debate that Jesus can cast out demons or heal people for that matter. Everyone agrees that he can. The debate now is about how he does this.

Scribes were the educated class of ancient societies, and given that Israel’s culture was governed by the Law of Moses, they were experts in the Law. These particular scribes came from Jerusalem, and so it looks like this is an official delegation sent to investigate Jesus on behalf of the leaders in Jerusalem. (We have already seen that some of the crowd around Jesus has come from Jerusalem – 3:8.)

The scribes come out against Jesus and begin to accuse him and try to discredit him before the crowds. They claimed that the reason Jesus is so amazingly successful at casting out demons is that he’s possessed by a demon, specifically “the prince of demons” – Beelzebul, which is another name for Satan. That’s why he can do what he does. [For this charge see also John 8:48, 52; 10:20] [Beelzebul is made up of two words: “Baal” – the name of a Canaanite god, which means “lord.” And “zebul” which most likely means “dwelling” or “house.”] [In 2 Kings 1:2 ff. Baal the god of Ekron, is called Baal-zebub, which seems to be an intentional change of his name by Israelites to mean – Lord of the flies or the filth.] [Note the house metaphors in this passage and how there appears to be a word pay in Matthew 10:25 between “master of the house” and Beelzebul.]

[The scribes make one charge not two. Mark summarizes their words in v. 30 by simply saying, “he has an unclean spirit.” See also Matthew 12:24; Luke 11:15.]

There’s a lesson here in the scribes’ response: Miracles don’t always convince people. We sometimes think, you know, if God would just do something miraculous people would believe. But miracles can be doubted and they can be interpreted differently. Jesus’ miracles did get peoples’ attention, but in the end they didn’t convince many people. Most of the crowds came to reject him.

Jesus’ first response to the scribes is to point out that their charge is absurd. It’s illogical.

23And he called them to him and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan?”

(The word “called” is the same as the one used when Jesus called the 12 apostles. So this sets up a contrast between these two sets of leaders.)

He called them to him because they were spreading slander about him and he’s confronting them and warning them. (France). This is a good example to us. When someone sins against you go to the person to deal with the issue. This is what Jesus teaches in Matthew 18:15. Don’t do what the scribes do – go and talk to everyone else. Go to the person or persons face to face.

It says that he spoke to them in parables. The word parable (Hebrew – Masal) has a broad meaning. We usually think of a story parable but it also includes things like proverbs, metaphors or riddles like we have in our passage. A parable is anything that compares two things to make a point.

That their charge is absurd is pointed out by his question: How can Satan cast our Satan The demons that Jesus defeats are Satan’s agents who are doing his will. It really would be like casting himself out! Satan wants to oppress, possess and destroy people. Why would he want to give freedom and release from himself? This doesn’t make sense.

He gives two illustrations –

24If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.

The comparison to a kingdom is apt because Satan is called here a “prince.” Jesus also uses the metaphor of a house, or since Satan is a prince, we could say a royal household. (This last example is likely a play on words with the name Beelzebul). And the point is, if there’s a civil war going on or if a household is fighting – these entities will fall apart.

He then applies this to Satan –

26And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end.

If Satan is in revolt against himself things really are falling apart. But that’s not the case. That Satan’s kingdom has not collapsed refutes their charge (Stein). This is shown by how many demons Jesus is casting out. Satan is alive and well.

Jesus gives us the correct assessment of what’s going on when he casts out demons in verse –

27But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house.

(Jesus continues with a house metaphor.) In this parable:

  • The strong man is Satan
  • The house is world. As Jesus says in John 12:31 Satan is “the ruler of this world.”
  • His goods are the people who are under his control – specifically here the demon possession.
  • To plunder is to set people free by casting out demons.
  • To bind is to overpower Satan so that he can do nothing about it. (There is no necessary reference to a one-time event when this happened. Jesus is just more powerful. And whenever he engages Satan or his representatives he wins.)

Jesus is this stronger one (Luke 11:22) who can enter Satan’s domain and set his captives free (Luke 13:16). All Satan and his demons can do is submit to Jesus. So this is what’s really going on. Jesus is assaulting Satan’s kingdom. He has come to establish the kingdom of God and he is doing so by the power of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:28: Luke 11:20), as our next verse will make clear.

Jesus’ other response to the scribes is that their charge is unforgiveable blasphemy.

28Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter . . .

The word “truly” is literally “amen” which means “confirmed” or “verified.” This way of talking is unique to Jesus. It’s similar to the Old Testament, “thus says the Lord.” And he uses it to say something really important.

Jesus is pretty broad here – “all sins” can be forgiven, and “whatever blasphemies.” Blasphemy means to slander, defame or speak against someone, in this case God. And blasphemy against God is a capital offense (Leviticus 24:13-16). But notice what Jesus says. All sins and blasphemies can be forgiven (with one exception, as we’ll see). There’s good news in this statement. What are the worst sins you can think of? What are the worst sins you have committed? Jesus tells us these can be forgiven. This speaks to the depths of God’s mercy and grace toward us.

There’s only one exception to Jesus’ statement –

. . . 29but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”

(See also on blasphemy of the Spirit – Luke 12:10; Matthew 12:32)

The scribes were not just slandering Jesus, which is forgivable (Matthew 12:32). They’re slandering, blaspheming or speaking against (Matthew 12:32) the Holy Spirit of God — since it’s the Spirit that empowers Jesus to do what he does. Notice the double emphasis – “never has forgiveness;” and “is guilty of an eternal sin.” The point is clear. It won’t be forgiven.

 How does one commit this sin? People sometimes fret or are afraid that they have done this or will do this. Well, Mark makes it clear –

30for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

 You commit this sin if you say that what the Holy Spirit did through Jesus – casting out demons, miracles, healings – is the work of a demonic spirit.

Now the Spirit works through others, but never more powerfully and clearly than through Jesus. And I believe that Mark is showing us that this sin has to do specifically with the work of the Spirit through Jesus. As he says, they said that Jesus has an unclean spirit.

