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Satan’s Strategy Against the Church
Last Saturday at the ministry clinic in Las Vegas, I knew what the Lord wanted me to talk about with the church, which just so happens to perfectly fit into those doctrines that Satan has covered over in our lives and in the church.
The speaker talked a little bit about the spirit of offense. And what has been ministering to my heart is how this is one of the strategies Satan uses within the church to divide us.
It’s part of the doctrine of the personage of Satan, and while I talk on this in our series “Wells of Living Water,” I didn’t have time to go in depth on Satan’s strategy against the church.
Further, as I began to pull this together there was a hesitancy on my part seeing that the last time I spoke on this doctrine and the doctrine of hell, all hell broke loose.
But ignorance isn’t bliss; it’s foolishness and will lead to more division, apathy, and hypocrisy. In fact, I feel like God is saying what He said through the Apostle Paul about not wanting us to be ignorant. And while he wrote this to explain the Rapture, I believe the Holy Spirit is saying it now to help us understand how Satan is operating within the church.
There may even be some who will argue and take offense at what I’m about to say; yet their negative response only reveals the accuracy of it. I know that sounds like I’m covering all my bases and discounting what others may think, and that is the last thing I want to do, but not to mention this is to keep it covered over, preventing us from getting to God’s living water for health and healing.
What I want to talk with you about is that the spirit of Satan is alive and well within the church, and this spirit is evident in three very real areas; that is, within the church there exist the Satanic spirit of offense, complacency, and religiosity.
These are part of Satan’s overall strategy against the church that’s designed for one thing and one thing only, and that is to steal our joy, kill our love, and destroy our faith.
“(Satan) the thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.” (John 10:10 NKJV)
“It is impossible that no offenses should come.” (Luke 17:1a NKJV)
Jesus is saying we will always encounter offences, and goes on to say that those who do so with evil intent watch out. It’s not that there won’t be offenses, there will be, but it’s how we handle them that will determine our spiritual health.
We have all had our feelings hurt at one time or another. We have all felt insulted by someone or felt like an injustice was done to us.
But when this happens we have to learn how to let them go, how to resolve them, and then how to forgive and move forward, otherwise; resentment set in, followed by bitterness, indignation, intolerance, hatred, and finally revenge.
As you can see, therefore, offense may possibly be the greatest tool the enemy uses today, not only in the church, but also in our relationships. And the sad part is that we’re not even aware that it’s one of Satan’s tools, and we’re not taught how to handle these situations.
I have seen and have been hearing a lot more about believers in Jesus Christ who have in some way, shape, or form been offended by something someone has either said or did, and unfortunately they’re still holding unforgiveness in their hearts.
I hear it mainly in what they say about how they were hurt, whether it was in a church or in a relationship. In fact, most divorces and church divisions began with tiny seeds of offense that were not properly dealt with, and so they’re blown completely out of proportion.
What is an offense?
An offense today is looked upon as a violation that causes hurt or pain, either emotionally or physically. And let me say there’ll always be offenses because of humanity’s sinful condition.
The Greek the word for “offence” is where we get our English word, “scandal.” It means to put a stumbling block in someone’s way to cause a fall, and to be led into sin resulting in becoming offended and angry.
And so the spirit of offense is a trap Satan uses to take captive believers and prevents them, and the church, from moving fully into God’s blessings. It literally chokes out all civility, tolerance, and forgiveness. It misconstrues conversations, a person’s appearance, and automatically assumes the worst about everything and everybody.
But the presence of this spirit of offense shouldn’t take us by surprise. Listen to what Jesus said would be a sign the end is near.
“And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.” (Matthew 24:10-13 NKJV)
We need to be very aware that the enemy is seeking to destroy the unity among believers in this hour through this spirit of offense. And if we allow these offenses to stay in our heart producing this spirit of division and stopping the unity Jesus prayed for us to have, John 17:21, then we’re allowing sin to enter, which is Satan’s strategy.
How destructive is the spirit of offense? It’s huge, because it brings along with it other spirits, like the spirit of bitterness and resentment, unforgiveness, conflict and revenge.
And so it’s important that we learn how to respond to offenses, because how we respond will determine our future and our destiny.
What will happen if we allow an offense to continue is that we’ll begin to harbor unforgiveness in our hearts, which in turns hurts our relationships, not only with others, but also more importantly with God.
“If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15 NKJV)
And so if you know anyone who you have hurt, or has hurt you, go to God and confess it asking forgiveness for holding a grudge, or for hurting that person, and then seek or offer forgiveness.
If we don’t forgive or offer forgiveness, then our heavenly Father won’t forgive us. And so forgiveness is a spiritual life or death decision, and is probably the best tool to combat Satan’s spirit of offense.
B. Grow Up
Now, I know this sounds a little harsh, but hear me out.
We’ve been told that we need to be like little children fully trusting in God, Matthew 18:3. But we also need to grow up and mature in our faith.
When children don’t get their way they sulk? When Ilona doesn’t get what she wants, or when I say no, she takes offense and retaliates saying, “I don’t love you,” or “You’re mean.” And she sulks or acts out trying to get her way.
Sometimes it seems like we never grow up or grow out of this stage. When someone does something we don’t like, looks at us the wrong way, or doesn’t appreciate what we do, we get offended, sulk, and get ourselves worked up to the point where eventually we leave, never realizing that while the other person may have been at fault, the fault now lies within us.
There are actually stages we go through, and it’s pretty much the same with everyone, we use to call it church hopping, but it is far more serious than that.
We begin by attending a church where there’s this sort of honeymoon period where everything, including the pastor is so wonderful. But then we realize that the church has some faults and dissatisfaction starts to set in. We then encounter a conflict or rejection and we get offended and when this isn’t resolved properly it begins to fester and then when something else happens we’re out of there.
