Craig Groeschel - The Accuser
It's great to have all of you with us today at all over our different Life Churches, our open network churches, our family all over the world at Church Online. My last two messages I preached, the crowd was a little bit not as interactive. I'm just kinda full of faith that I've got some people here today ready to hear from God's word. I wonder if there's anybody leaning in today, ready to hear part two of a message series called, When The Devil Knocks. Somebody might say, why are we talking about the devil in church? I want to just be real clear, this is not a devil-glorifying teaching. What this is is equipping those who are followers of Christ to know how to do battle against the one who hates God and hates you.
His mission is very very clear. He's here to steal, kill and destroy everything that matters to the heart of God. The good news is, greater is he who is in us than the enemy who dwells within this world. And so I want to dive into today and just get right into it, Ephesians 6:12 in many ways will set the context. This is what the apostle Paul says about a real battle. He says, for we are not battling against flesh and blood enemies. In other words, the people who drive you crazy, they're not the real enemies, but our battle is against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world. There is more to this world than just what we see. There's a spiritual world as well as a physical world. He says, this battle, we fight against mighty powers in the dark world, and against evil spirits in heavenly places.
If you missed last week, we're talking about our spiritual enemy. He has many different names in the Bible. He's called Satan, he's called Lucifer. He's called the deceiver, he's called the destroyer. He's called the accuser, he's called the father of lies, he's called the prince of darkness. We're looking at, in this message series, three different images or metaphors of our spiritual enemy. Last week we looked at the deceiver and we talked about this: who is the devil? He is the deceiver who attacks your mind with lies. He attacks your mind with lies. Next week is probably the most personal one to me. We're gonna talk about the destroyer. Who is Satan? He is the destroyer who attacks your will with pride. He attacks your will with pride.
Today I wanna talk about the image of the accuser. Satan is the accuser who attacks your heart with accusations. The accuser who attacks your heart with accusations. For example, I'll tell you a story, and talk to you about, honestly, how I heard the accusatory voice of my enemy. The good news is, Amy and I, Amy's my wife, we've been married for 26 amazing years. And we rarely ever fight. If you're around us you'd say, you really don't fight much. The bad news is when we do, baby, we make up for lost time and it can get really really big, hairy, fast. Some of you, if you've ever met Amy, that girl she's so sweet, so innocent. Do not let that fool you. That chick can throw down. You have no idea. One time in a fight, she came to me crawling, on her hands and knees, and said, get out from under that bed, you coward, and fight like a man. Just joking, but she can fight, man, she can fight. She can get it going.
And so, the surest way for us to get in a fight, honestly, is over stupid stuff. If we just drive out of town trying to get somewhere we've never been before, dear God in heaven, we fight like crazy. And sure enough, a few weeks ago, we were going to a soccer tournament. I was really excited 'cause I haven't been to many this year because of my schedule. We had my kids in the car, we had a few extra kids. I'm their pastor, they're in the car. And we were running late. Not gonna tell you why we were late, but it could've been someone else's fault, who is not here in this particular service, which gives me freedom to tell this story exactly the way I want to.
So anyway, we were running late, and I'm driving, and Amy thinks it's her job to navigate. If I listen to directions on my phone, she gets highly offended because I'm doing her job. She thinks I'm controlling. But you can see, we both have issues when it comes to this. So she's navigating, but she refuses to listen to her phone because it interrupts her conversation. So she just looks at it with the volume down. But the problem is, she's always talking to the kids in the back and she'll often miss telling me when to turn. So she missed a turn. No big deal, I got off, turned around. She missed another turn. That is an issue, but we'll have grace. When she missed the third one, something snapped in me. It snapped, and I might have banged on the steering wheel really hard multiple times. And then hit the accelerator at a rate that the Suburban is probably not designed to do in normal family driving. And then started driving perhaps what you might say, theologically speaking, like a bat out of hell.
Since we're talking about, and I went really really fast. And so I'm accelerating, getting off the highway. And she didn't yell like she often does. Instead, when I pulled up to a stop sign, she just decided to exit the vehicle in another town. It even happens in pastors' homes, it probably never in yours. She's unbuckling her seat belt, she's unlocking the car. There's all these kids in the back. She's trying to get out in the middle of who knows where, so I accelerated rapidly to make it far too dangerous for her to get out of the car. Did I tell you we got in a pretty big fight? We went to the game, we didn't talk. We went to the next game, we didn't talk. We drove home and we didn't talk. We obviously worked it out, but here's what happened to me.
