Abide: Breakers and Builders

I’ve been playing “Throne Room Song” on repeat lately. I even wake up with the bridge thrumming through my mind:

The veil is torn; the doors fling wide
I see glory as I run inside
The throne room; before You, I bow.

taken from “Throne Room Song” by Charity Gayle

A picture has been seared into my soul–an image I deeply desire to live out in my everyday life. Yes, I look forward to running into the throne room at my eternal entry. But, just as much, I long to go there now.

Maybe without realizing it, this is what has driven me to understand what it means to dwell with God. I love that this journey of seeking to abide has given me strong words to grab hold of: inhabit, remain, refuge, shelter. And a forever link to Psalm 91.

My big aha last week has broadened my understanding that to abide in Christ includes, but is so much more than, settling into a silent reverie with Him. However, I find it difficult to remain in Christ–to keep up the rhythm of entering His presence, to stick with reading Scripture, to root myself in Him so that I stay with Him. One reason is because we have an enemy who thwarts our efforts and douses our desires. He actually looks for footholds in our lives so he can establish strongholds. And, he’s calculated in his efforts.

War Tactics

Jesus tells us, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10). Peter warns us, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Paul exhorts us to take a stand against the enemy because our “struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against..spiritual forces of evil” (Ephesians 6:12). Lysa TerKeurst takes these biblical authors at their word, so in her book It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way (aka: INSTBTW), she devotes an entire chapter to the three ways the enemy comes after us. He (1) tempts, (2) deceives, and (3) accuses. In that order. 

Think of temptation as Satan leaning in, just as you open your Bible to read, to whisper in your ear, “You’re hungry*.” Then you’re off to Sonic, Bible forgotten. Then there are times his voice sounds oddly like the world’s, “Don’t you want to feel good? Try this…it’s amazing” (INSTBTW, 167). Our enemy will appeal to all our senses to reel us in.

Once the enticement has been offered, Satan will follow-up with his deceptions. He ramps up the appeal with straight-up lies to help us justify and rationalize what we say and do–even when we know better. Maybe you’ve heard him say, “You deserve this. You’re special enough to get away with it. And no one will ever know. It will just be your well-deserved pleasure” (INSTBTW, 167).

But, he’s not done yet. Getting us hooked is the foothold. What he’s after is the stronghold–that grip that imprisons us with shame and regret. For what he just tempted us with and talked us into, he then rails against, slandering and guilting us over our choice to acquiesce. His accusations are laced with lies, “Look at what you’ve done now. God is ashamed of you. When people find out, they will shame you and rename you the loser you are. So you better keep it a secret. This isn’t just a choice you made. This is who you really are. You’ll never escape this shame or be healed of this pain. The best you can ever do is numb your pain, and I’ve got a few suggestions for you” (INSTBTW, 168).

Friends, we need to be attuned to these tactics. You’ll hear me say this a lot–awareness is empowerment. Because when we know what Satan is up to, we can look to God. He’ll equip us so we can come against our enemy’s attacks. To obliviously walk through life is to give our enemy control, and with him at the wheel, we will never truly abide with our Father.

Photo by Arjan de Jong on Unsplash

Breakers

In this battle for intimacy with God, we also want to train ourselves to notice the vulnerable footholds the enemy watches for. These ‘little’ feelings and thoughts, in Satan’s hands, become part of his strategy to separate us from God. They become interruptions that endanger our abiding abilities–interruptions that become threats. I’ve come to call them breakers.

I’ve collected notes on my phone for over ten years–any ideas that inspires my writing. This week I searched the app to find a Note with lists of those breakers.  

The first list of breakers comes from a Joanna Weaver book I read nearly twenty years ago, Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World. She cleverly titles the tactics of Satan the ‘Deadly D’s.’ Distraction. Discouragement. Doubt. Then, as if she’s read the same book, Lysa TerKeurst adds to that list: disappointment, division, defeat, destruction, death (INSTBTW). 

I’ve had plenty of time to witness how the enemy uses distraction, discouragement, and doubt to keep me down, to keep me ineffective, to keep me from drawing near to God. And, as I’ve added every other ‘D’ to my Note, I’ve seen these devilish designs do their dirty work in my life, as well as, in families, churches, and communities. It’s crazy how quickly a doubt can spiral into division. 

The Deadly D’s pack a punch, but they’re not the only demonic devices. Lysa offers another list in her book, which I’ve dubbed the ‘Insidious I’s:’ isolation, intimidation, and influence (p.150). These strategies are just as subtle as the Deadly D’s, and they tend to work in tandem. For instance, if the enemy can isolate us, he can influence us. 

Builders

Throughout our series, we’ll zoom in on these deadly and insidious ploys to see how sneaky the enemy can be–and how vicious. Lest your fear, remember this truth: Satan is not victorious (ITSTBTW). God has given us His Word and His Son to learn from and model. We’ve all read the end of the story–we win! But, even today we can beat Satan at his games. We can run into the throne room, and waiting for us there is a God who entrusts us with His truth, encourages good habits, and extends power that enables us to build intimacy with Him. We’ll call these builders.

Photo by Susan Holt Simpson on Unsplash

Every other week this summer, I’ll offer up ideas that we can incorporate into daily, weekly, and monthly rhythms to break the enemy’s grip on us. It’s my goal to prescribe specific builders that relate to each week’s focus–things like biblical tools, spiritual disciplines, and practical changes in our thoughts and responses.

