Category Archives: Christian

Personal Spiritual Warfare (Part 6) — Keys for Overcoming

It’s not enough to identify problems and then be told by someone to overcome them. I want to be given practical tools to get me there. Maybe you’d like that kind of help, too. Here are some steps to help you win those personal spiritual battles you encounter:

Get used to the idea that you are in a war. 1 Peter 1:13 exhorts us, “Wherefore, gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

“Girding up the loins” refers to how people of Bible times prepared for battle. They tucked their long robes up into their belts, so that their legs were free to move unhampered. “Be sober” means to understand the seriousness of what we’re involved in and to stay on the alert. “Hope to the end” indicates that we’re in this for the long haul. Individual battles may be short or prolonged, but the war lasts throughout our lives. We can’t quit at any point. If we stay at it, we will assuredly finish our life-race well, because the Lord Himself is right there fighting with and for us.

Corral your mind.1 Corinthians 2:16 says, “We have the mind of Christ.” Now, that’s the truth, but walking it out requires some effort. We have to continually “be sober; be vigilant, because [our] adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). We have to “resist him steadfastly in the faith” (v. 9). This means we don’t let our thoughts flow unchecked. When we notice our mind going places which are not in keeping with the way Jesus would think, we need to “cast down [those] imaginations, and every high thing which exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

The Holy Spirit is willing to expose those wandering thoughts to us, if we invite Him to. But it is up to us to keep on bringing them back to where they should be. This takes practice. Sometimes it is exhausting, especially if we are dealing not only with our own soulish nature, but with thoughts implanted by the devil.

The secret is to keep at it. If you notice wrong thoughts dozens of times a day, every time you corral them and push the reset button, you have taken a few steps toward ultimate victory.

Take a worship break. — If you have already taken authority in Jesus’ name over any evil spirits which might be bombarding your thoughts, worship can refocus your mind where it needs to be. It’s great to keep worship music playing in the background, if you can. Worship music changes the atmosphere around us. But take it a step further. Go beyond listening to worship music, to actively doing the worship yourself – out loud, if possible. Worship connects us spirit-to-Spirit with the Lord, and when our spirit-man is in the right place, it can help our mind to line up as well.

Focus on Jesus more than the battle coming against you. – This goes along with taking a worship break. The enemy wants to get us obsessed with him and the problems he is causing. When we put our attention on him instead of the Lord, we play into his hands: we end up giving him the glory which belongs to the Lord Most High.

Jesus wants us to fasten our attention on Himself, the Author of peace, the Deliverer, the One who has already overcome on our behalf. How easy it is to forget that the battle is the Lord’s! (1 Samuel 17:47). The moment we cry out for Jesus’ help, He goes to work for us.

So don’t spend all your time and energy on contending with the devil. Worship. Tell Jesus you are setting your heart on Him. Express to Him your confidence that He will take care of you and get you through.

Do the exact opposite of what you are tempted to do. – This is a simple, but highly effective, warfare tactic. We can frustrate evil desires, deflating their sails, by taking an opposite course.

Do you feel the urge to give somebody a verbal slap in the face (maybe because you felt like that’s what you got)? Be cordial and friendly instead. 1 Peter 3:8, 9 addresses this very issue: “… Having compassion toward each other, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous, not returning evil for evil or railing for railing. On the contrary, bless them, knowing that is what you are called to, so that you will inherit a blessing.”

Do you want to avoid or run away from someone who has hurt you – an individual, a pastor, or even a whole church fellowship? Conquer that flight desire. Show up, converse, be kind, participate. If you need to express that you have been hurt, try to walk through the reconciliation / forgiveness pattern Jesus laid out for His Church in Matthew 18:15-17. Don’t go into hiding mode.

Doing the opposite of the temptation is part of how we submit ourselves to God and resist the devil (James 4:7). It disarms the enemy’s ability to manipulate us.

Next time, we’ll wrap up this series with some final keys for overcoming.

Previous: Part 5 — Long-Term Assault  

The Intercessor Manual

 

The Intercessor Manual, by Lee Ann Rubsam

Personal Spiritual Warfare (Part 5) — Long-Term Assault

After reading my last post, you may have thought, “She makes it sound like ending the enemy’s assault is so simple, but I’ve tried rebuking the enemy over and over, using Jesus’ name and pleading His blood, and I’m still struggling!”

Overcoming spiritual attack on our minds can be simple, but it isn’t always. You don’t need to feel like a failure if the struggle continues long-term. It isn’t necessarily your fault, and you are not alone.

