In Warfare Part 1, we looked at the fact that The Place We Find Ourselves is living in the midst of a world at war. Today, in Part 2, we look at how, specifically, the kingdom of darkness wages war against your heart. What are evil’s goals, strategies, tactics? The kingdom of darkness primarily uses two simple tactics: deception and accusation. Today we focus on accusation.
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In the previous Episode (The All Out War Against Your Heart), we looked at the fact that The Place We Find Ourselves is living in the midst of a world at war.
Today we are going to look at how, specifically, the kingdom of darkness wages war against your heart. What are evil’s goals, strategies, tactics?
I am indebted to both John Eldredge and Dan Allender for opening my eyes to what follows and for inviting me to take it seriously.
If we are living in a world at war—a war between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Darkness, what is the goal of the kingdom of darkness?
It is not to cause your death. Your death results in a newfound nearness to the Triune God. So evil doesn’t really want to end your life.
Jesus articulates the goal of evil in John 10 when he says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.”
The goal of evil is to steal, kill, and destroy.
Broadly speaking, evil aims to steal every opportunity you have to experience something of the goodness of God.
To kill every opportunity to experience something of the goodness of God.
To destroy any and every opportunity to experience the goodness of God.
In addition, we can put it this way:
evil seeks to steal the goodness of your relationships,
kill the desires of your heart, and
destroy the beauty of your face (i.e., the unique way you represent the image of God).
If this is evil’s goal, what are the tactics evil employs to achieve its goal? In warfare, each side employs specific tactics. Let’s get down in the dirt. For there is nothing abstract about the warfare brought against you day in and day out.
The kingdom of darkness primarily uses two simple tactics: deception and accusation. [pause]
This should come as no surprise since the two descriptive names given to the evil one are “Deceiver” and “Accuser.”
In Revelation 12, we find both names back to back:
And he was thrown down, the dragon, the great one, the ancient serpent, the one being called Devil and the Satan, the one deceiving the whole earth.
Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ.
For the Accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.” Revelation 12:9-10
Jesus’ name for the evil one is simply “the father of lies.”
In John 8:44, Jesus says that the evil one was a “a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
Evil is a liar. Evil’s art is deception.
Perhaps the most vivid image of how evil operates in our day to day lives is found in 1 Peter 5:8 where we read that “the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
Evil’s goal is to devour.
Evil’s tactic is to “prowl around like a roaring lion.”
How does a lion prowl in the wild? It quietly hides, patiently waiting for its prey to misstep.
Evil likewise quietly hides waiting for us to misstep, waiting for an opportunity to pounce.
The biblical term for this tactic is “scheme.” Thus, in Ephesians 6:11 Paul exhorts us to take a stand “against the devil’s schemes.” And again, in 2 Corinthians 2:11, Paul says, “we are not unaware of his schemes.”
Sadly, many Christians today are completely unaware of his schemes—we have no idea when or how evil schemes to take us down.
The dictionary defines the word scheme as “a large-scale systematic plan or arrangement.” Scheming implies strategizing with intent.
In 1 Timothy 3:7 Paul warns of falling “into the devil’s trap.”
One of the devil’s schemes is to set traps.
If you think of a military trap, the image is of the enemy hiding just around the bend, patiently waiting to make a surprise attack as soon as we come into view.
Traps are setup ahead of time, in a place where we will not expect them.
The two schemes most often used by the kingdom of darkness are accusation and deception. More specifically, the two schemes are first, to accuse you of sin and, second, to deceive you into forging agreements. Let’s unpack each one.
Evil will accuse you of sin—sometimes accurately, sometimes inaccurately.
The enemy often makes a claim against you by appealing to your sinfulness. The accuracy of the claim is largely irrelevant. Let me say that again—the accuracy of the claim is largely irrelevant.
For no claim against you—accurate or inaccurate—has any power to condemn you because Jesus has nailed each one of these claims to the cross.
Colossians 2:13-14 puts it like this:
“When you were dead in your sins, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.”
Paul’s point is that, on the cross, Jesus took away “all our sins” which “stood against us and condemned us.”
The judgment is in: you are innocent of all charges. Satan is not your judge; he is merely your accuser. Satan is not your judge; he is merely your accuser.
The purpose of bringing accusations against you is that you might labor under the weight of shame.
Evil’s accusations aim to shame you by accusing you of something unlovely about yourself—some weakness, frailty, failure, or sin.
And, as Dan Allender points out, the accusations will almost always have a kind of fitted-ness to your story.
In other words, the scheme of evil against your heart has been strategic and consistent over the course of your life.
How do the accusations that level you today have a kind of fitted-ness to your story?
When did these accusations first take root? When did they first appear in your story?
I’m going to talk about this in more depth in the next episode, however here’s a good place to start.
What accusations do you routinely hear as you are going about your day?
“You’re a bad Mom.” “You’re incompetent.” “You’re not working hard enough.” “You’re dangerous.” “You’re a fraud.” “You’re overweight.”
