by Bill Byrnes
“Keep me from the snares which the wicked have laid for me…Let the wicked fall into their own traps, while I escape.” Psalm 141:9-10.
That’s right, it’s that time of year–time for pre-season football ,and, of course, the myriad of analysts’ shows (and articles) are all starting up. Of course, there will always by explanations “ad-nauseum” about the pre-game planning by each team. But, no matter what the sport is–the participants MUST have a game-plan, or strategy, to defeat their opponents. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a team sport or individual opponents–all of them must have a game-plan! This holds true even for cerebral pursuits like chess, checkers–even Monopoly! To win consistently–you need a strategy for victory.
“To win consistently, you need a strategy for victory.”
How many times have you heard the expression, “So what, it’s only a game.”. Yes, it is. But how many of us have a game-plan for something that isn’t –just a game; and here, I’m talking about something “stone-dead serious”. How many of you have a game-plan that gets you TO the rest of your life? I’m correct in my wording–I said “TO” it, not “thru” it. What I’m referring to is your life AFTER this one–the life that will last for all ETERNITY! It’s the life that begins AFTER we die! Would you like to have a beautiful and wondrous existence in Heaven, or suffer the pains of Hell. Whatever your choice, remember, there’s no second-chances—and it will last forever! With that in mind, don’t you think you ought to come up with a game plan for your next life–the one that counts? And, even if you have one, you think you ought to review it to make sure it’s up to date? Of course! So, let’s keep up the sports analogy as we look at developing our strategies. What this means is a three-pronged approach: scoring, defense, and analyzing the opposition.
When it comes to Offense,or scoring, we won’t be subject to any kind of numerical score. For Christians–the only scoring play that counts is accepting Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me has eternal life….I am the living bread…whoever eats of this bread will live forever…”. John 6:47-48;51. But accepting Jesus is not a guarantee–it’s only the first step. That’s because we will always sin.
“I am the Living Bread.”
God knows this…so he gave us a back-up. Ephesians 1:13: “…when you heard the word of truth, the Gospel of your salvation, and after which you BELIEVED, you were SEALED with the Holy Spirit of promise.” According to noted biblical scholar, Rev. C.I. Schofield, D.D., “ The Holy Spirit is Himself the seal. In Biblical symbolism a seal signifies a finished transaction.”. So, once we truly believe, and, accept Jesus Christ–he OWNS us. And, just as a parent loves and accepts the behavior of even the most troublesome children, God knows that we will continue to be subject to sin. But his seal–thru the Holy Spirit–will always act like a spiritual beacon that will lead us back to the flock. But there is this caveat: this doesn’t mean that we can say we believe, then go out and sin like we did before. Nope–it doesn’t work that way! If we really believe in, and accept Jesus, our desire to sin should significantly subside. Also, any transgressions should not be as severe because our seal (the Holy Spirit) will enable us to see where we are headed and avoid total relapse!
“…and lead us not into temptation…”
This leads us into another sports cliché: “The best Offense is a good Defense.” When it comes to Defense the phrase quoted above from the Lord’s prayer says it all. Once we’ve started on our path to eternal life–we must analyze our sinful pasts. Forget the embarrassment and guilt because we all have items “in the closet”. But our analyses must yield the triggers to sin. And here, I’m referring to anything appealing to our senses…anything corporeal…that starts the sinful process. For instance, are there certain people or places–even events–that trigger any type of negative feelings leading us to certain sinful and destructive behaviors, such as alcoholism, drug abuse, violence, gambling or even destructive sexual behavior? Once we start getting answers, then we must continue breaking things down until we get to that lowest-common-denominator (LCD ). Just like in mathematics: we cannot stop “reducing” until we cannot reduce any further! For example, John wakes up one morning to find himself sitting in jail. He cannot remember the drunken stupor that caused him to start a brawl while “cavorting“ with prostitutes in a downtown bar.. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured, but how is he going to explain this to his wife and children…and his boss? It won’t be enough for him to promise to just stop drinking. The question he must face is—what CAUSES him to go out and drink. Once he discovers that cause, he’ll have to keep reducing it down to the cause of each succeeding cause he can uncover. If necessary, we must seek the help of others, preferably, other Christians who could help bring the Biblical perspective into play. Once we have our “LCD”, then our destructive behaviors can be dealt with.
” Once we have our Lowest Common Denominator then our destructive behaviors can be dealt with.”
However, this process is not as easy as it sounds. Get ready for lots of trial and error, and probably plenty of emotional discomfort, at the least. But, it MUST be done! And I’m not just talking about applying “self-help” techniques either. Those techniques need Christian support. Just as there is “nothing new under the sun”, there is nothing that cannot be dealt with thru prayer, Bible-reading, and a support network of other Christians. There can be no doubt why Jesus included the phrase “…lead us not into temptation…” into his prayer for us!
Now, we come to the most speculative part of our game-plan…looking at our opposition! You know where I’m going here, don’t you? There’s only one opponent we must worry about–and the most formidable one ever–Satan! Make no mistake about it–Satan is definitely alive and well!
