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Lesson: Week 12 - Worship

LEADER GUIDE

Overview

When we truly embrace the love God has for us, we begin to trust Him, and, as our relationship with Him grows, we develop a great love for Him as well. What we once saw as duty has now become devotion. It is our delight to know Him and follow His commands. Worship is a natural response when we fall in love with Jesus. It is also an act of warfare against satan and demonic forces! Psalm 149:6 says, “Let the praises of God be in their mouths, and a sharp sword in their hands.”

In Ezekiel 47:1-12, we find a vision of a river, which symbolizes the presence of God. As we venture forward in our relationship with God, we have a tendency to want to keep our toes on the ground, ensuring our head stays above water and we are in control of our lives. But God is inviting us to trust Him, to go deeper, to experience the fullness of His presence. As we surrender control to God, we will be swept away by His love and freely enjoy our journey with Him. When we see that God is worthy of our trust, we will more easily give up control and live in spiritual order. Ways to be a true worshipper:

Give God your affection.

God wants to be in a covenant relationship with you that involves much more than signing songs. He wants you to desire and enjoy His presence. Worship Him out of the overflow of your heart because He is worthy of the best you can offer Him. Commit to unconditional worship. True worship means praising God even when we don’t feel like it. It’s common for us to take a conditional approach to worshipping God. We praise Him when our lives are going well, but disengage and withdraw when things get difficult. The truth is, God is worthy of our worship in good times and bad. We must make a commitment that whatever comes in our lives, we will continue to posture ourselves to worship God.

Include God in your daily life.

When our everyday world looks different than our “church world” we compartmentalize our lives and limit God’s access to our hearts. Including God in all areas of our lives reveals our level of surrender to Him. As we invite Him to be a part of everything we do, we will have moments of worship every day.

Be obedient.

The greatest sacrifice we can give to God is a heart of humility will- ing to serve Him with unconditional obedience. This kind of worship moves the heart of God toward us. Show reverence.

Our God is like no other—almighty, awesome, and beyond comprehension. It is only appropriate that we approach Him with awe and reverence. True worship requires that we fear the Lord. When we both fear God, and love Him, we feel safe in the shelter of His immense greatness.

Discussion Guide

Are you living the life of a worshipper? If so, how? If not, what are some things you can change to ensure you are living the life of a worshipper?

Looking at the four levels of worship, at what level are you currently? What steps can you take to move to the next level?

Do you feel like your worship is coming from a genuine place in your heart? What are you doing to create an atmosphere of worship in your daily life?

What are some practical things you can do to worship the Lord throughout the day? Application

Consider starting this week’s group off with an extended worship time (two or three songs) to prepare everyone’s hearts for a more focused discussion on worship.

This will be your last Small Group meeting before the Freedom Conference. Set a date for your group to meet after the conference. This meeting will give participants an opportunity to share what the Lord has done in their lives this semester and at the conference. Try to plan the meeting on the same day and time your group has met throughout the semester.

Prayer Focus

Pray for each participant to live a life of genuine worship. Bind the enemy from stealing spiritual progress that has been made this semester.

Pray that the Lord will work out all of the details for them to attend the Freedom Conference and experience all God has for them.

FREEDOM CELEBRATION MEETING

This meeting will give participants an opportunity to share what the Lord has done in their lives this semester and at the conference.

Ask your participants the following questions and give every participant the opportunity to share: What has been the most powerful truth you have learned this semester? What did the Lord teach you at the Freedom Conference?

PARTICIPANTS GUIDE

WORSHIP

“For the dead cannot praise You; they cannot raise their voices in praise. Those who go down to the grave can no longer hope in Your faithfulness. Only the living can praise You as I do today. Each generation tells of Your faithfulness to the next.” ISAIAH 38:18–19

By this time in the semester, hopefully you know one thing for certain: God’s love for you is real and vast. When we truly embrace the love God has for us, we begin to trust Him, and as our relationship with Him grows, we develop a great love for Him as well. Love for God allows our “religious requirements” to become relational joys. What we once saw as duty has now become devotion. It is our delight to know Him and follow His commands.

An overflow of your relationship with God is worship. Worship is more than singing songs; it is a lifestyle. Worship can be expressed through acts of service, words of praise, and giving, as well as singing, dancing and even shouting. Living this way honors our Savior and produces purity, confidence, and strength in us. Then, something amazing happens: We become warriors in God’s Kingdom.

