Robert Jeffress - When Satan Comes Knocking
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. If you're a follower of Jesus Christ, then you're under an invisible attack by the devil who has a personal vendetta against every child of God. But gratefully, God hasn't left us without defense. In Ephesians chapter 6, Paul describes an elaborate set of spiritual armor that we can put on to protect ourselves against Satan's attacks. And the first piece of that armor that we'll look at today is the "Belt of truth". My message is titled, "When Satan comes knocking" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
Your mind is the devil's playground. Or perhaps more accurately, your mind is the spiritual battleground on which the invisible war for your soul is being waged. The choices you make every day, that shape your life and your destiny, those choices begin with a thought. And that's why it's no surprise that in Ephesians 6, when Paul begins discussing how we can win in the spirit wars that every one of us is engaged in, he begins with talking about how we can control our thoughts, thoughts that determine our life, and ultimately, our destiny.
If you have your Bibles this morning, I want you to turn to Ephesians 6, as we discover what to do when Satan comes knocking on the door of your mind. Ephesians 6. Now, when Paul wrote these powerful words about spiritual warfare, remember where he was, he was not sitting in the pastor's study someplace writing these words. Instead, he was under arrest in Rome. And while he was under arrest, every 6 hours he would be chained to a new Roman guard.
And so, as Paul was chained to that guard, and he was thinking about this subject of spiritual warfare, he looked at that guard closely, and he thought to himself, "You know, the same weapons, the same equipment that this guard utilizes to succeed in battle against the enemy, in many ways is alike the equipment, the spiritual equipment, God has provided each one of us in our war against Satan". And so, as Paul sat there and he penned this letter to the Christians at Ephesus, he picked out six pieces of armor on that Roman soldier, and used them as a metaphor for the kind of strategies we need to use if we're going to defeat Satan's plan to destroy our lives.
Now, look at Ephesians 6:13-14. Paul writes, "Take up the full armor of God that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm, therefore, having girded your loins with truth". Now, that sounds kind-of odd, "Gird your loins", what in the world does that mean? Well, the New International Version probably translates it more accurately, when Paul encourages us to put on what he calls, "The belt of truth". The first piece of spiritual equipment that will help us defeat Satan's plan to destroy our life, is the belt of truth.
Now, you know, in our culture, belts are kind-of secondary accessories. Maybe not to you women, but to most of us men, we don't give a lot of thought to the belt that we wear, it's a secondary piece of dress. But for a Roman soldier, the belt was essential, especially in warfare. You see, the Roman soldier wore a free-flowing tunic. That was the basic piece of clothing he wore. And you've seen it in the movies, or on television, that free-flowing tunic. Now, tunics were very comfortable in everyday life. They were especially good at toga parties. But they were absolutely lethal in battle, if the soldier didn't first do something with this free-flowing tunic.
You see, if he went into battle with this tunic that was free-flowing, an enemy could easily grab hold of a portion of that tunic and gain an unfair advantage in hand-to-hand combat. Or the soldier himself might actually trip over the tunic while he was engaged in battle. So, the first thing a soldier would do before he went into battle, he would take the loose ends of that tunic, and he would tuck them into the leather belt that the soldier wore. And so, Paul uses that analogy in spiritual warfare. You know, all of us have these free-flowing thoughts through our minds, thoughts that if we're not careful, can give the enemy an unfair advantage over us, thoughts that can even trip us up in our own walk with God.
You say, "Pastor, what kind of thoughts are you talking about"? You know, we looked at four of Satan's most lethal lies that he loves to implant in our consciousness. And there are a thousand other lies that Satan loves to use with us. Now, what are we to do when those lies come into our life? Paul says we need to confront them with the belt of truth. Now, exactly how do we go about doing that? This morning, let me share with you just four practical ways that you can confront wrong thoughts with the belt of truth in your everyday life.
Number one, if you want to gain control over your thoughts, you have to refuse to feel guilty about wrong thoughts. Refuse to feel guilty about wrong thoughts. You know, I don't believe in false guilt, there's no such thing as false guilt. But there is such a thing called "Misplaced guilt". Many times, we feel guilty for the wrongs things, and there are a lot of people out there who feel guilty because they have wrong thoughts that come into our minds.
Now, the truth is, there are some things we do to stimulate wrong thoughts. Certain television programs, movies, internet sites we might visit. All of those things can stimulate wrong thoughts, but the truth is, if you were alone on a desert island, without any television, or without any books, or any laptop, you would still struggle with wrong thoughts. How do I know that? By reading the Bible.
Turn over to Luke 4 for just a moment. Did you know Jesus had to battle with wrong thoughts? You see that in Luke 4. Now, the setting of Luke 4, is Jesus is 30 years of age. He has just experienced the spiritual high point of his life, his baptism. Remember at his baptism, God the Father said, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased". Jesus was ready to launch into his 3-year ministry that would end with his death and his resurrection here on earth, and his ascension into heaven. But before he began his ministry, he went through a time of testing in the wilderness.
