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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

What’s True About You?

By Robert C. Crosby
April 15, 2012

John was the last person you would have expected God to use. But powerfully use him, He did. Growing up in 18th-century England, starting at age 11, John worked on slave ships — the family business. When he wasn’t sailing, he was “collecting” slaves on the islands and mainland of the West African coast for sale to visiting traders.

Eventually John became the captain of his own slave ship. It was a cruel and harsh business. His skin was roughened by the fierce sea winds; and his heart, hardened by the life that went with it.

Somewhere, somehow, something changed within John Newton. In addition to reading The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis in the fray of a particularly life-threatening storm, it seems another earlier experience had helped shape the soul of the man who would one day pen the words to “Amazing Grace.”

It is said that, as a boy, John lived next door to a little old lady who became a bit of an adoptive grandmother. He would, on occasion, stop by and visit her. On one of her walls hung a picture he had always found quite curious. It was a depiction of the Old Testament character Hagar and her son, Ishmael, when they were banished to the desert by Sarah and Abraham. Over their wearied images was a mysterious eye peering down at them from the clouded sky. The words underneath the painting were Hagar’s own: “Thou God seest me” (Genesis 16:13, KJV).

One day while studying the picture, young John asked the elderly woman, “What is this picture about? What does it mean?”

The lady responded, “Well, John, some people would like you to think that this means God is a great big spy in the sky who is just waiting to catch you doing something wrong, so that He can punish you. As a matter of fact, there will probably always be people who want you to believe just that. The devil himself would like you to believe that. However, it is not so. Such a notion of God is incorrect. What this picture truly means is that God loves you so much that He cannot take His eyes off of you.”

What God thinks about you is vitally important. But what you think God thinks about you is also significant.

Temptation evaluation

The temptations we face in life not only draw us to things outside of God’s will, they also can compel us to believe things that are outside of God’s truth. Whenever a tempting thought enters our minds, we find ourselves immediately facing a test.

Will I reject this thought or accept it?

Will this thought free me or enslave me?

Is it a thought pleasing to God, or not?

Martin Luther once said this about tempting thoughts: “You cannot stop a bird from flying over your head, but you can stop it from building a nest in your hair.” In other words, when confronted with a tempting thought you must decide, Do I reject it or entertain it? Do I entertain it or flee from it?

The most famous place of temptation in the Old Testament was certainly the Garden where Eve and Adam sinned (Genesis 3). The best-known temptation narrative in the New Testament was the wilderness where Jesus was tempted by Satan (Matthew 4). What do these two episodes have in common?

Here are just a few of the common factors:

• Satan was present in both scenes. He was the antagonist at each of these pivotal events.

• The temptations were targeted at the main characters’ identities. Satan tried to get Eve to doubt (and become confused over) the nature of her relationship with God. In the wilderness, he tried to get Jesus to question His role as the Son of God (Matthew 4:6).

• The tempter tried to get them to doubt the Word of God. He distorted God’s words to Eve. He misused the Scripture in his dialogue with Jesus. He also introduced thoughts outside of God’s will. I call them “scripts.”

Walking in truth

The Bible says that Satan “deceives the whole world” (Revelation 12:9, NASB). In the Garden, he had Eve believing that if she ate forbidden fruit she would become like God (Genesis 3:5). That was a lie. In the wilderness, he tried to get Jesus to question His identity and purpose by taunting Him and trying to control His behavior: “If you are the Son of God …” (Matthew 4:3,6). Yet another lie.

What lies does Satan have you believing? Are these among the ones with which you struggle?

You are insignificant!

You will never find God’s will for your life!

Your sin is too great for God to forgive!

God is blessing others, but He is not going to bless you!

Do those four scripts, or anything like them, ever play over in your mind? If so, here is an important truth: This is not the voice of God, nor is it the Word of God. It is clearly the sound of the enemy striking at your soul.

Even though the two primary temptation scenes in Scripture do have some things in common, there are a few things quite different. The difference is in how the protagonists responded. While Adam and Eve simply folded under the lies and buckled under the pressure, Jesus resisted Satan, and Satan ultimately had to flee.

Jesus faced temptation in the wilderness not just to put Satan and his “scripts” in their place, but also to serve as an example for you and me of how to resist lies and how to walk in the truth. You see, Jesus did not face this temptation as God, but as a man. He did so to show us how to face the enemy’s lies.

In resisting Satan, two things are of vital importance:

• Followers of Christ need to know what they believe.

• Followers of Christ need to know what they refuse to believe.

Christ’s followers constantly embrace God’s truth. They also consistently resist Satan’s lies. This is a normal discipline of the Christian life — and a vital one.

Some truths about the liar

“We are not ignorant of [Satan’s] devices” (2 Corinthians 2:11, KJV). In other words, we know something about what he is up to and what he is after.

In both of the temptation scenarios, the enemy tried to get them to rehearse the “scripts” that were actually lies. In other words, Satan wanted to see their minds devoid of God’s Word and promises and, instead, filled with lies about God and about us, the children of God.

Paul, however, would not tolerate this mental coup: “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5, ESV).

Since we all have an enemy to face daily, it would be wise for us to know enough about him and his ways in order to resist his tactics. The Bible clearly instructs us to do exactly that. “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). But what else does the Bible reveal about Satan that may aid us in our learning to walk in truth?

• Satan is a liar. “There is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).

• He wants to devour and diminish people’s lives. “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

• He accuses the people of God. He is “the accuser of our brothers” (Revelation 12:10).

• He deceives. He sometimes even appears as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14).

True about you

In the final analysis, God has already said what is true about you. His Word is full of insights into His nature and our new nature through Christ.

Yet Satan will also question what is true about you. Don’t be surprised when he does, but be ready.

And remember, followers of Christ not only know what they believe. They know what they refuse to believe.

Walking in truth requires the constant reaffirmation of what is true about you. When you consistently say and believe what God says is true about you, Satan will flee and you will be free.

The wilderness temptation scene of Jesus was recorded as an example for us so we would know how to follow Christ’s example in resisting Satan.

And just how did Christ engage the enemy and his lies? How did he overcome the negative “scripts”?

He used the Word of God — the Scriptures. Repeatedly and accurately He said, “It is written …” (Matthew 4:4,7,10). Jesus hit Satan with the Word of God — repeatedly!

Jesus was not overcome by the scripts of Satan; instead, He overcame them by the Scriptures.

When John Newton first saw that painting in his neighbor’s house and the big “eye in the sky,” a tempting thought emerged. A part of him wanted to believe that God is indeed that big spy waiting for a chance to judge him and punish him. Through the voice of a seasoned follower of Christ, however, Newton managed to resist the lie and to embrace the truth: “God loves you so much that He cannot take His eyes off of you!”

“You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).

ROBERT C. CROSBY is professor of practical theology at Southeastern University (AG) in Lakeland, Fla. He is the author of More Than a Savior: When Jesus Calls You Friend.

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