Resisting the enemy and causing him to flee is not a mere formula. Sometimes, he keeps on insisting on having his way, especially when the stakes are highest (and we don’t always see clearly when that is). During such times, the battle can be severe and extended. It is absolutely essential that we continue to stand our ground and not surrender.

Some years ago, I went through a period of many months when the assault on my mind was incessant and exhausting. Every day, every few minutes, I had to deal with another thought, all of which had their roots in the fear of man.

My head swirled. I corrected one thought, only to have another follow on its heels. It was hard to focus on prayer, although I persevered. The torment was extreme. I cried out to the Lord to help me. I countered with Scripture. I commanded the enemy to leave. But pretty soon the thoughts were back again.

Hardly anybody outside my family knew this was going on — because I was afraid people would decide I was unstable if they knew. One day, a highly prophetic lady who knew nothing of my struggle shared a word she had received from the Lord for me. She spoke many blessings, but what caught my attention the most was that she said the enemy was attacking my thoughts intensely because he was trying to destroy my destiny. She assured me that the assault would come to an end, and my mind would be filled with peace.

Only the Holy Spirit could have given her this information. It took several months more before I saw the fulfillment of what she had shared with me. In the meantime I often cried out in desperation, “Lord, WHEN is it going to end? You said it would!” And it did end – suddenly. There was no special overcoming prayer moment which brought it about. It just stopped. The peace and quiet were wonderful beyond belief!

Since that time, I have talked with others who have been through the same thing. The assault they experienced was similar — but they got through it, just like I did. You can, too. Sometimes it is a huge comfort to know that someone else has been there before you and has made it to the other side.

So, what is going on when such extreme attack comes upon us? In my case, I had initially cooperated with the enemy by not recognizing the deception in the thoughts which had been injected. My own insecurities and the fear of man which I had unwittingly harbored fed the blaze until it got out of control. When I finally realized that I had let my thoughts go on at length in wrong places, I began the process back with repentance and greater vigilance to “bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). The Holy Spirit was so kind and gracious during that time. He often intercepted the wrong thoughts by interrupting with His truth. And He comforted me in the midst of it all.

I asked the Lord why the torment went on and on. He responded by telling me He was refining me in the process. He also said He was allowing it so that I would grow strong for battle, as in Psalm 18:34: “He teaches my hands to war, so that a bow of steel is broken by my arms.”

Another factor we could unknowingly be dealing with is the level from which the spiritual attack is coming. Ephesians 6:12 tells us, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” “Principalities, powers, rulers of darkness, and spiritual wickedness in high places” are beings which are high up in the command hierarchy of the spirit realm. Their involvement could have bearing on the intensity and length of the conflict.

What can you do to make sure you come through a long season of warfare against your mind successfully?

  • Entrust yourself into God’s hands. James 4:7 instructs us, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” We are assured that if we keep ourselves submitted to the Lord and continue to resist the devil, eventually he will flee.
  • Decide upfront not to quit. Ephesians 6:13 exhorts us, “Wherefore, take unto you the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” Perseverance wins the battle.
  • Be diligent to use the Word of God to repulse the enemy. Ephesians 6:17 says to “Take … the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” When we’re in the midst of a heated thought battle, pulling out the Word and wielding it may seem like extra work, but it is absolutely essential. Jesus, while being tempted by the devil in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11), consistently used the Word to deflect the assault: “It is written.”
  • Worship your way through. That’s what Paul and Silas did when they were beaten and thrown into prison. The result? The doors were opened; their bands were loosed (Acts 16:25, 26).
  • If you fail, ask the Lord to help you get up and keep going. Psalm 37:24 says of the righteous person, “Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholds him with his hand.”

If you persevere, you will win. The key is in not quitting.

In the final two posts of this series, I will share some additional practical steps we can take to win our personal spiritual warfare.

Previous: Part 4 — Discerning the Source of Thoughts
Next: Part 6 — Keys for Overcoming

The Intercessor Manual

 

The Intercessor Manual, by Lee Ann Rubsam

Personal Spiritual Warfare (Part 4) — Discerning the Source of Thoughts

Personal spiritual warfare involves combatting the world system, our own soulish nature (the flesh), and the devil.

Temptations from the world come through our senses, particularly our eyes and ears. You may be familiar with 1 John 2:15-16: “Do not love the world, neither the things which are in the world. If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.”

Furthermore, James 4:4 tells us, “Whoever, therefore, will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” We keep our battles with worldly temptations to a minimum by guarding our senses and restraining our actions.

