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Hi my name is Dean Smith and in this podcast I want to talk about how you can survive a spiritual beat down.
I remember it was a hot summer day I was doing my most favorite task – mowing the lawn in the back yard. I can even remember the spot on the lawn it happened. I was just pushing the lawn mower past our dilapidated green shed when suddenly it happened.
A memory of something stupid I had done years earlier popped into my mind. And though I had previously asked God to forgive me – there it was again and this time it brought along friends – waves of condemnation, shame and guilt swept over me as if I had done it yesterday.
I wondered where in the world did this thought come from?
I don’t think I am alone going through these experiences. I think many of us have very similar things happening on regular basis, when your mind is suddenly flooded with something you did last week or last month or even years ago.
Sometimes it is not even a sin, it is just something stupid you did and it beats you down and tells you want a horrible failure you are.
Where did it come from?
Well there are two sources of these thoughts and to find out one of them we have to study a vision given the prophet Zechariah. The Bible describes visions as simply dreams while you are awake.
Visions are strange to begin with, because I think for many of them God peels back the veil and allows us to see things as they are taking place in the spiritual realm such as Jacob who saw a large ladder towering to heaven and angels descending and ascending or Ezekiel’s vision of wheels flying in the sky with eyes embedded in them.
And to understand where these unwanted thoughts are coming from we have to study one of the stranger visions in the Bible.
Now it is not strange like Ezekiel’s visions of flying wheels with eyes, it is strange because of its perspective.
While other visions allow us to see what things look like in the spiritual world, this vision switches it right around and reveals how humans appear to God, angels and even demonic being who are looking at us from the spiritual realm.
It switches it right around and reveals what we look like to God, angels and even demonic beings.
In Zechariah 3, the prophet Zechariah had a vision involving the High Priest Joshua. We are not told what he was doing, but we read that he was standing before the Angel of the Lord, so most suspect that Joshua was probably in the Temple making sacrifices to God on behalf of the nation of Israel.
As Joshua was performing the sacrifice, Zechariah saw satan standing at the High Priest’s right side hurling verbal accusations and condemnation at Joshua.
We don’t know what satan was saying, but Joshua was just going about his daily business and suddenly these targeted thoughts started flooding his mind. For all intents and purposes, he was just mowing the lawn.
And in a moment everything changed as waves of shame and condemnation washed over him.
The other priests working in the Temple would have been totally unaware of what was going on. They may not have even noticed the change in Joshua’s demeanor.
But suddenly Joshua was under a cloud of condemnation. One second he was fine, then the next he was getting beaten down spiritually.
But everyone in the spiritual realm could see what was going on, and they saw Joshua in a completely different light. While he was undoubtedly, clothed in his elaborate and colorful High Priestly robes clothing, angels and demons saw something else:
Joshua was wearing filthy garments – filthy in the Hebrew is the actual word for excrement, yeah, poop.
Now you can be sure of one thing, as Joshua worked in the Temple performing the sacrifice his robes were not covered in excrement, but this is how Joshua appeared.
Not only that but I believe this description also reveals what Joshua believed about himself as Satan was condemning him.
Sometimes those thoughts that suddenly flood your mind come from demonic sources. Satan loves digging up our past and shaking it in your face again.
But the Bible says there is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ (Romans 8:1). None. In different languages it is nata, nee, nyet, votch, non, nein, no condemnation.
There is a difference between condemnation and conviction. Condemnation has one goal to shame you and beat you down. You are no good, worthless. It delivers the message you will never change. You are hopeless cause.
In contrast, conviction invites you to change.
Once you have asked Jesus to forgive you, you are no longer condemned. The Bible says you are righteous in Christ. In fact, you can’t be anymore righteous than you are this very minute.
But that does not stop Satan from hurling accusation – digging up those past sins and mistakes and throwing them in your face again and again.
That is why the Apostle Paul talked about putting on spiritual armor in the Book of Ephesians, which makes me wonder, based on Zechariah’s vision, that when we have this armor on it might actually be visible in the spiritual realm.
Specifically, Paul talks about the shield of faith designed to handle the fiery darts of the enemy:
One of the hideous weapons used in ancient battles was flaming arrows. They struck fear in the heart of opposing soldiers because if you were hit, the effect of the arrow wound was intensely multiplied by the burning.
As well, these arrows could set flame to a wooden shield and ancient historians spoke of whole armies fleeing after their shields caught fire. One of the ways they stopped the fiery darts was by covering wooden shields with leather soaked in water so it would put out the fire.
And for Christians fighting condemnation you also need a shield, one wrapped with a special layer of protection called faith.
So what does this tell you about condemnation?
When you are hit by accusations, at that moment you have a decision to make – will you believe this lie or will you believe the word of God that says you are completely forgiven and no longer condemned.
It is fundamentally an act of faith.
You have to choose to believe you are righteous in Christ, which is why Paul also talks about putting on the breast plate of righteousness.
It is your choice.
At the moment of attack, you exercise your will, believe the Bible and by an act of faith put out the fiery dart of condemnation.
In other words, choosing to receive this condemnation is ultimately an act of unbelief.
But there is also a second element at play. There is a second source of condemnation, that often works hand in hand with the first and that is you.
The apostle John talks about our own hearts condemning us:
Our own heart can condemn us. We literally take that bow, turn it around, and shoot ourselves. It is a form of self-condemnation or self-hatred.
When this happens, it means we haven’t really forgiven ourselves.
But it comes back again to believing the Bible that we are totally forgiven and we need to embrace it and accept it and believe it.
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 5:17 that we are all new creatures in Christ and then he adds the one important caveat stating that the “old things are passed away.”
We are a new creation in Christ but for this new creature to fully emerge we have to cut the link to our past.
We cannot allow our past to define who we are today.
The Bible says we are new creatures in Christ, but the biggest challenge is becoming who we already are.
The Bible says in Romans 12:2 that we are transformed by the renewing of oour mind. In other words we are transformed into this new creature that we already are by changing the way we think.
The word transformed in the Greek is “metamorphou”, which is where we get the English word metamorphosis. This word describes the process where a caterpillar turns into a butterfly. That process starts when the caterpillar builds a cocoon and then dissolves into a pool of enzymes that then transform into a butterfly, a completely new creature.
We need to go through a similar transformative process. But our cocoon is our mind. We need to change the way we think. We need to purposefully choose to believe what God says about us.
It can be one of the most difficult challenges that you will face as you try to change habits and patterns of thinking that have been a part of our life for years, in some cases decades.
I want to close with a story about the salvation and transformation of Nicki Cruz, the leader of the notorious Mau Mau gang that terrorized New York City in the 1950s.
Growing up, Nicki’s mother called him the “son of Satan.” This is what was ingrained in his psyche. And he lived it out rising to leader in this gang that was involved in everything from drugs to prostitution to theft to murder.
But Nicki Cruz, now 80, was saved at a rally put on by evangelist David Wilkerson who specifically invited Nicki Cruz and members of the Mau Mau gang to the rally, who on a lark agreed to attend.
During the service Wilkerson even asked the gang members to take the offering, and they apparently shook down people in the audience to make sure they gave more money. At the end of the service, the gang members were planning to run off with the offering, but Cruz had been powerfully convicted by the message and talked them out of it.
That night Cruz became a Christian and later went to Bible school and started an evangelistic ministry among gang members in New York.
For such a dramatic change to hold, a person must purposefully forget their past.
And now it is your turn to do the same. You do it by embracing and believing who you already are in Christ.
Say it out loud, shout down the condemnation if you have too.
You are a new creature. You are righteous in Christ.