My husband and I counted down the days. On Friday, December 15, Lucasfilm released the eighth Star Wars movie, The Last Jedi. We were there. Early. My hubby is the kind of fan who already knew the first two words of the upcoming film (“We’re not . . .”).
So naturally, after we married a couple of years ago, Trevor and I had a Star Wars marathon. He introduced me to all I’d missed out on in my deprived life up until that point. Now, I have to say, I’m a fan. In fact, I agreed to let Trevor design Iren’s baby announcement around Star Wars.
Consequently, today I’m sharing three ways Star Wars villain Kylo Ren points to a greater story. Check it out, and be encouraged. If you’re in Christ—no matter how dark your world may look—the dark side will not win.
3 Ways a Star Wars Villain Points to a Greater Story
If you saw the last Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens, you’ll remember Han Solo talking about how a young boy who was once a Jedi apprentice turned to the dark side and destroyed Luke Skywalker’s fledgling Jedi academy.
When I saw who that boy became, I was reminded of a few ways the new Star Wars villain, Kylo Ren, parallels our actual enemy, Satan. (Spoiler alert for those who haven’t yet seen The Force Awakens!)
Just as Kylo Ren was once a Jedi apprentice, Satan was once a good angel of light.
We know this because all God created was good, not evil. Genesis 1:31 shows God standing back, assessing His creation:
God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good (emphasis added).
Both Kylo Ren and Satan rebelled against their former masters.
Just as Kylo destroyed Luke’s academy, at some point before Genesis 3:1, Satan rebels against God. Jude 1:6 fills us in on his journey to the “dark side”:
The angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day.
Both Kylo and Satan were wounded but given more time to work their evil.
After Kylo was defeated and scarred by Rey, Kylo retreated to his dark master, Snoke. We’ll see his fight continue against “the light” in some shape in The Last Jedi.
Similarly, God cast Satan out of heaven, but he was allowed to continue his work on earth for a time:
The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven saying “Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” (Revelation 12:9-12).
Satan was then crushed at the cross, as it had been foretold in Genesis 3:15:
“He [the offspring of the woman, Jesus] shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
Hebrews 2:14 tells us:
Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself [Jesus] likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil (emphasis added).
Yet the devil still limps around, like the scarred Kylo.
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).
Why didn’t God put a complete end to Satan long ago? Pastor John Piper explains it well in thisexcellent sermon:
Jesus Christ will be more highly honored in the end because he defeats Satan through longsuffering, patience, humility, servanthood, suffering, and death, rather than through raw power. And the more highly honored the Son is, the greater the joy of those who love him.
Ways This Star Wars Villain Does Not Point to the Greater Story
This is where the similarities between Kylo and Satan end. Because while Kylo and the other evil members of the First Order continue their terror in that galaxy far, far away, no one will ultimately continue Satan’s work.
Jesus Christ has risen to ensure that the darkness will not overcome the light. He is the stronger one! Soon Satan, sin, and death will be utterly and completely done away with. Revelation 20:10 gives us a glimpse into the future:
And the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
This is incredible reason to rejoice! As epic as the Star Wars movies are, they are just that . . . movies. But Satan’s final demise (and sin and death’s) is as sure as a Star Wars nerd cooking up a terrible Rey parentage or Snoke origin theory.
It was so good to get your email and hear that you’ve been a Christian for almost a year now:
I’ve loved it, but it is also pretty overwhelming as I am just developing as a Christian and so many things are being thrown my way. Things such as Anglican tradition, special holidays, different perspectives of the Word and Christ, ways to act as a Christian woman, you name it.
I am not sure how long you’ve been a Christian, but I am pretty sure it’s been longer than I have been. Do you have any tips or advice you could pass on, which will help me in my journey with God as a new Christian? Advice regarding getting through the Word of God, praying always, listening to God, applying God to every aspect of my life, etc.?
First, praise God for giving you the gift of faith in Christ’s once-for-all sacrifice for your sins. I’m so excited I have a new “sister” in the family of God.
I’m sorry that the excitement of your new life in Christ has been crowded out by others throwing lots of stuff your way.
Don’t ever get over Christ and what He has done for you.
