Satan Might Do Anything to Prevent You from Suffering

The third and last temptation Jesus faced in the wilderness, according to Luke, was the temptation to take the easy road. Satan tempted Jesus to test God, to presume upon his protection (Luke 4:9-11). Claim God's promises, Satan said, and skip all the suffering.

It's the temptation we face today. Skip the hard parts and live an easy, comfortable life.


Pastors face this temptation:

The minister of Christ is placed in a position where his labors and his troubles are incessant … The dark suggestion crosses his mind, “Give it up; leave the work…” (C.H. Spurgeon)

Individuals face this temptation. So do churches. I can't imagine how many churches are have become comfortable. They've given into one of Satan's greatest temptations and they don't even know it.

John Piper comments:

Satan skips over adultery, fornication, stealing, lying, murder—those temptations are too obvious. Those are the games that sub-devils play with weak saints. Jesus is no fall guy. When Satan means business with a strong saint, he sticks with religion and he makes the Bible his textbook…

Satan's aim in this church today is to hinder you from following Jesus when he says, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me (in the path of suffering)" (Luke 9:23).

This sentence from Piper haunts me: "Satan might do anything to prevent you from suffering." One of the greatest temptations out there is one that we don't even recognize as a temptation.

Prone to Wander: A Guest Post by Daniel Darling

This is a guest post by Daniel Darling, author of the new book Real: Owning Your Christian Faith. Real is being released tomorrow.

120702darlingIn the last several decades there has been much angst over the exodus of young people from the evangelical church. Seems every year there is a survey letting us know how poor of a job we are doing at retaining our young. And as I speak, books are continuing to hit the bookstore shelves with all sorts of prescriptions for stemming the tide.

Interestingly, the solutions are all over the map. Critiques of the Church come from the left and the right, from rock-ribbed creationists and theistic evolutionists, from serious Reformed types to pragmatic church growth gurus, from right wing political provocateurs to left wing prophets of justice.

There are good elements of truth in most of the anti-Church screeds. But I wonder if, in all our self-criticism, we’ve missed a simple, yet profound truth at the heart of 2nd Generation rebellion.

It’s the old-school doctrine of original sin. Of course every self-respecting evangelical would easily stand up and defend this doctrine as essential orthodoxy. But in our practice, in our angst about the next generation, we subtly deny it. In our faith statements we’ve become John Calvin, but in our assessment of the Church, we’ve become Charles Finney.

Let me explain. There is an unwritten rule in evangelical parenting that goes like this: if you raise your children right, “God’s way,” then you are guaranteed success. Your children will not only be converted, they will grow in the grace and knowledge of God. And if they don’t, then something is wrong with your parenting or the methodology or the systems in your faith environment.

Nobody quite says it like this, of course. But we easily point to Proverbs 22:6 and misapply this verse as a proof text for the right parenting formula. We forget that a) proverbs are proverbs, not commands or promises. Furthermore, we forget that even children born into spiritually rich, grace-based, intentional environments possess a depraved heart set against God. We forget that the work of conversion and sanctification cannot be produced by tweaking the system or changing the paradigm.

This supernatural work can only be done by an invasion of the divine, by God’s Holy Spirit.

Now I’m not saying parents and churches and systems have no influence or are unimportant. The Scriptures a full of parenting and discipleship guidance. Parents bear an enormous responsibility and churches are tasked with discipling the children in their midst.

But, humans are not tasked with the results. God is.

This paradigm shift is huge. It frees us from the pressure-based, peer-reviewed, competitive parenting that pervades many evangelical churches. It invites a spirit of repentance, dependence and faith on the part of parents and key spiritual influencers. And it keeps us from usurping the role of the Holy Spirit in shaping our children’s hearts.

An Acute Problem

120702This misplaced emphasis is why I think growing up in the evangelical church has its unique struggles, struggles few understand. And it’s why I wrote my book, Real.

Now don’t get me wrong, I loved growing up in the faith. I loved being in Church and hearing my father read the Scriptures to us as children. I loved the spiritual discussions we had. And today I love the church so much I decided to pastor one.

So unlike most coming of age church memoirs, this one is not an anti-church screed. Instead, I speak to 2nd Generation Christians about our unique struggles and how we can make the faith of our parents our own.