And this sin is committed by those who know better, in this case the scribes. It’s not made by someone who doesn’t really understand things. It’s not a stray thought that comes into your mind. It’s a position you that you take about the Spirit’s work through Jesus – that it’s of Satan.

To say this is to say that black is white and white is black. It’s like Isaiah 5:20 says, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness.”

We see here that the honor of the Spirit, who is gentle, quiet and pure is zealously guarded by God.

Let me end by emphasizing the main point. Jesus has complete power and authority over Satan and his demons. He is the stronger one who overpowers Satan and there is nothing Satan or his demons can do about it.

Now, you don’t have to be demon possessed to need Jesus’ deliverance. Satan is the ruler of this world and we all have been or need to be set free to one degree or another. So in whatever way you need to be saved – Jesus can do it. Even Christians can give him a foothold in our lives when we walk in sin. Look to him! He will break you out of the strongman’s house. He will set you free! And he will receive you into his kingdom, the kingdom of God.

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(Community sunrise service)

It is an honor to be able to share with you this morning. I want speak on a theme that I believe God has put in my heart – Jesus has overcome!

Scripture portrays three powerful enemies who oppose God and seek to destroy us.

The first is Sin. For sure, Scripture talks about sins in the plural. But it also talks about Sin, with a capital “S.” This is the power of sin personified as a tyrant.

God said to Cain in Genesis 4:7, “sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you.” Jesus said in John 8:34, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to Sin.” Sin is a power that comes to control and destroy our lives.

But we have good news to celebrate this morning – Jesus has overcome the power of Sin! Jesus himself was tested in every way, but without sin (Hebrews 4:15). And when he walked this earth he called all to repentance and forgiveness.

Even on the cross when he bore our sins, Sin could not overcome him, but rather his death brought about the provision for the forgiveness of our sins. Jesus overcame.

And this same Jesus now sets us free from the power of Sin. Paul says in Romans 6:17-18, “thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart . . . having been set free from sin . . ..”And although Jesus tells us in John 8:34 that all who sin are slaves of sin, he also tells us in John 8:36, “if the Son sets you free you will be free indeed.”

Jesus has overcome! Can I hear you say it! “He has overcome.” What has Jesus done? “He has overcome.” He has overcome the power of Sin.

Satan is another powerful enemy. In Luke 11:21-22 Jesus describes him as a fully armed strongman who holds his captives hostage. And John tells us in 1 John 5:9, that “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.”

But, sisters and brothers, we have good news to celebrate this morning – Jesus has overcome the power of Satan! Jesus himself did not give in to Satan’s temptations and testing, and when he walked this earth he delivered people from the power of Satan, and this was especially evident when he cast out demons.

Because of the cross, as Jesus said in John 12:31, “the ruler of this world (is) cast out.” And this should not surprise us for 1 John 3:8 tells us that “the reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” If at the beginning of the gospel of Matthew Satan is portrayed as having authority over all the kingdoms of the world, at the end of the gospel of Matthew, after his death and resurrection, Jesus tells us, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Things are quite different – now Jesus has all the authority!

And this same Jesus now sets us free from the power of Satan. As Jesus went on to say in Luke 11, Satan may be a strong man, but Jesus is the stronger one who “attacks him and overcomes him” and sets his captives free! (v. 22). Jesus sets us free from Satan! As Paul says in Colossians 1:13, “God has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.”

Jesus has overcome! What has Jesus done? “He has overcome.” What has Jesus done? “He has overcome!” He has overcome the power of Satan.

The final enemy is Death. Death is also personified in Scripture. In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul speaks to Death as if it were a person. And in the book of Revelation Death is the rider of the pale horse rider who comes to bring judgment (6:8). Death is a power that enslaves and destroys us.

But, brothers and sisters, we have good news to celebrate this fine Easter morning – Jesus has overcome the power of Death! Jesus himself was not under the power of Death, but as he said in John 5:26, the Father has “granted that the Son . . . have life in himself.” And when he walked this earth he healed people and raised the dead.

Even though he died on the cross for us, Death could not keep him down. After all, as Peter says in Acts 3:15, he is “the author of life.” And as h also says in Acts 2:2, “it was impossible for Jesus to be held by the power of Death.” As Hebrews 7:16 tells us, Jesus had “the power of an indestructible life.” Jesus really is, as he calls himself in Revelation 1 (17-18) “the first and the last and the living one.” Jesus truly is “the resurrection and the life,” as he himself said in John 11:25.

This same Jesus, who is life, sets us free from the power of Death. Hebrews 2:14-15 tells us that since we are flesh and blood, “Jesus himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of Death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of Death were subject to lifelong slavery.” We no longer need to fear. Jesus sets us free!. For as Jesus said in John 11:25-26, “Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”

Jesus has overcome! What has Jesus done? “He has overcome!” What has Jesus done? “He has overcome!” He has overcome the power of Death.

And if Jesus has overcome these most powerful enemies of God, he can overcome any obstacle that we face and give us freedom, and give us victory and give us God’s blessings. Jesus has overcome. And because he has overcome, we too can overcome through him.

William Higgins

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Series: How to overcome sin

Our focus is, ‘How to overcome sin in our lives.’ We have been looking at five key steps in this process, that we learn from the example of Jesus as he overcame his test of the cross. And tonight I want us to move into looking at some deeper concerns that can trip us up in our quest to overcome sin.

But first, here’s a very brief review of the five steps, using the example of unrighteous anger.

Step #1: Understanding what God’s will is, acknowledge your weakness to do what God says. The Word says in James 1:20, “the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” This is anger that is according to the flesh which hurts and tears down others. Jesus likens this to murder in Matthew 5, or verbal murder, when our words destroy others.

