Chapter 10: You must be Real to be Right

This is an important chapter for Americans who increasingly are obsessed with emotions. We are spending billions of dollars for pills used to mask, prop up, or fix our emotions and it isn’t working. Emotions are important, but they don’t define who we are; they reveal what we think and believe about God, our circumstances, and ourselves.

There’s a great illustration in this chapter. Imagine you are praying and hoping for a loan to be approved so you can buy a house. You get a call that you’ve been turned down and you are devastated. Later on, you receive a phone call that the first call was a mistake and you’ve been approved.  Think about your feelings when you believed something that wasn’t true (you’d been turned down). Think about how your feelings would change when you discovered the truth.

I’ve discovered an important truth. It’s not my circumstances that determine whether I will experience joy in life; it’s my perception of and reaction to my circumstances that will determine whether I will experience joy.

Two important quotes from Neil Anderson:

“Life’s events don’t determine who you are; God determines who you are and your interpretation of life’s events determines how well you will handle the pressures of life.”

“If what you believe does not reflect truth, what you feel will not reflect reality.”

Our great mistake in America is to view emotions as the core of who we are and we try to treat emotions in an isolated manner. Our emotions are like gauges on a dashboard. They help us understand what’s going on under the hood.

So what are the things that bring on negative emotions?

Sin:

Genesis 4:6–7 (NASB95)
6 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? 7 “If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.”

Cain was already in sin because of his anger and jealousy. What was the affect of his sin? His countenance had fallen. His emotions had dropped and it was written all over his face.

David experienced the same effects of sin.

Psalm 32:3–4 (NASB95)
3 When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away Through my groaning all day long. 4 For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer.

If you are in sin, or you are unwilling to acknowledge past sin, it is going to have a serious effect on your emotions AND your physical health.

I love the way the NLT (New Living Translation) shows the joy of forgiveness

Psalm 32:1–2 (NLT)
1 Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! 2 Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!

Allowing our circumstances to overwhelm our perspective:

Take a moment right now and read Lamentations 3:1-20. In fact, I encourage you to read it a couple of times to let the emotions sink in deeply. Jeremiah is focused on some devastating circumstances. He is overwhelmed by his grief and he feels like he has become the object of the Lord’s anger. He is sad, angry, and in despair. It seems as if he is about to give up on God because he feels like God has given up on him. (Or worse, God has actively attacked him)

Now read Lamentations 3:21-27. Nothing has changed in Jeremiah’s circumstances, but his focus has changed to what he knows about God! Despair changes to hope, bitterness and complaining change to thanksgiving. Jeremiah’s whole countenance has changed because his focus has shifted from circumstances to faith!

Allow anger to take root in our lives:

Ephesians 4:26–27 (ESV)
26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil.

When you do not deal with anger in a godly manner, you give Satan a foothold (the word, opportunity literally means foothold) in your life to bring his will to pass. Unresolved anger leads to bitterness and when bitterness takes root in your life, you become a source of defilement to those around you (Hebrews 12:15)

So emotions are important for what they reveal about us. It’s important to acknowledge your emotions (suppression or denial is not the answer), but it’s also important to not allow your emotions to wound other people (Be angry and yet do not sin).

James 1:19–20 (NASB95)
19 This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.

There is genuine health in honestly acknowledging your emotions (even the bad ones) to God as Jeremiah did in Lamentations 3:1-20, but it is important to get back to the point of speaking from your faith as he did in 3:21-26. There’s not much healing if we just dump on God.

A couple of final notes on emotions: I have battled depression all my life and I’ve discovered much in my journey. The first discovery came out of a book called Spiritual Depression by D. Martin Lloyd Jones. This book helped me understand that, to a certain degree, depression is a normal result (for some) of fighting intense spiritual battles. In a way, it gave me permission to be depressed which was important because prior to that, I would heap guilt on myself for being depressed. (I thought I must be sinful). Second, I learned that depression is a signal I need to rest. It helped me realize I had been pushing too hard. Third, I learned that depression comes when I believe the lies of the evil one and stop resting in the love of God. Ephesians 3:14-21 was an important prayer for me to pray for others and myself. Finally, I learned that after resting, I needed to get back into the battle regardless of how I felt. Sitting around and focusing on how miserable I was never really helped. Do I still get depressed? Yes, but I don’t fall into the dark depths and I’m able to let myself live through it. You can’t get rid of depression by focusing on your depression. What God said to Cain is true for me: If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up?

