So last week was a big week here at MRC, and I have to tell you it was a tough week for me to communicate for a couple different reasons.  First, in my opinion, outside of the Good News of the Gospel I don’t believe there is anything more important for us to understand and engage into than Spiritual Warfare.  So I can get a little excited over this topic.  I pray all week long for our spiritual eyes to be opened to the greater reality that is unfolding all around us, so by the time we get to Sunday morning…well, let’s just say I can have a little urgency in me by the time my feet hit that stage!  The second reason last week was so challenging is because we had a lot of ground to cover in a hurry, it was a real building block Sunday for the rest of the series but we did have some work to do last week.  The third reason…well it’s because we were talking about the very things the enemy would never want you to know!  So yes, there will be distractions, and clutter and opposition.  The last thing your enemy would want is for you to hear and understand the foundational parts of Spiritual Warfare.  Which is exactly what we got into last week!  Do you remember that?  We talked about the last thing our enemy would ever want us to know, so yes there was some opposition to that for sure…but we press on because this is just that important!

So last week was really the kick off to a series inside the series where we started looking at four of the schemes of our enemy and that whole talk was really us laying a foundation, an building up to the big secret…do you remember what all we built on?  We had a few things we had to understand as we engage into Spiritual Warfare and as always it starts for me with Jesus’ words in John and yes that is the set up for me to read it to you again this week!

John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.  NIV

This is such a huge moment because Jesus tells you why He actually came to this world.  So that you could have life to the full, but he also helps us see something that many don’t want to see.  That we have an enemy, who comes to steal and kill and destroy.  So this really became the first building block that we laid down last week.  We established something…we are at war.  We are opposed.  We have an enemy who has come to steal, and kill, and destroy.  And here’s the thing about that, whether you feel super spiritual or not, and regardless of whether or not you are willing to engage into this war or…you are feeling the effects of the spiritual battle.  This really was where we needed to start because for so many of us we are being slowly and systematically and very intentionally picked a part by an enemy that we do not even realize exists!  Listen, We live in a world at war and we have an enemy.  We have to start there and understand that we are opposed.  We also need to understand what this war is being fought over and this comes as a surprise to some of us but we need to see the truth, this war is being fought over you.  At the very center of this fight is a battle over who you are and whether or not you will stand in who God created you to be…or who you agree to become.  So this is what your enemy is up to…it’s the very thing he doesn’t want you to know.  Your enemy is a thief coming to steal, kill, and destroy and he is good at what he does.  He is sneaky and goes mostly unseen.  Which makes this war so brutal because he doesn’t just come at you where you can defend yourself from the obvious.  No it’s subtle.  It’s a slow, gradual over taking of ground in your life, and with no intentionality from us to defend ourselves we can end up in a really bad spot without recognizing that it was actually a spiritual attack.  Let’s face it, if you don’t recognize or see it, you aren’t going to defend yourself from it.  Your enemy’s goal is to destroy you from the inside out.  It’s deliberate, it’s slow, it’s so subtle but he does this by siphoning your internal self-worth.  He does this by taking your God given identity.  This is what the battle is actually being fought over.  It’s being fought over your identity!  Why, fight over you?  It’s because you matter that much to God and when you stand in who God created you to be, you will advance God’s kingdom and damage all the enemy is up to.  Satan never wants you to realize your full identity in Christ because when you do, you become an unstoppable force against what he is up to.  In fact your enemy is terrified of you realizing the truth of who you are and do you know who you are?  You are a child of God, created by God to reflect His own glory.  God created us in His very own image to literally reflect Him to the world.

Genesis 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. NIV

Genesis 9:6 God made humans in His image reflecting God’s very nature. MSG

We were created by the God of the universe, in His very own image, to reflect His glory to the world.  How amazing is that, this is also why the enemy hates you.  This is the very thing he wants to take from you.  The last thing your enemy would ever want you to know and stand in, is your true identity.  You are an image bearer of the King!  Which is amazing!  Your enemy’s ultimate goal is to never have you stand in who you were created to be!  Satan wants to create an identity crisis in you, and many of us are falling into these quiet, slow, subtle schemes each and every day.  This is what the thief comes to steal, and kill, and destroy; the very identity that God wired into you that Jesus came to redeem for you.