God gives us anger to stir us up to act when a wrong has been done. But so often, once stirred up, we act in the flesh and not according to God’s will. We return harm for harm and tear down those who have wronged us or those we love. Rather than this, we are to trust God with our grievances and desire for justice, so that we can be free to focus on being Christ-like as we address the wrongs that have been done –  with love and gentleness (Matthew 5:44; Galatians 6:1). If you struggle with unrighteous anger, you need to humbly admit this, so that God can help you.

Step #2: Remain alert in prayer for testing and temptation in this area. Since Satan will seek to pressure you in your area of weakness, pray to be spared people and situations that might trigger your wrongful anger. Maybe that someone won’t slander you so that you become enraged. Or maybe that someone doesn’t start an argument with you on a particular topic that would trigger your anger. But if God allows you to be tested, at least you will be ready and know what is going on. It’s not that this person is trying to start an argument with me – this is a test from Satan!

Step #3: In a time of testing – Keep your mind focused on God’s truth. Rebuke Satan as he tempts you and offers up rationalizations to give in to your anger. “Hey that person who wants to argue with you – he needs to be put in his place!” Tell him to go away. You can respond by countering with the Scriptures – “the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” And “the fruit of the Spirit is love . . .patience . . . gentleness . . . and self-control.” – Galatians 5:22-23.

Step #4: In a time of testing – Receive strength from the Spirit to do God’s will. Pray for the Spirit to fill you and help you. In this way you can put to death your desires to engage in wrongful anger and respond to every situation with love for others.

Step #5: Endure the test. Continue on until the testing and temptation passes – keeping your mind focused; receiving strength from the Spirit.

My point this evening is that sometimes, we work hard at all this and still consistently fail. And when this happens we need to look at some deeper concerns in our lives.

Here are six things to check:

1. Are you double-minded?

To be double minded means you are torn between two things; you have two minds on an issue. You know, you want God to help you with one problem in your life, but not others. For instance, “God help me overcome my anger issue, its destroying all of my relationships!” But you don’t mention your sexual immorality, because you happen to like this sin.

We have to stop playing games. If you’re only trying to stop sinning in one area of your life, while knowingly continuing in sin in other areas, God can’t help you. James 1:7-8 tells us that a double-minded person “must not expect to receive anything from the Lord.”

We find God and his help when we seek God with our whole heart, not part of it. Deuteronomy 4:29 says, “you will find the Lord, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.”

So if you are struggling with anger and calling out to God for help and no help seems to be coming, check your heart. Be rid of any double-mindedness and give your whole life over to God. Then you will seek and find the help that you need.

2. Are you the cause of broken relationships?

If we don’t act to deal with relationships that are broken by our sin, this will break our relationship with God and cut us off from God’s help. Our horizontal relationships with others affects our vertical relationship with God. These can’t be separated.

So, if you have sinned against someone, make it right. Jesus said, “if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, (that is, you have sinned against him) leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” – Matthew 5:23-24. The broken relationship with the brother or sister must be dealt with before we come to God in worship. Why? Because this affects our relationship to God. Now, we can’t control whether they are willing to reconcile with us, even if we come in repentance seeking to make things right, but the rule is ‘do what you can from your end’ to restore the relationship and then you will be free to come before God in worship and to receive his help and grace.

Also, if someone has sinned against you and seeks forgiveness, forgive. Don’t keep the relationship broken through the choice to withhold forgiveness. Jesus said, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” – Matthew 6:14-15. If we don’t forgive, this breaks our relationship with God.

With both of these situations, if you have caused broken relationships, seek to make things right. And then your relationship with God will be right, and God can help you, for instance with your weakness in the area of anger.

3. Do you expose yourself to stumbling blocks?

According to Scripture we are not only to stop sinning, we are to separate from what leads us to sin. This is what a stumbling block means – something that trips you up and gets you off the path. It is not a sin in itself, but something that leads you to sin.

Jesus says in Mark 9:43, “If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.” What this means is that we are to create righteous boundaries that keep us away from sin. And we must do this even if what is cut off is precious to us, like a hand.

Now these boundaries are different for each of us, since we all have different weaknesses and triggers that can lead us to sin. For instance, if debating certain topics triggers your wrongful anger response, you need to avoid these for the sake of righteousness. Or if working in a certain job environment causes you to give in to sinful anger regularly, seek a new job. This job might not be a problem for someone else, but for you it is.

The rule is – ‘separate from whatever encourages you to sin’ – relationships, activities, jobs, personal freedoms, whatever. Even if the item isn’t a problem for others, if it causes you to stumble, cut it off.

4. Are you dealing with an ingrained sin?

By ingrained I mean something that is firmly fixed; a sin that is deeply rooted in your life. We practice some sins for so long that they become a part of us as negative character traits. You say, ‘Yeah, I’m a hot-head,’ because you have made a practice of outbursts of anger for so long. It’s a part of how you think of yourself now. And some sins even create physiological addictions, like drug and alcohol abuse.

These kinds of sins are difficult to break. You may well need to take drastic measures, and in the case of addictions seek medical help.

One thing that can really help is intense accountability from other disciples – who can check with us on a regular basis. Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” We all need this kind of fellowship to be strong. But this is especially needed with ingrained sins.

If you know that at any time someone will be asking how you are doing in your area of struggle, it can make a real difference. Both to encourage you and certainly to keep you accountable.

5. Are demonic powers involved?

When we allow sin in our life, we open up our lives to Satan and his demonic powers. They can gain a foothold, as it were. Sometimes this is just a general influence, but sometimes we can come into bondage to demonic powers in areas of our life. Our sin is energized by a supernatural evil power.

If this is the case, the demonic power must be sent away by the authority of Jesus. Say something like, “Evil spirit, I break your power over me in the name of Jesus. Leave now!” Jesus tells us, “Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy . . .” – Luke 10:19. Then submit that area of your life to God, so that the Spirit of God is filling every part of your life.

I’m not saying this is a common thing, but if this is a part of your struggle, for instance, with anger then you need to act. I would just add here that it might be wise to seek the help of a mature believer or a Pastor as you work at this.