 

Chapter 9 – The Battle for your Mind

If you want to experience victory over the darkness of your life, the battle will be waged in your mind. Paul in 2 Corinthians 2 helped the Corinthians understand that even in forgiveness, they were locked in a spiritual struggle. He encouraged them to extend forgiveness to a repentant sinner so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs. (designs = reasonings, schemes or strategies) In Ephesians 4:6-27, Paul challenges us to deal quickly with anger so we don’t give Satan a foothold or opportunity.

The fact is we are locked in a battle against the enemy of our souls and that battle, for the most part will be fought in our minds.

2 Corinthians 10:3–5 (ESV)
3 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,

Even though we live in a physical world, our battle is not a physical battle. In Ephesians 6:10-12, Paul tells us that our battle is against the “schemes” of the devil. We’re not wrestling against people, rather against spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

This is an important principle. People who are lost are not your enemy; even those who mock and oppose you for your faith are not your enemy. Your enemy is Satan and his demonic forces. People who are lost are captives of the enemy.

Back to 2 Corinthians 10:.Paul says our weapons have divine power to destroy strongholds. From the next verse (5) I believe that the strongholds that Paul is speaking of are lies that have become entrenched in our minds.

Satan works through lies and he is committed to leading you away from obedience to Jesus Christ! Take a moment and read Acts 5:1-5 (the story of Ananias). Peter looked at Ananias and said, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit? (5:3) I’m pretty sure that when Ananias thought about lying to the Apostles, he believed that the idea was his own (and a great one at that); but it was actually Satan planting that thought in his mind! When Peter tried to talk Jesus out of going to the cross (Matthew 16:21-23), I’m guessing he thought he was speaking on his own; but the fact is he was a mouthpiece for Satan!

Satan’s desire is that you wouldn’t even be aware of his activity in your life. In order to win the battle of your mind, you must understand Satan’s tactics; recognize his attacks, and resist him. The great news is the promise of God’s word that when you resist the devil, he will flee from you. (James 4:7)

Let me give you a short list of Satan’s tactics:

  • Satan attacks the goodness and integrity of God. Genesis 3:1-6
  • Satan brings difficulty into the life of the believer to entice the believer to separate himself from God. Job 1:6-12; Revelation 2:10
  • Satan seeks to hinder God’s communication to us. Daniel 10:10-14; Matthew 13:18-23
  • Satan entices us to act independently of God. Matthew 4:1-11
  • Satan seeks to distract us from God’s Mission. Matthew 16:21-23
  • Satan seeks to draw us away from simple intimacy with Christ. 2 Cor 11:3
  • Satan seeks to stir anger and discord between brothers and sisters in Christ. Eph. 4:26-27

How does Satan do this? I believe by placing thoughts in your mind and then deceiving you into thinking that those are your ideas!

How do you fight this?

First, grow in your knowledge and use of God’s Word. Hebrews 5:11-14 says that the solid food is for the mature believer who by means of practice has his senses trained to discern good and evil. As you study and memorize God’s Word, you will develop a lie detector that will help you spot Satan’s attacks.

Second, allow the Holy Spirit to use God’s Word to renew your mind. Romans 12:2 says that we are transformed by the renewing of our minds. Learn to submit your mind and your heart to the Holy Spirit and meditate (slow down and let it simmer in your mind) on God’s Word. Don’t simply read God’s word to reinforce your previous beliefs; use His word as a mirror to show you where you need to change. (James 1:22-25)

Third, be alert for Satan’s attacks. 1 Peter 5:8 says be on the alert because Satan is prowling like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. Satan and his demonic forces are looking for any opportunity to divide, plunge you back into sin, or distract you from God’s work. You’ll discover that you can recognize his attacks quickly.

Fourth, resist him! 1 Peter 5:9 and James 4:7 both challenge us to resist Satan. Resist him by identifying the lie and casting it out of your mind. The picture that helps me is an old WWII movie where the Germans throw a hand grenade in the window. Before it can explode, the American soldier grabs it and throws it out the window where it explodes and kills the enemy. If you can identify the attack and reject it before it explodes in your mind, you can gain victory. If you’re slow and it explodes, you’ll have some major mental damage control to do.

Let me give you one personal example. I had trouble moving beyond some hurts I had because of my wife. I forgave her, but every so often the thoughts of the hurt would come back and I’d relive the event. My emotions were wiped out as if the event happened all over again. What I didn’t realize is that I was getting sucker punched by Satan. He was throwing the hand grenade of that thought in my mind and I let it explode! Once I realized it was an attack of Satan, it was a lot easier to reject that thought. When I won the battle of my mind, my emotions were able to heal.