My main advice is this: Don’t ever get over Christ and what He has done for you. Remember that you contributed nothing to your salvation. You were dead spiritually.
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him [Christ], having forgiven us all our trespasses (Col. 2:13).
Dead people can do nothing! God gave you the gift of faith in His Son. Without this gift, you would not have been able to see how beautiful His offer of salvation is:
By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God (Eph. 2:8).
Guard yourself from believing that God will be more pleased with you if you read Scripture, pray, go to church, etc. Some Christians refer to these activities as “means of grace.” That’s because they’re not acts we do for God; they’re ways God graciously makes us more like Jesus.
So pursue these means of grace as gifts, not as duties. Here are a couple means of grace I’d start with:
1. Get involved in a solid church.
You need community; Christianity is not a solo sport. Here are three websites that can help you find solid churches in your area:
All Scripture points to Christ, so this is where you go to look for and at Him. Ask an older, godly woman who has walked with God awhile to teach you how to read and study God’s Word. Here are a few posts I’ve written on the subject that will help:
Then take a deep breath. It’s okay that there’s so much you don’t know right now. I’ve been raised on the Bible since I was a little girl, and there’s still so much I don’t know! Above all, set out to know Christ.
As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving (Col. 2:6–7).
One of my favorite quotes of all time is by Robert Murray M’Cheyne: “For every look at self take ten looks at Christ.”
It’s fine to explore some of these other things, but above all, keep the main thing the main thing. Or rather, the main Person the main Person: Christ Jesus, our Savior and Lord. As you do, I can say with Paul:
I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:6).
“Will I go to hell if I’m not a virgin?” a single girl asked me.
I wish I could scoff, “Of course not!” But the truth is, it all depends . . .
Hell: Our Default Destination
Let’s start with this basic understanding: Every person’s default destination is Hell. That’s because without exception:
All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23).
While our culture ridicules the notion that sex is off-limits to everyone other than a man and a woman united in marriage, God says otherwise.
We all sin in countless ways, but let’s specifically address this girl’s question about choosing to have premarital sex.
While our culture ridicules the notion that sex is off-limits to everyone other than a man and a woman united in marriage, God says otherwise.
First Corinthians 6:13–20 explains:
The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her?
For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
Choosing to have sex outside of marriage is sin, and all sin results in death—physical death and eternal death in hell (Rom. 6:23).
That’s because our God is stunningly more holy than we can imagine:
You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong (Hab. 1:13).
Believe me, I get how hard it is to swallow the fact that all of us deserve hell. To us, hell seems like “a divine overreaction.” But as author Randy Alcorn writes:
If we understood God’s nature and ours, we would be shocked not that some people could go to hell, but that any would be permitted into heaven. Unholy as we are, we are disqualified from saying that infinite holiness doesn’t demand everlasting punishment.
So the million dollar question is this. How can this girl who is no longer a virgin—and how can you and I—exchange our one-way ticket to hell . . . for heaven?
How to Exchange Our One-Way Ticket to Hell . . . for Heaven
We can’t on our own. But Someone has done it for us. Jesus chose to endure hell for you and me so we might have the option of entering the joys of heaven.
He [God] made him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21).
Jesus chose to endure hell for you and me so we might have the option of entering the joys of heaven.
Because of our sin, you and I deserve hell. But Jesus has made a way for us, instead, to enjoy Him forever in heaven. In response to this girl who asked, “Will I go to heaven if I’m not a virgin?” I have to ask:
Have you accepted Jesus’ unbelievably heroic, extravagant gift?
Have you confessed and turned from your sins?
First John 1:9 promises that:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Hell will be full of those who have sinned sexually (and in other ways). Heaven will also be filled with people who formerly sinned sexually (and in other ways). What’s the difference? It has nothing to do with the sins you’ve committed, but with whether you have embraced the Sin-Slayer, Jesus Christ, your righteous Substitute . . . and turned from your sin as a result.
PS: I am indebted to Randy Alcorn for his insights on hell in chapters 3 and 4 of his bookHeaven.
Editor’s Note: This post was written as part of the 15-Day Heart Prep series for True Woman ’14.
My whole life I’d struggled to defeat the power of sin—with no success. But after I began studying Romans 6–8 with a couple friends, all that changed.