Ask yourself: Am I living the life of a worshipper?

LOVE & WAR

Worship is actually an act of warfare against satan and demonic forces! Our worship puts the devil on the run and increases our ability to fight against powers of darkness in the heavenly realms.

Psalm 149:6 says, “Let the praises of God be in their mouths, and a sharp sword in their hands.”

When we give God all of our attention, we strip the enemy of any power he has over our souls or our bodies as we enter the safety of God’s presence. In His Presence, we are protected from every scheme of the enemy. We become like Jesus, who said that the ruler of this world “has nothing in Me”. ( John 14:30, NASB)

We are able to come boldly into the presence of God because of the blood of Jesus. Hebrews 9:22 says, “Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness.” And without forgiveness for our sins, we cannot enter the presence of God. The blood of Jesus has removed every spot and stain from our lives and made a way for us to “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence.” (Hebrews 4:16 NIV)

NOTHING BUT THE BLOOD

When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, God said “You will surely die.” Obviously, He was referring to spiritual death, because they went on to live very long lives after they were banished from the garden. Remember: sin has consequences. But even though God departed from man’s spirit when man sinned, He did not abandon His creation. In response to Adam and Eve’s loss of innocence and awareness of their nakedness, He covered them with garments made from animal skins. This was the first blood sacrifice.

Throughout the Old Testament, sins were only forgiven when certain animals were sacrificed. God considered these blood sacrifices to be acts of worship. The blood of the animals would be poured on the horns of the altar that sat at the entrance to the tabernacle (sanctuary). The offering was then taken into the Holy of Holies, a sacred place containing the Ark of the Covenant, which housed the tablets with God’s Law written on them (The Ten Commandments). The blood would be put on the mercy seat (lid) of the ark, and when the sacrifice was appropriate and right, the presence of God would fall. In the Holy of Holies, there was a thick veil that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies (also called the Most Holy Place), where the presence of God dwelled. This veil represented the unapproachability of God to anyone but the high priest. When Jesus gave up His Spirit on the cross, the veil in the temple was torn from top to bottom. Notice that it was not torn from bottom to top. God tore this veil from above because He was moving out of that place. A few weeks later at the feast of the Pentecost, God moved into the hearts of believers.

Truth Unveiled

“Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them.” ACTS 2:2–3

Write Acts 2:4.

This incredible experience with the Presence of God described in Acts 2 was made possible by the acceptable sacrifice of the blood of Jesus. Thank God for this new and better way for us to experience Him! “With His own blood—not the blood of goats and calves—[ Jesus] entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever.” (Hebrews 9:12) This redemption includes eternal life with God, healing for our souls and our bodies, and deliverance from all the powers of the enemy.

Read Revelation 12:10–12. God says that satan, the accuser of the believers, who accuses us before God day and night, is overcome. Write verse 11.

The blood of Jesus has overcome satan. As believers, we are fighting from victory—not for victory! The veil has already been torn; the victory has already been won; satan is a defeated foe. There is nothing separating us from God’s Presence! Now, we can be in an intimate relationship with Him. He has declared and expressed His love for us; we need only to receive that love and learn how to love Him in return. First Love

God desperately longs to connect with our hearts. In Matthew 15:7–9, Jesus says there are people who honor Him with their words, “but their hearts are far from [Him]. Their worship is a farce.” Genuine worship comes from a heart consistently connected with God, and that connection happens in two ways: corporately (at church gatherings with fellow believers) and personally (anytime, anywhere). Corporate worship is important because our faith increases when we join together with other like-minded believers. Even if we come to church or Small Group distracted and burdened by anxiety, our attitudes can quickly change in a worshipful environment. Personal worship occurs when we take initiative, intentionally adjust our attitudes, and cultivate an atmosphere of praise. Wherever we are, any time of day, we can have the attitude of a worshipper and enjoy the presence of God.

Ask Yourself: Is my worship coming from a genuine place in my heart? What am I doing to create an atmosphere of praise in my daily life?