Chapter 8 – God’s guidelines for the Walk of Faith

What is it that is going to lead to a life that is truly worth living both in the eyes of God and in your eyes?

Chapter 8 of Victory Over the Darkness lists 8 words that speak of a life worth living. I would like to focus on one of those 8 words: Success.

Success: Key Scripture 2 Peter 1:2-10 Also: John 15:1-11; Psalm 1

What is success? Unfortunately, success can reflect whatever a person deems as his goal. For example, if someone has pursued the goal of becoming a millionaire then he would be considered successful if he achieved his goal of becoming worth a million dollars. If you only think of self-defined success, then it can be as meaningless as holding the record for the number of super bowls you’ve attended or winning your club championship in golf or tennis. The point is that self-defined success is somewhat meaningless since it implies that there is no objective standard for a  worthy life.

For the child of God, success is not self-defined. God has set a path (or a race) and success is using your life to complete the path that God has laid out for you. Paul put it this way in Philippians 3:12

Philippians 3:12 (NASB95)
12 Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.

Paul understood that Jesus had laid hold of him for a purpose. Paul’s passion was to discover and embrace the purpose that Jesus had for his life. There are two concepts of success in the Christian Life.

  • Becoming the person God has created you to be
  • Influencing the people God has called you to influence
  • Doing the work God has called you to do

2 Peter 1:2-11 speaks of the journey of becoming the person God has created you to be. It focuses on the cultivation of the character of Christ in your life. This journey has been the most challenging and rewarding of my life. One principle I have learned is that inward success is a necessary foundation for external success.

2 Peter 1:2-4 speaks of what God has done to equip you for the journey.

2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; 3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.

God has given you an infinite supply of his grace and peace: his desire is that your experience of his provision would be multiplied every day for the rest of your life. He has given his divine power to provide everything you need for life (overcoming the challenges and distractions of life) and godliness (learning to respond to situations and people in a godly manner). He has give you his precious and magnificent promises so that as you apply them you will escape the pull of the world and become a partaker of his nature. I would encourage you to memorize and meditate on these powerful verses. The more you focus on them, the more you will embrace the truth that you have everything you need for life and godliness!

2 Peter 1:5-7 focuses on your challenge to build on the foundation of your faith the character qualities of moral excellence (integrity or virtue), knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. Think about how your life would change if these character qualities were yours and growing! Think about the influence that would flow from your life!

2 Peter 1:8-11 focuses on what God promises will be true of you if you are diligent in developing these character qualities: basically the promise is success!

Success is also about influencing the people that God has called you to influence. If you are married, think first of all of the influence that God wants you to have in your family. This is more important than how much money you will make, or how successful you will be in your career (even if you’re a pastor). What influence do you want to have on your wife? What influence do you want to have on your children? You better answer this question because, whether you like it or not, you are having an influence!

Colossians 1:28–29 (ESV)
28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

In Colossians 1:28-29, Paul shares his passion. He wants to present every person complete (mature) in Christ. He wants to help every person God brings into his life to become the person that God has created him to be. In 1 Thessalonians 2:8, Paul says that he loved the Thessalonians so much that he was willing to share not only the gospel, but also his own life!

Success in life is not enduring people, nor is it manipulating or controlling people. It is building people – encouraging them to become all that God has created them to be!

Finally, God has a job for you to do and he has given you unique gifts to do that job. 1 Peter 4:10-11

Ephesians 2:10 (ESV)
10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

1 Peter 4:10–11 (ESV)
10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

God has created you with gifts, talents, and passions. He has used your life experiences to equip you. If you haven’t yet, it’s time to discover the race that God has set before YOU. (Hebrews 12:1-3).

This is an overview. I’m going to add two more posts to this week. One is a sheet that goes into more details on 2 Peter 1:2-11 and the second is a worksheet to help you determine the race that Jesus wants you to run. Please take time to download these and apply them to your life.

To stir your thinking

  • How can you apply diligence to the cultivation of godly character in your life? What specifically can you do to grow in conforming your character to the character of Jesus Christ?
  • Where are you weak when you consider the list of character qualities in 2 Peter 1:5-7?
  • Who does God wants you to influence for his kingdom?
  • What influence do you want to have?
  • Begin working on the question, what is the race that Jesus has set before you?