Some of it was old news. You know—Jesus came to earth, lived a perfect life, died on a cross, was buried in a tomb, rose from the dead three days later, and then went back to heaven. When I was growing up, I’d rehearsed the story every Sunday at the communion table.
But I’d never connected the dots. I’d never understood how these facts about Jesus applied to me—how they changed everything about me.
It wasn’t just Jesus who died—I died with Him. It wasn’t just Jesus who was buried—my old self, packed with sin, was buried with Him, too. And when Jesus burst out of that tomb with brand-new resurrection life, I, too, was given new life! Galatians 2:20 sums it up well:
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
For the first time, I understood Jesus didn’t die to forgive me of my sin and leave me in it. He died to forgive and to free me from the power of sin! Suddenly I realized I didn’t have to be jealous of that beautiful woman. I didn’t have to hate that person for excluding me. I wasn’t powerless anymore.
For the first time, I understood that Jesus didn’t die to forgive me of my sin and leave me in it. He died to forgive and to free me from the power of sin!
“We know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. . . . So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 6:6–11).
My New Identity
I realized that I had a new identity now: Dead to sin, alive to God, and in Christ Jesus (Rom. 6:11). My only job? Believing it to be so and living in light of that truth.
From that point on, I saw God begin to change not only my outward behavior but even the hidden desires of my heart. Whether I actually became a Christian at this time or not, I can’t say. I asked Jesus to save me as a young child, but this was the first time I really understood why the Good News was such good news! This was the beginning of my whole new life.
Your Whole New Life
How about you? Are you “in Christ”? If all your trust is in His righteousness and not yours, the answer is “yes!” Now it’s up to you to remember, believe, and personalize these truths. The old you is dead and buried, you’ve been raised brand-new in Christ! Believe it. Live in light of it.
What about you? Are you looking within, or are you looking to Christ?
I think these words of Jesus are the scariest I’ve ever heard:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
“On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’
“And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness'” (Matt. 7:21–23).
Check out the résumé of these people to whom Jesus will refuse entrance into heaven:
They claim that Jesus is their Lord, the One who rules their lives.
They publicly teach about Jesus with passion and authority.
They cast out demons in Jesus’ name (something I definitely haven’t done!).
They do miracles—actual miracles—all in Jesus’ name.
Jesus says people will be shocked when He’ll ask, “Who are you? I never knew you.”
News flash: hell is for good people, too. People like you; people like me.
Tell me, do you:
Read your Bible?
Volunteer at the soup kitchen?
Tell people about Jesus?
Rescue helpless animals?
Go on mission trips?
Help in the church nursery?
If so, you’re good enough to go to hell.
You’re headed to heaven not because you were good enough, but because Jesus was good enough for you.
But if good people go to hell, then who on earth is good enough for heaven?!
And if your hope is in being good enough to get into heaven, you’re headed straight to hell.
I’ve heard Mark Vroegop say it like this: “Works don’t work.” Check out Romans 4:5 to see what he means:
To the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.
In case “does not work” sounds like a permission slip for a lifelong vacation, let me clarify. In 2 Peter 1:5–7 we’re told:
Make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.
“The gospel is not opposed to effort but [it is opposed] to earning,” the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible explains.
There’s nothing wrong with good works—as long as they flow out of gratitude for the grace you’ve been shown by Jesus. You’re headed to heaven not because you were good enough, but because Jesus was good enough for you. He bore God’s wrath toward your filthy and your “good” works, and He gave you the record of always having been 100 percent good.
If you recognize that you’re good enough to go to hell, please, oh, please, would you stop counting on your “good works” to earn you a spot in heaven? Turn to and trust in the only One good enough to secure eternal salvation for you—Jesus.
Do you ever feel like you don’t have a clue how to help the teens in your life? Maybe, like me, you think you need a crash course in counseling and culture and technology and teen speak and, well, a little of everything in order to help them!
Maybe you’ve never gotten too close to them ’cause you’ve been afraid you wouldn’t know how to answer their questions. Or maybe you have given them answers, but then you’ve woken up the next morning wondering, Did I really help them? Was my answer even relevant? Or did I just put a heavy burden on their back?