LESSONS FROM A RIVER

Though we desire to have a real relationship with God—one like we have seen in others and heard is available to us—sometimes it just doesn’t seem possible. Have you ever tried to read the Bible but find yourself reading the same verses over and over without a breakthrough? Or have you tried to pray, but it feels like your prayers are hitting the ceiling? If so, you may need to evaluate your level of surrender. Do you trust God? He wants your trust as much as He wants your heart, because without your trust, your heart will never be completely His. We often say, “You are my Lord,” but when there’s a bump in the road, we grab for the steering wheel. Most Christians get distracted by striving to find the happiest, most pleasurable, most personally preferable way to live, but in order to discover God’s will for our lives, we must surrender control. It starts when we say, “My life is not my own. I know I’ve been bought with a high price, and I am your servant by choice. What would you like me to do, King Jesus?” With that kind of attitude, we will live a far more fulfilling life than we ever could have imagined or obtained on our own.

Read Ezekiel 47:1–12. In this vision, the river symbolizes the presence of God. As we venture forward in our relationship with God, we have a tendency to want to keep our toes on the ground, ensuring our head stays above water and we are in control of our lives. But God is inviting us to trust Him, to go deeper, to experience the fullness of His presence. As we surrender control to God, we will be swept away by His love and freely enjoy our journey with Him. When we see that God is worthy of our trust, we will more easily give up control and live in spiritual order.

Four Levels of Worship

*Ankle-Deep:

We can enjoy refreshing in God’s presence, but we are in full command. We can splash and play, then choose to walk out of the river with no lasting effects on our lives.

*Knee-Deep:

The current of God (His Presence) can be felt, but we maintain control. In knee-deep water, we have a good view of those who’ve ventured out into deeper waters, and we see that in His Presence there is “fullness of joy,” (Psalm 16:11 NASB) but we still find security on the riverbank.

*Waist-Deep:

Here, the stream of His presence is strong. We’ve walked into deeper water, but we fight the current and struggle to keep contact with the bottom. Often the fear of what others think or the fear of losing control will tempt us to go back to the riverbank. It is at this place that we make a crucial decision. Who will be in control: God or us?

*The Middle of the River:

This is where we can experience the fullness of God’s presence. We stop fighting for control, and instead, we pick our feet up and float, allowing His current to carry us. We go where He goes, and it is good. Most people want to experience God in ankle-deep, knee-deep, or even waist-deep water, but they want to stay in control. In other words, many want to “do the God thing,” but reserve just enough control that God doesn’t take them too far. Those who live this way have believed a lie that if they abandoned themselves to His control, He would make them do things they don’t want to do. They think He would embarrass them or send them to some faraway place they don’t want to be. But the truth is, God has only good things for his kids. You will never come to a place of true worship until you are honestly able to say, “God, have Your way.” God led Ezekiel back to the riverbank, and suddenly, to his surprise, there were many trees growing on both sides of the river, and the river was now teeming with life! Ezekiel 47:9 (NASB) says, “Everything will live where the river goes.” The leaves of the trees will not wither, their fruit will not fail, and they will bear fruit every month because of the living waters. The trees represent healing and the fish represent harvest. Wonderful things will happen when we abandon ourselves to God’s will and His presence: Souls will be saved, people will be healed, and we will experience the life that is truly life!

Write Proverbs 3:5–6.

WAYS TO BE A TRUE WORSHIPPER

Give God your affection.

“The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.” CHRONICLES 16:9

God wants to be in a covenant (devoted, unbreakable) relationship with you that involves much more than singing songs. He wants you to desire and enjoy His presence. Worship Him out of the overflow of your heart because He is worthy of the best you can offer Him. Psalm 84:1–2 is a song of craving to worship God. “How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of Heaven’s Armies. I long, yes, I faint with longing to enter the courts of the Lord.”

Finish this passage by writing out the second half of Psalm 84:2.

Commit to unconditional worship.

True worship means praising God even when we don’t feel like it. We must be committed to worshipping Him. It’s common for us to take a conditional approach to God, just as we do with sports teams. As long as our team is winning and making great plays, we are excited and engaged in the game, but we lose interest and leave early when things don’t go as we hoped. In the same way, we praise God when our lives are going well, but disengage and withdraw when things get difficult. The truth is, God is worthy of our worship in good times and bad, when we tangibly feel His presence and when we don’t, when we see our prayers answered and when we don’t.

