I want to share with you something the Holy Spirit told me in prayer this morning. It’s about a very sneaky attack the enemy uses, seeking to turn your embrace of God’s righteousness into pride, anger and enmity toward others – and ultimately toward yourself, and God.
You’ve heard the expression “hate the sin, not the sinner.” Often when something becomes this much of a cliche, we tend to think it’s probably not biblical. This is biblical, though. Check Matthew 5 and Ephesians 6 for scriptural warnings against making our disdain for sin personal.
Yet clearly, God hates sin, and he calls us as His disciples to be aligned with Him on that point. If you look around at sin and it really troubles you, good. You know that it grieves God, and a heart that shares in that grief is in harmony with Him. If you are really a disciple of Jesus Christ, then you should hate the thing that required Him to give his life in order to vanquish it.
You should hate sin.
But . . . Satan plays dirty. He will use whatever snare he can to trip us up and create tension between us and God. He doesn’t want you to hate sin, but if you do, Satan will make an adjustment and consider what type of opportunity that presents for him. The most obvious is mislead you into hating not just the sin, but the people who commit the sins. And let’s be honest – this has been a very successful tactic Satan has waged on an awful lot of people.
How many Christians do you know who will profess to you their faith, but who clearly demonstrate more hatred and anger toward the world than they do love for Christ? They’ll rant and rave about the heathens, adulterers, secularists, pagans, jerks, idiots . . . you name it. These people are furious toward all those sinners, and it doesn’t take much to wind them up and get them going on about it.
You won’t hear much about gratitude, love, mercy, generosity or joy from these folks. But they’ll tell you all day long how much they detest the bad people.
The essential problem with this is that it puts you at odds with God in how He views these folks. Yes, God hates their sin, but He sees the person as His precious creation and wants the person delivered and redeemed. The angry Christian ranter just wants them defeated, preferably in humiliating fashion.
But there’s a bigger problem, and this trap is merely setting you up for it. As soon as you decide to expand your hatred of sin to the people who commit the sins, you’ve made everyone who sins a candidate for your hatred. And who does that category inevitably include?
Your own sin is always present with you. You know it. If sin bothers you, then your own sin is going to bother you most of all. The person who really follows Christ knows that he should confess his sin, repent and seek deliverance from it under the authority of Jesus. But the person who has made a habit of hating sinners will turn that same habit on himself. His own sin will torment him. He will start hating himself, just as he’s hated others, because that’s the pattern he’s established and he can’t escape his own turn with the target on his head.
But it gets worse.
Once Satan has tricked you into hating yourself because of sin, he will offer you what appears to be a way out. He will tell you that you can disregard and forget about your sin, essentially covering it up so you don’t have to think about it anymore. He will offer you a deal that you will both simply forget about it. You can continue hating other people for their sins, but he won’t keep throwing your own sin back in your face.
Sounds like an appealing deal.
But it’s a lie. What you’ve really done is suppressed your knowledge of your sin. It’s still in your memory, but you’ve pushed it down into your subconscious, and that’s where it’s really dangerous.
Your subconscious is home of all kinds of issues, memories and notions that influence the way you think and act – and the way you perceive yourself – all of this going on without you being consciously aware of it. And once you’ve pushed your sin down into your subconscious, demonic spirits use it as the building blocks for demonic strongholds, all while you are entirely unaware of it.
What does this do to you? It sets you on patterns of thought and behavior that you neither understand or control. Do you find yourself repeating habits of self-sabotage, or expectations of failure, or fits of rage, or problems in relationships with other people? You genuinely don’t know why you repeat these patterns, but you can’t break free of them.
These are manifestations of demonic strongholds, which were constructed using issues you suppressed into your subconscious. Because they were suppressed, you were not aware of what the demonic spirits were doing with them. They took advantage of your lack of awareness to set you up with negative and destructive patterns of thinking.
And all this started because Satan took your hatred of sin and used it to trick you into hating yourself, then offered to help you forget about all the reasons he had convinced you that you should hate yourself. But Satan is a liar. You didn’t really forget anything. He just built on all that darkness after he convinced you not to pay attention to it.
How do you avoid this trap?
For one thing, you’re absolutely right to hate sin. But you must remember the admonition of Ephesians 6: Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, the power, the authorities and rulers of the air. The human being who gives in to sin is guilty, but your target is not the human. It is the demonic spirit that provoked the sin. That’s who God hates. The demon is eventually going to be destroyed, but God wants to redeem the person through the grace of Christ.
You need to see other people, as well as yourself, as beloved creations of God that He desires to redeem through grace. And if you know you’re steeped in sin, then you need to confess that sin, repent of it and receive the grace of Christ. He has authority over sin and can deliver you from it. If you try to do it without Jesus, you’re operating with no spiritual authority and the enemy will own you.
And if you already find yourself well ensnared in this trap, commit yourself to prayer and ask God to show you where you need to repent and let Christ work in you. He can tear down the strongholds, but the enemy will keep coming so it’s going to require a lot of prayer, a lot of repentance and a lot of honesty. Ultimately, anyone willing to submit to the authority of Christ will be delivered, but the hardest part for you will probably be unlearning patterns of thought that have been second nature to you for years, or even decades.
He laid all this on my heart this morning and told me to blog it. It had to be for someone’s benefit. Maybe that someone was you.
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