It’s amazing as you start to understand that this entire fight really is about your identity and you get that theme in your mind and read scripture you will see it all through your Bible.  It’s everywhere!  You know what though, it’s not just in scripture.  Think about books and movies, it’s the same thing…it’s like deep down we do know what this fight is really about!  I mean just think about some of the cool movies that we get so excited about.  The Matrix…will Neo stand as his real self and save the world?  Lord of the Rings will the Ranger Strider stand up and take his place as King Aragorn rightful heir to the thrown of Gondor?  Think it’s just the cool guy movies?  I just watched Moana with my family and what is the whole story about?  It’s all about the characters standing up as who they actually are created to be or not.  Think about some of your favorite movies…odds are there is an identity crisis and the big moment is when the person stands as who they are and fulfills their greater destiny.  Think about your favorite movie for a moment, whether it’s super hero movies, sports movies, Disney movies…odds are it’s a character standing up into the person they were to be all along.  Whether that character is Cinderella or Rocky Balboa…it all comes back to identity.  We were created for more, and it’s all about whether or not we will stand as that person in a world that just keeps that from us through hurts and adversity. It’s the fight…it is all about our identity and there is something in each of us deep down that knows it.

So we built out of this idea last week…that the battle wages over your identity.  The whole fight comes down to whether or not you still stand in your God given identity or not.  Your enemy is terrified of you standing as the person that God created you to be, and again this week I want to show you why.  This is just too important not to run down through this again…it established why your identity is so important.

  1. When you stand in your God given identity you understand your value and you don’t chase after your own desires anymore to find fulfillment.  You stand as an image bearer and you seek to bring God glory in all areas of your life!

1 John 2:15 Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. 16 Practically everything that goes on in the world — wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important — has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. 17 The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out — but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity. MSG

  1. When we stand in our God given identity we no longer have to be slaves to fear.

Romans 8:14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15 So you should not be like cowering, fearful slaves. You should behave instead like God’s very own children, adopted into his family — calling him “Father, dear Father.” NLT

  1. When we stand in our God given identity we no longer have to compare or compete with others because again our value is found in Jesus and all He has done for us!

Romans 14:8 It’s God we are answerable to — all the way from life to death and everything in between — not each other. 9 That’s why Jesus lived and died and then lived again: so that he could be our Master across the entire range of life and death, and free us from the petty tyrannies of each other. MSG

  1. When we stand in our God given identity we handle adversity in life in a whole new way.

Romans 8:16 God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. 17 And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us — an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him! MSG

This is how valuable you realizing and standing in your God given identity is…this is at the very center of the battle because there is just nothing more valuable.  Your identity has the power to shape your behavior and your entire direction in life.  This is what your enemy just doesn’t want you to know or ever stand in…all of this comes down to who God created you to be and whether or not you will stand in who God says that you are.

So today I want to talk to you about another way the enemy comes at us and tries to steal our identity away from us.  Your need to realize something about your enemy.  He was in the Garden of Eden.  That’s where it says; ‘in the beginning,’ so what that means is that he has been around a really long time.  Like since the beginning of time watching people, studying us humans, and scheming ways to take us out…and one of the major ways that our enemy comes at us is by using things that God wired into us against us and today we are going to look at probably the biggest and maybe the easiest target of our enemy.  He will come at us and use our appetites against us.  Now when I say appetites most of us think of food…and yes this is an appetite, but there are more.  We have appetites for many things and that appetite says to us, “I want more!”  I want more…food, sex, material possessions, success, sex, money, competition, and sex…did I say that one?  It’s this thing in you that craves more…right down to the whole idea of fulfillment…you know, that life to the full thing.  This is why I love telling you what Jesus said about fulfillment…because we have a hunger for it that Jesus can take care of for us!  Really the list of cravings is endless…but I want you to know something on the front end of this talk about your appetites.

God created your appetites and planted them inside you.  You have been wired by God to have cravings, and to be drawn towards things.  Think about that, God created appetites and has given you a draw towards certain things.  It is part of His intentional design for you…so this means that you aren’t bad for having these cravings…and if you think about it without appetites life would be pretty boring wouldn’t it?  So you have been designed by God as a big bundle of appetites and desires and I want you to see something here…your enemy knows it and he wants to use your appetites and desires against you and it’s easy to fall into this one, because we already have these cravings…so all your enemy really has to do is turn the volume up on that voice in your head whispering “more!”  This is almost too easy for him.  It doesn’t seem fair does it?  So let’s look at a couple important things about our appetites.

