Trapeze Faith Part 4

Ghost and the Darkness

The fall a trapeze artist experiences during a high bar performance is analogous to the spiritual plunges we all experience in our individual journey with Christ. These spiritual tumbles hurt in varying degrees depending on the nature and height of the fall.   There are actually only two falls we experience.  One fall results from the push and pull of the flesh and the other comes at the hand of Satan.   The Scripture helps us identify the nature of these falls and gives us the knowledge to avert or deal with them after they occur.   Peter, cialis usa cialis sale for example, suffered a fall in the flesh when he tried walking on water, only to abandon his effort the minute a storm appeared.    Jesus rebuked him for his lack of faith, yet did not hesitate to save Peter when he cried out for help.    The cause of Peter’s failure was his flesh and a revived dependence on himself at the approach of an impending tragedy.  Peter had many of these flesh-falls, which were unlike the one he suffered at the hand of Satan.  This second kind of fall occurred at Jesus’ trial when he denied Christ three times in front of several onlookers.   Although Peter did the denying, it was Satan who was allowed to force him into the situation.   (Matthew 14:28-30; Luke 22:).

It is remarkable that God allows His faithful believers to be tempted by both the flesh and the power of Satan.   According to the Scripture, these faith battles from within and without help develop our faith which is one of God’s highest priorities for us.   The more we are challenged in our faith, whether it comes from within (flesh battles) or from without (battles created by Satan) the more we grow because these conflicts drive us to a God-dependence we could never gain any other way.  Our entire life is filled with thousands, tens of thousands, and even millions of decisions and choices that either build our faith or cast us into defeat.   But even in defeat, God never withdraws His love from us, nor does He take away our salvation.  (John10: 27-29; I John 4:16).

Most of our falls come through the flesh, which is our inward drive to revert back to the way we used to live before we accepted Christ as Lord and Savior.   When we fall in this way, we have no one to blame but ourselves.   God gives us the weapons to combat the flesh, but sadly, we toss them aside in hot pursuit of self-love and satisfaction.  When in the flesh, we cannot say,  “Satan made me do it”; that is an evasion of responsibility for our own actions  (James 1:13-15).

Now this does not mean that Satan cannot have an impact on us, nor does it insinuate he cannot be responsible for the circumstances that cause us to fall.   The Scripture tells us to be wary of Satan because he initiates schemes against us all the time that are well thought out, powerful, and vicious (I Peter 5:8-9).   We cannot downplay the fact that Satan is our worst enemy, as he is God’s.    He can knock us off our high bar of faith just as easily as our flesh can.  His power to defeat God’s faithful has always been considerable; briefly look at what he has already done during his horrific life span.   He persuaded one-third of the angelic realm to abandon God, convinced millions of men and women throughout the centuries to reject God’s plan of salvation, and even tried to tempt Jesus to leave the Father and the Spirit for him (2 Pet. 2:4;Rev. 17:14-15; Matt. 4: 8-9).    Satan’s aim has always been clear; he has never wanted any one to follow or worship God.  He wants that only for himself.   So it makes him furious when a man, woman, or child accepts Christ as Savior; he takes it very personally and unleashes his revenge anyway he can.    If Satan can’t have God’s believers in hell then he will make it hell for them while they are on earth.   But as powerful, persuasive, and resentful as Satan is, he is no match for God.   And unlike God, he is not holy in any respect, nor is there any good in or about him (Isaiah 14:12-15).   Satan is neither omnipresent {everywhere at once}, omnipotent {all-powerful}, nor omniscient {all knowing}.   His power has been limited by God (Ephesians 6:11-12).    And because of this we can be somewhat relieved, because direct confrontation with Satan most likely will never happen to us as it did with Peter and Job (Luke 2:31-32; Job 1:8-12).    However, we must remain vigilant in our faith because he does have at his disposal the evil leaders of this world, a multitude of men, women, and children who have refused Jesus as Lord, and a formidable demonic force that continually submits to his bidding.   So to declare,  “Satan really got to me today, or Satan made me do it ” is probably not all that accurate, unless you believe that you are Satan’s target for the day in view of the millions of other people in the world.    A more accurate statement would be,  “I was confronted today by the power of Satan’s evil doers.”

