Category Archives: Satan’s Lies

Discerning The Messages in Our Heads

Listen to Dan Allender’s podcast regarding how to discern the voices in our heads (see below).

In my book Embracing Your Identity in Christ: Renouncing Lies and Foolish Strategies, I wrote:

“An interpretation war has existed since the time the ancient serpent tempted Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. After the fall, this interpretation war grew much more complex as people did not turn to God for meaning and answers to life’s basic questions. There is a real battle that rages in the heart of every Christian. It is an interpretation war about his or her identity. This is where the world and the devil seek to kill, steal, and destroy us. This is where the interpretation war takes place each and every day.

One’s central condemning thought (CCT) is furnished readily by evil to interpret painful events in our lives. It offers an explanation for why there was relational damage, and it can trigger an autonomous vow to never let it happen again. An identity built on a condemning thought can rule a Christian for many years, instead of the gospel. This is because our default mode is to overcome condemnation by self-improvement efforts to prove the lie is a lie. One’s CCT triggers a personal strategy of Christian performance that leads to patterns of burnout, surrender, and repeat performances. Why are we so vulnerable to this? Simply put: we tend to base our sense of our identities upon our Christian performance, rather than resting on the performance of another— namely, Jesus Christ’s perfect thirty-three-year life of righteousness.”

Here is another resource to consider how to discern the messages in our heads; namely, Dan Allender’s short video:

Children are Excellent Observers, but Poor Interpreters

Children know when something is not right in a parent(s)’s relational world. They have radar. We have seen when Karen and I were in minor conflicts that our little ones used to come hug our legs in the kitchen where we were talking. Why? They were insecure and long for well-being. When parents are well, they sense they are well too.

Children are excellent observers. When it comes to interpreting the fallen aspects of life and relational pain, however, children are poor interpreters. They, like us, need a Gospel-interpretation. They, like us, may blame themselves or God wrongly. Often it just makes sense to them that if they had just been better behaved their home would be safe and their family would simply get along.

When children are vulnerable to believe a lie, Satan is more than willing to supply one – one especially believable to make sense of their story. This set up becomes early occasions to make deep commitments to foolish strategies to overcome the condemnation they sense. Thus, a child’s drive to perform to make things well becomes a religious effort to make life work without the Gospel.

It isn’t until we name our sin, Satan’s condemning thoughts, and how the righteous life and death of Christ in our place that we find our true rest. The good news is that the Holy Spirit is more than willing to spell it all out for us with the “sweetest voice I’ve ever heard.”

Christian parents are God’s Gospel interpreters for their children, who are excellent observers but often poor interpreters.

For more, see Embracing Your Identity in Christ: Renouncing Lies and Foolish Strategies (Bloomington, IN: WestbowPress a Division of Thomas Nelson and Zondervan, 2017).


Spiritual Failure: The Unlikely Path to Christian Success

“And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter (Luke 22:60-61).”

When is spiritual failure predictable? The disciples were increasingly aware that Jesus was seriously and deliberately going to get in big trouble and difficulty. The situation was intensely dangerous when Peter felt led of the Lord to say something like: “Master, I know things are getting rough around here, but I want you to know that under no circumstances will I let you down. If every single one of these guys let you down, you can count on me. I won’t.” (I don’t think this made the other disciples happy, and they made sure to record this account in the gospels.) Jesus told Peter that before the crack of dawn Peter would fail him.

Spiritual failure is predictable when we rely on the strength of our own commitment, when we think we stand, when we underestimate Satan’s desire to sift us like wheat, when we lack watchful prayer, and when we presume that we can hide and blend in with nonbelievers without having to admit we love Jesus. All this was true of Peter.

How does spiritual failure happen? Spiritual failure happened to Peter so fast. Surprised by the servant girls’ questions and trying to blend in unnoticed, Peter denied Christ three times. The rooster crowed, and Jesus turned and looked at Peter. Peter remembered and wept with the sting of Jesus’ rebuke, the look of compassion, and the promise Jesus made about Peter’s aftermath of failure to strengthen the others. Spiritual failure is predictable and happens fast, but it need never be final.

Peter posted his sign, “Gone fishing.” After the death and resurrection of Christ, Peter and the others fished all night and caught nothing. “Did you catch anything?” Jesus asked them from the shore. “Nothing,” they replied in admitting their lack of success. Peter knew it was Jesus and struggled towards shore to sit by another fire where Jesus again turned to look at Peter. Three times Jesus asked: “Peter, do you love me with deep intensity?” Jesus asked this three times in order to remedy Peter’s three denials.

On that day Peter became a success because Christ makes spiritual failures into his special instruments and endows them with power from the Holy Spirit for victorious living. Whereas Satan wants us to take the occasions of our failures and make it our identity: “You are a failure,” Jesus defines our identity by his victory. “You are Simon (Pebbles), but you shall be called Peter (a Rock).” Although we all have spiritual failures, Christ refuses to let them define us. All God’s heroes have spiritual failures on their resumes.

Spiritual failure may just be the path to success for the Christian.

Identity in Christ Course at Grace College of New Zealand

These four sessions were given in 2015 during a preaching trip to the South Island’s Family Conference in association with Grace Presbyterian Churches near Christ Church and in the North in Auckland in two churches and a pastor’s gathering.


