Henri Nouwen, the internationally renowned priest and author, has identified five lies of identity that are common to people. See you if agree.
1) I am what I have.
2) I am what I do.
3) I am what other people say or think of me.
4) I am nothing more than my worst moment.
5) I am nothing less than my best moment.
At the root of all temptation is a lie, and guess who authors all lies?
[Jesus speaking] You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was 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. (John 8:44)
Lies come at us from every direction.
Three avenues direct heavy “lie traffic” to our feet: The world, the flesh (our affections), and Satan (the prince of this world). Satan is the author of all lies. When he sends the lies through the lures of the world and the weakness of our flesh his involvement can be masked, but it’s always him sending what is false.
Let’s look more closely at the first lie of identity.
“I am what I have.” The world assaults us with the lie that our significance is in what we possess. Evidence of that truth can be seen by how people treat us. Having lived within multiple levels of financial security, I have experienced firsthand that people respond differently to me when I have less stuff than when I have more. Living that social reality tempts our flesh to want to accrue more things in order to gain the social benefits. In addition, certain possessions are amazing! I love a beautiful home, for example. It’s pretty!
But a house is never our identity.
Neither is our job, what others think of us, or our past experiences. We are image bearers of a holy God. Every one of us. What our Creator says about us and our life is our identity. The father of lies hopes we will believe anything but the truth (any of the five lies will do) so he can cripple us into living a safe, bland, ineffectual, powerless, self-centered life that will keep us from meaningful service in the kingdom of God. Even worse, he wants to keep us satisfied with a safe, ineffectual, powerless, self-centered relationship with our Creator. Imagine living our entire lives thinking we knew God, but all we ever knew was a dim view of Him. What a travesty. The devil would like nothing more.
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8) Devour in Greek means “to drink down.”
How do we fight the father of lies?
When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness three times after fasting for 40 days, He answered with Scripture each time.
When tempted to turn stones to bread:
Jesus said, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” (Mark 1:4 and Luke 4:4)
When tempted to jump off a cliff and have angels save Him:
Jesus said, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.'” (Mark 1:7 and Luke 4:8)
When tempted to receive the kingdoms of the world in exchange for kneeling down and worshiping Satan:
Jesus said, “Get out of here, Satan…For the Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him.'” (Mark 1:10 and Luke 4:12)
What do we download most into our minds?
This is an important question to ask ourselves regularly. Podcasts? Books? Movies? People? As good as each one can be, they can’t fight the father of lies.
In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:16-17)
These are the only two offensive weapons listed in the armor of God. After our identity is firmly rooted in God, we take up the shield of faith and a sword, the word of God.
Why take up the shield of faith?
So “you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.”
Why take up the word of God?
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12
I did a short study on two-edged swords recently. A one-edged swords slices; a two-edged sword thrusts. The latter gets right to the point, even penetrating enemy armor. And an enemy doesn’t even try to grab hold of a two-edged sword when being attacked because severe injury is guaranteed. Welcome to the word of God!
Keep turning the pages of your bible.
Let’s make sure that amidst all the other voices in our lives and the distractions that beckon us at every turn, nothing ever drowns out the soft sound of pages turning in a well-worn Bible. Truth is, those paper-thin pages provide incomparable strength compared to the mighty things of this world that have no power, and those pages provide satisfaction beyond anything our flesh desires instead.
October 18 at 1:00 is the 35th anniversary of the phone call that changed my life. My mother called to say my brother Dan had been in a serious motorcycle accident and was not expected to live through the night. He passed away October 26 after 8 days in a coma.
My heart had already started to believe a few lies prior to the accident and this added to the pile: “I do all of this (Christian service) for God, and He kills my brother? God doesn’t love me in return.” This is a lie, but as all lies do, they lead to poor thinking and misbehaving. It took 7 years for God to break through my hardened heart and to draw close to Him again. I sat for hours each year at the computer with a bible in my lap to write Live ABOVE the Chaos. Writing that book helped me understand the lies I had believed, and truth began to live in my heart instead.
Dan we gregarious. He lit a room up. Our family laughed at his funny stories at dinner. He ate well, often checking if anyone else wanted to finish the peas, for example, then pulling the serving bowl to himself so he could finish them up.
Our family dimmed without him. I think it is okay to say that. After all, Dan’s contribution to “us” was forever extinguished. But I have since learned better how to view suffering and length of days. Doing so has enabled me to become less rocked by my circumstances than I used to be. And that is what God does. He takes what is meant to damage us and uses it for His good. God wins every time.
I miss you, Daniel Clay.
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