Let me explain. My parents came to faith as adults, so the decision to follow Jesus was a big one, especially for my mother who was raised in Judiasm. They had seen the emptiness of life without Christ and had no desire to go back.

But for me, it was a different story. I became a Christian at the age of four. And while my conversion is no less miraculous as my parents and my heart was no less darkened, I did not experience the vivid contrast between life in Christ and life without Him.

So inside my heart, there was always this little whisper, Maybe this Jesus stuff is a bit overblown? Maybe the world is actually more fun and less miserable than Mom and Dad say it is. Maybe other religions really are equal to Christianity?

My heart, to quote the hymnwriter and preacher, Robert Robinson, was “prone to wander.” There was always within me a lurking desire to chuck everything I knew and explore life on my own.

This wasn’t a reaction to legalism or abuse or anything in my church or home environment. This was just purely a heart of rebellion.

Of course every child of God is tempted to run from the One who redeemed him, but for 2nd Generation kids, I think it’s particularly acute. Mainly because we have not know anything but Christianity.

I’m not discounting negative factors that drive kids from the church. But I wonder if these are merely factors, not causes. That perhaps the enemy targets the hearts of those closest to Jesus by whispering the lie he first uttered in the Garden, the lie that Christ is not sufficient to fulfill all of life’s deep desires. That there is a world out there the Master has forbidden you from exploring.

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Chief Reminding Officers

From The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business by Patrick Lencioni:

The only way for people to embrace a message is to hear it over a period of time, in a variety of different situations, and preferably from different people. That's why great leaders see themselves as Chief Reminding Officers as much as anything else. Their top two priorities are to set the direction of the organization and then to ensure that people are reminded of it on a regular basis.

From the Apostle Paul:

For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:2)

Pastors are Chief Reminding Officers, focusing the church's attention on the cross, and reminding people of it on a regular basis.

The Other Side of the Boundary

I'm not purpose-driven™, but I listened to Rick Warren at an event a couple of months ago and had to repent of my bad attitude.

I'm not a Pentecostal, but I sat in a meeting with Pentecostals a couple of weeks ago and realized that they are far more passionate about evangelism than I am. The lecture I heard busted through a lot of the stereotypes I hold about Pentecostals. Again, I had to repent.

I'm not egalitarian, but I spent some time recently with some brothers an sisters who are. I count these brothers and sisters as friends, and I value them and their ministries very much.

In the past few weeks, I've been amazed at the richness and diversity of the Body of Christ. I've sat with people from vastly different denominational, theological, and racial backgrounds, and I can honestly say I've learned from all of them.

Years ago Tim Keller said:

We can't avoid drawing boundaries. Everyone does it, and if they say you're not doing it, then you're drawing a boundary by saying you're not doing it. But what matters is how we treat the people on the other side of the boundary. We're going to win the younger leaders if we are the most gracious and the most kind and the least self-righteous in controversy toward people on the other side of the boundary.

It's not like I'm giving up my boundaries. But I'm continuing to learn from brothers and sisters on the other side of these boundaries. I'm continually humbled by what I see every time I do so.

We Are Very Well Compensated

From Turning Pro:

There's a well-known gunnery sergeant who, when his young Marines complain about their pay, explains that they get two salaries:

A financial salary and a psychological salary.

The Marine's financial salary is indeed meager. But what about the psychological salary — the feeling of pride and honor, the sense of belonging to a brotherhood with a brave and noble history, and knowing that, no matter what happens, you remain a member of that fraternity as long as you live? How much, the Gunny asks, is that worth?

The same applies to those of us in ministry (which should be all of us). The servant of God gets three rewards:

  1. Some of us in vocational ministry get a paycheck.
  2. We also get the honor of joining the company of those who have gone before us and have served the Lord with all they have.
  3. None of this compares to what we ultimately receive from God: "Each will receive his wages according to his labor" (1 Corinthians 3:8).

John Frame writes:

I confess that I was surprised by the number of times Scripture uses rewards to motivate obedience. Like many of us, I tend toward the Kantian notion that we should simply do our duty for duty's sake and never think about reward. but that notion is quite unbiblical. If God takes the trouble (this many times!) to urge our obedience by a promise of reward, we should embrace that promise with thanks, not despise it. That is, we should not only do good works, but we should do them for this reason. (The Doctrine of the Christian Life)

We're very well compensated indeed.