In one sense it’s not a bad place to be, realizing you have nothing to offer unless God comes through . . . again. Jesus knew what He was talking about when He said, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” You and I will always be needy this side of heaven.
But today I hope to give you a glimpse of the direction I think you need to head in order to be able to help your teen(s) with . . . everything. I’m not saying there’s not room for a varied education—I love to learn!—but if I could advise you, I’d tell you to learn one subject inside and out. I’d encourage you to learn how to apply it from every angle to any person’s life situation.
Are you ready? It’s the gospel your teen needs. He or she needs you to help them see how Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection has everything to do with their Friday nights and Monday mornings . . . and everything in-between.
Let’s Connect the Dots
“But Paula,” you say, “If everything my teen needs (and everything I need) is found in the gospel, then why is it so tough to make that connection and to apply it to everyday situations?”
I think it’s ’cause it’s easier to deal on the moral, what-I-can-see-with-my-eyes-level. Connecting the dots to how your teen needs the gospel means you should want more than just outward conformity.
Do you? What do you want more in your teen? Genuine heart change or outward conformity to the rules? If you want the former (and oh, how I hope you do!), you have to get to the heart behind why they’re doing what they’re doing. The bad news is this will take longer. It’s not as easy as just saying “Stop it!” or “Fix it!” You have to dig deeper to root motives.
But the good news is when you apply the gospel to core heart issues, it has the potential to bring about real, lasting heart-change from the inside out.
Here are three tips for you as you interact with teens (or anyone, for that matter). If an acronym would help, remember “play” (PLA minus the “y”):
Pray. Pray that they’ll “get” gospel truths and implications. Pray that you will. Pray silently as you’re talking to them. Even just throwing up a “Help, God” or a “What next, God?” Second Corinthians 4:4 says,
The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
If this is Satan’s scheme for unbelievers, you’d better believe he’s up to something similar in believer’s lives.
Listen. Listen not just to what your teen is saying, but what may be behind what they’re saying. Ask questions to clarify. Lots of questions. Make sure you’ve really heard them.
Apply. Apply the gospel to their life situation. When you’re finished, if your teen still has a glazed-over look, it’s possible you didn’t explain it well, or it’s possible their heart is hardened and their eyes are blinded to the good news. But know that the fault never lies with the gospel itself. It is, and continues to be, as Romans 1:16 says, “the power of God.”
With that said, let’s practice applying the gospel to a real-life situation right now.
In a moment of raw confession, the pastor’s daughter, who serves in leadership and who you’ve been friends with for years, admits to you she often watches porn. You’re shocked. How do you respond in a gospel-centered way?
First, recognize that it took enormous courage to tell you. Here’s a recent comment from a teen on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com. It’s on a different topic, but you’ll still get the picture:
For a fleeting month I thought I was homosexual or bi. . . . To answer your question, do we feel safe talking about it with other believers: Heck no! I think the church is still hostile toward it. I am against homosexuality (at least acting on it) and so is my church. I think if I told anyone what I felt like that they would freak out. Just like I don’t feel safe telling anyone I struggle with self-sex. I have told people I cut and was bulimic but the weird sexual sins, no way would I ever tell someone at my church.
This girl isn’t the only one who feels like that. You may even feel like you can’t share your sin struggles with others in the church. That’s a problem we want to avoid in our churches, as we’re told to confess our sins to each other and pray for each other, that we might be healed (James 5:16).
You and I need to be a part of making the church a safe environment to confess our sin struggles to each other so we can all get the prayer and help we desperately need. And what safer place than the church, where we know we’re accepted in Christ and where we can fight against our sin and do the hard work of repentance together? How much easier that makes it to admit how flawed we actually are!
So a good place to start is in affirming your teen friend. Tell her you admire her transparency and want to model it, too.
Then, you might want to explain something like this to her in your own words. (I’m borrowing from Pastor Tim Keller.)
We are more wicked than we ever dared believe, but more loved and accepted in Christ than we ever dared hope at the very same time. This [truth] creates a radical new dynamic for personal growth. It means that the more you see your own flaws and sins, the more precious, electrifying, and amazing God’s grace appears to you.
The more aware you are of God’s grace and acceptance in Christ, the more able you are to drop your denials and self-defenses and admit the true dimensions and character of your sin.