For the next probably three days, I experienced fiery darts of accusations like you cannot imagine. You're not a man of God, you shouldn't even be preaching. You're not worthy to be married to her, you are so unrighteous, you are so filthy, you are so undeserving. You are a bad example to not only your children, but to those other kids who were in the car, who see you as their pastor, look up to you as a man of God, you let them down. Then, it just kept spiraling literally for a few days. Then it's like, I'm not a good dad, and all of a sudden this guilt, like when I had three kids, Katie, Mandy and Ann, I was involved in everything. And now, the schedule's so intense and there's so many, I'm a failure, I'm not a good dad, I shouldn't be a pastor. And on and on and on and on. Fiery darts of accusations. But I hope you'll understand is those voices, they were not from my Heavenly Father who loves me. They were from my enemy who hates me.
All of our churches, how many of you have ever experienced something like that, where you hear the voices, you're unworthy, you're not good enough, you're not lovable, you're not trustworthy, and on and on and on. It comes from our enemy, who is known as the accuser. My prayer for you is this: Isaiah 54:17, this is my prayer for you. That no weapon turned against you will succeed. That you will silence every voice raised up to accuse you. By the power of the risen Christ, may you silence every voice risen to accuse you. Let's talk about the devil, the accuser. This is what John called the devil in Revelation 12:10. He said that I heard a loud voice in heaven say, now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the, now watch this, for the accuser of our brothers and sister.
The Greek word translated as accuser is the word diablos. It's used 35 different times in the New Testament. It's translated as devil adversary, or accuser. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, night and day, on and on, he accuses. For the accuser of our brothers has been hurled down. He is defeated by the risen Christ. He has been hurled down. But he doesn't stop accusing day and night. What's so interesting is, what the accuser will do, is before you ever sin, he lies to you. He'll say, go ahead and bang on the steering wheel. Go ahead and yell a little bit. Go ahead and drive crazy because she deserves it. Afterwards, the tone changes. You're unworthy, you're unlovable, you're undeserving. You're nothing. Before you sin, the devil says, go ahead and do it, it's no big deal. Everybody else does it. You're not gonna get caught. Besides, who really cares, it's your life, anyway. After you do it, you're pathetic, you're no good, God doesn't love you, God will never ever use you again. You've gone too far. Before you sin, he lies. After you sin, what does he do? He accuses.
In fact, if you're taking notes, I think this is so powerful. When the devil talks to you about God, he lies. He lies. Did God really say, last week, that's what we talked about. When the devil talks to you about you, though, he accuses. You're no good, you're pathetic, you're unworthy. You're unlovable. We're talking today about how to overcome the voices of the accuser. And what we're gonna do is look at a very powerful, very personal and prophetic text from the book of Zechariah, in the Old Testament. Zechariah 3. And let me give you the context. Zechariah has a vision and sees this heavenly courtroom. So what I want you to do is imagine a courtroom. And we're gonna see three different characters in this story. First of all, there's God, and God is the judge in this story. Then there is Joshua. And Joshua is the high priest, he's the one on trial. He is the defendant. Then there's Satan. Satan is the prosecutor. Satan is the one who is trying to convince the judge, God, of Joshua's guilt. He is the accuser.
What's interesting is Satan actually appears to have a case about Joshua's guilt. Because he's gonna say, Joshua's robes are very dirty. And a high priest's robes should be clean, filth is always a sign or a picture of sin. And so, Satan appears to have a case. Perhaps Joshua the high priest really is guilty. He's on trial, God is the judge, and Joshua is now being attacked by the accuser. Here's how the story goes in Zechariah 3:1. Then he showed me Joshua, the high priest, standing before the angel of the Lord. Let's pause for a moment, I want to talk about the angel of the Lord. The angel of the Lord is most likely Christ. You may say, how is Christ in the Old Testament? Let me teach you a word that I learned in seminary. It's a word I've never used before since seminary. And after spending four years and a lot of money on seminary, I would like to use a word I learned in seminary. The word I learned is the word Christophany. Christophany. A Christophany is an appearance of Christ in the Bible in a non-physical form.
There's many Christophanies. In the book of Daniel, there were three Hebrew children who wouldn't bow down to worship the false god. They were thrown into a fiery furnace. And suddenly there's a fourth man in the furnace, as they were not being consumed. Who was that fourth man? That was Christ appearing in the Bible in nonphysical form. That is a Christophany. Can you say, well Craig, I'm so glad you went to seminary because you just used a word from seminary, Christophany. This is the angel of the Lord. Let's look at it again. Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right side. And what was the devil doing, what he always does. He was there to accuse him. He's accusing Joshua. The Lord said to Satan, the Lord rebuke you, Satan. The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you. Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire? In other words, he may be guilty, maybe he is guilty, but he's being saved from the punishment.