The book of Daniel tells the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed- nego, worshippers of God who were sentenced by King Nebuchadnezzar to be thrown into a fiery furnace for refusing to bow down to other gods.

They said, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty.” (Daniel 3:17)

Write Daniel 3:18.

The quality of our circumstances does not dictate God’s worthiness of worship. We must make a commitment that whatever comes in our lives, we will continue to posture ourselves to worship God.

Include God in your daily life.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” JOHN 15:5

Many of us struggle in our relationship with God because our Sundays do not look like our Mondays. When our everyday world looks different than our “church world” we compartmentalize our lives and limit God’s access to our hearts. Our secular and sacred worlds should look the same, equally reflecting the commitment we have made to worship Jesus.

Often, we don’t know how to include God in our marriage, parenting, jobs, vacations, or hobbies. What would happen if we made God a part of every area of our lives? When you approach a new disciplinary challenge as a parent, ask God what you should do. When you have difficulty with someone at work, pray for wisdom to handle the situation well. When you have a headache, ask Him to heal you! Don’t compartmentalize; God wants access to every aspect of your life. He cares about you and what happens to you. (1 Peter 5:7) Including God in all areas of our lives reveals our level of surrender to Him. As we invite Him to be a part of everything we do, we will have moments of worship every day.

Write Romans 12:1–2 in The Message translation (MSG).

Be obedient.

The first place where worship is mentioned in the Bible is a story that reveals a heart of unconditional love for God: the story of Abraham laying Isaac on the altar in Genesis 22. Abraham trusted God with his greatest treasure—his son. And God called this worship.

“Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to His name.” HEBREWS 13:15

Write Hebrews 13:16.

The greatest sacrifice we can give to God is a heart of humility willing to serve Him with unconditional obedience. This kind of worship moves the heart of God toward us. Read this incredible promise from Jesus out loud:

“The person who has My commands and keeps them is the one who [really] loves Me; and whoever [really] loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and reveal Myself to him [I will make Myself real to him].” JOHN 14:21 AMP

Show reverence.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow His precepts have good understanding. To Him belongs eternal praise.” PSALM 111:10 NIV

In this verse, “fear” means respect. Our God is like no other—almighty, awesome, and beyond comprehension. It is only appropriate that we approach Him with awe and reverence. True worship requires that we fear the Lord.

“But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship Him that way.” JOHN 4:23

The Greek word for “worship” in this verse is proskuneo, which literally means “to kiss the master’s hand in reverence.” It indicates both love and respect. This is a powerful combination. When we both fear God, and love Him, we feel safe in the shelter of His immense greatness. This reverent approach to worship allows us to enjoy resting in His presence, and if He tells us to jump, we say, “How high, Lord?”

IN SPIRIT AND TRUTH

“Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey His commands, for this is everyone’s duty. God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.” ECCLESIASTES 12:13–14

Each day, we have the opportunity to love God and live for Him by aligning our lives with the truth of His Word. We cannot separate our love for God from our submission to Him. God says He wants us to worship Him not only in spirit, with enthusiasm, gratitude, and affection, but also in truth. Worshipping in “truth” requires us to examine our lives and rid ourselves of anything that does not line up with His Word. We need to ask God to purify us. True worship comes from a place of purity. We can’t expect God to be pleased by our jumping and clapping and singing if we do not allow Him to deal with our secret sin and areas where we have fallen short. Hear the heart of humility in this prayer:

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends You, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” PSALM 139:23–24

Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal anything in you that has grieved Him or reduced His presence in your life, and be willing to confront that area and align yourself with the truth of God’s Word. As you go through this process, know this: The voice of the Holy Spirit convicts, but the voice of the devil condemns. You need to discern which voice you hear so that you can respond correctly. Condemnation says, “Here’s the problem. Look at it. It’s all your fault, and there’s no way out.” That is not the voice of God. Our Heavenly Father tells us there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1) He sent His Son to save you, not condemn you. ( John 3:17 NIV) Conviction through the Holy Spirit says, “Here’s the problem, but let’s do something about it. There is hope and a way out.”

Remember the blood of Jesus. In Isaiah 1:18, God says, “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them white as snow.” Jesus has made it possible for us to walk in purity! Let’s make every effort to worship Him with clean hands and pure hearts.