After that, you might offer to meet with this teen regularly to study gospel truths and pray together. Here’s a place to start: Five Ways to Avoid Getting “Beyond” the Gospel. As you share gospel truths, don’t shy away from giving her helpful tips like moving her computer to a public place and getting an accountability partner. These aren’t enough to deal a blow to the sin root in and of themselves, but they’re super helpful when the teen also understands the practical outworkings of God’s holiness, their sinfulness, and the “Great Exchange” Christ made so they might be seen as totally flawless in God’s eyes.
Yep, I’m convinced that everything your teen needs is found in the gospel. Everything your teen needs, everything you need, and everything every single person on this planet needs. Don’t worry if you don’t have a Master of Arts in Biblical Counseling or if you you’re not up on the latest fashions. You have everything you need to help that teen . . . in the gospel.
“ON THE MOON! And It’s ‘One Giant Leap for Mankind'”
All these headlines were breaking news at one time, but now they’re just . . . old news.
The gospel isn’t much different for most Christians. I don’t know about you, but for most of my life, I thought of the gospel as good news for unbelievers but old news for believers.
Boy, was I wrong.
News flash: The gospel isn’t mainly for your lost neighbors!
The Gospel Is for You, Too, Believer
But don’t just take my word for it. Let’s head straight to the source. For example, in Romans 16:25, Paul writes to believers,
Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ . . .
Did you catch that? It’s the gospel that strengthens us as believers. Not how-to books or more schooling but the simple, familiar story of Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection on our behalf.
Here’s another verse, written about believers, that clues us in that the gospel isn’t mainly for our lost neighbors:
The gospel is bearing fruit and increasing in them since the day they heard it and understood the grace of God in truth (Col. 1:6).
Mind if I ask . . . Is the gospel bearing fruit and increasing in you? (Hint: If you’re not regularly going back to gospel truths, it probably isn’t.)
I like how Tim Keller puts it,
The gospel is not just the ABCs but the A-to-Z of the Christian life.
Reminding Ourselves of the Gospel
The gospel is meant to change everything about our lives. Everything. Paul understood that; that’s why he reminded the Corinthians believers over and over of the gospel:
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you (1 Cor. 15:1).
We need to daily be reminded of the gospel, too. Marci Preheim says,
Christians do not outgrow the gospel. They don’t achieve a level of righteousness and then write how-to books to help the folks who haven’t figured it out yet. We never get beyond needy.
And I’d add, we never get beyond our need for the gospel.
Receiving the Gospel
Paul goes on,
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received.
When we hear the gospel for the three-thousandth time, rather than sighing, I’ve heard this before—why can’t you write a more practical blog post? and then clicking away, we need to gladly receive and believe the gospel each time we hear it.
I stumbled across an admission on the blogosphere from a man named Dane Ortlund and found it really helpful. Here’s the gist:
At the most fundamental level, I am an irreversible “believer” the rest of my life, by the grace of God. But at another level I move from believer to unbeliever (from exercising faith in Christ to forsaking faith in Christ) dozens of times, hundreds even, each day.
At the doctrinal level we look to Christ with sustained, consistent permanence. But in our everyday experience we keep faltering, keep swiveling away from Christ and looking to other saviors—even Christian saviors like Scripture memory or service in the church.
Ouch. I don’t know about you, but that hurts ’cause it’s right on. We need to continually believe and receive the gospel.
Paul knew that nothing is more important than the gospel:
I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received (1 Cor. 15:1).
Dusting off the Gospel Daily
So if the gospel is so important, how can you grow in your understanding and appreciation of it? Here are five suggestions.
Realize you’re not any more accepted or loved by God if you grasp all the gospel implications for everyday life, or if you can communicate gospel implications clearly. You and I are accepted by faith in Christ alone.
According to The Gospel-Centered Life, the way to grow in the gospel is not to downplay either God’s holiness or your sinfulness. As your awareness of God’s holiness and your sinfulness grows, the cross will stretch bigger and bigger in your mind and heart. Surprising, huh?
Continually repent and believe. Repent of forsaking Christ in favor of a works-righteousness and believe again in Christ’s perfect righteousness applied to you. Repent and believe. Repent and believe all day long.