Now, here's the truth. Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. He was dirty when he should have been clean. Imagine this, he's standing before God and he apparently is guilty. Have any of you ever been somewhere and you were way underdressed, grossly underdressed? I hate that feeling. I was asked to speak at an event, about 5,000 people. My office said, how do you want Craig to dress? They said, like he always does. And so I dressed like I always did. I came in there, I was the only man in the whole place, 5,000 people, not wearing a suit and tie. I felt so embarrassed and humiliated, so underdressed. Imagine, though, standing before God. You're not just underdressed, but you've got sin on you. You've got the stain of sin. God is holy and suddenly, omigosh, you feel incredibly guilty. Then imagine the prosecutor, the accuser, the devil sitting there pointing out what you did wrong.
For me, it could have been, these would be true, hey, didn't you use to shoplift all the time? Didn't you get caught in college for actually stealing? Didn't you cheat on tests all the time? Didn't you say a really bad word in the basement? If you've been here for awhile, you'd know what I'm talking about. It's the one that rhymes with duck, quack, quack. Didn't you say that, Pastor Craig? Didn't you bang your fists on the, weren't you a bad example in front of kids? Didn't you let people down again and again and again? And I can just feel myself shrinking as the devil accuses. I don't know what he'd say for you. Didn't you lie? Didn't you cheat? Didn't you commit adultery? Don't you battle lust? I mean, there you are, you're looking at porn all week long and then coming to church, and acting like you really love Jesus. Didn't you file bankruptcy? You couldn't even pay your own bills. Didn't you let somebody down? Didn't you hurt, and on and on and on. The devil accuses, hurling guilt and shame, and condemnation. This is what the devil does. He is the accuser who accuses God's people day in and day out.
Now, before we look at the rest of the story, I want to show you some really good news. Because we've looked at who the devil is, but I also wanna look at who Jesus is. Who is the devil, if you're taking notes. The devil is the accuser. Who is Jesus? The good news is, Jesus is your advocate. In fact, 1 John 2:1 tells us amazing news. 1 John says, my dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the father. Who is our advocate? He is Jesus Christ, the only one who is truly righteous. We have the one who accuses again and again, but we have the son of God who is our advocate. He is our friend, he pitches our case. He defends us whenever the enemy attacks us. The devil is trying to prove Joshua's guilt. Jesus is the defense.
Verse four, the angel says to those who were standing before Joshua, take off Joshua's filthy clothes. Then he said to Joshua, see, I have taken away your sin and I will put fine garments on you. Yes, you're dirty, yes you're guilty. Yes, you may be unworthy. But I'm taking away that which shows the residue of your sin. I'm putting fine garments on you. I'm putting on you something you cannot earn or you did not even deserve. And I'm doing it not because you were good, but this shows just how good I am. Take off those filthy clothes. Put the robes of righteousness on him. See, I have forgiven you. And this perfectly parallels the story that Jesus told, recorded in Luke's gospel, the 15th chapter. He said there was a father who had two sons. And one son said, I want what's mine. I want to go out and live the way I want to live. I'm not living according to your rules.
So the son went off and he lived wild. He partied hard. He's smoking the funny weed. He's playing truth or dare and always taking dare so he can live on the edge. He's partying hard. And then one day he wakes up and he realizes, I am messed up. What did I do? Listen, some of you, this is exactly where you are right now. I thought this is what I wanted, but this is so far from where I ever wanted to be. And he was hurting because of his sin. And scripture says he came to his senses. And he realized, even the servants have it better at my father's place. Maybe I'll go back and he'll just take me in as a servant. But when he started coming back to town, he had no idea that his father wasn't mad. His father was on the edge of town everyday, watching, waiting. Would today be the day that my son comes home?
And when the father saw the son, the father ran toward the son. And even though the son was filthy and dirty, the father took off his very own robe that was completely clean, put it over the filth of the son, so when the father looked at the son, he didn't see the residue of sin, but instead he saw the outward righteousness of the father. And he said, you are always a son to me. Let's come home and celebrate. This is the perfect picture of what happened in Zechariah 3. The high priest was guilty. And the angel of the Lord, Christ in the Old Testament, says, take off those dirty robes. Put on the fine garment. See, I have taken your sin away. It's all by the grace of God. I've taken your sin away. Then in verse five, this is what he said. Then I said, put a clean turban on his head.