THE MIDNIGHT HOUR

When we are totally focused on God—His goodness, provision, healing, deliverance, holiness—we are actually in a posture of warfare against the enemy. Worship has the power to tear down strongholds and change our environments. Worship not only brings freedom in our own lives, but it also has the power to set others free. In Acts 16:23–34, we find Paul and Silas in jail. They have been arrested and flogged and are now in the depths of a prison. Chained, weary, and surrounded by darkness, with every reason to be afraid, what do they do? They worship.

“Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off!” ACTS 16:25–26

Salvation came to many that night, including the jailer and his entire family. That is the power of true worship. Chains fall off, and people are set free. When God is the focus of our love and attention, we will see Him do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine. (Ephesians 3:20) Choose to love Him with your whole life, and nothing will be impossible for you.

PRAYING FOR PURITY

God desires to purify you. If there is an area of sin in your life that you know you need to deal with, ask Him to forgive you. Use the prayer below as a guide. Father, I’m sorry for offending You and going my own way. I make no excuses for it. I confess my sin right now. (Identify out loud any sin you need to release to God.) I want this sin out of my life, and I choose to turn away from it. Please forgive me, and make me clean. I receive Your forgiveness now. I know You delight to show me mercy. Thank You, Lord, for letting me off the hook. I make the decision to love You and worship You with all my heart. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Lesson: Week 11 - Vessels Of Honor

“In a wealthy home some utensils are made of gold and silver, and some are made of wood and clay. >The expensive utensils are used for special occasions, and the cheap ones are for everyday use. If you >keep yourself pure, you will be a special utensil for honorable use. Your life will be clean, and you will >be ready for the Master to use you for every good work.” 2 TIMOTHY 2:20–21

In this passage, the Apostle Paul uses household items as an analogy to describe believers and our ability to be useful to God by serving Him and fulfilling our respective destinies. We see that some items are inexpensive and ordinary, but others are honorable, used for special occasions. In the Master’s hand, these are utensils that accomplish great things. Every person is at a different place in his or her walk with Christ. No two stories are the same, and no one starts out as silver or gold; it is a process. If you’re unsatisfied with where you are in the process,

God is eager to take you to the next level. He is the One who prepares us, refines us, and makes us honorable. Though you may not feel very special or honorable at this moment, God sees you this way. You are not defined or limited by your past. He says in His Word that He makes all things brand new (2 Corinthians 5:17) and He wants to help you become a vessel of honor.

Write Revelation 21:5

Ask Yourself: Am I satisfied with where I am with God? How do I want my life to be different?

At times, we may look at another person and assume from outward appearances that their spiritual walk is strong. While they may appear holy and righteous, looks can be deceiving. We can’t tell from the outside what is going on inside a person’s heart. It’s similar to looking at dishes in a dishwasher—sometimes you can’t tell if they have been washed. Even if you inspect them closely and they look clean, they may still be covered in germs. You wouldn’t want to eat on a plate that is dirty, no matter how clean it looks on the surface! The Holy Spirit knows when there is something in our lives keeping us from being fit for His use, and He will convict us of sin. Will you let Him reveal those areas to you? He wants to bring you to a new level of personal integrity, and He will do a miracle in your life if you will allow Him.

What areas of your life might need to be confronted and cleaned up by the Holy Spirit? Write them out below as a way of surrendering them to the Lord.

When we talked about Spiritual Order in Week Four, we discussed justification and sanctification. Remember, justification is an event that takes place when we are saved. When Jesus becomes our Savior, at that very moment, every sin of our past is wiped clean. God removes the junk of yesterday, just as if we had never sinned.

Sanctification, however, is not an event—it’s a process. It’s a journey through which God molds and transforms our character. As He sanctifies us, God takes us to new stages of faith, continually making us more like Him. He sets us free from habitual sin, purifies our hearts, and empowers us to fulfill the Kingdom purpose for which He created us.

Read the four Stages listed below and identify where you are right now.

Four Stages of Christianity:

*Unbelievers become believers. *Believers become disciples who begin to grow. *Disciples become leaders who find their purpose in life. *Leaders become servants.

