So we have started a new series where we are talking about Spiritual Warfare.  It is always so interesting to me how we can react to discussions on this topic…first and foremost outside of you understanding the Gospel for what it is, I’m not sure there is something more important to understand, and engage into, because whether you want to get into it or not, you are in a Spiritual Battle.  You don’t get to not play, just because you aren’t willing to play.  The reality is that we all feel it, it’s just that some of us by not engaging are easier targets than others.  We have to be intentional because are enemy is, and you don’t get a free pass for not playing.  You know, growing up around the church you see all kinds of different reactions to Spiritual Warfare discussions.  For some people they get really excited to discuss the super natural and they get excited to jump into this type of talk.  There are some people who get really fearful because that same super natural thing that excites the people we just talked about scares them.  They don’t like bringing up the devil, and frankly would just assume we ignore the war altogether for fear of angels and demons and all of that sort of talk.  I often talk to you about the extremes that we all seem to jump into…but while so many of us are focused on the extremes of Spiritual Warfare and can swing wildly from one extreme or the other, my prayer for us always seems to land back in Elisha’s words and prayer for his servant as King Aram’s army closed in around him.

2 Kings 6:15 When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” the servant asked.16 “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 17 And Elisha prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes so he may see.” Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. NIV

This really becomes my prayer for you.  “Lord open our eyes so that we may see.”  There is a lot of extremes and emotions when it comes to Spiritual Warfare.  Can’t you just feel the calm in Elisha here and I really want that for all of us.  That we could have our eyes opened to see the greater reality, the spiritual war for what it is so that we can live standing tall in who we are in Christ.  If you have eyes to see the war for what it is you can live differently.  If you understand what the war is being fought over and why, then you can do something about it.  If you don’t have eyes to see…or if you just ignore the war, you will spend your life being slowly and systematically picked apart by your enemy who just won’t give you any timeouts in life.  So today we will talk about Spiritual Warfare and I want to talk to you about what this war is being fought over and why.  I also want to show you the best way to counter everything the enemy is doing to attack you.  The amazing thing is for most of us is that we don’t even recognize the fight we are in, and we are slowly, and systematically being picked apart by an enemy we don’t even realize exists!  A lot of us don’t even realize we have an enemy, let alone that he has goals, he has a plan, and he has strategic targets in his effort to take you down.  Today I want to talk to you about the last thing the enemy would ever want you to know.  So we will need the Lord to open our spiritual eyes so that we may see the greater reality unfolding all around us.   We have an enemy.  We are at war.  We must recognize this fact, this is exactly where we need to start today, in the scripture I share every week!  Jesus sharing why he came to this Earth, and he also identifies our enemy.

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

Such an important moment where Jesus explains why he came, that we may have life to the full…but he also explains something else that is very important.  We have an enemy.  Who has come to steal, to kill, and to destroy.  We must understand that we have an enemy.  We live in a world at war and that 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 his 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 ever knowing or feeling the 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 need to slow down and just take a moment to let this soak in.  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.  So as we soak this enormous thought in for a moment here today that you were wired by God to reflect His glory I want you thinking about this…that means that God really wired us in such a way that we seek fulfillment in Him.  It’s an instinct of yours to seek fulfillment wired right into your nature.  Your enemy knows this and tries to get you to seek fulfillment on and from anything but where you should.  So let me ask you a question that I think many of us, can relate to you…I know that I can!