  1. God created our desires and our enemy distorts them.  Think about this for a moment.  This is why I have a hard time with people saying certain things of this world are “bad.”  Is it really bad or is it what we have done to those things that make it bad.  Is sex a bad thing?  No, it’s what we do with it that can make it a bad thing.  How about money?  Is money a bad thing?  No, it’s what we do with it.  Think about it, is alcohol in itself a bad thing or is it what we do with it?  How about something a little less scary to talk about in church.  How about food?  Is food a bad thing?  No, but we sure can abuse it and make it a bad thing can’t we?  I could go on and on with this but here’s the point.  Our appetites creep in and we end up abusing things that were created to glorify God…and if you think about it that is what our enemy is up to through sin.  He wants to distort the very things that God created for His glory…things like you and I!  There is nothing wrong with appetites and desires, it’s what we do with it, or in some cases don’t do with them that becomes the issue.
  1. Your appetites are never fully satisfied.  Your appetites will always leave you wanting more.  There is nothing you can ever really do to satisfy your appetite…which is a little depressing…but if you think about it, you can probably relate to this.  You really, really, really wanted the promotion at work and you worked and worked at it…and you finally get that promotion and you feel good for a little while but it doesn’t seem to fill that void in your life does it.  Remember your appetite will always leave you wanting more.  When you finally get that thing you have been craving…you will eventually want more.
  1. Your appetites whisper “NOW” they never whisper “LATER.”  You appetites will always want what they want and they want it now!  So this makes the enemies job pretty easy…he just takes that whisper and turns the volume up on it!

So I wanted you to see a couple of things about our appetites.  They were created by God, intentionally wired into us by God…your enemy knows this and tries to use them against you.  The fact that they were created by God means that they aren’t necessarily a bad thing!  It’s how you respond to the appetite that becomes pretty important.  Can you manage your desires or not because frankly how you manage your appetites will determine the direction your life takes…and your enemy knows that too!  You can watch the news and see how many people fall to their appetites each and every day.  Listen, if you don’t get this area right in your life it doesn’t matter if you get other things right…you will struggle.  I know this is a very strong statement but you can’t allow the voice inside you to run your life.  Is it a whisper inside you or has the enemy turned up the volume?  You can’t allow your appetites to run your life if they do it won’t matter what else you have nailed down well in your life.  This means that you can be a master of time management, or even your devotional time with God, and all other areas of your life…but if your appetites are running the show in your life you are headed down a very bad road.  You need to see this, your appetites can and will run your life if you let them.  So how are you doing with this?  So many of us fall to this scheme of our enemy, and it’s something we need to really see today.  Listen to Paul here…this really impacted me this week.

Philippians 3:18 For I have told you often before, and I say it again now with tears in my eyes, there are many who walk along the Christian road who are really enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their future is eternal loss, for their god is their appetite: they are proud of what they should be ashamed of; and all they think about is this life here on earth. 20 But our homeland is in heaven, where our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, is; and we are looking forward to his return from there. TLB

Wow, can’t you just feel how heavy Paul’s heart is here.  There are many Christian’s who he says are actual enemies of Christ’s cross.  What an amazing strong statement and why is it that Paul would say they hate the cross of Christ?  Let’s look at verse 19 there again…

(vs 19) Their future is eternal loss, for their god is their appetite: they are proud of what they should be ashamed of; and all they think about is this life here on earth.

Paul is crushed because people are allowing their appetites to rule over them and takes it right back to something very important for us to see today.  He goes as far to say their god is their appetite.  Paul pushes right back in on what we worship…isn’t it amazing that everything in this spiritual war seems to circle back to what you will worship?

