The most powerful and effective tool that Satan has at his disposal is your past. Evil cannot see inside your soul and evil cannot see your future. God operates in the present and sees your future in Him. So the battle lines are set, on one side your past and how it can botch your present and future, on the other side your future as a child of God and how that blesses your present. Now it is our choice as to which side we will feed into.
Paul teaches that if we feed (sow into) our flesh, we will reap death, but if we feed (sow into) our spirit, we will reap life. This principle sounds awesome, but how do we practice this “feeding”? Where the rubber meets the road is how we start our day, prepare for battle (for the battle still rages), and move into what the Lord has set before us. A fantastically deadly lie that makes the enemy smile and throw his head back in laughter is convincing us that there is no battle…at least not every day…right? I once heard a great battle cry that I repeat often: When you wake up in the morning, let your knees hit the floor before your feet! I wholeheartedly agree with this statement. Each day is a new beginning and how we start our day will inevitably chart our course, if you will.
Many times we get so caught up into our present situations and circumstances that it ends up ruling our day. And other times, we are haunted by yesterday and dwell on what could have been, should have been, what we would have done if things were different. This is truly a spiritual death! God sets before us the choice, and this choice is ours. When we decide to move forward and step into kingdom life (life in the spirit), God sees you! But we must also understand that the enemy sees that as well. A lukewarm Christian is already doing a fine job of kicking their own butt, so Satan can basically allow you to function on cruise control. But when you decide to step into the light, you now have his full attention. He will do everything in his power to quench your desire to walk in faith as a child of light. So what does the enemy do? What does this warfare look like?
Identity is the key. All of us act and think as we see ourselves. So we can be defined as a child of God or we can be defined by our past and present circumstances. You know you are in full battle-mode when you awaken stressed out about the day ahead of you. You are taking incoming fiery darts when you dwell on your past. A really crafty trick the enemy uses is having the people in your life remind you of your past and defining you by those choices. Don’t get mad at the people doing this; we do not fight people. We fight against powers and entities that work through others, sometimes unbeknownst to the person being used by spiritual forces! So we can allow God to define us by showing us who we really are in Christ, or we can be defined in earthly terms by our past, our pains, our scars, and our limitations.
One thing I try to teach, sometimes successfully and sometimes unsuccessfully, is that we all need to learn to treat one another as children of the living God. What does this mean? Jesus told us “do not judge on outward appearances, but rather judge with righteous judgment.” This means, do not look at others and judge others by what irritates you or point out their faults, but rather ask the Spirit for eyes to see their true heart, to see the potential they have as new creatures, and to see how you can “feed” their spiritual self rather than their carnal self. I know this sounds esoteric or mystical, but I can assure you it is a reality! Can you imagine what the Church would look like if we all focused on edifying (building up) one another rather than tearing down one another? Can you look past the mask and façade of another and see deeper into their soul? The answer is yes, my friend. Let me give you a real life example.
Once, this man I knew tried to destroy my life. I am not sure what prompted this attack, but he tried to turn my son against me, steal my business, and ruin my reputation. At the time, I honestly wanted to “go yard” with his head using my son’s Louisville Slugger! But after getting to the point where I knew my anger would inevitably cause more damage, I made a decision. That decision was to temporarily withdraw from the situation, withdraw from my life and family for a few days, and find some alone time with the Lord. I went somewhere quiet where I could have privacy and fasted and prayed. The prayer was something like this: “Dear Lord, I simply do not have the ability to forgive this man! I know you command us to forgive others so that you can forgive us, but honestly, I don’t have it in me. So, since I am incapable, will you please step into this situation and create forgiveness for me? I need Your help; I cannot do this without You.” Epic prayer, eh? No, quite the contrary, this is a simple and desperate prayer. And God hears our heart-cry; He sees past the words and into the deeper parts. There, in my deepest being, He granted to me an unbelievable freedom.
The Lord opened up this man’s heart to me. He showed me a hurt man, a man who has suffered in his childhood, a man who feels woefully inadequate, and a man to be pitied rather than hated. I will leave it at that. To be perfectly honest, I saw enough of this man’s heart that if I confronted him with what the Lord had showed me, it would destroy him. In a most supernatural way, he became exposed, revealed, and vulnerable. My heart was changed. I literally did a 180 degree turn in my heart. Instead of wanting to beat him up or inflict revenge, I felt love for him! I was floored by the transformation. I began praying for him and sincerely desiring healing for his heart rather than mine! God is awesome.
Pragmatically, I withdrew from this man’s destructive behavior, but was able to do it as a gentleman and he was none the wiser. To this day, I see him from time to time and we still are quite cordial to one another. So what could have been an all-out, knock-down-drag-out battle became an opportunity to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem. Brilliant. I promise you all, this is possible if you will seek the Lord and His counsel in matters concerning offense.
Truth be told, most of what offends us concerning others is simply their defense mechanisms constructed to protect themselves from past or present pain and fear. When God reveals this to us, we become true prayer warriors. All we must do is ask, seek, and knock on the door of wisdom and discernment. Godly wisdom is just that: spiritual discernment. Prideful people on the outside are actually struggling with self-worth and significance, mean and angry people are actually scarred, wounded human beings, and people who attack others have been or are being attacked themselves. If you ask a mental health professional, they will concur with this assessment. Can you see past their offense? Can you see past your own?
So you see, we don’t want to be defined by our outward appearances or reactions to life’s butt-kicking and therefore should not offer up the same evil to our neighbor. How can we leave our past in the dust if we define others by their past? Your true identity is wrapped up in Christ; others’ true identity is wrapped up in Christ as well. The Golden Rule applies here, but is only seen by God initially. As we grow as spiritual creatures, others will see this in us and actually begin to gravitate toward us. Why? Because grace, mercy and love are all personality traits of Christ, and this is wonderfully attractive to others! Jesus said, “If you lift Me up, I will draw all to Me.” He did not say, “If you lift Me up, I will draw all to you.” It is Christ in us that makes us valuable. Period. If we live defined by our choice to be what God says we are, then we will define others by the same standard. Try to see Christ in them and ask God to reveal that person’s potential as a child of God.
So all that to say this. Start every day by allowing yourself to be defined by an almighty and loving God. Don’t trust your own assessment of “you”, don’t listen to the enemy trying to define you by your past, and don’t allow the evil to overshadow the joy that is God’s promise. It is simply a choice. By choosing to find your true identity in Christ, you will think and act accordingly. The beauty of this type of spiritual walk is that you will be keenly aware that every other person is fighting the same exact battle to one extent or another. Learning to love is learning to listen. Learn to listen to God as He speaks into your life, and then be His voice as you speak into others. Build yourself up in the Lord and then go build others’ lives up. This is divine freedom and the only true way to live as a disciple of Christ Jesus.
To win this battle requires daily discipline to start every day in prayer, every day with adoration of a King and Savior that died for you, and every day focused on what God has for you and can be for you today. Day by day, you will become more and more the person that can eclipse the past by an extraordinarily bright present and future! Live in the present-future tense that pleases God, not the past-present that pleases the enemy.
Jesus carried a cross on His back so you don’t have to carry the past on yours.