6. Is your sin connected to inner brokenness?

By inner brokenness I am thinking of mental illness or just the inner woundedness that comes from life experiences of pain, heartache and tragedy. And inner brokenness can make it much harder for us to do God’s will. For instance if you want to overcome anger, but have borderline personality disorder that leads to expressions of intense anger, this is a much more complicated situation.

If you are struggling with these kinds of weaknesses, pray for God’s healing so that you can do God’s will. But if there is no relief (I Timothy 5:23), learn to manage these issues through treatment so that you can do God’s will.

Once again Jesus’ words in Mark 9:43 are relevant. Our inner brokenness is not itself a sin. But if it leads us to sin, we must cut it off by seeking reasonable treatment – counseling or medication. In either case, through miraculous healing or treatment, seek healing for your inner brokenness so that you can do God’s will. This is a matter of Christian faithfulness.

So these are six additional factors that you may well have to sort through as you seek to overcome sinful habits and areas of failure in your life:

  • Are you double-minded?
  • Are you the cause of broken relationships?
  • Do you expose yourself to stumbling blocks?
  • Are you dealing with an ingrained sin?
  • Are demonic powers involved?
  • Is your sin connected to inner brokenness?

My point tonight and the underlying theme of all of this is that we leave no stone unturned in our pursuit of doing God’s will. We must do whatever it takes.

William Higgins

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Series: How to overcome sin

Tonight we jump into the core of what I want to share with you this week – five steps to overcoming sin in our lives.

These steps come from looking at Jesus as he faced the cross -primarily from Mark 14:26-72. Here he was tested as to whether he would stay true to God and go to the cross. He overcame. And we learn from his example, how to overcome in our own areas of struggle.

We will also look at Peter as a contrast case. He was tested to see whether he would stay true to God by standing with Jesus, even if it got him killed. He did not overcome. We can also learn from, as well as identify with him in our times of failure.

I encourage you to keep in mind the area of weakness you have identified and as we go through this, and apply this teaching to your situation.

We begin with –

Step #1. Understanding what God’s will is, acknowledge your weakness to do what God says

We learn what God’s will is primarily through studying the Scriptures. As Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” We especially need to learn from Jesus and the New Testament, since Jesus gives us the complete and final revelation of God’s will for us.

Once we begin to understand God’s will, it will become apparent that we don’t measure up.

It’s just like Jesus said, “The flesh is weak” – Mark 14:38. Weak that is, in terms of doing God’s will. We sin very easily, especially in a time of testing when we are put under pressure.

In humility we need to recognize this. As Paul said, “let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” – 1 Corinthians 10:12. As Proverbs says, “Pride goes before a fall” – Proverbs 16:18. Our pride will kill us.

But if in humility we are rigorously honest with ourselves – God can help us.

Peter’s failure. He was confused about God’s will. Before he got to Gethsemane, he didn’t think Jesus had to die on a cross. In fact, he rebuked Jesus when he said he had to die – Mark 8:33. Despite hearing Jesus’ repeated teaching, he thought Jesus would be a warrior Messiah and he would fight alongside him.

But not only is he confused, he was overconfident. He saw himself as strong. He said to Jesus, “Even though they all fall away (the other disciples), I will not.” – Mark 14:29. And he said, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you” – Mark 14:31. Peter doesn’t acknowledge his weakness.

Jesus’ example. He knew God’s will for his life. Before he ever got to Jerusalem he told his disciples, “The Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him.” – Mark 10:33-34. (In our story Jesus quotes Zechariah 13:7 – Mark 14:27)

And Jesus was upfront that this would be hard. Just as he said to Peter and the others, “The flesh is weak” – Mark 14:38. Jesus didn’t want to die the shameful death of a criminal on the cross. He didn’t want to be abandoned by God. He didn’t want to come under the judgment of death. Mark tells us that he “began to be greatly distressed and troubled. And he said to them, ‘My soul is very sorrowful, even to death.’” – 14:33-34. He knew it would be hard.

Step #2. Remain alert in prayer for times of testing and temptation

At Gethsemane Jesus told the disciples “keep alert and pray that you might not enter into testing” – Mark 14:38.

As we saw, Satan comes before God requesting permission to test us. He wants to test us in order to cause us to sin, so that he can condemn us before God. 1 Peter 5:8 tells us that he “prowls around like a lion, seeking someone to devour.”

So, since we know that we are weak and the enemy is trying to destroy us, we should look to God in prayer (Ephesians 6:18; Colossians 4:2) and specifically we should ask to be spared testing and temptation. We need to counter Satan as he seeks permission from Go to test us, by asking God, “do not lead us into testing but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13), as Jesus teaches in the Lord’s prayer, and as he told the disciples in our story. We are saying, ‘God, the enemy is powerful and I am weak. Have mercy on me. Don’t let me be tested, lest I sin against you and dishonor you.’

Now sometimes in mercy God will answer our prayers and we will be spared. And who doesn’t want to be spared going through difficult situations? Why wouldn’t we be praying this all the time?

But even if God doesn’t spare us but allows us to go through testing, because he knows we can handle it, and he wants us to grow in character and godliness – we will be ready for the test, being alert and prayerful. We will recognize what is going on when it confronts us.

Peter’s failure. He was not spiritually alert to what might come his way. In fact, he was literally asleep – Mark 14:37. Jesus found him asleep three times.

Although Satan had obtained permission to test him, as Jesus said in Luke 22:31, he didn’t ask God to spare him testing, asking for God’s mercy.

The final time that Jesus woke Peter up he said, “The hour has come” – Mark 14:41. It was too late to get ready. There Peter was in the test of his life – confused and unprepared.

Jesus’ example. Jesus was alert and knew what was coming. And so he prayed to be spared. He prayed that “the hour might pass from him” – Mark 14:35. He prayed fervently, three times, “remove this cup from me” – Mark 14:36, which is another form of the prayer “do not lead (me) into testing.”