“…If you continue to obey my teaching you are truly my followers. Then, you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John8:32
There are very few facts about Satan’s character in the Bible. Yes, he’s the “bad guy”, but it’s not enough to stick with that generalization. If we’re going to get our game-plan together, we’ve got to understand what he does; how does he “score his points”, how does he “attack” us?
Make no mistake–Satan is alive and well!!
Biblical scholars are divided on the question of whether Satan is mankind’s enemy because of his intense opposition to God, or if he opposes God because of his hatred of man, and, of goodness. However, what they are certain of is that Satan DID fall from grace, and regardless of the specific reasons, the overall reason was that he CHOSE that path! Let’s start with the argument that anything God does is good. If anything God does is good, then he could not create anything “evil”. Simply stated, the concept of evil cannot be created, but rather, it results from a personality, or FREE-WILL, to CHOOSE it–thereby substituting an evil will for a good one! This is an important distinction for us because it means that, ultimately, ALL humans also choose between good and evil. We won’t get off the hook with the simple defense that “The Devil made me do it.”.
So, how does the Devil make us do it? The short answer is: DECEPTION! Scholars do agree on some facts: Satan’s goal is to defeat God’s plan of grace for man by ESTABLISHING a kingdom of evil, AFTER he brings every one of us to ruin–thru sin! Also, the Bible doesn’t say anything supporting any popular notions of Satanic folklore, such as human transformations, or of any Leagues of Demons–unleashed upon man. Additionally, the Bible supports the notion that any man cannot enter into an alliance with Satan for any purpose. If anyone becomes a proponent of Satan—they are a VICTIM(See Mark:3:22). In fact, there is little scriptural support for the idea that Satan directly interfaces with the world ( don’t forget that in the book of Job Satan did God’s bidding when he destructively interacted with Job’s family). Disasters are not directly caused by Satan, but by men, thru their own sins. Those sins can be attributable to Satan’s deceptions. One common thread found throughout scriptures is that his primary power is the ability to deceive. This includes his incredible ability to lie.
Let’s not forget, Jesus was the only person who could go “toe-to-toe” with Satan and win. As a liar, and deceiver, he’s the best that ever was! Imagine, if you can, being able to deceive Adam and Eve, at a time when they had direct conversations(including warnings) with God himself! That’s what you call bringing an “A-game”. Knowing that the Devil’s main attack upon each of us is through lies and deceit, doesn’t it make you think again about those words Christ uttered in John:8:32 “…and the truth will set you free.” The truth will set us free from sin–from the power of Satan to deceive us!
Speaking of his “A-game”, the Devil does have a “grand-slam” play, AND once he hits it–it’s game-over—FOR US! they’re guilty of a sin that continues forever!”. The Holy Spirit is God’s intervening agent in the world, Mark:3:28-29: “…All things that people do and say against God can be forgiven. But anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven!” We have all been fooled by Satan, but we must NEVER be deceived into doubting, or speaking against, the Holy Spirit.
So, let’s try to tie this all together into a modern-day game-plan any of us can use. First and foremost, we must accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and savior. Once we really believe in him, we become sealed by the Holy Spirit, and become “owned” by Jesus. This means that even though we continue to sin, our sins will, hopefully, not be as severe as they were before our conversion, and that the Holy Spirit can show us the way “back to the flock” before we really lose our way to sin and perversion. If we lose our way–it is our choice–and we’ll be judged accordingly when we die!
We must discover our “triggers” to the process of sin. Accept the fact that Satan already knows them–quite well. He’ll continue to use them and experiment with new ones. That’s because, above all, he is the master of deceit and lies. When we hear those teeny, tiny voices within us saying, “Aw c’mon–go ahead–do it! You owe it to yourself–don’t ya’?”, you can be sure that it’s him trying to deceive you into sinning. That’s when we have to use our “spiritual beacon” to get us back on the “right” path. Some of the tools we have available for this are: Scriptures, prayer, friends who we trust and know we can talk with and will help us avoid transgressions. Don’t forget, at these critical times, if you can’t call out to any friends–call out to Jesus. He’s always there for us, with or without the formality of prayer. Even if you’re not a believer yet–call out to him anyway! That’s right–Jesus will help any, and all, of us—anytime! All we have to do is just to ask him!
There are some things we must remember. We cannot blame Satan for our sinful ways. His game plan is to deceive us with his lies! Just as he made his choice to rebel against God, we make our choices to sin. And, above all, we must never doubt, or speak against, the Holy Spirit. If we do—we’ve had it! Chalk another one up for Satan because that’s the one unpardonable sin. One more thing: just in case, when you’re trying to deal with temptations, you hear those teeny, alluring voices from Satan saying, “Go on–do it–after all you only live once-right?” That’s when all those bells and alarms should start going-off in your head. Why? Because now you know–you DO NOT only live once. This is your “short” life— AND your next one WILL last forever! So, above all, STICK TO YOUR GAME-PLAN!!
Hebrews: 2:14-15;18: Since his children are people with physical bodies, Jesus himself became like them. He did this so that, by dying, he could destroy the one who has the power of death–the devil–and free those who were like slaves all their lives because of their fear of death…And now he can help those who are tempted, because he himself suffered and was tempted.”