But, what about evil thoughts?  How do we know if they are coming from our own soulish nature or from an evil spirit? While we might not always be sure, the more we are able to discern their source, the more effectively we can war against them. Thoughts from within ourselves can be dealt with by simply refusing to think them, repenting if we have indulged them, and then deliberately turning our mind onto a different track. Thoughts which have been injected by evil spirits, however, not only need to be rejected, but rebuked. We do that by commanding the evil spirit to be silent and telling it to be gone, in the name of Jesus.

If you are thinking in one direction, and suddenly an evil thought or a fear appears out of the blue, that’s a good indicator that it is coming from outside yourself. I wish I had been taught about enemy-injected thoughts years ago.

While still in my teen years, I experienced a mental attack which horrified me — because I thought I was the originator of what was happening in my head. Every time I was in church, profane words and blasphemies flooded my mind. I immediately asked God to forgive me, but it kept happening. I thought I must be a terrible person! Those words were not part of my normal vocabulary, I didn’t want to be thinking them, and I didn’t know why I was! They totally shut down my ability to hear the sermon. I spent my entire church time repenting, and repenting again. I felt so awfully condemned by my “sin.”

I pleaded with the Lord to help me stop this terrible behavior, and praying about it did help. God is merciful and comes to our assistance, even when we, through ignorance or immaturity, don’t address situations exactly right. But I still felt like an awful person — UNTIL I learned that these were not my thoughts in the first place, and I could deal with them by resisting the enemy in the name of Jesus. Once I learned where those thoughts were coming from and how to address them, the problem faded away.

Here are some other examples:

  • Perhaps you see someone, and the thought goes through your head, “I hate that person.” In reality, you know you have no reason to hate him or her. That is an injected thought, not one of your own.
  • You are shopping, and you have a sudden urge to shoplift something, even though you have always been an honest person.
  • You have been happy at your job or your church. Nobody has said or done anything significant to change that, but you find yourself thinking, “They don’t appreciate me here. I am not valued. Maybe I should move on.”

Injected thoughts can range from the extreme (which are usually easy to recognize) to very subtle shifts in our thinking (not so easy to recognize). We must be vigilant to uncover them and deal with them. If we do not, we will start to agree with them, thereby feeding them until the problem has become huge.

It’s not only our thoughts. Our emotions can be manipulated by evil spirits as well. Sometimes we’ve given them an opening through a weakness we have, or through indulging in fleshly thoughts such as self-pity. However, that is not always the case.

I remember feeling extraordinarily blue one morning. There was nothing going badly in my life at the time, but the heaviness persisted, and it mystified me. Finally I asked the Lord, “Why am I feeling so down? I have no reason to feel this way.”

He quickly responded, “You are being oppressed by an evil spirit.”

I was relieved, because by this time I knew what to do. I took authority over the spirit which was harassing me, commanding it to let go and be gone in Jesus’ name. Immediately, the heaviness lifted, I felt joyful, and I began to praise the Lord.

When my emotions are not in a good place, I often ask the Holy Spirit to take control of them and reorder them for me. That has been an effective tool for me. My feelings usually take on a happier tone within a few minutes, even if I felt justified in being upset or sad. This is an especially helpful tactic when emotions have gotten out of whack due to our own soulish thinking and speech.

While often it is a fairly simple job to silence the thoughts coming from the enemy, that is not always the case. Next time, we will talk about how to handle long-term attacks upon our thoughts.

Previous: Part 3 — Mindsets and Strongholds
Next: Part 5 — Long Term Assault

The Intercessor Manual

 

The Intercessor Manual, by Lee Ann Rubsam

Personal Spiritual Warfare (Part 3) — Mindsets and Strongholds

Last time, we talked about the spiritual warfare which is waged against us in the arena of our thoughts. Some thoughts come directly from our own soulish nature, but they can also come from outside of ourselves — from evil spirits.

If we let these thoughts flow unchecked, not recognizing their source, we begin to come into agreement with them. Our thinking develops certain patterns, or mindsets — things we believe to be true, although they are not. When that happens, the enemy of our souls is on the way to establishing a “stronghold” — a fortress within our head, from which he can disseminate even more lies. The goal is to paralyze us, so that we cannot fulfill the plans God has for us.