Why is it that we can’t seem to find fulfillment in ourselves?  It’s interesting isn’t it?  It goes back to this core principal of who we are.  It goes back to our identity.  The reason you run to so many things to find fulfillment in life and just can’t seem to find it is because you were wired by God to find fulfillment in bringing Him glory.  Everything goes back to the identity that is wired into you.  This is why so many people struggle.  First they don’t see the war.  Second they don’t know what it is being fought over.  Third they don’t realize just how valuable they are and why this battle wages over their God given identity.  Which is why we see so many people struggling to find fulfillment in this world.  Wondering why they never do.  You see if you go anywhere or to anything other than Jesus to find fulfillment, to find your identity it just will always leave you wanting more.  Here’s why, it’s because it goes against God’s design that is wired into you and when you do that it will always leave you wanting more.  This is the assault your enemy has on this world.  He is doing everything he can to keep your from standing in your God given identity and we see the damage everywhere.  Sin pulls us away from God centered lives, and as we distance ourselves from Him we lose sight of who we are.  As we lose sight of who we are we still have a desire for fulfillment but because God isn’t central we run to things that will never give us what we need.  It’s brutal, and frankly it leads to lives that are tired and stuck.  But there is good news and that good news is the Gospel message.  Yes there is a battle.  Yes there is an assault on your true identity and yes we mess up and lose sight of who we were actually created to be, but Jesus came to undo all the thief does.  Jesus redeems our identity.  Because of Jesus we can stand tall in who God created us to be!  So we need to ask Jesus into our lives because Jesus takes care of everything with God for us!  There is so much confusion about this with people today, which is scary because it is so clearly laid out in the Bible.  When we ask Jesus into our lives we are dead to all that sinful stuff and made new, we are alive in Jesus.  This is the good news!  That Jesus took on all of our sin so that we could take on his very own righteousness.  We are children of God, redeemed by Jesus, and can stand in our true God given identity.  Amazing right?

Well there is a problem.  The problem is that we can know this amazing good news of the Gospel in our heads but we fail to connect it into our lives.  We can even share that amazing message of grace and love with others but we aren’t applying it into our lives and living it out.  There is a tension there…and I see Paul really addressing that tension between who God says we are in Jesus and who we think we are in the reality of our normal, everyday lives here…

Philippians 3:12 I don’t mean to say I am perfect. I haven’t learned all I should even yet, but I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ saved me for and wants me to be. TLB

Paul is talking of the tension here of staying centered on the Gospel message as we walk through our daily lives.  He is feeling the spiritual war, this isn’t something that just hits on Sunday at church and he is saying you know what I’m not perfect but I am pushing on towards Jesus because of all He has done for me!  This is huge, it’s a daily fight to center on who you are in Jesus.  You may not think of yourself as super spiritual, you may not think that you are a big part of a spiritual war but you feel it each and every day.  It’s a fight to stay focused on God all through the week isn’t it?  It’s a fight to stay walking tall in your God given identity isn’t it?  Do we really want to say that all of that is just a coincidence?  It’s time that we have eyes to see what is really going on around you.  Ken talked to us about how we take something that is spiritual and make it practical, this is what the enemy does and it’s time to see it for what it is.  It is war and it is being fought over your identity.  As we talk about this, can’t you now look at your children and how they go to school and come home beat up sometimes and see the assault on who God created them to be?  You feel it too…can’t you feel the assault on your own identity at work, around family, around your friends, in all that you do?  Everything pushes you away from who you were wired to be in this world.  So I wanted to start here and build out.  You have an enemy.  You are at war and that war wages over your God given identity which has been given to us through the redemptive power of Jesus.  This is such good stuff!  God not only forgives our sins but also gives us a new identity based on who He is!  Now let me show you why this scares your enemy so much…

  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 fear the future.

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.  Listen your enemy isn’t worried about whether or not you are showing up at a church service on a Sunday morning.  He isn’t worried about you cleaning up a few behaviors in your life but make no mistake about this your enemy is terrified of you discovering your true identity in Christ.  Because when you stand centered on God and grasp your true value, your enemy has no power over you anymore.

So how does he do it?  That really is the big question because if we can see the enemy’s schemes we can actually do something about it.  Well this really becomes what the next 4 weeks of this series are all about, and today we are going to look at a very common way the enemy will come at you.  He will speak lies to you with the hope that you will agree with those lies about who you are.  Here’s two very common one lies that the enemy wants you to agree with:

  1. We decide we are what we do. This is one of the most common lies of our enemy.  It’s amazing to me how we can read about, talk about, and celebrate Jesus and the amazing gift that Jesus was.  We can sing songs like “Amazing Grace.”  We can tell others how we Christians are imperfect, and how badly we mess up, yet God loved us so much that He would send His one and only Son to take care of all of it for us!  We have learned the Gospel message.  We celebrate it in every worship song.  Yet so many of us fall into and agree with this lie.  Satan says this about your identity: What you do determines who you are.  If you agree with that lie, you are giving your identity away.  Do you even see that as an attack on your identity?  Well it is.  It’s not what you do that determines who you are.  God’s truth about who you are is this: Who you are determines what you do.  And who you are is a child of God…an image bearer of the King.  Which is an incredible title that you get to wear.  I think if you have agreed with this lie maybe the biggest thing you need to hear and understand is the simplest thing I could ever say to you.  GOD IS PLEASED WITH YOU.  GOD LOVES YOU!   The reality is that most of us think that God WILL be pleased with us when we do something for Him someday…maybe more so when we STOP doing some things we are doing now…but that is not the case!  God is pleased with you because you reflect His glory through Jesus and His amazing sacrifice on the Cross.  You are an image bearer of the King.  I want you to think this through.  We can really start to understand this special message of who we are as we see what God says about Jesus as He is baptized by his cousin John…

