Freedom in Christ Lesson 6: The Battle for Our Minds
Ephesians 6:11 (NIV2011)
11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.
Objective: To understand that, although our enemy, the devil, is constantly attempting to get us to believe lies, we don’t have to believe every thought that comes into our head but can hold each one up against truth and choose to accept it our reject it.
Focus Truth: We are all in a spiritual battle. It’s a battle between truth and lies, and it takes place in our minds. If we are aware of how Satan works, we will not fall for his schemes.
Has anyone ever played a really good trick on you, or have you played one on someone else? What was it?
Read aloud the following passages:
Colossians 2:15 (NKJV)
15 Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.
Luke 10:19 (NKJV)
19 Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you.
Colossians 2:20 (NKJV)
20 Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations—
Matthew 28:18-20 (NKJV)
18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.
19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.
The Battle is Real
We're not just up against the world and the flesh. The Bible teaches that we're also up against the devil, whom Jesus calls the “father of lies” (John 8:44). The good news is that this is the most resolvable of the three. Jesus came to destroy the devil’s work (1 John 3:8)
The tendency, however, of those of us brought up with the Western worldview is to run our lives as if the spiritual did not exist. But from the beginning of Genesis to the end of Revelation, there's one continuous theme in the Bible: the battle between the Kingdom of light and the Kingdom of darkness; Between the Spirit of Truth and the father of lies; between the Christ and the Antichrist.
If we don't understand that we are in a battle or how that battle works, we're likely to become a casualty - to be neutralized in our walk with the Lord.
Satan The Deceiver
So, who is Satan and how does he work?
When God created Adam and Eve to rule over the world the devil had to crawl at their feet in the form of a snake.
But when they sinned, Adam and Eve effectively handed over their right to rule the world to Satan. That's why Jesus referred to him as the “prince, or ruler, of this world” (John 12:31). He's also called “the ruler of the kingdom of the air” (Eph 2:2) and we're told that the whole world lies in his power (1 John 5:19).
Satan is Not Like God
God and Satan are not equal and opposite powers or anything remotely like that, though Satan would like you to think that they are. In fact, it has been said that to compare Satan to God is like comparing an ant to an atomic bomb. The Bible makes a huge distinction between the “Creator” and the “created” (John 1:3). Like us, Satan is a mere created being.
Satan Can Only Be in One Place at a Time
Because of that, we can infer that he can only be in one place at one time. He rules this world through “rulers, authorities, powers and spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph 6:12), different types of levels of fallen angels. The Bible doesn't bother telling us a huge amount about how they are organized because we don't really need to know.
Only God is everywhere at once. That means that most of us have probably never come up against Satan himself in person. So when I use the term “Satan” I'm usually referring not just to Satan himself (who can only be in one place at one time) but using it to refer to evil spirits in general.
Satan's Power and Authority Do Not Even Begin to Compare to God’s
At the cross Jesus completely disarmed Satan (Col 2:15) and Satan can only operate within the boundaries that God sets (Jude 1:6). He can't just walk into your life and inflict damage and destruction.
God has put Satan on a leash, and he can only act within the boundaries that God has set.
Satan Does Not Know Everything.
Every occult practice relates to the mind or the future, but Satan knows neither perfectly.
There is no evidence that Satan can read your mind. For example, all interaction in the Bible between angels and people or demons and people is done out loud.
By Putting Thoughts into Our Mind
Now this does not mean that Satan cannot put thoughts into your mind, something that the Bible clearly teaches he can do.
Mind you, so can I. In fact I hope that during this course I live I've been putting lots of thoughts into your mind.
Because he’s had so much practice observing people over many years, he can often make a pretty accurate guess about what's going on in your mind and it's not hard for him to know what you are thinking if he gave you the thought in the first place.
The Spirit clearly says that in latter times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons one (1 Timothy 4:1).
Are Christians being deceived into abandoning faith and listening to demons? Let's look at three Biblical examples to try to understand how we can be affected without even knowing it.
Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel. (1 Chronicles 21:1)
What's wrong with that? Wouldn't you want to know how many troops you had? But even the captain of his guard tried to persuade him not to do it because it showed that David was putting his confidence in his own resources rather than God.
But why did he listen to Satan? To put it another way, would he have done it if he had thought it was Satan's idea? Of course not! David believed that it was his own idea, even though the Bible makes clear that it wasn't.
The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. (John 13:2)
Weren't these Judas’ own thoughts? No. The Bible clearly says that the thought came from the devil. And when Judas realized the implications of what he had done, he went out and hanged himself.
Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourselves some of the money you received for the land?” (Acts 5:3).
Ananias almost certainly thought that this was his own idea, but the Bible makes clear that it originated with Satan. Ananias was deceived and it had terrible consequences. God struck him dead. He sent a powerful message to the early church about the importance of not compromising the truth.
It's not too much of a leap to think that, if Satan can put thoughts into our mind he can make them sound like our own. He would not announce the thought with an evil cackle: “Satan here, you’re useless.” No, he would make it sound very much like your own thought: “I'm useless, I'm ugly.” Not every thought that comes into your mind is your own. And you don't have to think every thought that comes into your mind.