And when God didn’t intervene to offer up another way, he was ready and accepted the test.

Step #3. In a time of testing – Keep your mind focused on God’s truth

In a test, Satan will attack our thinking. He puts thoughts in our minds and plays on those we already have to tempt us to sin;  to rationalize choosing sin:

–           “It isn’t really a sin, is it?”

–           “Well, under these circumstances surely it’s OK.”

–           Or, “So and so does it!”

–           He will even quote Scripture, in a twisted way, as he did with Jesus in the wilderness.

He also uses the influence of the world to deliver these messages. He will do whatever it takes to deceive and confuse us; to get our thinking distorted.

Jesus faced this battle of the mind throughout his ministry. And he shows us what to do: 1) Tell Satan to stop and go away when thoughts of giving in come to mind. In Mark 8 when Peter told Jesus he must never go to the cross, Jesus heard in this the voice of Satan. So he rebuked Satan’s message that came through Peter. He said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” – v. 33. He is saying to Satan, “No!” “You are wrong!” And he tells him to “get behind me,” that is, go away. We also see this in the wilderness testing of Jesus, where he said to Satan, “be gone” in Matthew 4:10.

In the same way, we can also tell Satan to stop and go away when he tries to confuse and deceive us. We have the authority to do this in Jesus. As he said in Luke 10:19, “Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy.” When we hear thoughts that seek to excuse our sin, we can simply say, “Depart from me in the name of Jesus!”

2) Counter Satan’s deception with the truth. When Satan tested Jesus in the wilderness, each time Jesus responded, “It is written . . ..” He countered Satan’s distortion and deception with the truth of the Scriptures; by quoting Scripture.

In the same way, we can quote meditate on, or read aloud Scriptures that pertain to what we are  struggling with. And by repeating the truth of God is this way, we keep our minds thinking God’s thoughts and dispel the deceptions of Satan.

Peter’s failure. He entered the test already confused, and so he had no chance. He had already lost the battle of the mind. Thinking that Jesus was about to start a war, he acted in the flesh to cut off the man’s ear, who had come with those who sought to arrest Jesus – Mark 14:47 (John 18:10).

Jesus’ example. He stayed focused on God’s truth. As the soldiers arrested him he said, “let the Scriptures be fulfilled” – Mark 14:49. And he carried this attitude all the way through.

When he was on the cross and the people said, “Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe” (Mark 15:32) he must have heard the voice of Satan in this and he must have been tempted to show them just who he was.  But he kept his mind focused on God’s truth and he stayed on the cross in obedience to God’s will.

Step #4. In a time of testing – Receive strength from the Spirit to do God’s will

This is almost certainly the most important thing I will share with you. Not only does Satan attack our mind he also attacks our heart – our desire to stay true to God. As he tests us he puts us in difficult situations that make it really hard to follow God and really easy to give in to sin.

As we saw, when the pressure is applied, what happens is that there is a conflict between the desires of the Spirit, who encourages us to do God’s will even if it is hard and requires sacrifice and the desires of the flesh, which want us to take the easy way out even if it means sinning against God.

It’s like Paul said, “the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other” – Galatians 5:17. And we have to choose which way we will go.

Well, when we are struggling, what I am saying is that the Spirit can help us. Although the flesh is weak, Jesus also said, “the Spirit is willing” – Mark 14:38.

That is, the Spirit is willing and able to help us. The same Spirit of God who first gave us a new heart with new desires when we were born again, can strengthen our desires for righteousness in a time of testing, when the desires of the flesh seem to be prevailing, so that our desire for righteousness is greater than our fleshly desires – and so we choose to do God’s will. As Paul said, “Walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh” – Galatians 5:16. The power of the Spirit gives us the strength we need to override the desires of our flesh.

What we are really doing is putting to death the desires of our flesh that oppose God. Paul writes in Romans 8:12-13, “we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh – for if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” By the Spirit, that is, the strength the Spirit gives us, we put to death the deeds of the body; we deny or say “no” to our fleshly desires that oppose God, so that we can do God’s will.

As Jesus told us, we are to deny ourselves and take up our cross in this way daily – Luke 9:23.

So in your moment of weakness pray, “Spirit fill me and empower me. Give me the strength I need to do your will.” The Spirit is powerful and can enable us to overcome.

When we do this there is a death and resurrection that takes place within us. The wrongful desires of our flesh are crucified and the new life that God is raising up in us is more fully manifested.

Peter’s failure. He tried to stay true to Jesus, but he only relied on the power of the flesh.

As you remember, he secretly followed Jesus after he was arrested and was outside in the courtyard where Jesus was being tried – Mark 14:66-72. Satan used the world to pressure him. The crowd put him on the spot. They said, “This man is one of them!” – Mark 14:69. And they did this three times. The third time it says, “Peter began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, ‘I do not know this man (Jesus) of whom you speak’” – Mark 14:71.

Despite what he had said earlier, Peter wasn’t prepared to die for Jesus. When it came down to it he denied Jesus in order to save his life. Only relying on the power of the flesh and under pressure – he gave in.

Jesus’ example. He received strength from the Spirit to do God’s will. Jesus didn’t want to die on the cross. He didn’t want to be abandoned by God. He didn’t want to come under the judgment of death.

But Jesus received strength from the Spirit. Again, “the flesh is weak,” but “the Spirit is willing” – Mark 14:38. And the Spirit was at work in him. You can see this in his prayer in Gethsemane, “not what I will, but what you will (God)” – Mark 14:36. His desire to do God’s will was greater than his desire to stay alive.

He received strength to undergo arrest, false accusation, mockery, torture, crucifixion and death. Jesus crucified the desires of his flesh in his heart, which led, in this case, to him offering up his body for literal crucifixion.

Step #5. Endure test

Satan tries to wear us down in a time of testing. Even if we are successful at first, he continues to pressure us to give in so that we will fail. So whatever the test, however long it goes on, however hard it gets – Don’t give up!