Matthew 3:16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” NIV

This is an amazing moment and do you notice that God is pleased with His son…and His son hasn’t really done anything yet!  God isn’t pleased with Jesus because of anything Jesus could do for Him.  He is pleased with Him because He reflects God’s image and while Jesus did it better than you and I do it, guess what…you please God, because you reflect God’s image too and because of Jesus and what He did for you God sees His reflection in you as perfectly as He saw it in His son!

So many of us agree with our enemy thinking “I am what I do.”  That is a very dangerous thing to do because you and I are not perfect.  We will mess up…and if you believe the deceiver here, when you mess up (and you will) it will crush you.  Can you see the work of the enemy here?  Our identity is found in Jesus and what He did, not in us and what we do.  If we start to look for who we are in anything but God we are setting ourselves up for a great big fall.

  1. We decide we are what has been done to us.  We live in a world full of hurt people and we know that hurt people, hurt people.  I think one of the biggest set ups for a lot of people is that we walk through life expecting life to be pain free…especially after we join Jesus’ team!  This is just not going to happen.  It is such a lie which makes sense because your enemy is a liar.  He has no power over you, but he wants you to agree with these lies and this one is a big one.  Listen to me, your hurts…the injustices done to you…all the wounds of your life…they have no power or authority to identify who you are!  If they are it’s because you are agreeing with the lies of your enemy.  You know scripture actually tells us how we can understand just how incredible the love of Christ is and how you can really harness your own wounds and hurts.  Paul tells us how, it’s by sharing in Christ’s suffering…basically he is saying instead of agreeing with those lies that your hurts define who you are, use those tough moments to actually grow closer to Jesus!

Philippians 3:8 Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant — dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ 9 and be embraced by him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ — God’s righteousness. 10 I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself. 11 If there was any way to get in on the resurrection from the dead, I wanted to do it. MSG

Being a partner in Christ’s suffering…wow.  Think about this, suffering the way Jesus suffered isn’t just any type of hurt or suffering.  It’s actually suffering because of someone else’s choices and sins…not your own!  Until we experience being sinned against we can’t fully understand how incredible and undeserved the forgiveness of Jesus actually is.  Peter really nails this here in 1 Peter 2…

1 Peter 2:20 There’s no particular virtue in accepting punishment that you well deserve. But if you’re treated badly for good behavior and continue in spite of it to be a good servant, that is what counts with God. 21 This is the kind of life you’ve been invited into, the kind of life Christ lived. He suffered everything that came his way so you would know that it could be done, and also know how to do it, step-by-step. 22 He never did one thing wrong, Not once said anything amiss. 23 They called him every name in the book and he said nothing back. He suffered in silence, content to let God set things right. 24 He used his servant body to carry our sins to the Cross so we could be rid of sin, free to live the right way. His wounds became your healing. 25 You were lost sheep with no idea who you were or where you were going. Now you’re named and kept for good by the Shepherd of your souls. MSG

It’s funny though…some of us are wounded.  We are hurting so badly and that hurt that came just wasn’t our fault and the last thing you would ever want to hear is that those hurts and forgiving and moving through them can lead you to a deeper understanding of Jesus and His love for you.  I get it.  You don’t want to hear me say that to you right now…but it is truth.  What happened to you is not ok.  You have been hurt.  You have been sinned against and that is not ok.  What we must do is protect ourselves in this moment because if we aren’t careful those wounds can easily become our identity.  We are not what has been done to us.  We are children of the King.  We have been redeemed through Jesus to reflect God’s own glory.  What has been done to me does not define me.