Now, ask yourself this simple question: How old are those accusations?
A 50 year old woman who labors daily under the accusation that she is fat usually has a history of being battered by this accusation. It often goes back to high school or before.
Likewise, the person who is leveled by the accusation of “You’re too sensitive” or “You’re too emotional…”
There was a day, a story, a moment when evil first accused you of being too sensitive.
And I guarantee you that it was a moment of heartache.
Your brother had just ruined your art project and you went to your Mom in tears because you had worked so hard on it and your Mom turned to you and said, “sweetheart, you’re just too sensitive. It’s only an art project.” Boom.
If we could only put you in an fMRI machine in that moment, we would see your brain massively reorganizing around that accusation.
And then next year, you overhear one of your girlfriends tell another friend that you’re always over-reacting to things. And evil whispers, “See, your Mom was right… you are too sensitive.”
Do you see what I mean? The core accusations that plague you in your day to day life have their origins in the heartache of your stories.
I mean, here’s a simple exercise that might bring you immense freedom: take an 8.5 X 11 piece of paper and each time you feel an accusation hit you during the day, write it on that piece of paper.
Whenever that particular accusation hits you again, put a tally mark next to it. Repeat the process for each accusation that comes at you this week.
And then ask yourself, “How long have the words I just wrote down been at play in my life?” When did these words first come alive in my story?
The accusations that we suffer under today usually have a kind of fittedness to our story.
Until you become aware that these accusations are the voice of evil, you will tend to feel like the accusations simply arise from your own heart.
When you don’t realize that evil has a voice and speaks to you regularly, the accusations won’t feel like accusations at all—they will simply feel like truths that your heart knows.
Often, portions of the accusations are true. And sometimes evil accuses you with outright total truth.
That’s where you have to be discerning not just of the content of the accusation, but of the tonality of the accusation.
God’s confrontations never lack kindness; evil’s accusations always do.
There is a difference between accusation and conviction of sin.
Q: How can you tell the difference? TONE of voice.
Think of the woman at the well in John 4.
16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” 17 “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband.
That sentence can be said with two different tones of voice. It can be said with contempt and condemnation or with a fierce kindness.
That sentence can be said with two different facial expressions: the eyes Jesus offered this woman were so amazingly kind that she felt no shame. How do we know that? Because she went home and told everyone what had happened. Shame makes us do the opposite of that.
Here’s the point: you have to pay attention to the tone with which a sentence comes at you. Tone is what distinguishes conviction of sin from condemning accusations.
Here’s how you know that you are being convicted of sin.
God may speak very hard words to you about the nature of your sin, but his voice will always be kind as he does so. God never accuses, he always convicts.
The difference is that when you are convicted you
always have a sense of surprise as you see the Father running toward you to embrace you and lift you up and
always have a sense of hope about how Jesus will rescue you from your sin.
Conviction always leads to the surprise of God’s embrace and undeserved welcome.
Condemnation always leads to a sense of being pushed down under the weight of your sin.
Many accusations are so subtle that it is hard to red flag them. This is to be expected.
The primary deceptive practice of evil is to accuse you while escaping your notice.
As the saying goes, “the greatest trick the devil ever played was convincing the world he doesn’t exist.”
Revised Version Below
Now, this is a bit of an aside, but it needs to be said. Sometimes accusations are not whispered in your heart by evil; sometimes accusations will be verbalized by the people around you.
And, sadly, some of the most heinous accusations against you will invariably come from other Christians in your community, even at times your friends.
It has always been the case and it will always be the case.
Jesus was accused by the religious establishment.
He was not accused by pagan people who hated God. He was accused and condemned by the leaders of the people who followed God.
The only way to get this point across is to say it like this:
if you want to understand what it was like for Jesus, picture the people who lead your church today—now imagine that one Sunday you get to church and the leaders have an announcement to make.
They all stand together up front and one of them reads a letter to the congregation that voices the “concerns” they have about you.
The most vicious assaults against Jesus came not from secular people but from the followers of God. Jesus was condemned by the leaders of the church.
If you follow in the footsteps of Christ, you can expect that some of the fiercest accusations against you will be levied by other Christians, and often times Christian leaders.
Why is this the case? Because our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the forces of the kingdom of darkness.
And one of the ancient schemes of the kingdom of darkness is to appear godly.
This is Paul’s point in 2 Corinthians 11:
“[some] men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness.”
Do really think it’s any different today?
Q: Now does this mean that all pastors and leaders are really doing evil while masquerading as people doing righteous things? Of course not.
But it does mean this: Evil’s first tactic is to accuse you of sin, and it will often do so through the mouthpiece of other Christians.
Evil is amazingly subtle and snakelike.
Often it is not your enemies who bring condemnation, but some of your closest allies.
Anyone who has been brought before a pastor or a group of church leaders in the name of being “confronted in love” knows how hard it is to withstand the accusations of those who carry the name of Jesus.