Last week I told you the big secret, that the last thing the enemy would ever want you to know that at the very heart of his attack on your identity is what you will worship.  God wants your worship…and your enemy is doing whatever he can to get you worshiping everything and anything but God.  I think for so many of us we just don’t realize this fact that at the heart of this battle over your identity is a strategy that focuses on what you worship.  Your enemy wants you worshiping anything but God. God created you with appetites, literal cravings for things in your life.  It is part of God’s intentional design and when our appetites stay in the right place in our lives, they can actually allow us to be drawn towards God!  This concept of craving fulfillment was supposed to draw us closer to God!  Your enemy tries to use God’s own design against you…he tries to take that whisper and turn up the volume so that you dive into other things rather than the things of God.  This is why so many of us struggle to find fulfillment.  Remember one of the keys to your appetites was that you will never satisfy them.  Your enemy never wants you to see that, he wants you so centered on the cravings of your flesh that they become central in your life because when they do they lead to devastation in your life.  They crush your identity and sadly, no matter how hard you try, you will never be fulfilled.  Remember you can only find fulfillment in Jesus…which is what He told you He came to give you!  That life to the full thing is only found in God!  No matter what the enemy is up to in this fight to steal your identity, whether it’s the lies he wants you to agree with like we talked about last week, or trying to use your God given appetites against you like we are talking about this week, it will always come back to this…it will always be centered on what your worship.   That’s the focus and we have to have eyes to see it.  Man, Paul’s words are just so gut wrenching and you can just feel his hurts for these people.  They are so focused on feeding their desires that it is ruining them…and notice he isn’t talking about people who don’t know Christ!  He is talking about Christians who you would think would know better.  Here’s what is so scary, they DO know better, but they are falling to the scheme.  The enemy has turned up the volume inside them on their appetites and they are allowing their appetites to lead the show and not Christ…and it’s easy to do.  Check this out in First John…

1 John 2:12 I remind you, my dear children: Your sins are forgiven in Jesus’ name.  And a second reminder, dear children: You know the Father from personal experience. 14 You veterans know the One who started it all; and you newcomers — such vitality and strength! God’s word is so steady in you. Your fellowship with God enables you to gain a victory over the Evil One. 15 Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. 16 Practically everything that goes on in the world — wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important — has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. 17 The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out — but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity. MSG

Check this out, John is addressing Christian’s here too!  He is saying you veterans who know Jesus, and you newcomers…you DO know God’s word…so stay away from temptation!  When our appetites control us, it ruins are hearts and it pushes us away from Christ.  Love of the world squeezes out love of the Father.  It drives us away from everything we need to find fulfillment in this world.  Which again was not from anything of this world, but was found where?  In Jesus, who told you that is why He came to this world!  It was so that you can have fulfillment in Him.

Now I want you to see something because right in this scripture we see how we can gain victory over this brutal scheme of our enemy…

Vs 14…Your fellowship with God enables you to gain a victory over the Evil One.

It’s amazing, when you start to read through the Bible with eyes on the spiritual battle you see it everywhere.  The attack from the evil one is on your identity, and it is a brutal assault where he will use God’s very own design against you.  He will use your God given appetites against you…and what is the counter?  It’s your worship.  It’s you centering and focusing on God.  It is you constantly being reminded of Jesus and what He did for you on The Cross.  It’s all about worship.  This is the big secret…this is the thing your enemy doesn’t want you to know.  This is why we see John and Paul reminding us of the amazing work of Jesus!  The big counter to everything the enemy is up to is genuine God worship!  Paul is constantly trying to get us to center on God, this is why he says things like this later in that same letter…

Philippians 4:4 Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! MSG

When we celebrate God everyday…when we center on Him, we are literally turning the volume down on the appetites of our flesh.  When we worship God all of the world’s ways, all the lies and deception of our enemy are quieted because we are centering on God…and as we center on God we find fulfillment in Him…the kind of fulfillment that we just can’t find any other way.  It always comes down to God worship, this is the big counter to everything the enemy is up to and I want you to see the kind of peace your life can have as you center fully on God and listen to his voice rather than all your appetites.  Paul seems to understand something so important here…

Philippians 4:11 Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. 12 I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. 13 Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. MSG

And there it is, Paul has found something that we all want.  Complete contentment…he has found that life to the full thing that we all crave.  He didn’t find it in feeding his appetites…he has found the recipe for life to the full and it’s found in Jesus, who Paul says is “the One who makes me who I am.”  Which takes us right back to identity again!  Amazing isn’t it?

When we worship God and center on who He is we realize that all we crave and desire is found in Him.  This is not something our enemy wants you to know…your enemy is trying to use your appetites against you, and it is a brutal assault on you and I.  The good news is we fight a defeated opponent so we are fighting from the stance of victory, we aren’t fighting for it…Jesus already handled that part for us.  We can counter everything the enemy is up to and what is our big counter to all of it?  Its worship…and that is exactly how I would like to end this service today.  With a time for us all to focus and center fully on Him, the One who makes us who we are.