There are many different lies of the enemy that will come at you, the key is identifying the truth of God from the lies.  I’m not sure if you picked up what I was putting down here today but if you noticed as we talked about the deception everything that countered the lies of the enemy brought us back to the amazing good news of the Gospel.  Interesting isn’t it?  This is where we must center ourselves.  Our identity is not found in what we do, or what we have accomplished, or what others think of us, or what kind of an impression we can make on God.  Our Heavenly Father loves us and it’s not because of what we do, but because we are His very own children.  This is why we worship.  This is what we celebrate as Christians.  SO WHY IS IT SO HARD TO CENTER OUR LIVES ON THIS GOSPEL TRUTH?  It’s the war.  It’s your enemy who came to take your value, your self-worth, and you identity away from you.  Listen your value comes from God and what He says about who we are, not our performance + ________.

The Big Secret.  So I told you I wanted to show you today the last thing your enemy would ever want you to know about what is really at the very center of all the enemy is up to.  No matter what the lie is that the enemy is throwing at you.  He is doing whatever he can to get you to chase everything and anything around other than God to find fulfillment, to find peace, to find life…and none of it will work.  Think just about these two lies that we looked at today.  Do you see it?  In the end there is something very primary to what the enemy is trying to get you to do.  He wants to trick you into substituting God worship for centering on other things.  In the end his primary scheme is to get you to worship idols.  It’s idolatry…now I know, I know you would never do that.  What a silly thing people used to worship statues, etc. but here’s the deal as the liar comes and we make agreements with his lies rather than God’s truth, we are often falling to idol worship of some kind.  Whether it’s public opinion, material possessions, sports, wealth and accomplishment…anytime you substitute something into your life where God should be its idolatry.  Which is empty, and will never satisfy the craving you have for life to the full…which Jesus told you he came to provide for you.  When we fall into the deception of the enemy we slide into idolatry.  When that happens we lose sight of the magnitude of God in our lives.  That is really what idols do.  Idols steal from you just how much you need God in your life as you lean out on very temporary, empty things instead of the eternal and everlasting God.  The second thing that idols do is to take your God given identity away as we start to trust those things, people, places, or ideas to improve our lives and bring us that life to the full thing instead of trusting God.  Which if you remember from earlier in the talk today will never work because God wired you to find satisfaction only in Him.  This leaves so many of us chasing our tails and leaning on very shaky things to come through for us in a way that only God can.  It’s an incredible set up that only ends one way…BADLY.  God created you in His image, redeeming you through Jesus.  God has already given you a secure identity in Himself.  He wants you to reflect His glory through His identity in you.  Listen to me here…Instead of trying to express who you are or trying to find yourself let God express who He is through your life!  Any time you are substituting God worship for other things you are falling into idolatry…which is in the end what your enemy wants you to do.

The search for your identity through anything other than Jesus is what the deceiver is trying to guide you into.  Your identity is not found in what you do, it’s not found in your accomplishments, it’s not found in any of your experiences…your enemy wants you to think your identity is found there.  When you go there instead of to God you are sliding into idol worship and you will never see it coming.  This is the last thing your enemy would ever want you to see and hopes you never understand… and we all fall into idolatry pretty easily.  But you know what, there is a way to counter what he is up to, and that counter is genuine God worship.

As we worship, we center and focus on God.  When we do that He will continually strengthen and protect who we are in Him.  As we worship and center and focus on God the magnitude of God’s love, the magnitude of The Cross, the absolute enormity of Salvation becomes our focus and guess what; it also becomes our self-worth!  All of your own personal world comes together through God worship, which allows us to center fully on Him.  As we worship we give God what He is worth and we also discover are own worth in Him!  Listen to me, the last thing your enemy wants you to understand is that this battle of your identity at its very core is a battle over what you will worship.  When you worship anything but God you fall to identity crisis.  You lose sight of your true value in Christ.  You lose who you are as you lose sight of who God is.  Worship is a really big deal.  What you worship will actually program your life.  The overwhelming yet subtle theme behind all that the enemy is up to comes back to what you worship.  This is the big secret.  This is the last thing your enemy would ever want you to know.  You want to overcome all the assaults, all the lies, all the deceptions, all of the shots the enemy takes at who you are?  You overcome all of it centering on God in true worship.  The secret to overcoming all the schemes and lies of your enemy is found in centering on God.  The key, to countering all the enemy does comes down to centering your life on God, it’s all about what you worship.  The battle is real, it is your reality whether you want it to be or not, and the last thing the enemy would ever want you to know is that right in the middle of this war is the fight for what you will worship.