Now that we have firmly established the enemy is not a scary threat to us, we will examine how he does try to sneak in and affect our lives. Genesis 3:1 says that the serpent was the most crafty and cunning of all the animals. The enemy’s strategy is so subtle, the devil and his cohorts prefer we not even realize they are infiltrating.
We understand that if we actively engage in sin then we open ourselves up to darkness. If we purposefully practice evil then our enemy has the legal right to affect our lives and influence us negatively. So we know better than to play with Ouija boards, lie to our bosses or cheat on our spouses. That’s sin, and we don't participate!
But that’s an Old Covenant version of sin, and Jesus has a different take on it.
What Jesus Said
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus taught, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:27-28).
Jesus also said “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court. But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court (Matt. 5:21-22).
Jesus wanted us to understand that it’s not just outward behavior; it is our inner attitudes and feelings that He cares about. He came to teach us a different way, a different kingdom. It’s an inner kingdom – the kingdom of the heart.
We want to live like Jesus, live holy, so that we can be sure the enemy has no hold or claim on us, and no power over us (Jn. 14:30). We’re living outwardly holy lives, so why is there a struggle? We know the enemy has been stripped of all authority, so how do the forces of darkness have any influence?
We see through these Scriptures that it is not only the obvious outward sins that give him access, but also the hidden sins of our hearts. The way we feel about our mother-in-law and our neighbor. The thoughts we think about our pastor and our co-workers. The emotions we entertain about ourselves and our future. Are they holy and godly and good?
Five Points of Entry
James 4:7 promises that if we resist the devil he will flee! But what is the first half of that verse? Submit yourselves to God, then resist the devil, then he will flee. Now if are aware of sin in our hearts and purposefully choose to ignore it, our prayers won’t be answered (Ps. 66:18). So what kind of submission to God are we talking about? What kind of sin should we be on guard against, and where are the enemy's entry points?
1) Harboring Anger
We re-empower the enemy in our lives when we harbor anger and let the sun go down on our wrath. God says that not letting go of anger gives the enemy a foothold in our hearts and lives: "Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity" (Eph. 4:26,27).
This is encouraging because here we see that anger is not the sin, since we are able to “be angry and sin not” (Eph. 4:26). Harboring the anger, continually living in the anger and not releasing it to God - that is where the momentary, benign anger crosses the line and becomes unhealthy, dangerous, sinful anger which allows the enemy a place in our lives.
Ecclesiastes 7:9 says we must not let anger “lodge” within us, or else we are fools. So while we may experience a rush of anger in the heat of the moment, we do not let it live and dwell and abide and get comfortable taking up residence inside our hearts.
2) Indulging in Anxiety
Anxiety is another way we let the enemy influence our lives. We may not consider worry to be a sin, but if we are worrying we are not expressing faith in God. And anything not of faith is sin (Rom. 14:23). Jesus Himself actually had quite a bit to say about this seemingly inconsequential emotion in Matthew 6:25-34.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?
“Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?
“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
We see here that worry is not as harmless as the enemy would lead us to believe. When we allow ourselves to entertain anxious thoughts and feelings we are basically saying “God, I don’t believe that You will provide for me. I don’t believe You will take care of me.” We are telling God that we don’t trust Him, and without faith it is impossible to please Him (Heb. 11:6).
3) Entertaining Fear
We also re-empower the enemy through our fear (Heb. 2:15). This is a big one! We need to understand that fear is simply faith in reverse. Another way to say it is that fear is faith in satan.
Our faith is incredibly strong! We move mountains with it (Matt. 17:20). Therefore we are responsible to pay close attention to how we wield such a mighty weapon by carefully considering where we place our faith. We must not have more faith in the power of the devil to get us than we have faith in the power of our heavenly Father to protect, provide and care for us.
Job said, “What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me” (Job 3:25). He was expecting the worst, and according to his faith it was done unto him (Matt. 9:29).
The story of Job was written as an example to us, showing why we never want to indulge ungodly fear in our hearts or in our minds. Ever.
4) Withholding Forgiveness
One of the most dangerous ways we inadvertently re-empower the enemy is when we walk in unforgiveness. The Bible says that we are creating a space in our lives for the devil to come in if we entertain unforgiveness in our hearts.
“But one whom you forgive anything, I forgive also; for indeed what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, I did it for your sakes in the presence of Christ, so that no advantage would be taken of us by satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes” (2 Cor. 2:10,11).
Satan is called the “accuser of the brethren” and he constantly accuses others to us (Rev. 12:10). He lies and twists truth and tries to make us see others through a distorted lens, tempting us to walk in bitterness, judgment and resentment toward them.
In the sixth chapter of Matthew we find the Lord teaching His disciples how to pray. Jesus then makes a very direct, unmistakable declaration: “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matt. 6:14-15).
Clearly, walking in unforgiveness is not an option. This is more than enough reason to forgive everyone of everything at all times! However, as if to drive the point home, just a few chapters later Jesus underscores this when He shares the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18. The ungrateful servant was forgiven his enormous debt, yet instead of being thankful, he turned around and demanded payment from his fellow slave of a much lesser debt.
In the parable, the servant’s master was moved with anger over this injustice and had the unforgiving servant turned over to the tormenters to be tortured. Jesus taught that we must extend mercy and forgive each other from our heart, otherwise we too will experience torment (Matt. 18:21-35). Therefore we see how withholding mercy, compassion and forgiveness opens the door to pain and allows the enemy into our lives.
5) Accepting False Guilt
Lastly, a fifth way we let the enemy into our lives is through false guilt. Essentially, guilt is not forgiving ourselves, so this is closely related to unforgiveness. However, it seems as Christians we are often much better at forgiving our family, friends and even our enemies than we are at forgiving ourselves.
False guilt is when we still feel bad over something for which we have already confessed and repented. Once we have repented of a sin, God no longer remembers it (Heb. 10:17). As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed those transgressions from us (Ps. 103:12).
Again, it is the accuser of the brethren who heaps condemnation upon us and makes us feel guilty about things that God has chosen to forget. Sometimes we need to be more like our heavenly Father and develop a case of holy amnesia!
The Apostle Paul reminds us that there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1). Therefore, we must not denigrate Jesus’ sacrificial death by presuming our sin is more powerful than His cleansing blood.
It is finished, so we can let go of false guilt and be set free from condemnation. Hallelujah!
If you need help releasing these negative feelings and achieving emotional freedom you can check out the resources here.
Next time, we'll be looking at the flip-side of our feelings and how positive emotions protect us in spiritual battle as well as bring health to our physical bodies.