When we fall from faith, how do we determine if it was from the flesh or Satan?     The flesh is a relapse of our old sinful ways; the way we used to live before we accepted Christ.   Flesh-falls are entirely our fault.      Our flesh comes to life only when we decide to stop trusting God and return to a life of self-service and self-love.   When we revert back to the flesh, God’s daily execution of our flesh stops because He only crucifies it with our cooperation.   The flesh is vast in its assortment of sinful passions and infects all of us.   A reversion to the flesh for some means a move back to old immoral habits of sensuality, drugs, and drunkenness.  For others it is lived out more in the hidden practices of jealousy, strife, and anger (Galatians 5:19-21).   Obviously the flesh needs to be taken care of as quickly as possible, otherwise Satan will move in to do further damage, just as a lion moves in on wounded prey when he smells blood.   Here are some Scriptural guidelines to getting the flesh back on the cross of crucifixion where it belongs.  I call these the four R’s in flesh purging.

  1. Repent your sinful deeds.   Ask God to forgive you and help you make the necessary changes to get back on the high bar of faith (Matthew 6:12).
  2. Renew your commitment to follow Him.   Openly state before God and others your intention to follow Him.   Ask faithful brothers and sisters in Christ to uphold you in prayer and keep you accountable (James 5:16).
  3. Review the steps that led you to the flesh-fall and ask the Spirit to help you flee future temptation (I Cor. 6:18).
  4. Return your flesh to Christ’s cross of crucifixion, where He can continue to put it to death (Romans 6:6).

The attacks we suffer due to Satan’s influence are different because his primary focus is to get us to abandon our relationship with God.   This was Satan’s approach to Peter, Job, and even Judas.  An attack by Satan is usually not meant to get us to revert back to old sins; the flesh does that all by itself.    His intention is to get us to break with God.  Persecution is Satan’s greatest weapon in accomplishing this because the fear of death, or hurt impacts everyone, even believers.   But unlike the rest of humanity, a believer is spiritually equipped to handle these fears (Matthew 10:28; I Cor. 15:55-57).  In addition to fear, unexpected sickness, loss of work, financial reverses, and concocted lies, serve Satan well in his battle to damage our relationship with God.       But even if he is successful, be assured that God will step in and restore us just as He did with Peter and Job.   And incredible as it seems, God even has the forethought to work a present or past defeat into a future victory.   As bad as Peter must have felt when he denied Christ, the victory he was able to later claim when He presented Christ before all Jerusalem far outweighed his personal defeat at Jesus’ trial (Acts 4: 5-12).    Our responses to the power of Satan and the flesh are the same in one sense; God is the strength we need to overcome both, yet different in that He wants us to flee the temptations of the flesh, but stand firm and fight back against the power of Satan.

Here are three responses you need to apply when Satan tries to knock you off your high bar of faith:

1.do not flee!   Stand your ground and fend off the powers of Satan through your faith in a God.    When you refuse to run and instead put your trust in God you are un-leasing a powerful spiritual weapon that can successfully defend any and every attack (Galatians 6:13 & 15).                                                        2. After you have withstood the first blows, go on the attack.   Galatians six is a great passage of Scripture to memorize because it teaches you how to fight back.                                                                      3. Finally, use God’s Word in every confrontation.  Just the mere proclamation of God’s Word sends shivers down the   backs of Satan’s dominion.   Jesus used it when He was confronted by Satan.   If He used it, shouldn’t we? (Matthew 4:10)

As dangerous as Satan can be, or as overbearing as the flesh is at times, neither is a match for the Christ who lives within us now, nor the empowering Holy Spirit given to us at salvation (Galatians 2:20; James 4:5).    As the Scripture states, “Greater is He who is in you, then he {Satan} who is in the world.” (I John 4:4)   And if this is not enough power to lean on, then remember that God has no limits; He is omnipresent (everywhere at once), omnipotent (all powerful), and omniscient (all knowing).  And if you need to add any more to the Godly power that is within you and around you, remember that two-thirds of the angelic realm did remain with God after the Fall, and are actively involved in carrying our His will on earth (Matthew 13:41).

