Recently, I wrote a very liberating (yet easily misunderstood) article about prayer. Of all the things that I have written recently, I believe that article to be one of the most important to grasp. If you have not yet read it, you can read it by clicking here.
In the same way, I believe this article could also be equally as liberating. As I mentioned in the previous article on prayer, the ‘root’, or source of prayer is quite important. True New Testament prayer is rooted in the rest of the Spirit, as opposed to religious prayer that is rooted in the works of the flesh. A major characteristic of fleshly prayer is fear. Unfortunately, for most of my Christian life, fear was the motivator of much of my prayers. For example:
If I don’t pray for my marriage more, my family will fall apart.
If I don’t pray for my country & church more, we’ll never experience ‘revival’.
If I don’t pray for my kids more, they will get sucked into worldly living and will ‘go to hell’.
These kind of prayers are rooted in an Old Testament mindset that is blind to the reality of the New Covenant. I talk more about this in the previously mentioned article about praying in the Spirit. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against praying for marriages, countries, kids, or the church, but I am against those prayers being rooted in fear. After all, we are ‘in Christ’ who is the personification of love. We also know that there is no fear in love, and perfect love chases away all forms of fear (1 John 4:18).
As with most religious works, enough is never enough. There is no peace and no rest when fear is the motivation of our religious works & prayers. When fear disappears from our motivation, all we are left with is that which is rooted in love. That which is rooted in love looks vastly different from that which is rooted in fear. I could go on and on about this, but that is another article for another day. I say all of that to say this:
We NEVER have to be afraid of Satan’s plans for our loved ones!
Here is where I may lose many of you. There are times that Satan’s plans for our loved ones is exactly what is needed. Too many times, rooted in our own fear and need to control, we try to step in the way of Satan’s plans for our loved ones. Not only is this frustrating, it can be ineffective if that is not what the Lord is doing. All that we need to know is what the Lord is doing. Many times, the Lord is actually allowing Satan to have his way with our loved ones for an appointed season. Let me tell you a story that beautifully communicates this:
There was a wealthy father who had two sons. One of those sons had an ‘itch’, so to speak, that really needed to be scratched. He wanted to experience all that the world had to offer. As a result, he actually had the audacity to ask his father for something that was customarily given once the parent died. This son was so self-centered and consumed with his own fleshly desires that he asked for his inheritance early.
Astoundingly, the father obliged and gave his son his early inheritance. This father didn’t force him to stay home, nor did this father become angry that his son basically wished that he was dead so he could have his inheritance. This father gave him his inheritance and simply let him leave knowing that his son had to find out for himself what the world had to offer. It would only be through the bankruptcy of the world that the son would realize where he was loved, and where he truly had a home. Eventually, after the son had his share of wild living, he hit rock bottom and had no where else to turn. This wayward son eventually came back home and was embraced by the love and acceptance of the father found in that home.
If this story sounds familiar to you, it should. It is the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15) that Jesus used to illustrate the character and nature of His Father, and how He relates to us. The case can be made that Satan lured this ‘prodigal’ son out of his father’s care and into the arms of the world’s fallen system. Amazingly, this father let it happen because it needed to happen in order for his child to truly discover the love of his father, and the beauty of his father’s house. The story of the prodigal son is also the story of humanity. The Father is the author of the story, and as a result, He is not afraid. Heartbroken, yes…afraid…no. He knows how the story ends. He is in complete control.
