Have you ever felt frustrated in your Christian walk? You hear about the freedom of Christ and see people around expressing such joy and excitement, but you, a faithful Christian for some time, just feel like you are spinning your wheels and getting nowhere in you faith.
You may experience some of the following (and if you have this blog is for you):
-An inability to focus while praying/reading scripture
-A debilitating feeling of inferiority, fear, anger, violence, or any other negative emotion that interferes with daily life
-An accusatory voice that plays on your weakest thoughts and feelings.
-Regular nightmares, especially involving attacks from evil characters and sometimes accompanied with waking up unable to move or short of breath
-A desire to give up on God or life
-A feeling of paralysis when trying to accomplish important things
-And the list could go on of seemingly uncontrollable thoughts, feelings, or desires that make it seemingly impossible to live a life of purpose following God
I preached on Ephesians 4:17-27 at Mount Kenya Baptist Church on Sunday. It was a very personal message to me as you’ll see by the end of the post.
As fallen people, we begin this world in futility of mind which leads to a hardened heart and a mind that is “corrupt through deceitful desires.” Verses 17-19 show how dependence on human wisdom can leads to a life alienated from God. In sin, what starts as “ignorance” leads to a hardened heart and eventually callousness. The NKJV says “being past feeling” for the word callous. Engaging in sin leads to numbness.
Verses 20-24 shows us that the story does not have to end in brokenness. In Christ, we can be “renewed in the spirit of [our] minds” (v. 23). We are made a new creation and God takes away the wicked desires that have become a part of us. There are a couple popular verses about being made new in Christ—Romans 12:2 and 2 Corinthians 5:17—but I believe Ephesians does the best job of explaining what this really means.
But Paul is not writing this primarily as an explanation of salvation. He is giving a warning not to continue in their former ways as Christians (v. 17).
Writing to the church, Paul says your mind was clouded by darkness of your old ways, but now you are made new in Christ. He is teaching that there is a battle over each person’s mind, but it is not won in the physical. It is not just about how we control our thoughts. Again verse 23 says “renewed in the spirit of your mind.” Our mind is renewed through the spiritual realm.
Then in verse 27 he writes “and give no opportunity to the devil.” Our Kingdom is heavenly/spiritual and there is a spiritual battle going on around us (Read 2 Kings 6:11-23 for a clear example of the involvement of the spiritual in an earthly battle). The enemy wants to regain control and recorrupt your mind.Verse 27 is such a short verse, but we would be absolutely foolish not to recognize the full implications of what Paul is teaching here and in Ephesians as a whole.
In Ephesians 6 Paul teaches about the Armor of God, but before he goes into the different pieces, he gives a very clear picture of the battle we are in. It is not physical (flesh and blood), but “against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (v. 12).
Verse 16 mentions that the enemy attacks with fiery darts and our defense is the “shield of faith.” Faith is in our hearts and mind, so where do you think these fiery darts attack? The enemy attacks our heart and mind. Generally this is an external, spiritual attack on our mind, but through sin the enemy can gain an upper hand in his attacks.
Let us go back to 4:27 and not giving the devil a place. The word place can also be translated opportunity or foothold. Engaging in unrepentant sin can open a Christian to demonic attack and influence and create a terrible sense of bondage.
This is not possession and absolute control of the body, but I believe a foothold refers to the enemy gaining a right to strongly attack ones mind as a result of unrepentant sin and this can even have physical effects. Let me be clear that a foothold is not formed every time a Christian makes a mistake. It is a result of a Christian deliberately engaging in habitual sin that is clearly and directly against God.
This may be a new and foreign idea to some, but through my studies and limited experience, it is unbelievable how many Christians struggle with the enemy exercising limited but powerful control over their minds.
Such bondage can look different in different people, but at its core, the enemy feeds negative thoughts and lies into a persons mind (think back to the list at the beginning). I am not writing this simply from what I have learned through the study of scripture and reading on the topic. I also speak from personal experience.
(Please forgive my vagueness. As much as I am comfortable being vulnerable in hopes of helping others experience liberty, I do not find it wise or beneficial to display my dirty laundry for the world to see. I am happy to share more personally through email.)
Before realizing my calling as a missionary to Kenya and fulltime service to the Lord, I had to go face to face with my own spiritual bondage. I was a born again servant of Jesus Christ and a leader in the church and among my peers. By the testimony of others, I was a great encouragement to many in their Christian lives, but unknown to most people, I was also struggling. There were areas of sin in my life that I was not surrendering to God.
I was trying my hardest still to follow God, but it became harder as time went on. I loved God but I found it hard to pray and read scripture. I would read a chapter in the Bible and then have no clue what I had just read. I couldn’t focus on God or the important things in life. I constantly felt tired and life lost a lot of meaning. I would have moments where I was so frustrated with paralysis that I would break down in tears. At night I would have dreams of evil creatures hunting for me and attacking me. Sometimes I would wakeup unable to move, feeling helpless and surrounded by fear.
At the peak of my bondage, I noticed that when I prayed with other believers, I would feel a dark chasm around me instead of the sweetness of fellowship and the presence of God. The people sitting next to me seemed like they were on the other side of the world. I was separated and isolated.
I wanted so badly to give up, but I clung to the calling that I knew God had in my life. God eventually brought someone into my life who was able to help me identify that the source of my struggles was caused by the enemy as a result on my sin.
He set up a time for us to pray together. He rebuked the evil spirits that had control in my life by the power of Jesus. I confessed my sins and slowly by slowly I felt freedom as the footholds that were allowed to the enemy were broken. I could feel it as evil spirits were forced to give up the control that they had over my mind and being. Through this experience I realized the full devastation of my sin.
I also realized that negative thoughts and debilitating feelings that I had struggled with were not coming from me. I realized that foundational truths that I lived my life by had been slightly twisted from the truth of God. For example, the wonderful truth that God has called me to preach, led me to preaching by my own power instead of depending on God. Then as I struggled through my sermons, I had to fight accusations that God had rejected and abandoned me.
The sweetest moments came at the end during closing prayer. The chasm that I had felt for almost a year during communal prayer melted away, and my mind was filled with light. As I prayed with my friend, I could feel him right there next to me. I was free again!
And there you have it. A 45 minute sermon written down. If you made it to the end, it could be that God is trying to speak to you. He wants you to realize that your struggles go beyond the physical and that He loves you and want you to be FREE! You do not have to live you life in bondage. Satan is a defeated enemy through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Seek the help of other faithful Christians and feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. A recommended book on the topic is Spiritual Warfare by Karl Payne.
(As a note, I focused on sin giving the devil an opportunity, but there are other ways even believers can come under attack. There are generational curses and people can fall victim to the sins of others such as a close relative (spouse or parent) or by or people who have wronged them (rape, etc.). Sometimes a person is blind to the sin that is leading them into trouble or it was from when they were younger. Over time they have built up discipline to overcome the sin, but simply stopping a sin does not break the bondage when a demon has a foothold in a person’s life.)