Teachable Moment

There was a movie produced a number of years ago called The Ghost and the Darkness.  It was a true story of two lions in Africa who attacked scores in a small village.     This was unusual because, for the most part, lions do not go after humans unless they are starved or cornered.   The lions in this story were finally hunted down by two professional game hunters, but not before over 100 villagers were killed, mauled, and eaten.   If the hunters had not been successful, the entire village might have been wiped out.  I actually visited the Field Museum in Chicago where these lions (stuffed) were displayed.  This story in many ways is parallel to Satan’s attack on believers and non-believers in this world.   For just as these lions attacked both vulnerable villagers and the two well equipped hunters, so the forces of Satan fearlessly attack all of God’s creation, the vulnerable (without Christ) and the well equipped (those who have Christ).     Since the movie is quite violent I would not suggest that you show it to your children for the sake of demonstrating this teachable moment, unless they are older.  The local zoo may be the best place to make your points about Satan and the flesh.   When you get a chance, take your family to the zoo to specifically observe the lion.    I suggest that you even read about lions before you go focusing on the fear and danger lions bring to their environment.   In the course of your observation, have your children comment about the zookeeper’s expertise on keeping the lion in a secure cage.   Ask you children what the cage might represent in their lives, specifically in relation to guarding against the attacks of Satan    Hopefully they will say that the bars of a strong cage represent their own faith, obedience to God’s Word, and prayer.     Applaud your children’s answers and yet challenge them further to always hold their ground against the attacks of Satan.   In so doing they are letting the ever present and powerful zookeeper (God) do His work.     Satan will at first be stunned by their action, and then flee when he sees the zookeeper.  Satan will not return for a while for there are too many other easier victims to attack.  (Psalm 121:7-8).

Then explain to your children that reverting back to the flesh  (living our lives the way we used to before Christ) is different then suffering at the hand of Satan because these spiritual defeats come to us from our own weaknesses.    If you want to stay with thezoo illustration, reverting to the flesh is now akin to becoming the zookeeper and taking charge of the zoo, which is symbolic to seizing control of our lives again.   It is a bad decision we all continually make, because it is saying that we can do a better job of making ourselves happier and more satisfied then God can. But in so doing, we replace the steel bars of the cages with paper, twine, and glue, because that is the best we can do without God as the zookeeper.    The result is obvious, every animal escapes and the zoo erupts into chaos, becoming a dangerous place for all    This is a good description of what our lives become when we revert to the flesh.   Remind your children that God does not abandon us and will rescue us when we turn and ask Him to take back His position as zookeeper.

God’s Word

Matthew 14:28 Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.”  29 And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Luke 22:31-32 31.. “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; 32 but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.

John 10:27-29   27 “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 29  “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.

 I John 4:16   We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

James 1:13-15   13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. 15 Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.

I Peter 5:8-9   8 Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.

2 Peter 2:4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment.

Rev. 17:14   “These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful.”  15…And he said to me, “The waters which you saw where the harlot sits, are peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues.”

Matthew 4:8-9   8 Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; 9 and he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.”

Isaiah 14: 12-13,15 12 “How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, You who have weakened the nations! 13  “But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God,… I will make myself like the Most High.’ 15 “Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol, To the recesses of the pit.

Ephesians 6:11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.  12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

Luke 22: 31-32   31  “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; 32 but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

Job 11: 8-12  8 The Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant …9 Then Satan answered the Lord, “Does Job fear God for nothing?  10 “Have You not made a hedge about him and have blessed the work of his hands11 “But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face.” 12 Then the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him.”

Galatians 5:19-21   19  “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21envying, drunkenness, carousing…”

Matthew 6:12  ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

James 5:16   Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.

I Cor. 6:18 Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body.

Romans 6:6 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.

Matthew 10:28   “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

I Cor. 15:55-57   55 “O death, where is your victory? O  death, where is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; 57  but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Acts 4: 5-12   5 On the next day, their rulers and elders and scribes were gathered together in Jerusalem; 6 and Annas the high priest was there, and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of high-priestly descent. 7  When they had placed them in the center, they began to inquire, “By what power, or in what name, have you done this?”  8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said  let it be known to all of you that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead–by this name this man stands here before you in good health.  12 “And there is salvation in no one else.

Galatians 6:13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand

Galatians 6:15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.

Matthew 4:10 Then Jesus said to him, “Go, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.’ ”            ‘

Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

James 4:5   Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”?

I John 4:4 You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.

Matthew 13:41  “The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, 42 and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43  “Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He, who has ears, let him hear.

Psalm 121:7-8 The Lord will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul.   8 The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forever.