The battle for our mind is a fight that most of us are familiar with. We all fall prey to self-judgment and the belief that we are not worthy. We all struggle to stay positive, keep motivated, and turn away the darker thoughts that want to take control of our lives by spreading lies that taint our minds with negative ideas about ourselves and our circumstances. But what causes these ideas to enter into our consciousness? In this series, we are looking at four different battlegrounds that allow self-judgment and doubt into our lives: Spiritual Warfare, Cultural Warfare, Inner Warfare (our past experiences), and Physical Warfare (illness, disabilities, etc.).
Need to catch up on this series? Read Part One: Self-Judgment: The Battle for Our Mind
Today, we are going to dive into Spiritual Warfare and the effect that this very real threat has on our lives, effectiveness, and beliefs about ourselves.
Paul warns us in Ephesians 6:12 that, “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” The truth is that Satan and his minions want us to believe that we are ineffective against his plan for the world.
Once we accept Christ as our Savior, Satan no longer has control over our salvation. But his Plan B is to try to stop us from living fully in Christ. He wants us to feel powerless, even useless in the cosmic battle for the world. This starts by making us believe that we are defective in our own lives. If we feel unworthy, unqualified, and unprepared to take control of our own lives, then we are unable to see past our personal struggles in order to fight the bigger battles. Satan wants us to believe that we can’t help those around us. That we are too weak to serve Christ and his people. That we are unqualified for the work that Jesus has set us apart to accomplish. So yes, the deceitful thoughts in our head telling us that we are too sinful, too foolish, too unprepared, too young, or too scared to act can come from the great deceiver. Remember that if we do nothing, Satan wins that battle. All he has to do is convince us to stand aside in shame, doubt, or fear.
But it does not have to be this way. We do have the power and the authority through Christ to win the spiritual battle and claim victory over the Great Deceiver.
Winning the Battle
The first step is to realize that we are not fighting alone. When we feel tempted to give into self-judgment and doubt, we can take comfort in the words of Paul: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation, he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
When we feel unworthy, fearful, or unprepared, remember what the Word of God teaches: “ I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13). This is not just a catchy phrase for t-shirts. It is a promise from God, a promise that we are not alone and even through our unworthiness, Jesus wants to do great things with our lives. He wants us to win the battle and is standing beside us to ensure our victory.
The Roots of Self-Judgment
Self-Judgment is not a modern phenomenon. In fact, it was one of the biggest issues facing the early church. Most of the early followers of Christ followed the Jewish traditions and felt heavily burdened by the yoke of the law. Big questions were being asked about what it meant to be a follower of Christ. Many wanted to keep the law and the traditions of old. Yet, there was a problem with this.
The law was originally put in place by God to show the weakness and downfall of man, to point out our sin. As Paul teaches us: “What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’” (Romans 7:7).
The law focused on our sins. It was there to show that we needed a savior by showing us our inadequacies and by proving that we could not be justified by our own works (Romans 3:20, Galatians 2:16, Ephesians 2:8-9). The law and our self-judgment are not without purpose. They serve to point us to the need for Christ.
Freedom From Self-Judgment
The Great Deceiver wants to keep our focus on the law, as it is no threat to him, because salvation does not come from the law. He desires to paralyze us and our work, by reminding us of our sins and failures. As Christ Followers, our own self-judgment is one of Satan’s greatest assets. It keeps us focused on ourselves. It holds us captive in fear. It keeps us from fully accepting and spreading the good news that we are saved through the Grace of God.
The truth that the Great Deceiver wants us to forget is that we are free from the law and free from judgment. The danger to the Great Deceiver is that if we truly come to terms with this fact, we will be unstoppable. Jesus told us that He did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17). There is great power in this truth because the law still exists, but through Christ, we are saved from this judgment and are freed from the law (Romans 8:2).
Why does freedom from the law matter?
Under the law, we are bound to our sins. Our full focus and attention must be given to trying to justify ourselves by our works, our piety, and the overcoming of all our failures. This is a very selfish pursuit. In the end, it still leads to judgment, because it is impossible to justify ourselves (Ephesians 2:8). In a selfish and futile pursuit of self-justification, there is very little room, if any, for the work that Christ wants us to accomplish.
Paul was so effective in his role of spreading the gospel and changing society because he was confident in his salvation and did not worry himself about what others thought of him.
“I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me”. 1 Corinthians 4:3-5
Paul lived so securely in Christ that he would not even judge himself. Instead, he spent his energy on moving forward, on taking action, and on growing. What would it look like if we lived free from self-judgment? How often does the harsh judgment we lay upon ourselves prevent us from doing what we were called to do? Paul understood that only God could judge and He found great freedom in this knowledge. There was no point looking back when all He could control was his current and future actions.
Earlier, we talked about how we are not alone in our fight. Christ is with us. But in order for this to play out in our lives, we have to be confident. In Ephesians 3:12, Paul tells us that, “In him (Christ) and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” It is this confidence in our freedom from the law that self-judgment fades away so we can move forward. So we can be effective. So we can win the battle against the Great Deceiver.