It may surprise you to discover that the highest level of our journey as Christians is servanthood. This concept is very counterintuitive to the world’s way of thinking. But our greatest goal as Christians is to fulfill the purpose for which God created us, and that requires us to become His servants.

Let’s look again at 2 Timothy 2:21: “If you keep yourself pure, you will be a special utensil for honorable use. Your life will be clean, and you will be ready for the Master to use you for every good work.” Here, the word “Master” is the Greek word “despotes,” which refers to a person who is a ruler with absolute power and authority over others. We often think of God as a Friend, a Savior, a Protector, and He is those things—but He is also Lord. That means He calls the shots! And we are called to serve at the pleasure of our King.

Write Matthew 20:26

HONOR IN ACTION

There are three steps we can take to become vessels of honor: offer our bodies, renew our minds, and surrender our wills. Offer our bodies.

“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has >done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice— the kind He will find acceptable. This is truly the >way to worship Him.” ROMANS 12:1

The body is the place where sin functions. We might sin by saying something with our mouths, looking at something with our eyes, or touching something with our hands. In Job 31:1, a righteous man says, “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look with lust at a young woman.” When we are intentional with our bodies, we are able to make conscious decisions to avoid sin. We will make great progress toward becoming a vessel of honor if we are willing to say each day, “Here I am Lord; clean me up. Take each member of my body and the things I have done and wash me. Take my appetites, my addictions, my habits, my tongue, and my attitudes, and consecrate them.”

Underline the first word of each command in the following verse:

“Run from anything that stimulates youthful lusts. Instead, pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, >and peace. Enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts.” 2 TIMOTHY 2:22

“Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires. Do not let any part of your >body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you >were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for >the glory of God. Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. >Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.” ROMANS 6:12–14

Renew our minds.

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by >changing the way you think.” ROMANS 12:2

Sin functions in the body, but the mind controls the body. Sin begins in the mind.

“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with >are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We >demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take >captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 CORINTHIANS 10:3–5 NIV

In this passage, we see that spiritual warfare is an essential component of the Christian life. Many Christians love God but have no clue how to fight the enemy. We must become equipped for battle because the devil is scheming to destroy you. 1 PETER 5:8

One of the ways we fight the enemy is by demolishing “arguments.” An argument is an “idea.” The enemy’s goal is to plant thoughts in your mind that are contrary to God’s thoughts. A lot of the ideas we’ve subscribed to, even about God, are simply wrong because they are contrary to Scripture. Don’t listen to the voice of the enemy; listen to the Word of God. For example, if the Bible says, “By His wounds you are healed” (Isaiah 53:5), believe it! Warfare is exchanging the report of the world for the report of the Lord. Peace can reign and rule in ours hearts when we align our thoughts with the truth of God’s Word.

Here is the main question when it comes to spiritual warfare: Can the devil get you to believe him? We must take thoughts captive and compare them to what the Bible says is true. Minimize your exposure to the worldly thinking found in music, TV, movies, books, and entertainment, and saturate yourself with the Word of God. When you turn off the programming of the world, the voice of God will become clearer to you.

Renewing our mind by the Word of God requires us to use Scripture to combat the lies of the enemy.

Write the truth from Scripture that will dismantle the enemy’s lies.

LIE

TRUTH

*You are confused. 1 CORINTHIANS 2:16

*You are fearful. 2 TIMOTHY 1:7

*There is no hope. JEREMIAH 29:11

*You’re going to die. PSALM 118:17

*Something bad is going to happen. PSALM 91:10

*God can’t hear you. PSALM 34:17

*Nothing will ever change. ISAIAH 43:18–19

Surrender our wills.

“Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” ROMANS 12:2

The body carries out sin, and the mind controls the body, but the will controls the mind. As we surrender our will to God, His perfect will becomes the motivation of our lives. In Matthew 6, Jesus tells us to pray this way: “Your kingdom come, Your will be done.” Instead of coming to God with our agenda, we should approach prayer with this mentality: “Father, I want what You want. Have Your way.” Come to Him with a neutral heart. If we are biased toward a specific answer to our prayer, God’s voice will be difficult to discern.

Write Luke 22:42

When we pray like this and surrender our will, we are able to honor God with every part of our lives. In this way, we become honorable and useful to the Lord. He will stir up purpose within us and empower us to fulfill our God-given destiny and expand the Kingdom of Heaven.