We then start attending a new church and the process starts all over again.
And so we combat this spirit of offense by offering forgiveness, growing up, and finally
C. Be a Peacemaker
In the beatitudes, Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9 NKJV)
What got my attention is that Jesus said blessed are the “peacemakers,” not the “peacekeepers.”
There’s an important difference between the two. Peacekeepers try to maintain the peace at all cost, even sacrificing the truth. But like we’ve seen conflict will rise again.
But peacemakers will lovingly confront and will speak the truth in love, and by it they may be able to gain back a brother or sister in the faith. Jesus also tells us that if we know of someone who’s got a problem with us that before anything else we need to go and try to make it right with them, Matthew 5:23-24.
Again, don’t waste another day allowing bitterness to set into your soul.
“Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” (Romans 12:11 NIV)
Og Mandino, author of the bestselling book “The Greatest Salesman in the World,” said, “I will not allow yesterday’s success to lull me into today’s complacency, for this is the great foundation of failure.”
“The complacency of fools will destroy them.” (Proverbs 1:32b NKJV)
We see this spirit of complacency on the part of Israel right after their victory over the city of Jericho. Jericho was a strong well-fortified city, beyond Israel’s ability to conquer. But following the Lord’s instruction, and by faith believing, the walls of Jericho came tumbling down.
A few days later they went to conquer the next city, a small Podunk town called Ai. But they had become complacent. It says when they spied out the city’s fortifications they said, “It’s a small city and it won’t take more than a few thousand men to destroy it.” In the end, Israel was soundly defeated, not once but twice. They got complacent and they got clobbered.
It’s easy to allow this spirit of complacency to enter by living off our past accomplishments. We never stretch our faith or ourselves. We don’t read God’ word or pray like we use to, and what happens is that we stop growing spiritually, which means that we spiritually start dying.
The New Living Translation is a little more blunt when it comes to what Paul said. “Never be lazy in your work, but serve the Lord enthusiastically.” (Romans 12:11 NLT) Basically we need to keep the spiritual fires burning brightly.
When we allow this spirit of complacency to enter we basically stop going to God to get His take on the situations we face.
We don’t read God’s word, because we go to church on Sunday. We don’t take time to pray and listen to God because others, like preachers and teachers, are doing that for us. Therefore we’re not prepared for the trials that are coming our way.
Today we’re living in an age of religious complacency, where a real and vital relationship with Christ is rarely found. In its place we’ve instituted programs and methodology, but none of these can replace nor satisfy the longing within the heart of every believer.
This idea of religious complacency leads me to the last of Satan’s spirits that I’d like to share.
I remember seeing the golden headpiece of King Tutankhamen, or as he is more commonly called, King Tut. It was a beautiful death mask of the young king. What got my attention were the lengths taken to keep the dead king safe. What the archeologists found in his tomb was something similar to Russian nesting dolls.
First was the large sarcophagus made from a single block of quartzite. Under the lid, which weighed well over a ton, archeologists found a golden effigy of the king atop a gilded wooden coffin. Once the heavy lid was removed, a third coffin made entirely of gold was discovered. Inside that coffin were the mummified remains of King Tut with a golden ceremonial mask covering his head and shoulders.
Only after all the elaborate outward decorations were finally removed were archeologists able to reveal what lay beneath, a 3,000-year-old preserved dead guy.
Jesus likened our spirituality and this spirit of religiosity to Tut’s final resting place.
In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus spoke to religious leaders about the traditions, rules, and regulations they place on others while they follow another path.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.” (Matthew 23:27 NKJV)
Religious people go to extreme lengths to keep alive the traditions of their religion, even to their detriment. Those who cover themselves with religious traditions are usually trying to hide dead spirituality.
Jesus didn’t come, however, to establish a religion with all its religious trappings. Instead He came to establish a personal intimate relationship with us.
This is what differentiates the two. Religion is an end in itself. It makes traditions and rules equal to a personal relationship with God. But Jesus said a relationship with God boils down to two basic things, loving Him with the whole of our being, and loving our neighbors as ourselves, or the Great Commandment.
Religion takes what God made simple and attainable into unattainable rules and regulations, leaving the Great Commandment in its wake.
“For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men.” (Mark 7:8 NKJV)
Jesus saw this spirit of religiosity turning people away from God rather than moving them toward God. He makes it clear it isn’t what’s on the outside that matters; it isn’t all about rules and traditions. Rather, it’s all about what’s on the inside. It’s all about a living relationship with Jesus.
Proponents of religiosity are religious but lost. They’re like King Tut’s coffin, all nice and beautiful on the outside, but inside spiritually dried up and withered.
The Apostle Paul summed up the religious mindset as those who are always learning but never coming to the truth; having the form of godliness but denying its power, 1 Timothy 3:5-7.
Religion is dry, empty, and void of life. Religion inspires and changes no one. Religions are places where there is little life, no passion, and a dead faith.
And so Satan’s strategy against the church involves introducing these three spirits, along with their cousins.
But Jesus gives us a way out. Look at the rest of what Jesus said when He said that Satan was like the thief who comes to steal, kill, and destroy.
“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10 NKJV)
This abundant life comes in and through the Holy Spirit whom we need to invite, not only to fill us to overflowing, but also into the church. Look at what the Apostle Paul says,
“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.” (Ephesians 3:20 NKJV)
God has placed His Spirit, the Holy Spirit in our lives and in the church to be that helper, that comforter, and He’s the one who combats these false spirits and gives us the victory.
This is something that the Apostle John makes amply clear,
“You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4 NKJV)
And so through the Holy Spirit we have the victory over these false spirits of offense, complacency, religiosity, and all their little cousins they bring along with them.
And so this morning let’s take this opportunity to invite the Holy Spirit into our lives, and into the church.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study