@robertkwendt || lead pastor
The college course was graded on just two tests—a mid-term and final exam.
After not doing so hot on the mid-term, the pressure was on to bring my absolute best in order to salvage a decent grade for the course. As I felt the pressure, I pushed myself harder to cover every piece of the material. So I spent late nights at the library, going without sleep the night before the exam.
When the test came, I was exhausted. As a result, I bombed the test.
It wasn't that I didn't know the material. I did. The problem was that my energy tank was empty.
We continually face tests from God's adversary, Satan. He often tests us, challenges us, and tries to trip us up when our energy level is low.
Here are four tips to keeping your tank full so you can overcome Satan's tests...
#1 - stand on scripture.
In order to get an understanding of how to conquer the tests of Satan, it's helpful to look at how Jesus responded when he was tested. Through the account of Luke (Luke 4:1-13), we can get a good picture of how we too can respond.
The first test that Luke talks about is Satan's challenge to Jesus to turn stones into bread. He did this when Jesus had gone 40 days without food. In fact, the account even tells us that Jesus was physically hungry (as if that needed to be said)!
It had to be tempting for Jesus to want to actually make that miracle happen. After all, he'd fasted for 40 days; he could probably intervene and meet his own physical need at this point.
But when we read the account, we see that Jesus refused to stand on his human desires, but instead he stood on what he knew was God's will. He reflected on Scripture:
The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’” -Luke 4:3-4 (ESV)
One way to be prepared for the tests of Satan is to stand on Scripture. While it can be a tough task, it is worth going through the work of memorizing Bible verses. As attacks come, we can easily be reminded of the truths that overcome Satan's lies and deceptions.
One app I like to use for this is called Verses. It's an easy way to just work on one verse a day—or even one a week. Think about it—in 52 weeks, you can have anywhere from 52 to 365 passages memorized!
#2 - look big picture.
Satan wants us to focus on the things of this world. In fact, he wants us to define our success based on the social status we can acquire, the success we can achieve, or the wealth we can accumulate.
Yet Jesus argues the opposite. In fact, he even goes as far to say,
"My kingdom is not of this world." (John 18:36)
If Jesus' kingdom isn't of this world, then it has to be of something much bigger. Satan does to us what he even did to Jesus...offers us the things of this world.
And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.”
Time and time again Satan challenges us with this same offer.
A little cover-up will lead to a big raise.
It's just a small lie; no one will find out.
You only have one life to live, so live it up with the one life you get.
It's in these times that we must remind ourselves of Jesus' response:
"You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve."
#3 - trust god to do what's best.
There was a time when I would lead retreats for students. I'll never forget leading a junior high group through a series of low ropes obstacles with the famous trust fall being one of the activities. It was during this activity that someone would stand at the top of a large stump and then fall into the hands of junior highers eager to catch them.
There was always a catch: if you put your butt out (the natural instinct to take matters into your own hands), you would fall right through. However, if you fell like a stiff plank, the students (no matter the size difference) were sure to catch you.
Satan put Jesus through a similar test (see Luke 4:9-12). He led him to the pinnacle of the temple and tested him to see if he would call on the angels and spiritual beings to catch him.
Jesus didn't fall for the test. He didn't take matters into his own hands, but rather said, "You shall not put the Lord your God to the test."
Jesus knew that not only was God with him, but also that God had a bigger plan than anything Satan could offer.
#4 - prepare for the next test.
Satan's testing of Jesus doesn't end once Jesus passed these tests. Luke's account states that "when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time" (Luke 4:13).
There would be more tests to come.
In the same way, we must realize that there are more tests to come. But there are two truths we can find comfort in.
Yes, tests can bring anxiety, but God assures us of his peace.
1) Tests are passable.
In writing to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 10:13), Paul says:
"No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it."
2) Tests allow us to grow.
James, the brother of Jesus, wrote (James 1:2-4):
"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."
Satan will test us. But if we follow in the ways of Jesus, we'll end up being stronger because of it. Just make sure to always be keeping your spiritual tank full!
Photo by Fancycrave on Unsplash
@robertkwendt || lead pastor
Have you ever been around a really good liar?
As kids we all tried to deceive our parents a time or two (or three).