What this means is that we keep repeating the previous two steps:

  • Keep focusing your mind on God’s truth. When the lies and rationalizations come, respond with God’s truth – the Scriptures. And keep telling Satan to leave you in the name of Jesus.
  • Keep receiving strength from the Spirit to do God’s will, denying the desires of your flesh that would lead you to sin.

No matter how long the test lasts, you don’t quit thinking what is right based on the Word, or choosing what it right by the power of the Spirit. This is what endurance means.

James 4:7 calls this “resisting Satan.” And there is a promise in this verse. Just as Satan has to seek permission to test us, he can’t keep actively testing and pressuring us forever. It says, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

Peter’s failure. He sinned. He denied that he knew Jesus in order to save his life. When Peter realized what he had done, “he broke down and wept” – Mark 14:72.

Jesus’ example. He endured his time of testing. He endured through arrest, beatings, mockery and crucifixion. He endured even when the test was so hard that he cried out from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” – Mark 15:34. Jesus endured, faithful to God – and this is the key phrase – until the end. Not for part of it or for most of it, but until the end. Mark 15:37 says, “Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last.”

In all of this I am making the point that – 

Jesus is our example

He shows us how to overcome sin; how to overcome our weakness; how to do what God calls us to do, even when it is really hard.

He models this for us in five steps. And what I am saying is that, if in this way he overcame the most basic desire of the flesh – to live – he surely shows us how to overcome any desire of the flesh that stands in the way of doing God’s will in our lives. Jesus shows us how to overcome in our areas of struggle.

Finally,

A word of encouragement

Keep this in mind when things are really hard. Jesus was blessed for his faithfulness to God. He was raised from the dead (Mark 16:4-7), vindicated and seated at the right hand of God above all where he reigns over all.

And he knew this would happen ahead of time; that it would be worth it to stay true to God. As Hebrews 12:2 says, “for the sake of the joy set before him Jesus endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.”

In the same way we will be blessed for our faithfulness to God. Testing can be really hard and painful. So we need to keep this bigger picture before us as well. If we endure to the end it will be more than worth it!

Listen to these promises:

Galatians 6:9 says, “Let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest-time, if we do not give up.” We will be rewarded.

James 1:12 says, “Blessed is anyone who endures testing. Such a one has stood the test and will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” We will be raised to new life.

2 Timothy 2:12 says, “If we endure, we will also reign with him.” Just as he endured and now reigns, so if we endure, we will reign with him in the life to come.

William Higgins

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Series: How to overcome sin

We are continuing tonight on our theme – How to Overcome Sin, or how to get rid of our sinful behaviors and habits which enslave us and destroy our life with God.

This morning we heard the call to stop sinning; to put away those sins that we know about – and yet choose to do anyway. And if this is indeed our goal, then we need to understand what we are up against. So I want to give you some teaching on ‘How Sin & Testing Work.’

First of all we look at –

How sin works

And here we begin with the biblical concept of  the flesh. This refers to our human weakness and frailty apart from God. As Jesus said, “the flesh is weak” – Mark 14:38. This weakness is connected to our human desires, longings and fears. For instance, Paul speaks of “the passions of our flesh . . . the desires of flesh and senses” in Ephesians 2:3.

Specifically, the flesh is weak in regard to doing God’s will. That’s because the desires of our flesh lead us into conflict with God’s will for us. God requires things like love and sacrifice for others. But our flesh is all about self-interest and comfort. It wants the easy way out. It wants to feel secure. It wants to soothe its fears. It is self-centered. What? Love God? Love others?

Paul says it this way, “For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other . . .” – Galatians 5:17.

Now, to clarify, God gives us basic desires, for instance the desire to meet our needs for food, clothing and shelter; or the desire to be in relationships with others. There is nothing wrong with these. It’s what we do with these desires as we put them into practice apart from God that’s the problem. Our self-centeredness twists and distorts these desires.

Here’s a couple of examples of this:

  • God created us with a desire to meet our basic needs, you know, daily bread, but we turn this into greed – a craving for more and more beyond what we need.
  • God created us with sexual desire, but we seek to fulfill it in our own way, not God’s way, and so it leads us to sexual immorality.

So the flesh is not some alien thing, or some “other” nature in us, it is simply our humanity in all of its weakness as we try to live our lives apart from God. And this is where sin comes from. It comes from us; as we follow our distorted desires, longings and fears – instead of following God’s path. To use the language of James 1:14-15 – “Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin . . ..”

And then there is our human pride which makes everything worse.

God designed us to seek after peace and to find fulfillment. This is the way we are made. But it has always been God’s plan that we find our peace through him and his will for our lives. And, indeed, this is the only way we will find real peace. God is our maker, after all, and God knows what is best for us and what will bring us fulfillment.

But, we -and this is our pride – we think we know more than God, even Christians, at least in certain areas of our lives. So instead of doing what God wants us to do, we seek after peace through the flesh. We do things in our own way, not God’s way. We act according to our wisdom, not God’s. We pursue peace through our own self-centered pursuit of what makes us comfortable; what soothes our fears; what we think will solve our problems.

And it might seem to work for a while. Hebrews 11:25 talks about the “fleeting pleasures of sin.” But it doesn’t usually take long before the other shoe drops. That’s because, although we may freely choose our sin, our sin comes to take over our lives. As Jesus said, “Everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin” – John 8:34.

And we come to realize that what once seemed good and the answer to our problems, we now hate because it’s ruining our lives. Proverbs says, “There is a way that seems right to a person, but its end is the way of death” – Proverbs 14:12.

Now, for sure, most who are caught in this slavery don’t see themselves as weak or in bondage, but as strong and free, choosing their own way in life. When we walk in the flesh we think, ‘we don’t need God!’ As Paul says in Romans 8:7, “the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God.” And it is this very pride that keeps us in our slavery.