Watch how the biblical authors modeled this, and then imitate them. Over and over in the New Testament, there’s this pattern of first gospel declaration (who we are in Christ), and then gospel expectation (how we are to live in light of this). Watch for this pattern and communicate this way with others. When you share a gospel obligation, be sure to also share a gospel declaration. Tim Keller puts it this way,
The knowledge of our acceptance in Christ . . . makes the law of God a thing of beauty instead of a burden. We now run the race for the joy that is set before us rather than for the fear that comes behind us.
Get your hands on gospel-centered resources.Books by Elyse Fitzpatrick like:
The fact that:
the Titanic sunk . . .
and mankind left footprints on the moon . .
and Princess Di died . . .
doesn’t have a whole lot to do with your everyday life, does it.
But if you’re “in Christ,” the fact that: Jesus died . . . was buried . . . and rose again . . . has everything to do with your everyday life. Everything.
Is this a news flash for you? Have you tended to think of the gospel as good but OLD news, or as good news for today and tomorrow and the day after?
Not only are there enemies against you out there (Satan and the world), there’s an enemy within you—your very Self or “flesh.”
Self is made up of your passions and desires that are opposed to God and His ways. At one time, all of us were slaves to Self, willingly bowing to its every whim and demand:
We all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind (Eph. 2:3).
You can hear the defeat in this message I received from someone recently who’s experiencing slavery to Self:
I read some of your recent posts, and it sounds like you’re able to do the one thing I struggle with most—filling my time with heavenly thoughts instead of thinking of my sexual needs! The worst part about it is that I sometimes feed those needs! We’re all sinners! AAAAAGGGHHH!
What this person doesn’t realize is that they’re not sexual needs; they’re sexual desires. And Self’s desires can be beat. How? Not by self-effort! As Andrew Murray says, “Self can never cast out self.”
You can’t rescue yourself from Self, but there’s a Savior who can! God wants to save you—not only from His wrath against your sin—but from slavery to your sinful desires. If and when you put all your faith and trust and hope in Jesus’ sacrifice for your sin, your old self was put to death with Jesus:
We know that our old self was crucified with him [Jesus] in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin (Rom. 6:6).
Galatians 5:24 tells us,
Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
Do you belong to Jesus Christ? If so, consider yourself dead to sin and dead to Self. Then rely on the powerful Spirit of Jesus Christ who lives in you in order to defeat Self on a moment-by-moment basis.
You used to have just one way of living—it was always and only life in the flesh. Life controlled by your natural, sinful desires and drives. Now, though, if Jesus has made you a brand-new person with brand-new desires and power to do right, you can “walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16). Each day, each moment, you have two choices. You can either:
1. Operate in the flesh.
2. Operate in the Spirit
At any given point, only the flesh or the Spirit will be in charge. Just as you can’t run backward and forward at the same time, you can’t live in the flesh and the Spirit. Galatians 5:17 says:
The desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other.
Until God gives you an eternal, sinless body, you are going to experience an ongoing fight between the flesh and the Spirit. You will decide whom you allow to gain the upper hand by the choices you make. Which is more evident in your life, the works of the flesh or the fruit of the Spirit?
We’re profiling our enemies in this blog series (click here for your first enemy). Your next enemy might come as a surprise to you. It’s . . . the world.
When you think of the world, you might think of exploring Paris and New Zealand and the Ivory Coast (how exciting does that sound?!). The world seems like a neutral space full of endless possibilities for adventure. It is . . . right?
It all depends on what you mean by “world.”
The World as It First Was I love the poem in Proverbs 8:22–31 where Wisdom is personified as a woman remembering the time long ago when she had a front-row seat as God handcrafted the physical world. I can just hear her excitement as she leans forward, a sparkle in her eye, and recounts,
“I was beside him, like a master workman, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the children of man” (v. 31).
After Wisdom watched God create the first dust of the world and the earth with its fields and the first man and the first woman, she saw Him put them in a beautiful garden. Then she watched as He talked and walked with the man and his wife (Gen. 3:8).
Unfortunately, she was also there when our first parents turned their backs on Wisdom and chose instead to rebel against God. The whole world was placed under a curse (Rom. 8:20–22).