PREPARE FOR BATTLE

“You are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, >you can show others the goodness of God, for He called you out of the darkness into His wonderful >light.” 1 PETER 2:9

Being useful in the Kingdom is the greatest honor of our lives, but it comes at a price. When we begin to walk in our purpose, we will get the attention of the enemy. We should anticipate his attacks and take them as a sign of encouragement. We are a threat to his plan to keep the world in darkness. Hold on to this truth: you belong to God, and the enemy cannot change that. No one can snatch you out of God’s hand. (John 10:28) But we still need to prepare to go to war with the enemy. We need to study our opponent’s tactics. The enemy knows the best way to combat our spiritual growth and Kingdom purpose is to trap us in sin. Satan will try to derail us with temptation, making something that is harmful to us seem extremely appealing. When we are tempted, our character is tested through desires in our soul and body.

“And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, ‘God is tempting me.’ God is never tempted >to do wrong, and He never tempts anyone else.” JAMES 1:13

We need to understand that God never tempts us! Satan and his demons are the tempters. Unlike God, Satan cannot be everywhere at the same time. But the Bible says that when he fell from heaven, he took one third of the angels with him (Revelation 12:4). Demons are satan’s servants, and he has sent them out on mission to destroy our lives. They are always looking for an opportunity to trap us in temptation. Satan has been tempting mankind since he tempted Eve in the Garden. Even Jesus was tempted by the devil. (Matthew 4:1) Jesus, our High Priest, “understands our weakness, for He faced all of the same testings we do, yet He did not sin.” (Hebrews 4:15) And because “He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world,” we can stand against temptation. (1 John 4:4 NIV)

Read James 4:7. What happens when we choose to resist the devil’s temptations?

Write 1 Corinthians 10:13. What will God do for you when a temptation seems unbearable?

Jesus gives us insight into how we can withstand temptation. In the Garden of Gethsemane, before He was arrested and crucified, Jesus told His disciples, “Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!” (Matthew 26:41) In other words, we need to keep the dialogue going with God.

Open communication keeps us safe and aware. Wise parents of teenagers know the value of simply talking to their children. A strong, open relationship between parents and children provides protection. Can you see the active role you play in your own deliverance from evil? You have the choice and available power to withstand the enemy. You can choose to succumb to satan’s pressure and give him a foothold in your life (Ephesians 4:27), or you can submit to God and be empowered to defeat the enemy.

THE BREAKDOWN

For rock climbers, a foothold is the place they step so they can advance up the side of a mountain. For the enemy, it is a base for advancing his destruction of God’s plans in our lives. A foothold gives him control over an area of our soul, and we allow him to take hold of it when we give in to temptation. Over time, as we give in over and over to a particular temptation, satan’s control in that area will grow. Proverbs 5:22 says, “An evil man is held captive by his own sins; they are ropes that catch and hold him.” A foothold can ultimately become a stronghold, or an enemy fortress, in our soul. Strongholds are highly dangerous to our spiritual condition and must be torn down. Areas of bondage that can become footholds in our lives can look like anger, rage, abuse, lust, alcoholism, drugs, profanity, lying, or many

other things. Footholds can get lodged in our souls early in life, particularly if a certain sin was part of our environment. For example, if there was often rage in your home, rage might feel like a natural way for you to respond. Areas of bondage can also be the result of the generational sin of our parents or grandparents. Jesus says in John 8:34, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin.” How to Break Out of Bondage

“Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will believe the truth. Then they will come to >their senses and escape from the devil’s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he >wants.” 2 TIMOTHY 2:25–26

As Christians, God has given us the power to overcome the attacks of the enemy and areas of oppression in our lives. To be free of bondage, we need to repent of sin and cast off the powers of darkness. (Repentance) Often, people believe that just the admission of sin clears their conscience and frees them from any consequence or responsibility. While admitting a sin is part of repentance, it is not full repentance. Repentance not only means admitting your sin but turning away from the sin and choosing to no longer continue in it. Titus 2:11–12 (NIV) tells us that through God’s grace and salvation, we can say “‘no’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and live self-controlled, upright and godly lives.”

Read 2 Corinthians 7:10. What might be missing in a person who struggles with turning from sin?