So they put a clean turban on his head and they clothed him, while the angel of the Lord stood by. Then the angel of the Lord gave this charge to Joshua. Here's your assignment, what I want you to notice is, what the angel didn't say. The angel didn't say, now Joshua, after your poor behavior, we're gonna have to put you on one year probation and if you live up to our standards, then perhaps at the end of the year, you can enter back into the service of the Lord at an entry level position. And if you're really really good over a three year period, we might move you up in the ranks. But you've gotta be good. If you have any doubt, any sin, you're gonna be taken out of the game because we can't have someone of your character and nature serving our God. We don't see any of that.
I wanna show you exactly what we see. This is what the Lord almighty says: if you'll walk in obedience and keep my requirements, Joshua, then you will govern my house and have charge of my courts. And I will give you a place among these standing here. The angel ordered, take off the filthy garments. Put on the fine garments and then he said, essentially, return to the temple. And keep on serving the Lord. Return to the temple and keep on serving the Lord. I don't know who needs to hear this, but you've been living under the accusations of the enemy. You can't and you never will, and after what you did, and you've been away, and you're no good and you've had doubt, and you've battled with this and you've battled with that. And God says, no no no no no, I have forgiven your sin. Get back to the temple and keep on serving the Lord. Get back in the game, keep on loving others. Keep on pointing them to Jesus. Keep on loving in my name. Keep on lifting up my name. Get back to the temple and keep on serving the Lord.
How do we know, whenever we've done something wrong, and we start to hear that inner sense of something? We need, as Jesus followers, to learn to clearly distinguish between the devil's accusations and the spirit's conviction. 'Cause they're very very different. The devil accuses, but the spirit convicts. In fact, what does an accusation do? Whenever the devil accuses, it drives us away from God. I'm unworthy, I can't even go into God's presence. But conviction leads us to God, I need his grace. I need his mercy. Accusations make us feel guilty and ashamed and dirty and distant. But conviction shows us our need. It pulls us into the goodness and the grace of God. Whenever Satan accuses us, he wants you to feel guilty, he wants you to feel shame. He wants you to feel unlovable and unworthy. But whenever the Spirit convicts you, it draws you to the presence of God, to experience his grace and his goodness.
It's the conviction that leads you to confess your sins. Because God is faithful and just and will forgive your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteousness. It's the conviction that draws you into the goodness of God where his presence says, now therefore, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Whenever the spirit convicts, we step into God, we step into his grace because he is good through and through. I love what one preacher said. He said something like this, if you're taking notes. He said, the devil knows your name, but calls you by your sin. God knows your sin, but he calls you by your name. He may know what you did but he doesn't hold your sin against you. In fact, I love the way Paul describes this whole process. How do we do battle against the evil one? When we recognize that we are in a spiritual battle, we don't fight as humans fight. We fight with spiritual weapons.
This is what the apostle Paul says. He says, for though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons that we fight with are not the weapons of this world. On the contrary, our weapons, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. What do we do? We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God. And we take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ. Whenever the enemy starts lying to us, accusing, telling us what we are not, we take that thought captive, and we fight with spiritual weapons. What do we have, the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith which quenches out the fiery darts of the evil one, the belt of truth, the shoes prepared with the gospel, of peace, and we have the offensive weapon, the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God, sharper than any double edged sword. We take the accusations of the enemy, we capture them, we make those thoughts obedient to Christ.
Whenever we hear, you're a failure, you're no good. No, I am the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. I am a new creation, the old is gone, the new has come. God is punishing you, God is punishing you. No, my father is a good God. He gives good gifts to his children that he loves. This is an attack from the evil one. And what the evil one meant for harm, my God will use for good. I may be going through a hard time right now, but hey, I consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever I face trials of many kind, because I know the testing of my faith develops perseverance, and perseverance must finish its work in me so I may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. And the devil says, after what you did, God could never use you. God doesn't love you, you're in big trouble. No, I take that thought, make it obedient to Christ. I will rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again, I will rejoice. Because the Lord is near. I am not anxious for anything but in everything, by prayer and petition, I make my requests known unto my God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard my heart and my mind in Christ Jesus.
And the devil says, God doesn't love you. God is not with you. No no no no no, we are more than conquerors through Christ who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither demons nor principalities, nor any power, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate me from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus my Lord. My God is with me. My God is for me. Greater is he that is in me than he that is in the world. No weapon formed against me will prosper. I will silence every voice raised up to accuse me. I am not who the devil says I am. I am not what the devil says I did. I am who Christ says I am. He says, I am his child, I belong to him. I am a kid of the king. The very same spirit that raised him from the dead, it dwells within me.