Mindsets are limitations in our thinking which keep us from the full revelation of what God wants us to understand about Himself and about how He does business in His kingdom. They affect how we view our own destiny and the destinies of others around us:

  • “I am a failure / bad mom / inept klutz.”
  • “God loves others, but He doesn’t love me … at least not as much.”
  • “I am not worthy.”
  • “God doesn’t care about my needs / will not answer my prayers.”
  • “Brother Bob is not valuable in the kingdom of God.”
  • “Sister Alicia will never get over her issues.”
  • “My education / ancestry / race makes me superior (or inferior) to others.”

We all have mindsets which oppose the truth of what God says in His Word. While any pattern of thinking which is not in agreement with truth ultimately originates with Satan, the father of lies, not all mindsets come directly from him to us. Most of them begin through things we have repeatedly heard from parents, teachers, or other influencers, especially when we were children. Even more so, painful events throughout our lives cause mindsets to develop without us being aware of them:

  • “It is not safe to trust anyone. If I stay aloof, I won’t get hurt.”
  • “Men are bad, or to be feared.” (“Women are bad, or to be feared.”)
  • “If their family does things differently than my family, they are wrong.”
  • “People from other cultures or traditions cannot be trusted.”
  • “The church is full of hypocrites. I can be a better Christian if I steer clear.”
  • “If I show anyone the real me, they won’t like me.” (So I put on a false front.)

Mindsets also come through things we have viewed, heard, or read in various media. Our TV and computer screens constantly bombard us with ways of looking at life which are not in sync with the Lord. The more we allow these things in, the harder it is to resist them. They reek of me-ism:

  • “I deserve ….”
  • “I am entitled to be anything I want to be.”
  • “If you hurt me, I dump you.”
  • “If it feels good, do it.”
  • “I can do whatever I want, as long as I don’t hurt anybody.” (But you will always hurt somebody with that attitude.)

Even Christian teaching can establish limitations on our perception of God or our interpretation of what the Bible says. For instance, many believers have been taught that the gifts of the Spirit listed in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 ended with the death of the original twelve apostles. Some have been taught that God no longer heals or does miracles. These beliefs are ingrained teaching in some circles, supported by twisted interpretations of isolated verses, although the Bible, read with an open heart, says otherwise.

I often ask the Lord to uncover theological ideas I have absorbed through the years which are widely accepted and yet not true. He faithfully answers that prayer by illuminating Scripture as I read it. I have been surprised at some of the things I have swallowed through repetitive “Bible” teaching — which are not really in the Book at all!

Deceptive mindsets taint us all. It is our lifetime warfare task to discover and remove them by examining them through the filter of God’s Word. The Holy Spirit helps us with this. He brings false mindsets to our attention, one by one. Jesus said of Him, “When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth …” (John 16:13). Our part is to invite Him to reveal these inner mindsets to us and then listen to Him when He does.

Second Corinthians 10:4 tells us, “The weapons of our warfare are … mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.” Once the false ideas we were agreeing with have been exposed and repented of, the devil’s hold on us is weakened in that area. We can, with the Lord’s help, tear down the strongholds the enemy had erected within our minds by renouncing his influence and commanding him to vacate. This will most likely be a process, not a single event.

We should not leave those territories of former evil influence unoccupied, however. The Holy Spirit wants to help us replace our old mindsets with His. We can ask Him to build up strongholds of the Lord in place of the enemy’s strongholds which were there before. The erecting of God’s strongholds comes through absorbing, confessing, and actively believing the Word of God.

Next time, I will share in greater detail how to discern between soulish thoughts and thoughts coming directly from evil spirits.

Previous: Part 2 — Where Did that Thought Come From?
Next: Part 4 — Discerning the Source of Thoughts

 

The Intercessor Manual, by Lee Ann Rubsam

Personal Spiritual Warfare (Part 2) — Where Did That Thought Come From?

Winning our personal spiritual battles starts with knowing that every thought which enters our mind is not necessarily our own. Nor is every emotion we feel.

Some thoughts do come from our depraved nature, and those must be continually put to death. Eventually, as we gain ground through absorbing the Scriptures and spending time with the Lord, we develop more and more of a “renewed mind,” as mentioned in Romans 12:2.

But there is another source of wrong thoughts: evil spirits. They study our lives, including our words, and thereby figure out what our vulnerable areas are. They then inject thoughts into our minds accordingly. These thoughts are cleverly styled to sound like our own, but they are actually coming from outside ourselves.

This means that when we have an evil thought, instead of being shocked by how bad we are for coming up with such a thing, we must recognize that it perhaps did not originate with us, and we don’t have to buy into it. We immediately reject it, rebuking the evil spirit which planted it. It only becomes “ours” when we accept it and begin to flow with it. A thought caught and rejected in the first couple of seconds has no power over us. It is not sin until we agree and then run with it.