This is the tragic irony of sin. Jeremiah 2:13 says it well. Speaking of us, the Lord says, “They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” God is “the fountain of living waters,” pure, bubbling, refreshing; providing all we need to quench our thirst and give us life. But in our pride we choose to go our own way and we forsake God. We follow after the flesh digging our own water holes, thinking this is the way to happiness. But our water holes don’t hold water! And so we are left with nothing – thirsty, despairing, dying.

The very thing that would give us life and peace, we will have nothing to do with. This is our pitiful state, when we walk according to the flesh.

Next we look at –

How testing works

I want us to see, not just the dynamics of what goes on in our hearts with regard to sin, but also what happens outside of us that can influence us to sin.

Even as Christians, who seek to do God’s will, we have to confess that without God’s help we are mere flesh – weak and given to self-centeredness and pride.

But God wants us to grow and to come to a place where we humbly rely on him in our weakness, and to be transformed so that we find our true fulfillment in doing his will.

And this is why he allows us to be tested – that is, to go through hard times and difficult struggles. He does this for our own good. As Hebrews 12:10 says, he tests us “for our good, that we may share his holiness.” Even Jesus was tested as Hebrews 5:8 tells us.

Satan, however, the one who actually tests us, has a different agenda which has nothing to do with what is good for us. Being aware of our weakness and pride – he uses testing to lead us to sin, judgment and destruction.

– He asks God permission to test us. We see this in the book of Job. And Jesus talks about it in Luke 22:31.

– He tries to catch us unprepared for testing. Peter tells us that “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” – 1 Peter 5:8. Satan is like a lion, who picks off the weak and the unprepared.

– He tests us by putting us in a difficult situation so that the desires of our flesh and the desires of the Spirit are brought into clear conflict, and we have to choose. We will either look to God for help or give in to sin. We will either move forward with God or backward with Satan. And he banks on the latter being the more common response.

– In a time of testing, he encourages us to sin. He lies, deceives and in general seeks to confuse us with regard to God’s truth and God’s will for our lives. Jesus tells us that he “he is a liar and the father of lies.” – John 8:44. We are also told that he is “the deceiver of the whole world” – Revelation 12:9.

And as we struggle he tells us, ‘It’s OK, it won’t hurt you,” or, “everyone else is doing it.’ He works through “the world” – other people who are not trying to do God’s will. Scripture tells us that he is “the god of this world” – 2 Corinthians 4:4. The world tells us “It’s OK.  Sin is normal.” And then if we do try to live according to God’s will, it pressures us to conform.

So this is what we are up against in our struggle to overcome sin. The weakness and pride of our own flesh and heart and the reality that Satan seeks to pressure us to sin.

But let’s end with –

A note of encouragement

  • Although the flesh is weak – Jesus overcame it by the strength that the Spirit gives to do God’s will.
  • Although Satan is powerful – Jesus overcame him by the authority he has and the truth of God so that he did God’s will.

And Jesus shows us how to follow in his path to be overcomers as well. This is what I want to show you next time – five steps to overcoming sin.

William Higgins

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[rewritten]

Step #1 – Understanding what God’s will is, acknowledge your weakness to do what God says. To be prepared for testing, learn God’s will and humbly acknowledge your areas of weakness.

Jesus knew God’s will for his life, that he was to die on the cross –  Mark 10:33-34. And Jesus was upfront that this would be hard. He acknowledged that “the flesh is weak” – Mark 14:28.

Step #2 – Remain alert in prayer for times of testing and temptation. We are weak and Satan is out to destroy us. To be prepared we need to be alert and to pray to God to be spared testing.

Jesus was alert and so he prayed  that “the hour might pass from him” – Mark 14:35. He prayed fervently, three times, “remove this cup from me” – Mark 14:36.

Step #3 – In a time of testing – Keep your mind focused on God’s truth. Once you are in a test, Satan works on your mind to make you unsure of God’s truth so that you will rationalize making wrong choices. So you need to stay focused on the Scriptures (reading, quoting, meditating on them) and tell Satan to leave in the name of Jesus

Earlier, when Satan tempted Jesus to take another way than the cross, Jesus spoke out God’s truth and told Satan to leave. As Jesus was arrested he said, “let the Scriptures be fulfilled.”

Step #4 – In a time of testing – Receive strength from the Spirit to do God’s will. Once you are in a test, Satan works on your heart to get you to choose what is wrong; to give in to the desires of your flesh to take the easy way out. Ask God for strength from the Spirit to overcome the desires of your flesh so you can do what is right.

Jesus received strength from the Spirit to pray “not what I will, but what you will” and to go to the cross and die.

Step #5 – Endure the test. Even if you are successful at first, Satan will try to wear you down. So you must keep focused on God’s truth and keep receiving strength from the Spirit until the test is over. No matter how long the test lasts, don’t quit thinking and choosing what it right.

Jesus endured until the end. And he was blessed for his faithfulness. He was raised from the dead and seated at the right hand of God.

William Higgins

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rewritten

Our focus is, ‘How to overcome sin in our lives.’ We have been looking specifically at five steps. Here’s a brief review:

Step #1 – Understanding what God’s will is, acknowledge your weakness to do what God says. To be prepared for testing, learn God’s will and humbly acknowledge your areas of weakness.

Step #2 – Remain alert in prayer for times of testing and temptation. We are weak and Satan is out to destroy us. To be prepared we need to be alert and to pray to God to be spared testing.

Step #3 – In a time of testing – Keep your mind focused on God’s truth. Once you are in a test, Satan works on your mind to make you unsure of God’s truth so that you will rationalize making wrong choices. So you need to stay focused on the Scriptures (reading, quoting, meditating on them) and tell Satan to leave in the name of Jesus

Step #4 – In a time of testing – Receive strength from the Spirit to do God’s will. Once you are in a test, Satan works on your heart to get you to choose what is wrong; to give in to the desires of your flesh to take the easy way out. Ask God for strength from the Spirit to overcome the desires of your flesh so you can do what is right.