For 40 days in the wilderness, Jesus was bombarded with temptations that were all centered in wrong thoughts. "You don't have what you need to be satisfied, Jesus", the devil said. "Why not take these stones and turn them into bread"? That was discontent, same way Satan tempts us. Or he said, "You know, Jesus, all the kingdoms of the world can be yours if you'll simply bow down and worship me". Greed, wanting something outside of God's will for your life. Or he said to Jesus, "You know what? You don't have to wait till later for everybody to recognize you as the Messiah. Why don't you go ahead and take charge of your own life now. Forget God's timetable, you take charge! Jump down from the pinnacle of the temple, and everybody will recognize you as Messiah".
Look at Luke 4:1-3, "Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led around by the Spirit in the wilderness for 40 days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days, and when they had ended, Jesus became hungry. And the devil said to him", he was alone, isolated, tired, hungry, that's when the temptation came. What I'm saying to you, if you're going to win the mind games, if you're going to seize control of your thoughts, first of all, refuse to feel guilty when these wrong thoughts come into your mind.
Instead, secondly, resist allowing wrong thoughts to linger in your mind. Resist allowing those wrong thoughts to linger in your mind. In that passage we read just a moment ago, 2 Corinthians 10:5, Paul said, "We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ". It's one thing to have these wrong thoughts come into your mind. It's another thing to embellish them, to fantasize about them.
Charles Stanley talks about how toeholds in our life can suddenly become footholds for the devil, and ultimately strongholds for the devil. What he's talking about is this, when we have a wrong thought that comes into our mind, that's a toehold. But if we allow that thought to be turned over in our mind, if we enhance it, if we fill out the details, if we embellish it, if we begin saying to ourselves, "I wonder what it would be like to experience this, or that", which we know is outside God's will for our life.
Suddenly, that toehold becomes a stronghold, a foothold, in our life. And once that wrong thought becomes a foothold, we begin to obsess about that wrong thought. We even begin making plans on how we would carry out that wrong thought, that temptation. And once that happens, once a toehold has become a foothold, then it turns into a stronghold. Because once we have so thought about this thing outside of God's will for our life, that we fantasize about it, that we wonder what it would be like to experience it, that we make plans to experience it, we become spiritual road-kill.
Because Satan knows at that point, when he has that stronghold in our life, all he has to do is dangle that bait out in front of us, for that temptation for which we have already planned, and we become his victims. And that's why it is so important, when these wrong thoughts come in, is to resist allowing them to linger in our minds. How do we do that?
That leads to number three, we need to recognize and replace wrong thoughts with God's thoughts. Now, double-star this, we need to recognize and replace wrong thoughts with God's thoughts. Let's say that burglar makes his way into your house. He's able to knock down your front door. You may not have any control over that, but if he does gain entry into your home, you're certainly not going to invite him in, invite him to sit in your favorite chair, fix him a pot of coffee, engage in a long conversation with him, and invite him to take up residence in a spare bedroom, are you? You're not going to do that. Instead, what you're going to do is, if he gains entry into your house, you're going to do everything you can to grab hold of him, to seize him, and to get him out of your house as quickly as possible.
Now, that's what he's talking about, Paul is, in 2 Corinthians 10:5. He says, "We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ". Once these wrong thoughts are in your mind, there are two things you need to do, write this down. You need to recognize them as wrong thoughts, and then replace them with God's thoughts. Recognize and replace. You can't do just one or the other, you have to do both. First of all, when these thoughts come into your mind, you need to recognize, "These thoughts, is this from God, or is it from Satan"?
Now, how do you know if a thought that comes into your mind is from God or Satan? Remember those filters I gave you a few weeks ago? Ask yourself, "Is this thought true? Is it based on God's word? Is it represent what God's best for my life is? Is it true? Does this thought motivate me toward faith and obedience, or toward fear and disobedience"? Number three, does this thought, does this temptation in any way contradict the clear teaching of God's word?
Now, the problem is, most of us stop with that, we say, "Okay, I recognize this is what is a wrong thought, and therefore, I'll just try to rid my mind of this thought. I'll do everything I can not to think about this particular thought, this particular temptation". That is absolutely useless in spiritual warfare. How did Jesus respond? Did he try to put those thoughts out of his mind? "N-n-n-n-n-n-n-n-n-no, I don't wanna hear it, I don't wanna hear it, Satan! N-n-n-n-no"! He didn't do that, did he? Instead, he responded to those wrong thoughts with the right thought. He quoted from scripture, in Deuteronomy, and said to Satan, "It is written, 'man shall not live by bread alone'".
And so, Satan comes again to him, and he says, "You know, Lord, you don't have to wait to have the kingdoms of the world become yours, you can have all of the kingdoms right now, if you'll simply bow down and worship me". Did Jesus say, "I'm not going to think about that, I'm not going to allow that thought into my mind"? No, instead, in verse 8, he quoted again from the book of Deuteronomy. He said, "It is written, 'you shall worship the Lord your God and serve him only'". And then, once again, when Satan came and tried to get Jesus to act independently from the will of the father and to jump down from the pinnacle of the temple, in Luke 4, Jesus answered and said to him, "It is said, 'you shall not put the Lord your God to the test'".