The apostle Paul gives us some ideas about how warfare over our thoughts works:

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh (for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal [soulish; according to the natural man], but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds). We are casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. — 2 Corinthians 10:3-5.

Paul indicates that we cannot succeed in winning the war for our thoughts in our own strength (“warring according to the flesh”). This is why simply pushing away a wrong thought usually doesn’t work: it will keep on coming back, along with a flood of other evil thoughts to reinforce it. Instead, we must use the authority we have in Christ Jesus through His name, depending on the Lord to back us up.

When we recognize a thought which is not compatible with how the Lord thinks, our job is to immediately reject it, and then command the enemy to be silent and flee from us, in the name of Jesus. James 4:7 instructs us, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” The condition is that we stay yielded to the Lord. We put to death our own selfish inclinations. Then, when the enemy tries to manipulate our thoughts, we can speak confidently, “I resist that thought and the spirit behind it. I command the enemy to be gone from me, in Jesus’ name.”

When we are yielded to the Holy Spirit, depending upon Him for His power to be at work within us, our warfare is truly “mighty through God” (2 Corinthians 10:4). However, although we depend upon the Spirit to aid us in spiritual warfare, we cannot passively expect Him to do it all. If that were the case, there would be no warfare about it for us. Instead, He has given us supernatural ability so that we can cast down the wrong imaginations, and we can take every thought captive to make it line up with obedience to Christ (v. 5).

The problem for most of us, though, is that our natural tendency is to carry out life according to the flesh. This means we go by how we feel and what we perceive by our natural mind. We are not vigilant over our thoughts. We don’t pay attention to the steady flow of what we’re thinking, so sometimes we don’t recognize that the mental trail we are taking is off the Lord’s path. This is especially the case once we have developed a pattern of agreeing with wrong thoughts. Those patterns, or mindsets, can deepen into mental strongholds, which we will cover in the next post.

Previous: Part 1 — Intro
Next: Part 3 — Mindsets and Strongholds

 

The Intercessor Manual, by Lee Ann Rubsam

Finding God in the Waiting

If we were to take a survey to find out how many Christians would like to hear God personally speak to them, I would imagine the vast majority would say, “Of course I want that!” The percentage would plummet, though, if we asked the same people how many actually do hear Him on a regular basis. Why is that?

Some, unfortunately, have been indoctrinated with the false notion that God no longer speaks to us personally. Others have never been taught how to recognize the voice of God. Still others have bought into the lie that they are unworthy to hear God, that they are some kind of second-class believers in God’s eyes. The truth is, God has promised in hundreds of verses throughout the Bible to help us know His will for our personal lives, to give us wisdom and revelation, and that we will know His voice.

John 8:47 says, “He who is of God hears God’s words; you, therefore, do not hear them because you are not of God.” That means, if you love Jesus, you can hear God. You may not recognize that He is speaking to you, but He really is, and having trouble hearing Him is fixable. If you need some help in recognizing how He is speaking to you, I’ve written an article series on the subject. You will also find that information in my book, Hotline to Heaven: Hearing the Voice of God.

Besides simply not discerning that God is already speaking to us, there may be specific hindrances getting in the way — things we can do something about.

We aren’t giving God the quality time He desires to spend with us. Time is one of God’s love languages. James 4:8 promises us, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you….” He speaks to those who make Him their priority. Yes, He can and does communicate with us at random moments throughout the day. But we are more likely to hear Him then if we have already cultivated a listening ear during a time set aside solely for intimate waiting on Him.

You might be thinking, “I don’t have the first idea how to wait on God.” Here are some suggestions to help you:

  • Choose a Bible verse, read it over and over, and ask God to speak to you through it. You’d be surprised at all the new insights you will get as you do that.
  • Ask God questions. Then give Him time to answer you. He may not speak immediately. He might pop the answer into your thoughts later in the day, or even months down the road, but at least you have given Him the opportunity. I have found that God often doesn’t volunteer what we want to know: He waits for us to ask.
  • Think about Jesus.
  • Think about a character quality of God — His mercy, His goodness, His faithfulness, His justness, His purity.  Then praise Him for that quality.
  • Peacefully pray in tongues. As you do that, the Holy Spirit will often bring inspired thoughts, including interpretation of what you are praying, to your consciousness.