Pause for Thought 1
To understand who Satan is and how he works. To realize that he is only a created being but also a destroyer, liar, and thief. (John 8:44, 10:10)
Does the devil seem more or less powerful than you had imagined? In what ways?
“Not every thought that comes into your head is your own” For example “I'm useless or I'm dirty.” What do you think about this?
Looking back, can you identify occasions when a thought you have had may well have been from the enemy? Are those thoughts always completely false?___________________________________________________________________________________
Through Temptation, Accusation, and Deception
The strategies Satan uses fall into three categories: temptation, accusation, and deception.
Let's imagine your Christian life as a race, with the racetrack stretching out in front of you. Satan can't block the path or stop you from becoming everything that God wants you to be. All he can do is shout out to you from the sidelines.
He'll try to tempt you away. “Hey! Look what's over here! Come and get it. It'll make you feel better, and no one needs to find out. You know you want to.”
Or he'll shout accusations at you. “You blew it again? You useless excuse for a Christian! You might as well sit down and give up.”
He'll also tell you barefaced lies. “Excuse me, you're going the wrong way. The finish line is back that way.”
Satan is trying to get us into sin, to establish negative patterns of thought. “I'm hopeless” or “I'll never be able to”, and to deceive us into worldly ways of thinking. “I can figure this out on my own” or “All I need is positive thinking”.
The most defeated Christians believe the lies and sit down. “Yeah, you're right, it's hopeless.”
Others stand while they argue with the thoughts, but they make no progress.
Victorious Christians simply ignore them. They take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ and keep running toward the finish line.
Are we experiencing a battle for the mind? Let's ask three questions to find out. Please raise your hand to indicate your response.
· How many of us have experienced some form of temptation this last week? And are the others being tempted to lie?
According to the Bible, who is the tempter? Is it the opposite sex, or the porn site, or the chocolate bar? No, those are just objects that Satan uses. But given that Satan himself can only be in one place at a time, we're probably dealing with deceiving spirits.
· How many of us here have struggled with the voice of the accuser in the last week? Or, to put it in another way: How many of us have struggled with thoughts like: “I'm stupid,” “I'm hopeless,” “No one understands me,” “God doesn't love me.” “I'm different from others”?
Every one of us has. Satan accuses us before God day and night (Revelation 12:10).
· In the last week, how many of us have been deceived in some way?
Far fewer hands went up for the third question (if indeed that is the case) because if I tempt you, you know it and if I accuse you, you know it. But if I deceive you, by definition you don't know it. Deception is Satan's primary strategy.
By Getting Footholds in Our Lives Through Sin.
In the last session we looked at Ephesians 4:26-27 which says that if we don't deal with anger quickly, we give the devil of foothold in our life.
You can see the same principle in 2 Corinthians 2:10-11:
Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven, if there was anything to forgive, I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.
We’ll look at forgiveness in a later session. But for now I'll just point out that Satan's greatest access to our lives is often through the sin of unforgiveness.
If Satan can lead us into sin, he gains a point of influence in our lives that he can use to hold us back, as if we are on a piece of elastic.
We tend to look for the activity of demons in “dramatic” episodes. But the battle is primarily in the mind.
The Relationship between Demons and Christians
It's very important to stress at this point that we're not talking about Christians being completely taken over or taken back by demons.
At the center of your being, your spirit is connected to God's Spirit and Satan can't have you back. You have been purchased by the blood of the lamb (1Peter 1:18-19). In other words, we're not talking here about ownership or “possession”.
If we fall for Satan's temptation, accusation, or deception, he may gain a degree of influence in our minds (1 Peter 5:8). His goal is to neutralize us or even use us to further his agenda (for example, Acts 5:3).
We read in 2 Corinthians 4:4 that Satan “has blinded the minds of unbelievers” and these footholds seem to work in believers in much the same way. They cause a degree of spiritual blindness and make it more difficult for us to connect with the truth. That's why good teaching on its own isn't enough for us to grow. We may simply be unable to connect with it until we deal with these footholds of the enemy.
The good news is that getting rid of these footholds is not difficult or dramatic, and you'll get an opportunity to do that in a gentle and controlled way when we go through The Steps to Freedom in Christ. Many find that they are then able to grasp the truth of God's word in a completely new way.
Pause for Thought 2
Objective: To help people get to grips with what it means practically to win the battle for our minds.
“If you are deceived, by definition you don't know it.” What are some of the ways that you might become aware of deception in your life?
What practical steps can you take to “take every thought captive” to obey Christ? (2 Cor 10:5)?
If we have given the enemy of foothold through sin, how can we take that foothold away according to James 4:7?___________________________________________________________________________________
Understand Our Position in Christ
Ephesians 1:19-22 says that Jesus is seated at God's right hand, the ultimate seat of power and authority, “far above all rule and authority, power and dominion”. God has placed all things under His feet, and we are told that He is now “head over everything”.
That's a great position of power!
So what is our position?
Ephesians 2:6 says, “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.”