The World as It Now Is
The sad fact is, you’re not living in an environment that’s for you, like a tomato plant in a sunny greenhouse. Your life in this world is more like a tomato plant that’s been thrown into a pitch-black furnace room in the bowels of a factory.
Satan is the major influence on the ideals, opinions, goals, hopes, and views of the majority of people. His influence also encompasses the world’s philosophies, education, and commerce. The thoughts, ideas, speculations, and false religions of the world are under his control and have sprung from his lies and deceptions.
So while God’s created world is still good, the whole world system is not. First John 2:16 warns us,
All that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.
If you want to learn more about what this means, check out John Piper’s sermon on this verse. Here’s a little taste:
Love for the world pushes out love for God, and love for God pushes out love for the world. . . . If your love for God is cool this morning it’s because love for the world has begun to take over your heart and choke your love for God. The love of the world and the love of the Father cannot coexist.
The World as It Soon Will Be The next verse in 1 John gives us another reason not to love the world:
The world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever (2:17).
Did you catch that? This world that feels so solid is really just temporary. It’s going out of fashion. God is going to judge the world (Acts 17:31), and then He’s going to make it brand-sparkling new!
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:1–4).
How can you be sure that you won’t be judged with this present world but will live in the new world with God? John 1:9–13 explains:
The true light, which gives light to everyone [Jesus], was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
Have you “received” Jesus? Or is your love for this present world keeping you from loving Him? Will you repent and ask God to help you love Him more than this world system?
I am in-between both of those characteristics: Adam and Christ. Some days I give into the world, other days I live my life for Christ. It is a never-ending battle.
Here’s the thing: Being in Christ is less about your experience and more about your position in Christ. There isn’t any in-between. You’re either all the way “in Adam” or all the way “in Christ.”
The fact is, all of us were born “in Adam,” but if and when we put our trust in Jesus to be our righteousness, we are born again “in Christ.” We are one with Him now. It’s a fact. A true one.
Paul begins Romans 6 by asking should we keep sinning ’cause we’ve been shown such crazy extravagant grace in Jesus? NO WAY! he bursts in on himself. We’ve died to sin! We died and were buried with Jesus, and now we, too, have brand-new resurrection life. We have power over sin.
Our job—to believeit to be so,
You also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus (Rom. 6:11).
As you begin to operate out of who you are (dead to sin, alive to God, and in Christ Jesus), it will drastically change what you do.
My whole life I’d struggled to defeat the power of sin—with no success. But now I was reading startling truths I’d never grasped.
It wasn’t just Jesus who had died—I’d died with Him. It wasn’t just Jesus who had been buried—my old self, packed with sin, had been buried with Him, too. And when Jesus burst out of that tomb with brand-new resurrection life, I, too, was given new life! Galatians 2:20 sums it up well:
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but
Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by
faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
For the first time, I understood that Jesus didn’t die to forgive me of my sin but leave me in it. He died to forgive and to free me from the power of sin. Suddenly I realized I didn’t have to be jealous of that pretty girl. I didn’t have to covet every guy I saw. I didn’t have to hate that guy for not liking me. I wasn’t powerless anymore.
In fact, in Christ I was no longer that helpless, hopeless, boy-crazy girl. I had a new identity now: I was dead to sin, alive to God, and in Christ Jesus. My only job? Believing it to be so and living in light of that truth.
From that point on, I saw God begin to change not only my outward behavior but even the hidden desires of my heart. Whether I actually became a Christian at this time or not, I can’t say. I asked Jesus to save me at about age four, but this was the first time I really understood why the Good News was such good news!
This was the beginning of my whole new life.
Notice I said “the beginning.” It’s not like I was instantly transformed. But as I remembered, believed, and personalized these truths, my overwhelming despair ebbed away and was gradually replaced by hope. I stopped trying so hard and just started dying. Or rather, I started believing that I had already died with Christ. I gave up control and let Jesus take over.
How about you? Have you repented of your sin and put all your faith in Christ’s righteousness instead of your own? If so, you are now dead to sin, alive to God, and in Christ Jesus. Regardless of how you lived yesterday (or today!), this is true of you. Now, begin to thank God for this truth. Wear it. Remember it. Relish it. Live from it.