Read Romans 2:4. What else leads us to repentance?

Write Romans 13:12.

If you find yourself in a cycle of sin, don’t give up hope! God desires to help you break the cycle. Ask Him to give you godly sorrow that leads to repentance, and meditate on His goodness and His kindness. And remember, “The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.” (Psalm 37:23-24)

Casting Off Darkness

John 1:7 says that if we are repentant, the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin. But sometimes people can feel that they aren’t forgiven even after they have confessed and repented of a sin many times. If you are feeling this way, it may be because you need to cast off a demon spirit associated with the sin. Over time, sin will allow the enemy to gain a foothold, which feels like a “hook” lodged in your soul. When you are least prepared, you will experience a tug on that hook that makes you feel unworthy and defeated Those feelings are lies!

Because you have repented of that sin, it is covered by the blood of Jesus, and you need to tell the enemy to get out by casting him off in the name of Jesus and removing the hook. This will destroy the demonic hold in that area and release you to experience the complete peace of God’s forgiveness. After the hook is removed, ask the Lord to heal the wound and fill the space with His peace and power.

You don’t need to be afraid to do this because God has given you the authority in Christ over sin and any dark spirit. The Holy Spirit is with you, and God promises to never leave or forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:8). Remember “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5, NKJV)

Below is a list of common struggles you may need to overcome. Identify the areas where satan may have a foothold in your life, and by using the prayer outline above, pray through prayers of repentance, and renounce any dark power.

rejection • abuse • self-hatred/unworthiness • depression • pride unforgiveness • greed • guilt/shame • lust/sexual impurity control • anger • fear

The specific example of worthlessness is used to show the application the following prayers.

  • Confess: Healing starts with admitting we were wrong. We must first acknowledge that we have believed something that is not true and have agreed with the lies of the enemy. Father, I confess that I have believed the lie that I am worthless and unlovable. Please forgive me for not trusting that what Your Word says about me is true.

  • Repent: To repent means to change direction. When we repent, we choose to turn around and go the opposite way of our previous path. Stop your agreement with the enemy in its tracks and set your mind on a new course of thinking. If anyone has hurt you by reinforcing these lies in your life, forgive them and release them to the Lord.

I repent and come out of agreement with the lies of the enemy regarding my worth. I recognize that I am >greatly valued and loved by God. Father, I choose to believe Your Word and what You say about me. I >choose to forgive for any way in which they have led me to believe that I am worth- less, whether >deliberately or inadvertently.

It is important to note that when we confess our sins and reject the enemy’s lies, we realign ourselves >with God’s truth. Armed with confidence in His Word, we can take authority over the enemy and >remove the effects of his lies from our lives.

  • Cast off: We must refuse to allow the enemy to continue to use destructive words or events against us. With the authority of the Name of Jesus, command the enemy to leave.

I cast off the lie that I am worthless, and I renounce the spirit of unworthiness. In the Name of Jesus and >by the power of the Holy Spirit, I break the curse of unworthiness and all its effects in my life. I declare >that the spirit of unworthiness has no place in my life.

  • Bless: Once the enemy has been removed, fill the place that he held with truth and promises found in Scripture. Speak life over yourself by declaring an accurate view of how God sees you. I declare and choose to believe what the Word of God says in Ephesians 2:10, that I am “God’s masterpiece, created anew in Christ Jesus.” I release the blessing of value and purpose in my life and declare that I am of great worth to God.

Pray for the Holy Spirit’s discernment and guidance. He desires for you to be free!

A LIFE OF HONOR

God created you to be a vessel of honor. This role will require you to fight the enemy and reorder your life. Though it can be challenging and messy at times, the rewards are immeasurable. Obedience brings blessing to your life (Deuteronomy 11:27). In addition, God will use you as a catalyst for peace in your family, joy in your community, and change in your school and place of business.

Though the process of becoming a vessel of honor may seem a bit overwhelming on the whole, you will make great progress by being faithful in the small, day-to-day things. Intentionally set aside time to spend with God every day, and apply Tree of Life perspective to every decision you make. In this way, you will begin to shine a light before men that drives away darkness and fills a lost, broken, and lonely world with great hope.

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“God is looking for somebody He can dream through.”
—-Jonathan Stockstill "Here Comes The Dreamer"