Another example of this story can be seen among the church at Corinth. There was a person in this church community that was engaging in behavior that was contrary to the life of Christ. This person claimed to belong to Christ, yet continued openly engaging in deviant sexual behavior (incest) that was destructive to himself and the church community that he was in community with. The rest of the church community had become so accustomed to living by the flesh, that they failed to address it at all. I’m sure some had become indifferent, while still others may not have wanted to lose the relationship they had with this person. Had they truly loved this person, they would have sought to see him restored. Because this individual in the Corinthian church was so bent on living to gratify the desires of the flesh, however, the best course of action was for this person to be ‘turned over to Satan’ for the destruction of his flesh. Consider Paul’s instructions to the church at Corinth about this situation:
It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife. You have become arrogant and have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst. For I, on my part, though absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged him who has so committed this, as though I were present. In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled, and I with you in spirit, I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. (1Cor. 5:1-5, NASB)
Can you believe it? Paul actually said that turning this person over to Satan would actually serve for the purpose of the destruction of his flesh! This is key in the process of their restoration and salvation! Paul went on to tell the church community to expel that person from their community so he can engage in this kind of living among the world. Like the prodigal son, this was essential for him to discover the love of Christ, and the beauty of the house of God (church). Sometimes it takes the loss of something to show us the beauty of what we truly long for.
While this is an extreme example, I hope the point I am attempting to make is clear. There are times, when a person is so committed to serving their own flesh, that they need to be allowed to pursue their own flesh. Just like the story of the prodigal son, their flesh needs to be used up and destroyed so they can eventually see the bankruptcy of fleshly living and look elsewhere for life and satisfaction.
Amazingly, Satan unintentionally serves this purpose. Although Satan desires to destroy, the Lord uses his schemes to bring us to the end of our flesh. It is only when we come to the end of ourselves that we are awakened to the true life of Christ (Spirit).
For me personally this is not just theoretical, it is very practical. As I write this, there are many ‘loved ones’ in my life, at multiple levels, whose flesh is being exploited and destroyed by Satan. Like the prodigal son, some of these loved ones are engaging in ‘wild living’ that is more easily recognized as being ‘worldly’ or ‘fleshly’. There are many others whom I love, however, that have run into the arms of the world’s religious system. This kind of fleshly living is usually much harder to recognize, yet equally as destructive as it all comes from the same source.
While many of these loved ones of mine intellectually know the bankruptcy of the world’s systems (including the religious system), they still seem to have an ‘itch’ for something in that system. For many of them, Satan uses the religious ‘itch’ that there is something they can ‘do’ for the Lord as bait into that system.
In the past, I tried my best to keep these loved ones with an ‘itch’ for the world from running headlong into the world’s system. I have since realized that much of my efforts were rooted in fear of Satan’s plan for them, and my own fleshly need to control people. What I was not aware of, however, was the fact that the Lord was actually allowing Satan to bait them with an ‘itch’ of the flesh.
I could tell you numerous stories (mine included) of people who had a religious ‘itch’, so to speak, who were lured away to ‘scratch’ that itch. All the systems of the world (including the religious system) do the same thing. They appeal to the flesh, exploit the flesh, and use up the flesh until there is absolutely nothing left. Like the prodigal son, it is only when a person is ‘used’ up and burned out that they begin to look for the rest of home. Coming to this conclusion takes longer for some to come to than for others. No matter how long it takes, and no matter where the journey may lead, the ‘destruction’ of our fleshly ‘itches’ is actually a great thing.
My time in the evangelical system has shown me that the majority of the Christians in that system have a common denominator. That common denominator is fear. This fear is usually rooted in the error of ascribing to fallen mankind, or Satan, the power to usurp the plans and purposes of God. Let me give you some great news…
The power to usurp the plans and purposes of God simply does not exist!
You can completely trust your loved ones to Him. His plans and purposes will prevail because mankind and Satan simply do not have the power to trump God’s purposes. If that belief interferes with your preconceived theological systems of thought, that is a great thing! If you have loved ones who are being delivered over to Satan right now, I have some advice for you.
Rest & rejoice!
Know that Satan’s exploitation of their fleshly desires and religious ambitions are being used by the Lord to destroy their flesh in preparation for their spirit to be awakened. After all, resting & rejoicing is a great posture for prayer. Fear is not.
May the substance of Jesus Christ (perfect love) chase away all your fears,