We are seated with Christ, far above Satan and all demonic powers. Not just slightly above!
Use the Resources We Have in Christ
Now even though Satan is defeated, he still “prowls around, like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
However, James 4:7 says, “Submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” As long as you are submitting to God when you resist the devil he has no choice but to flee. This applies to every Christian no matter how weak and frail you may feel, or how long or how short a time you have been a Christian. Every believer has the same authority and power in Christ over the spiritual world.
Understanding this concept is the key to escaping from sin-confess cycles. We need to do more than simply confess to God that we did wrong. We also need to resist the devil so that he flees from us.
Do Not Be Frightened
There is nothing big about a demon except its mouth! They are like dogs with a big bark but no teeth. We don't need to be intimidated by something that goes bump in the night. The truth is that demons are petrified of Christians who understand the magnitude of power and authority they have in Christ. Satan and demons have no power over Christians except what we give them.
Some of you might be thinking, “Do you mean there might be demons in here?” Yes, the spiritual world is filled with demons, but so what? God has not given us the spirit of fear. You have no reason to be afraid of that. What else is here what that you can't see but has the potential to hurt you? Germs!
What is the proper response to the fact that there are germs all around?
Do you need to go put on a protective suit and spray disinfectant all over the place? No! The best response is to live a balanced life of diet, exercise, and rest and let your immune system protect you.
What is the best response to the fact that there are demons all around? Simply to fix our eyes on Jesus and by faith live a righteous life in the power of the Holy Spirit. The last thing you need to do is go looking for a demon behind every bush.
However, the danger comes from those Christians who don't realize that demons are there, don't understand how they work, and don't know how to protect themselves. When doctors didn't know there were germs all around us, they didn't sterilize their instruments or scrub their hands and people died. Christians who don't put on the full armor of God are left exposed to the attack of the enemy because they don't understand the reality of the spiritual world.
By the way, your authority does not increase with volume! You don't need to shout the devil away. If you think you have to shout and scream, you're not exercising your authority, you're actually undermining it. The devil’s goal is to get you to respond in fear. If you respond in fear you're operating in the flesh, and he will defeat you.
If you're ever tempted to be frightened of the enemy here is a good verse to memorize: “The One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them.” (1 John 5:18).
Guard Our Minds
Then we need to guard our minds, to be careful what we allow into them.
There are a lot of Eastern influences coming into the business world, schools, and even churches, that are simply dangerous.
It's concerning when such practices enter our church. The psalmist said, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me” (Ps 139: 23-24). It's good to invite God to search our heart. However, we are never told to direct our thoughts inward or passively but always outward and actively. Even in 1 Corinthians 14, the definitive chapter on tongues and prophecy, Paul says if you pray with your spirit, you should also pray with your mind.
We open ourselves up to deception when we put our mind into neutral. That's what other religions do. For example, Maharishi Yogi, a Hindu, says, “The mind is like a snake. You have to get it out of the way so that you can perceive truth directly”.
We never want to deny any supernatural work of God in our lives, but he does not bypass our minds. He works through them.
Turn on the Light
Some people are concerned to know whether the thoughts in their mind are from the enemy or not. That's the wrong question. The real issue is not where the thought came from but whether it's true! We are told to, “take every thought captive” (2 Corinthians 10:5).. I don't care if it is coming from my memory, the TV, the Internet, or a deceiving spirit. If it is not true, I am not believing it!
If you're in a dark room and you want to see, what do you do? Do you try to shoo the darkness away? No. You turn on the light! Don't focus on the enemy, focus on the truth.
Do you know how bank clerks are trained to recognize forged currency? By studying forged notes? No! By studying the real thing. They get to know what real currency looks like so they are able to spot fake ones when they come through. In the same way, our defense against deception is to know the truth.
Satan’s lies can't withstand the truth any more than night can withstand the rising sun. It's a truth encounter, not a power encounter.
So let's not focus on the enemy. Instead, as Paul instructs:
“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8).
Objective: To focus on the protection we have from Satan’s schemes.
“The One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them.” (1 John 5:18). Spend a few minutes as a group discussing this powerful truth and how it applies to your daily life.
Read Ephesians 6:10-18 pausing after each element of the armor of God to pray. As you pray, visualize yourself putting on, or having on, each piece of the armor and commit yourself to what it represents, for example:
“I put on the belt of truth. I commit myself to believe the truth, speak only the truth, and live according to the truth.”
“I thank You that Jesus has made me righteous and that the breastplate of righteousness covers my heart.”_________________________________________________________________________________
Witness: How do you think Satan works in the lives of your non-Christian friends? What might you be able to do about this?
In the Coming Week: Meditate on the following verses:
Matthew 28:18 (NKJV)
18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.
Ephesians 1:3-14 (NKJV)
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,
4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,
5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,
6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved.
7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace
8 which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence,
9 having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself,
10 that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth--in Him.
11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will,
12 that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.
13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise,
14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.
Ephesians 2:4-10 (NKJV)
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,
5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,
9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.
10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Colossians 2:13-15 (NKJV)
13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses,
14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
15 Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.