However, there are some that can really master the skill of lying. Their stories are believable, convincing, and even can move us to action. While lying is definitely not a craft to boast about, it is a tool that Satan, the adversary to Jesus followers, definitely loves to use. In fact, he can be really good at even convincing us of what he's trying to sell.
In Genesis 3:1-7, we see a picture of his deception being put to use through his deception of Adam and Eve. In this story, we see Satan convince Eve of the very same lie he tries to convince us of still to this day.
His lie: you know best.
BELIEVING THE LIE MAKES US USELESS.
There is a word that sums up uselessness. That word is futility.
In writing to the early believers of Jesus in Ephesus, Paul explains a difference between those who follow Jesus and those who don't (the Gentiles). The word he uses to describe the difference...futility.
"Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds." (Ephesians 4:17 ESV)
Satan does not want to see people be like the followers of Jesus. In fact, his mission is to keep people trapped in being Gentiles. So...
Satan strives to make us useless by deceiving us to think we know best.
There is a principle in the business world known as the "Peter Principle." This principle describes that organizations will often promote an individual beyond their competency level. As an individual succeeds in their given position, they are promoted to a higher one. Eventually, they're promoted so high that they're overwhelmed and beyond his or her competency level.
In our lives, we often see this with various successes. As we achieve accomplishments and accolades, we look at what we've done as individuals to achieve such things. We promote ourselves over and over again. Eventually, we get to a place where we are overwhelmed. We realize we don't know what to do next.
We are beyond our competency level.
It is at this point that we have two options:
Option #1 — We let pride get the best of us and do not admit our deficiency. In fact, we work harder searching for answers. We deny help when asked. We may even demand, "Do _____________, because I am the boss and I know best."
Option #2 — We let go of our pride and seek guidance from someone else. We realize that we can only do so much on our own and need someone else to help us. At this point, we look for a guide.
Throughout our lives, Satan wants us to follow option 1. At the same time, God wants to be our guide (option 2).
What option we choose really impacts where we go next!
JESUS WANTS US TO FOCUS ON WHO WE ARE.
With Adam and Eve, God never gave up being their guide. He gave them instructions in the beginning, and he came alongside them and guided them again after they fell for Satan's tricks.
In fact, God went as far as to make an animal sacrifice for Adam and Eve so they may be properly clothed and cared for (Genesis 3:21). He sought after being their guide.
God didn't just make the sacrifice for Adam and Eve then, but continued to make sacrifices for His people. In fact, He even made the ultimate sacrifice through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ of Nazareth (see Romans 5).
This is a sacrifice that God never made for Satan and his followers but He has made for us!
In fact, God is jealous over us, while Satan is jealous of us. This causes for two messages to continually bombard us.
Satan wants us to hear the message of who we once were.
Jesus desires to hear the message of who we are.
WHAT MESSAGE ARE YOU LISTENING TO?
Throughout Ephesians 4:25-32, Paul talks about putting off our old self, being renewed through Jesus, and then putting on our new self.
As when we take a shower, there is a point where we have to take off our old smelly clothes, let the water wash us clean, and then put on our new fresh and clean clothes.
Jesus wants us to live in the confidence that comes with the fresh look and not the embarrassment that comes with the mess we once were.
We are called to put off our lies, anger, and stealing ways and to put on truth, peace, and generosity. We are to put off talk that tears down and put on talk that builds up. We are challenged to put off all badness and to put on all types of kindness.
Satan despises seeing such a change in us, so he continually whispers, "You're just your messy old self." He wants us to believe change isn't possible. He wants us to think we are not worthy.
Meanwhile, Jesus wants to know we are worth dying for. Forgiven. Full of hope.
Let me challenge you with this.
Reflect on a lie that Satan is challenging you to believe about yourself. Is it that addiction, that lie, that college mistake? Stop focusing on who you once were and start focusing on who Jesus says you are.
Now, read Romans 8 and let the truth of who you are in Jesus cover all your doubt and overwhelm Satan with God's truth.
@robertkwendt || lead pastor
As I look out my window, I can see the trees sway.
When I walk outside, I can feel the wind blow.
When I listen during the still of night, I can hear the wind whistle.
Yet, I cannot physically see the wind. I can see the effect it leaves, but the wind itself cannot be seen.
This invisible reality impacts our visible reality all the time. We build bridges, buildings, and structures with the wind in mind. We make sure we're prepared for when it comes with force.
