It should be no surprise to any believer who desires to go beyond the religious, superficial, or ornamental variety of Christianity that there will be a significant push back from the enemy. Paul warned Timothy (3:10-17) that everyone desiring to live a godly life in Christ Jesus would be persecuted (opposed, hindered, maligned, attacked). It’s common sense. As long as we are spectators sitting in the stands of some football game, we are never going to be subject to the bumps and bruises of those on the field actually playing the game. It’s the same way in the life of the serious believer. When we come off the bench of apathy, lethargy, indifference, and sloth and actually engage Christianity the way God intended it to be lived out, we become a greater threat to the enemy and with every step we advance, Satan is there ready to turn up the heat to steal our hope, dream, vision, blessing, development, and destiny.
Hebrews 10:35-39 exhorts us to hold on to our faith because it will be richly rewarded if we do not faint, quit, or give up. The pressure of the enemy in the life of a serious Christian is designed to push us off the Word and away from the promises. But we are not ignorant of Satan’s devices (2 Corinthians 2:11) and we can push back by first submitting to God and then resisting the devil (James 4:7). If we do, we are assured that the enemy will flee. We should not, however, ignorantly believe that he will never return to try his old tricks on us again. If you think you are being picked on by the enemy (and he does use people to do it), you are not paranoid or imagining things. The enemy is coming after you to shut you down.
The bottom line is that as we progress from nominal Christian to authentic, reproducing Christian, the enemy is going to respond with his choice weapons of temptation, discouragement, offense, and deception to slow, hinder, or altogether halt our progress. Through the years, I’ve identified seven specific developmental levels where we can expect the enemy to move against us to thwart our process and stifle our influence:
Level One: Born Again – when we move from religion to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ we can’t expect the devil to stand up and applaud. As long as we are in religion induced darkness we are not a threat to him. But when we get born again we come alive and we begin to discern truth and evil and now have the spiritual tools to walk in the truth and reject the evil.
Level Two: Believing Believer – some Christians get born again and then never progress to the point where they embrace the integrity of the Word of God and dare to believe the promises and principles in the Bible. A believing believer is capable of producing great results, fruit, and breakthroughs. The more we embrace the Word (Mark 4), the greater the persecution from the enemy.
Level Three: Active Participant – when we come out of the stands and into the game we can expect the enemy to come after us to attempt to push us right back out of the game. His goal of his devices here is very plain – to make you think twice about serving or leading in the body of Christ in any substantive way.
Level Four: Person of the Spirit – there is nothing more dangerous to Satan than a born again and Spirit-filled believer. We all receive the Holy Spirit at salvation but there is an additional endowment or empowerment that is available to all Christians (Acts 2) that gives us power to live this life and power to share the good news with others. Spiritual warfare goes to an entirely new level in the life of the Spirit-baptized Christian.
Level Five: Soul Winner – with each level of progress we become more dangerous to the goals and agenda of the enemy. The Christian who is not content just to sit in church waiting for their death and heavenly reward, but actively seeks to depopulate hell and populate heaven with precious souls is the arch-enemy of the devil. He literally hates soulwinners with a passion. Don’t expect a spiritual reprieve from the enemy if you’ve made up your mind to obey Jesus and reach the unreached and tell the untold.
Level Six: Budding Leader – there are many in the body of Christ that seem to literally take off in their own discipleship and development. They have truly become disciples (self-discipline learners of the Lord Jesus Christ) and budding leaders. The enemy becomes very creative in his effort to take down budding leaders before they can reach their full potential.
Level Seven: Developer of Others – the devil will do everything he can to stop a believer from getting to the place where he or she is effectively discipling and developing others to reach their potential in the Kingdom of God. The most dangerous Christian is the one who takes a person from being lost to discovering and inserting his or her gifts in the body of Christ. The level seven believers are reproducing themselves and showing those they develop how to do the same.
So, as Peter warned, you should not be surprised concerning the fiery trial you are facing (1 Peter 4:12-19). You are not crazy. Someone really does hate you and wants to stop you from releasing the greatness that is in you through Jesus, the Word, and the Spirit of God. As we study the serious Christian in upcoming blogs, my prayer is that you come to understand how each of the devils’ schemes (temptation, discouragement, offense, and deception) operate and that you learn to consistently repel them. It’s not always easy, but becoming what God has dreamed for you to become is worth all the attacks and difficulties you will encounter on your journey.