Our brain cells are overloaded with other things. Too much news media, social media, video games, or other ear and eye stimulators can so preoccupy us that it is really hard to hear the Lord above all the noise.

Wrong motives for wanting to hear God. Do we spend quiet time with God because we love Him, or only because we want revelation? That’s a selfish motive. It becomes all about us and what we can get out of God, instead of about giving ourselves to Him.

Sinful heart issues harden us to His voice. If we deliberately ignore what He is saying to us, rebelliously do something other than what we know He is directing us to do, or willfully live in sin, His voice becomes gradually fainter. God may even eventually quit speaking. He usually continues to speak for a while before that happens, trying to turn us back in the right direction. And, because He is so merciful, if He can’t reach us by speaking through other avenues, He will still try to turn us from our wrong ways through our circumstances. Remember Balaam and the angel who stood in his way (Numbers 22).

The good news is, even if the Lord has become silent, once we repent, the lines of communication open up again. I didn’t quote all of James 4:8 a little earlier. There is a condition for hearing attached to the rest of the verse: “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” Repentance goes a long way toward restoring and clarifying our hearing.

While never hearing God is not normal and should be examined for the reason, it’s important to know that every Christian goes through periods when God seems to be silent, through no fault of ours. It doesn’t necessarily mean that we are out of God’s will or doing something else wrong. These are times of growing in faith by learning to trust God in the silence. God uses silent seasons to cause us to seek more diligently for Him. They are a normal part of Christian life. But they are temporary. Continue seeking His company and listening for Him. He will eventually begin speaking again.

How’s Your Social Media Image?

While at a social media site a few days ago, I noticed a post by a well-known worship songwriter. In it, he used profanity. It disappointed me at the time. I marveled at the disconnect between writing songs which glorify the Lord and using language which was so far from how Jesus would speak.

This is not by any means the first time I have seen such language coming from people in ministry. It seems to go on quite a bit, in fact. Maybe in some circles it is considered “hip.” However, I doubt if it is hip in the Lord’s eyes.

I wonder how many of us realize that we are constantly exposing the true condition of our hearts via social media. The things we personally say, “like,” and repost there clearly reveal to everyone the depth of our intimacy with Jesus.

Do we ever stop to consider who might be scrutinizing our witness of Him? Are we perhaps causing other believers to stumble through what they see us promoting? Does it make someone think, “It must be OK, if he’s doing it”? (Or maybe they just struggle with judging us, based on what they see.) How about the nonbelievers’ reaction? Do they say to themselves, “I see that Christians are no different than the rest of us. Why should I even consider becoming one?” Who are we, in our thoughtlessness,  disappointing or grieving?

The apostle Paul spoke on these matters two thousand years ago. He said, “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20). Ambassadors act and speak on behalf of the higher authority who sent them. When we don’t do well at accurately representing our Savior, we hurt His cause, even to the point of driving others away from Him.

The Bible gives us guidelines for how believers are to speak:

Do not let any corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth. Instead, speak what is good, for the purpose of building up, so that it may minister grace to those who hear it. — Ephesians 4:29

Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. — Ephesians 5:4 (ESV)

If anyone speaks, he should do it as one who speaks the very words of God, … that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ …. — 1 Peter 4:11

My purpose is not to suggest that we all point the finger at those who use vulgar language or do anything else inconsistent with Christ. Rather, it is about each of us taking an honest look at our own heart. May we not fall into the trap of smugly accusing our brothers and sisters. Romans 14:4 warns against that: “Who are you to judge another man’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Yes, he shall be held up, for God is able to make him stand.” With those we know well, perhaps the answer is to talk with them about how their speech affects us. For the rest, we can always pray for them when we see something amiss. Prayer changes people; judging them does not.

When I come before the Lord in the day described in 1 Corinthians 3:12-15, I want to have as little wood, hay, and stubble showing up as possible. I have no desire to provide the materials for the mother of all bonfires! I want to have my actions, words, and thoughts increasingly line up with what Jesus would do, say, and think. The route to doing that is keeping close to Him through prayer and the Word, so that I become more and more like my best Friend.

We have been promised a future “inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, which will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:4). Speaking of that day when Jesus appears for His own, 1 John 3:3 sums up how we should conduct ourselves in the meantime: “And every man who has this hope in Him purifies himself, even as He is pure.”

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Lord Jesus, may we endeavor to be the best ambassadors for You that we can be. Help us to guard our words and actions carefully, so that we might elevate all those who observe us into a higher attraction toward You.

River Life: Entering into the Character of Jesus