Now, I'm gonna say this again in a few weeks because it's such an important point when we get to the sword of the spirit, the Word of God. But, you know, I grew up hearing this story about Jesus' temptation in the wilderness, and how Jesus combated those temptations by quoting the Word of God, how the Word of God is a powerful weapon against the attacks of Satan. You know the reason Jesus quoted scripture? It wasn't for Satan's benefit, it was for Jesus' own benefit. It was to give him the strength to recognize the lie and replace it with God's truth, so that he could act on that truth.
And that's the model he's modeling for us. When we have these wrong thoughts, temptations that come into our life, we need to know God's word so well, that we're able to call up exactly the appropriate scripture for that temptation, and recognize a wrong thought, and replace it with God's thought. For example, let's say you're overwhelmed with a particular fear, one of those fears comes into your mind related to your job, or to your future, or to your family, and you're paralyzed with fear. It's not enough to say, "I'm just not gonna think about that, I'm just not gonna think about that". Instead, we need to take that wrong thought and replace it with God's thought.
Second Timothy 1:7, "For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of love, power, and of a sound mind". Or Philippians 4, "Don't worry about anything, but pray about everything". Replacing wrong thoughts with God's thoughts. Or maybe you're concerned about your financial future. Maybe your problem is you have too much money or you have too little money, but the problem is you're thinking about money way too much. What do you do with those thoughts of greed that come into your mind?
It's not enough to say, "I'm not gonna think about money". Instead, quoting 1 Timothy 6:8-9, "For we have brought nothing into this world, and we shall take nothing out of it either. If we have food and covering, with this, we shall be content. For those who wanna get rich fall into a temptation and a snare, and many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge men into ruin and destruction". Or maybe you see somebody of the opposite sex to whom you're not married, and you're attracted to that person.
And then you begin to fantasize, "I wonder what it would be like to be with that person". It's not enough to say, "I'm not gonna think about that anymore". You've gotta confront that with the truth of Proverbs 6:32, "A man who commits adultery is lacking in sense. He who would destroy his life does it". You see the pattern here? Recognize wrong thoughts, replace them with God's thoughts. That's what Paul means when he says, "Confronting those loose thoughts with the truth of God's word".
Now, there's one final, crucial principle here, and that is to remember that victory is possible. You see, throughout your Christian life, Satan will taunt you with the lie that you really have no control over your thoughts, much less your life. As long as you're a resident of this planet, even if you're a Christian, you're going to have to give in to Satan's temptation. Because after all, you've got that sin nature inside of you, and you really don't have any power, and only when you're 6 feet under the ground will you have victory over sin in your life. Folks, don't fall for the lie of the devil. Jesus came to give us freedom over our sins.
And that's what Paul was talking about in Romans 6:6-7. He said, "Knowing this, that our old self was crucified with him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin, for he who has died is freed from sin". Now, when Paul is talkin' about the person who has died is freed from sin, he's not talking the person who is in the wooden box, underneath the ground. He's talking about the person who has become a Christian. We portray that every Sunday night in baptism, when somebody walks into that baptistery, and after coming to faith in Jesus Christ, the minister lowers them into the water, which represents the grave, and then brings them up out of the water.
And what a person is saying is, "Now that I'm a Christian, I have died to my old way of life. Sin no longer has control over me, and I'm being raised to a whole new way of living". How is such a thing possible? Is it because there's something magic in that water that gives people power over sin? Of course not. But the fact is, when you trust in Jesus as your Savior, not only are all of your sins, mistakes, washed away, past, present, and future, but the moment you trust in Christ, God places in you his Holy Spirit. And the same power of the Holy Spirit that lifted Jesus out of the tomb, that same resurrection power is in your life, to give you power over sin. You are no longer in Satan's control. Satan has no more authority over your life than you choose to allow him to have. Remember, victory is possible.
Neil Anderson, great writer, illustrates the truth of spiritual victory over Satan when he relates an experience from his childhood. Now this is fun, listen to this, "When I was a boy on the farm, my dad, my brother, and I would visit our neighbor's farm to share produce and labor. The neighbor had a yappy little dog that scared the socks off of me. When it came barking around the corner, my dad and brother stood their ground, but I ran. Guess whom the dog chased? I escaped to the top of our pick-up truck, while the little dog yapped at me from the ground. Everyone except me could see that that little dog had no power over me, except when I gave in. Furthermore, it had no inherent power to throw me up on the pick-up. It was my fear that put me up there. Because I chose to believe a lie, I essentially allowed that dog to use my mind, emotions, my will, and my muscles, all of which were motivated by fear. Finally, I gathered up my courage one day. I jumped off the pick-up, and I kicked a small rock at the mutt, and lo and behold, it ran".
Listen to me this morning. Any power that Satan has over your life is because you've chosen to allow him to have that power over your life. The truth is, Satan has no more control over your life than that yappy little dog. And as Neil Anderson says, "You don't have to out-shout Satan, you don't have to out-muscle Satan to have victory over him. All you have to do is out-truth him". Believe, declare, act on the truth of God's word, and you will win the mind games when Satan comes knocking.