Step #5 – Endure the test. Even if you are successful at first, Satan will try to wear you down. So you must keep focused on God’s truth and keep receiving strength from the Spirit until the test is over. No matter how long the test lasts, don’t quit thinking and choosing what it right.

Sometimes, however, we work hard at all this and still fail.

With my title this morning, I am thinking of the manuals you get when you buy a computer or a freezer or whatever. There’s always a section in the back called troubleshooting. You know, if this doesn’t work, then try this. This is what I want us to look at today. If you are doing the four steps and still struggling, these are some things to check into and deal with.

1. Are you double-minded?

This means you are torn between two things; you have two minds on an issue. You know, you want God to help you with one problem in your life, but not others.

For instance, “God help me overcome my alcohol abuse, its destroying my life.: But you don’t mention your sexual immorality, because you happen to like it at the moment.

If you are only trying to stop sinning in one area of your life, while knowingly continuing in sin in other areas, God can’t help you. You aren’t being straight with God. We have to stop playing games.

James 1:7-8 tells us that a double-minded person “must not expect to receive anything from the Lord.” We find God and his help when we seek God with our whole heart, not part of it. Deuteronomy 4:29 says, “you will find the Lord, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.”

Be rid of double-mindedness and give your whole life over to God. Then you will both be able to seek and find God’s help in your time of need.

2. Are you the cause of broken relationships?

If we don’t act to deal with relationships that are broken by our sin, this will break our relationship with God and cut us off from God’s help.

So, if you have sinned against someone, make it right. Jesus said, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, (you have sinned against him) leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” – Matthew 5:23-24.

The broken relationship with the brother or sister must be dealt with before we come to God in worship because this affects our relationship to God. Now, we can’t control whether they are willing to reconcile with us, but the rule is – ‘do what you can from your end.’

Also, if someone has sinned against you and seeks forgiveness, forgive. Jesus said, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” – Matthew 6:14-15.

If we don’t forgive, this breaks our relationship with God.

With both of these situations, if you have caused broken relationships, seek to make things right. And then your relationship with God will be right, and God can help you.

3. Do you expose yourself to stumbling blocks?

Did you know that according to Scripture we are not only to stop sinning, we are to separate from what leads us to sin? This is what a stumbling block means – something that trips you up and gets you off the path.

Jesus says in Mark 9:43, “If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.” (NRSV)

What this means is that we are to create righteous boundaries that keep us away from sin. And we must do this even if what is cut off is precious to us, like a hand.

Now these boundaries are different for each of us, since we all have different triggers that can lead us to sin. For instance, if you struggle with drug abuse then you would need to separate from old hangouts and friends that could cause you to stumble. Or if you struggle with pornography you will most likely need to restrict your computer and cable access.

The rule is – separate from whatever encourages you to sin – relationships, activities, jobs, personal freedoms, whatever. Even if the item isn’t a problem for others, if it causes you to stumble, cut it off.

4. Are you dealing with an ingrained sin?

By ingrained I mean something that is firmly fixed; a sin that is deeply rooted in your life. We practice some sins for so long that they become a part of us; negative character traits or bad habits. You say, ‘Yeah, I’m a hot-head,’ because you have made a practice of outbursts of anger for so long. It’s a part of how you think of yourself now. And some sins create physiological addictions, like drug and alcohol abuse.

These kinds of sins are difficult to break. You may well need to take drastic measures, and in the case of addictions seek medical help.

One thing that can really help is intense accountability from other disciples who can check with us on a regular basis. Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” We all need this kind of fellowship to be strong. But this is especially needed with ingrained sins.

You know on a regular basis that someone will be asking how you are doing in your area of struggle. Both to encourage you and to keep you accountable.

So, if you are dealing with an ingrained sin, seek the help of others who will support you and give you the strength you need to overcome.

5. Are demonic powers involved?

When we allow sin in our life, we open up our lives to Satan and his demonic powers. They gain a foothold, as it were. Sometimes this is just a general influence, but sometimes it is related to particular behaviors. That is, we can come into bondage to demonic powers.

If this is the case, the demonic power must be expelled by the authority of Jesus. Say something like, “Evil spirit, you must leave me in the name of Jesus.” Jesus tells us, “Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy . . .” – Luke 10:19. Then submit that area of your life to God, so that the Spirit of God is filling every part of your life.

Use the authority of Jesus to break the bondage. I would just add here that it would be wise to seek the help of a mature believer as you work at this.

6. Is your sin connected to inner brokenness?

By inner brokenness I am thinking of mental illness or just the inner woundedness that can come from life experiences of pain heartache and tragedy.

As a pastor I see a lot of pain in people’s lives, as they struggle with these kinds of weaknesses. And sometimes these weaknesses can complicate our desire to live a life of righteousness. A weakness can make it really hard for us to do God’s will. I am thinking of a person I know who struggles with schizophrenia. When it’s untreated it has contributed to a number of behaviors that were destructive and wrong, causing problems in his relationship with God and others.

If you are struggling with these kinds of weaknesses, pray for God’s healing so that you can do God’s will. But God doesn’t always heal us (I Timothy 5:23). So if there is no relief, then we need to learn to manage these issues through treatment so that we can do God’s will.

Once again Jesus’ words in Mark 9:43 are relevant. Our inner brokenness is not itself a sin. But if it leads us to sin, we must cut it off by seeking reasonable treatment – counseling or medication.

In either case, through miraculous healing or treatment, seek healing for your inner brokenness so that you can do God’s will. For the follower of Jesus this is a matter of faithfulness.

So this is our checklist:

  • Double-mindedness
  • Broken relationships
  • Stumbling blocks
  • Ingrained sins
  • Demonic powers
  • Inner woundedness

If you are struggling with any of these issues, I would be happy to talk with you and work with you to help you. There is freedom in our Lord Jesus! And there is peace and new life.

William Higgins

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