Yesterday was one of those really special Sundays. First of all, there were 9 in our Young Adult Bible study group, we had our first communion service in our new worship center, we enjoyed a church-wide picnic at the Garrett’s and we had an Easter Egg hunt for the kids. It was a gorgeous day, not too hot outside, and no mosquitoes. As you can tell, Jack and I had some fun showing off and taking a photo opp on Lonnie Smith's motorcycle!
The title of this week’s session was God’s Permissive Will and here are just a few of the things we learned taken from my notes.
The enemy (Satan) latches on to our weakness or hidden spots of vulnerability to attack us. Victims of seduction share certain vulnerabilities at the time of their attack. The number one element that sets up believers for seduction is ignorance, or not knowing that this kind of thing can happen.
The second thing is having a spiritual passion that exceeds biblical knowledge. Sometimes those in ministry who fall for seduction get so busy doing the work of God that they slip away from having an intimate relationship with God. A head full of biblical knowledge without a heart passionately in love with Christ is terribly dangerous – a stronghold waiting to happen. The head is full, but the heart and soul are still unsatisfied. Satan knows we all long for passion. If we are not given to godly passion, we will be tempted by counterfeits.
The third weakness is a lack of discernment or not seeing or understanding the difference between right and wrong. We need godly discernment to distinguish right from wrong. The fourth was a lack of self-discernment. Our weaknesses and areas of ignorance are huge vulnerabilities to seduction, which can quickly lead to sins committed inadvertently. One of our best defenses is to recognize where we’ve gone wrong and where our personal weak places are. We have to learn to replace self-condemnation with self-discernment.
We also learned that we need to learn to trust God with our past. If we don’t let God deal with every part of our pasts, our hurts, our secrets, our errors in judgment, our mistakes, our sins, or the handicaps in our backgrounds, any one of them can be like a hibernating bear. Satan is like the prowling lion, waiting for just the “right” season, when he can awaken the bear and then hide and watch while the bear eats us alive. Would Satan capitalize on a past we’ve tried so hard to put behind us? You bet! We can’t just put our past behind us, we’ve got to put our past in front of God. Satan will take advantage of any unfinished business.
When Christ takes authority over our pasts and we allow him to confront them, treat them, and heal them, we exchange our shame for dignity. Sometimes we ask God to forgive us, but we never ask God to heal us completely, to redeem our past, to restore our life, and to help us forgive ourselves. Until we allow God to take full authority over our past, we are still vulnerable to Satan’s schemes.
Remember, we are not talking about your usual brand of temptation here. Everyday temptation and intentional demonic seduction are as different as a snowball and an avalanche.
Beth used two Bible characters to describe how Satan tested their faith. Both of these stories prove that Satan has to get permission to launch a full-scale attack on one of God’s children. One was Job from the Old Testament. Job was a blameless, upright, God-fearing man, greatest among all the people of the East, and yet God allowed Satan to test him. Job endured the entire excruciating ordeal without ever knowing he was in the middle of a match between the God of the universe and the head dragon of hell.
The other person was Peter from the New Testament. Satan was given permission to “sift” Peter as wheat. Peter’s test was of a special variety: it was a sift. We learned that God sometimes allows Satan to sift us because we have something that needs sifting. And if what needs sifting doesn’t get sifted the first time around, then we may go through another sifting! Christ knew that Peter had no means whatsoever of becoming the person God had called him to be. God knew exactly what he was doing and he knew what Peter was capable of doing.
According to Job 23:10 and I Peter 1:7 the purpose for our testing is to refine us and to prove our faith to be genuine. Sometimes the most effective and long-lasting way God can get the "Simon" out of "Peter" is through a sifting by Satan. God is ever after proving us genuine, he is about burning the “fake” out of us. He desires authenticity!
So, why would God allow someone with a wholehearted, sincere, and pure devotion to Christ to get caught in the snare of demonic seduction? Because something needs removing, sifting, or changing that an intense encounter with the kingdom of hell would best accomplish. God knows what He is doing. He is not being mean, this may be the only way He can get us to attend to the old so that He can do something new. We need to give Him full reign to remove anything in us that needs to go.