Then on the ‘other’ week of this every-other-week structure, I’ll focus on prayers and practices that we can actually do together. It’s my hope this ebb-and-flow through our summer will help us move from information toward transformation in our spiritual lives. We’ll be able to get beyond talking about abiding to actually doing it!

Holistic Approach

A final word about our enemy’s ways. He does not hone in on one area of our lives. He doesn’t just tempt us with the spiritual, but the physical, mental, emotional, and social, as well. I’ll start in two weeks with the physical, but we need to know that these segmented parts make up our whole being. As such, they’re impossible to completely separate. For instance, everything about us–our bodies, minds, feelings, spirits, and social interactions–is woven together. 

We also need to make note that our enemy is not the only threat to our ability to dwell with God. Our own habits, choices, mindsets, and sins become threats to abiding. The world with its culture, natural disasters, and diseases can thwart our intentions. And, there are other people, whose habits, choices, and sins impact us negatively every day.

So, as we seek to remain more and more in Christ, we need to be aware of and equipped for each interruption to this abiding life. Whether the world, people, or our own selves threaten our ability to dwell, we can know that the enemy will use all of it as footholds with the hope of creating strongholds. 

I borrowed from our “Dwell Playlist ” a song to lead off our new “Abide Playlist”–because its lyrics are just too perfect for what we’re about this summer. Now, and throughout the week, let’s make its words our prayer:

Where the Spirit leads, as I’m following
I depend on You, I depend on You
For the victories still in front of me
I depend on You, I depend on You
You’re the Way, the Truth, and the Life
You’re the well that never runs dry
I’m the branch and You are the vine
Draw me close and teach me to abide. 

taken from “Abide” by The Worship Initiative

Lord, teach us to abide.

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  • Each week I’ll offer a few resources that can further inform and equip you on your journey toward deeper intimacy with God. NOTE: I do not intend for you to look at all these. Think of these weekly lists as a resource library that you can come back to as you have need. Glance now and dig in when it’s time. This week’s resources:
    • Obviously :), Lysa TerKeurst’s book, It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way.** The overall book is about how to deal with disappointments. Lysa weaves her own story around biblical wisdom and spiritual guidance. I read it with an amazing group in the spring of 2019–what an equipping for what lay ahead! And, her chapter that I mention today, “Exposing the Enemy,” is incredible.
    • *Denotes a scene from C.S. Lewis’ brilliant, albeit fictional, book about the subtle tactics of the enemy. If you’ve never read Screwtape Letters,** this is the summer to do it!
    • John Mark Comer, a pastor out of Portland, delivers some well-crafted messages about our enemy:
      • First, his interview with Jennie Allen on her podcast, called “The War For Your Faith.” It’s so enlightening and encouraging–I think I’ll listen again!
      • I also found a script of a sermon he gave back in 2016, called “Why?” in which he addresses our perpetual question of why bad things happen, and he names FIVE causes: “God’s will, our will, other people’s will, Satan and the powers, [or] just life on this side of resurrection in the world.” It’s a bit heady, but it’s solid. You’ll hear more about JMC as we go. 😉
  • Chime in as we go through the summer. As we’re discovering, community is key to our spiritual growth. So, comment below or join in the conversation on Instagram. Either way, let’s share and encourage and abide…together!
  • Last, but absolutely not least, is our new summer playlist simply titled, Abide. I tried to imagine what songs would usher us into that throne room, as well as, equip us against our enemy. And, there are plenty of each. But I also intentionally included songs that will pull us into specific areas that we’ll enter this summer, like identity, surrender, and doing life in the world with Jesus. I pray we’ll lean-in to these worshipful tunes–to praise God, to enter His presence, to surrender our all to Him. XOXO

 Featured Photo by Tyler Milligan on Unsplash
**affiliate links

Published by Shelley Johnson

Follower of Christ, wife, mother of three, daughter, sister, friend. Seeker of ways to share the love I've found in Jesus with others.

7 thoughts on “Abide: Breakers and Builders

  1. Thank you Shelley for an excellent reminder of the enemy we deal with without and within. Looking at the list I deal with discouragement often. When I lean into Jesus it breaks that and I find gratitude and peace.

    1. Yes!!! That’s my exact experience too! It is a tad annoying, though, how long I can get hunkered in discouragement before I recognize it for what it is!! 💜💜

  2. This is so good! While I’ve encountered every tactic you mentioned, the big one for me is the ‘D’ of distraction. I’m currently reading ‘Practicing His Presence’ by Brother Lawrence & Frank Laubach, so this was perfectly timed! I’m excited to follow along and also check out the resources you’ve shared!

  3. A dear friend of mine is dying. I can’t visit him because he is too weak to come to my assisted living and I can’t go to his nursing home. I’m trying to set up a zoom meeting w the help of his sister.He is a good Christian. I wa t to read something to him that will bring him comfort. Do you have some ideas? I thought about Psalm 92. I’m Marcia Foster 405476-1582.

    1. Marcia, I’m so sorry to hear about your friend. That’s so hard. 😔 I love your idea of reading to him. I agree, the Psalms are so good. 92, 91, 23.
      Lord Jesus, thank You for all the ways you are with Marcia. I pray You’d be her extraordinary peace as she witnesses her friend transition from life to life. I pray You’d honor her heart to offer comfort to him. I know your Word is life, so I pray that whatever she shares pours out over her friend with that hope that comes with knowing what comes next. 💜💜🙏🙏

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