In the same way, there is an invisible spiritual reality that impacts our physical reality.
The key is to know it exists, where it comes from, and how to be prepared for when it stirs up some strength. Here are some things to note as we get started on this topic for the next six weeks.
there is an invisible reality that impacts our visible reality.
In writing to the Colossians, Paul says,
"For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him." (Colossians 3:16 ESV)
Paul refers to God creating two realities. The first is that which is visible—the things we can see. The second is that which is invisible—the things we can't see.
In the visible realm are animals, trees, humans, etc. In the invisible realm exists a spiritual reality that we cannot see with our own eyes or by our own strength; yet it's still a reality to our daily lives. In fact, it impacts us more that we may often realize.
I remember when I was a kid, I would often color pictures of angels in Sunday school class. In fact, one year my dad and I made some giant wooden angels for our church's Christmas Walk.
In each instance, the angels I colored had wings, halos, and were either multi-colored or had lights shine on them in such a way as to portray a special glow.
There's not really any clear evidence that angels look this way, but that's often how we portray them. We do this because we have to try to represent an invisible reality with visible elements.
However, what's critical isn't what angels look like, but how they interact with us and impact our daily lives. What's even more important is how to understand a reality of angels who may seek to deceive and misguide us rather than help us. We call these angels 'demons.'
So how did this all come to be? How do we understand our interaction with angels?
1. in the beginning god created everything, and it was very good.
The very first chapter of the Bible ends with this verse:
"And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good." (Genesis 1:31 ESV)
A good God doesn't create bad things. He only creates good things.
This includes his creation of animals, humans, and even angels.
Yet, we look out at our world and we don't always see "good" things. We see that Jesus himself interacted with demons who are not "good." So, is there a disconnect with the first chapter in Genesis? Is the message confused, tangled, or full of holes? Did God actually create "not good" things?
These are all valid questions, but they assume something. They assume God is at fault. However, what if angels—the spiritual beings that God created—are the ones who actually made a choice to pursue a life apart from God? If this was the case, that would imply they chose to live opposite of a good God. And a life opposite of good is bad.
2. in god's goodness, he gave angels (and us) a choice.
Every parent dreams of their children growing up to become whatever they choose to become. Of course, parents want to see their children flourish, but they also don't want to put limits on them.
When I look at people who have really thrived in life, it's often in a world where they had to make some pretty big decisions. Sometimes it was even a lot of little decisions that led to a big outcome.
Without choices, life would be quite boring. It would be mundane. There wouldn't be freedom.
Like a parent who doesn't want to limit his or her child, God did not want to limit His creation. He didn't want to limit angels, and He didn't want to limit us as humans. So he gave us a choice.
He gave Adam and Eve a choice: a) to eat of the abundance of food he provided for them and to be okay with that, OR b) they had the option to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil—gaining more insight, but facing the consequence of death. (See Genesis 2:15-17.)
He also gave angels a choice. They could either serve Him, or they could rebel and do their own thing. Like with the first humans, they also would have to suffer the consequence for their choice. And since they chose the latter, they were cast out of heaven forever. (See Jude 6.)
Both angels and humans were created to serve God. Both were also given a choice so they may be "free." In both instances, that freedom was used to rebel.
3. a civil war was created.
When a civil war takes place, one nation, team, or group becomes divided into two. The one side, for whatever reason, rebels and tries to claim its own territory or influence.
The details are not crystal clear, but what we do know is that some angels rebelled against God and, in so doing, declared a civil war of sorts. They wanted independence and control of what was God's.
War is a horrible thing. Yet, there is one thing that does come out of war each and every time: it creates unity around a common purpose and a common enemy.
In the spiritual civil war around us, there are two teams.
One team exists to oppose God and serve self.
The other team exists to glorify God and serve Him.
This is portrayed by one of the early followers of Jesus, a man named John. He wrote:
"Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil." (1 John 3:8 ESV)
In this invisible, spiritual realm, there is a civil war taking place—and we are in the middle of it.
The invisible reality impacts our visible reality.
Over the next 5 weeks, we'll dive deeper into our role in the situation. And we'll examine how we can come out victorious.
But here's a preview. It ends well for those who submit to God and His ways knowing He is good.