Whenever the devil accuses and tells you what you're not and what you can't do, you capture that. You make it obedient to Christ. You fight back with the word of God, the sword of the spirit. You are not who your enemy says you are. He is trying to talk you out of living for God, glorifying God, making a difference, being connected to people. He has a mission to steal, kill and destroy everything that matters to God. And he is attacking you with accusations, accusations. The good news is, you have an advocate. You have a defense. And he's seated right next to God the father. And he says, no, that's not true. Let me tell you what is true. There's no condemnation. She is new in Christ. He is forgiven, he is made new. Oh that's what he did, but that's who he is. That's what the devil said, but let me tell you the truth.
There is so much more, don't ever let the devil talk you out of doing what God created you to do. My prayer for you is very simple because I know, because I've heard it, because I've experienced it, because I hate it. You're not good enough, Craig. You shouldn't be a preacher. You're not even worthy of this marriage. You're not a good example. No, no, no, no. The righteousness of Christ is my righteousness. I'm blessed coming in, blessed going out. I'm made completely new, I will lay down my life to serve my wife and my family as Christ loved the church. I am imparting spiritual life to my children, raising up biblically anchored, Christ centered, world changers. I might not have got it right then, but I'm getting it right now. Because the spirit of truth dwells within me.
The devil is a liar, Jesus is the truth. The devil is a liar, Jesus is the truth. And when you know the truth, the truth will set you free. So, when your enemy accuses, this is my prayer for you. That no weapon turned against you will succeed. That by the power of truth, you would take every thought captive, and make it obedient to Christ. Because you know the truth and the truth will set you free, you will silence every voice raised up to accuse you. And the good news is, you have got Christ defending you and standing with you, and greater is the one who is in you than the one who is in this world.
So Father, today, we ask that you would give us the power of your living word to defeat the lies and accusations of the evil one.
All of our churches today, those of you who would say, yes, I am a Jesus follower and I want even more help to fight off the accusations with the truth of Jesus, if that's you, would you lift your hands high right now. Lift them up right now.
Father, I thank you for your living word. I pray, God, that you would quench the fiery darts of accusation. God, for those who feel defeated, who feel unworthy, who feel unlovable, God, who feel full of shame, we thank you God that they are not what they did, they are who you say they are. We pray today, God, that their mind would be renewed with truth. The devil is a liar, you are the truth, Jesus. And the truth would set us free. Father, I thank you this week at life groups this week, as we discussed God, that we're gonna sharpen one another to even become closer to you. God, renew our minds. Silence the accusations of the evil one. And we thank you for Jesus who defends us. May we step into the truth of who he says we are, and live the calling he's called us to live. May the truth, God, may the truth, set your people free.
As you keep praying today at all of our churches, some of you, you've been under the accusations forever. You're not good enough, you'll never measure up. God couldn't love you. Hey, after what you did, you're too far gone. You've been away for too long. God's not gonna take you back. At all of our churches, there are those of you, you need to hear the truth because there's some truth in this. Have you sinned, yes, you have, and so have I. Have you messed up, yes, you have, so have I. Are we unworthy, it's actually true. Yes, you are and so am I. But this is where the goodness of God shines. Not because of our goodness but because of his grace and his love, God became one of us in the person of Jesus Christ.
Jesus, born of a virgin, the one who never ever sinned. He was called the lamb of God, the one without blemish, the one who gave his life on a cross for our forgiveness, for all of our sins. On the third day, when the stone was not there, the tomb was empty, why? Because Jesus was raised from the dead. Jesus now sits at the right hand of God the Father, and anyone who calls on the name of Jesus, scripture says, will be saved, anyone, and this includes you. Doesn't matter what you've done, doesn't matter what the voices say. When you call on the name of Jesus, you will be saved. At all of our churches, there are those of you, you recognize you need his grace, you need his mercy. You are not here today, you're not watching by accident. God brought you here today. God brought you here today.
All of our churches, those who say, I need his mercy. I turn from my sin, I turn toward him. I give my life to him, that's your prayer, lift your hands high right now. All of our churches lift them up and say yes. Right back over there, both of you over here. Praise God for you. Over here in the middle section, leave 'em up if you will, sir. God bless you, man, my brother. Right back here, both hands up. Others saying yes, right back over here. Jesus, over here in the back, both of you here. Church, somebody oughta celebrate louder than that. Right back over here, way back here toward the back. Jesus is in this place, he's changing life. Others of you today, step into it. Lift it up right now. I need his grace, I need his mercy. Church, would you pray with those around you. Everybody pray aloud and nobody prays alone. We are family, welcome to our family.
Heavenly Father, I give you my life. Forgive me of my sins. Make me brand new. I believe Jesus died for me and he rose again so I could live for you. Fill me with your spirit so I could follow you. Silence the accusations. Replace them with your truth. My life is yours. Thank you for new life. Now you have mine. In Jesus's name, I pray.