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Wiles Part 2: Condemnation & Doubt
In Part 1 of this series, we looked at Satan’s attacks on our minds and emotions. In this second installment, we will consider two very specific ways that Satan attacks our faith.
Condemnation. A common tactic of the devil is to make you feel cut off from God’s love and forgiveness. This occurs most often after some failure on your part. Maybe you did something that you knew you shouldn’t have done or you didn’t do something that you knew you should have done. That’s when condemnation usually strikes. However, it is important to distinguish between conviction and condemnation. Conviction is a legitimate work of the Holy Spirit that produces guilt over our sins, which then leads us to the Cross to receive forgiveness. Condemnation produces guilt and leaves its victim with a sense of hopelessness.
The devil might suggest that God is finished with you by saying, “You’ve gone too far this time.” He implies that forgiveness is no longer available. You might even have overwhelming feelings that God has abandoned you and that He no longer loves you. All of this is typical of the “fiery darts of the wicked one.” These darts of the enemy can only be fended off by taking up the shield of faith—which is the Word of God. The power of condemnation lies in Satan’s ability to deceive us into thinking that God is the one condemning us. After all, if God is against us, who can be for us? What a vile distortion of the truth!
In Romans 8:1 Paul says, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. …” Then in verse 31 he says, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” In verses 33–34 he asks:
Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.
Those reproachful thoughts and those condemning feelings come from the “accuser of the brethren” (Rev. 12:10). It is only by confidence in the blood of the Lamb that we can overcome satanic condemnation.
If you’ve sinned, don’t let the devil drive you away from the Lord through condemnation! Instead, confess your sin, and remember, “He is faithful and just to forgive you your sins and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness” (see 1 John 1:9).
Doubt. The devil sometimes shoots fiery darts of doubt into our minds. He will try to get you to doubt everything from God’s existence to your salvation. But his fundamental objective is to cast doubt on the Word of God. An important thing to remember, though, is that there is a difference between the temptation to doubt and the sin of unbelief. It’s possible to be plagued by doubt and yet innocent of the sin of unbelief.
The great English preacher Charles Spurgeon was acutely familiar with this particular form of temptation. He said, “My peculiar temptation has been constant unbelief. I know that God’s promise is true. … Yet does this temptation incessantly assail me—‘Doubt Him. Distrust Him. He will leave you yet.’”1 Spurgeon, of course, resisted the temptation, but his statements indicate that he struggled constantly in this area.
So once again I remind you that you are not sinning when you are oppressed by the temptation to doubt. Doubt only becomes sin when it is acted upon and allowed to control us. Satan tempted Eve to doubt God’s Word. However, it wasn’t until she submitted to his suggestions that she sinned. Just because you’re tempted to doubt doesn’t mean that you’ve sinned. You can refuse to give in to those suggestions.
When I was a young Christian, I had heard that certain scholars and theologians questioned the validity of some of the books of the Bible. At that point Satan sought to plant doubt in my mind concerning the Word of God. The thoughts went something like this: “These men are theologians who have studied the Bible for years. They know the Hebrew and the Greek. I know nothing. How can I possibly think I’m right and they’re wrong?” Does that sound familiar? Or maybe you’ve had an experience in which you’re reading your Bible and your mind is suddenly flooded with questions like: “Are you sure Jesus Christ even existed? Could those miracles really have happened? How could someone rise from the dead? What about all the other religions? Isn’t it a bit arrogant to think that Jesus is the only way to God?” The list goes on and on.
Satan will suggest these thoughts to you. He is always trying to undermine the Word of God. He tried it with Eve in the Garden, “Has God really said? …” (see Gen. 3:1). He tried it with Jesus in the wilderness, “If You are the Son of God …” (Luke 4:3). You can be sure he’ll try it with you. The Word of God is both our compass and rudder to guide us through this stormy Christian life. If the devil can get us to doubt even the smallest truth, he can get us off course. If he can get us to doubt the greater truths, we can end up shipwrecked. That is his goal. Don’t give in to doubt. Recognize it as one of the devil’s tactics and stand firm on the Word of God.
One last thing—don’t confuse honest questions with doubt. Consider the difference between Zacharias’ response to the angel Gabriel and Mary’s response (Luke 1:18, 34). Both seemingly asked the same question, “How shall this be?” It was not the question “How?” but rather the attitude with which the question was posed that differentiated the two. Zacharias asked in unbelief as if to say, “You’ve got to be kidding? No way!” Mary, on the other hand, was asking in what manner God would accomplish such a wonder. Her humble faith is evidenced in her final statement to Gabriel, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). Mary was not guilty of doubting God’s Word; she was submitting to His plan!
There is nothing wrong with asking questions. That’s how we learn. Honest questions can turn your temptations to doubt into opportunities to grow in your understanding of the Lord, His Word, and His ways. At the end of every honest question you will find that God is true, even as Paul boasts in Romans 3:4, “Let God be true but every man a liar.”
1 Spurgeon, C. H. (November 17, 1861). “The Roaring Lion.” www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2010/03/16/roaring-lion (December 5, 2012).
continue reading the views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of Calvary Southampton