May these simple lectures bless you for embracing who you are in Christ, Bob

Session One

Session Two

Session Three

Session Four


Keep the Bridge

When parents or friends discover a loved one or child has trouble embracing their true identity in Christ, it is important to “keep the bridge.”

Our tendency is to fight or flight – angry attacks with strong arguments or cutting off the relationship altogether. Both of these neglect the third way; namely, the way of love. Loving the child or loved one requires us to remain in the tension and seek God’s wisdom and salvation in ways that are much more difficult. img_0266

Sometimes it is a gender crisis wherein their brokenness makes it difficult for them to embrace what feels odd or goes against their strong urges for same-sex connection. Maybe they need “vitamin M or F” (male or female nurturing), but it isn’t the end of the story.

Sometimes the loved one embraces a condemning thought; i.e. “I’m a loser or worthless or unlovable.” Your Gospel presence and gentle reminders of their justification and adoption in Christ may free them from Satan’s lies.

When you stay warmly present to them, you will have much more honest conversations that often lead to redemptive results. Soon this dear person can walk over the bridge to solid ground again.

Now are You able to Renounce the Devil’s Lie?

My Friend, Zachary, sent me these lyrics of a recent song by a band called “The Oh Hellos”

Dear Wormwood

“Dear Wormwood”


When I was a child, I didn’t hear a single word you said

The things I was afraid of, they were all confined beneath my bed
But the years have been long, and you have taught me well to hide away
The things that I believed in, you’ve taught me to call them all escapes

I know who you are now

There before the threshold, I saw a brighter world beyond myself
And in my hour of weakness, you were there to see my courage fail
For the years have been long, and you have taught me well to sit and wait
Planning without acting, steadily becoming what I hate

I know who you are now

I have always known you, you have always been there in my mind
But now I understand you, and I will not be part of your designs

I know who I am now

And all that you’ve made of me

I know who you are now

  And I name you my enemy

I know who I am now

I know who I want to be
I want to be more than this devil inside of me


Pentecostal Outpourings

Devils Keep Our Identity in Christ at Bay

Wormwood is a devil in training under his Uncle Screwtape’s coaching by mail. Wormwood’s “patient” is a young man, who has been recently united to Christ by faith in the Gospel.

DemonsScrewtape tries to make it simple for Wormwood by keeping out of the young Christian’s mind the truth about who he is in Christ. Screwtape’s second letter instructs the younger demon by saying:

“All you then have to do is to keep out of his mind the question ‘If I, being what I am, can consider that I am in some sense a Christian, why should the different vices of those people in the next pew prove that their religion is mere hypocrisy and convention?’ You may ask whether it is possible to keep such an obvious thought from occurring even to a human mind. It is, Wormwood, it is!”

By Screwtape’s tenth letter he simply says: “All mortals tend to turn into the thing they are pretending to be. This is elementary.”

A true sense of who you are as a Christian will never come to our minds if you fail to keep two things in mind: 1) You must never give anyone but Christ the authority to tell you who you are. 2) You must never pretend to be someone you are not.


Lewis, C. S. (2009-05-28). The Screwtape Letters (pp. 8, 46). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

A Cosmic Orphan, who Still Asks: “Who Am I?”

A human being without God the Father, writes Loren Eiseley, is the Cosmic Orphan. He is the only creature in the universe who asks, “Why?”  Other animals have instincts to guide them, but people learned to ask questions. “Who am I?” a person asks. “Why am I here? Where am I going?” 34530007 Since the Enlightenment, when our culture in the West threw off the shackles of Christianity, people have tried to answer these questions without reference to God. But the answers that came back were not joyful, but dark and terrifying. “You are the accidental by-product of nature, a result of matter plus time plus chance. There is no reason for your existence. All you face is death.” Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th ed. Propaedia, s.v. “The Cosmic Orphan,” by Loren Eiseley; cf. William Craig

I’ll never forget how God made use of a 1960s musical in my heart called Oliver, wherein the orphan sang: “Where is love?” It was my prayer for three years until I was made poor in spirit and entered into the home of my Father.

Tempted to be Someone You are Not?

In Matthew 4:1-11 Jesus was tempted by Satan when He was obedient and loved by the Father, led by the Spirit into the wilderness. He was tempted when He was alone and hungry before preaching from Isaiah 61 in His hometown in three ways:

  1. Be Self-Centered: turn the stones into bread. Use creation and people for yourself.
  2. Be Spectacular: fall from the top of the temple and the angels will catch you at the last moment, then people will see you are amazing.
  3. Be Self-Sufficient: Live as if you are not in union with the Father and the Spirit, and all this power will be yours.

Jesus was determined to be self-giving, ordinary and human, and dependent upon the Father and the Spirit as a human. In weakness, humanity, and dependency He defeated the Evil one, who said: “If you are the Son of God . . .” He lived out of His true identity.

Have you ever been tempted to be some one you are not?

Will Your Identity Crisis Ever be Resolved?

We all live in an ongoing identity crisis that began when humanity lost its true sense of who we each are in the first chapters of scripture after the creation of the world. This identity theft was orchestrated and accomplished by Satan; “the Accuser, the father of lies.”
Today we enter this ongoing tension with terms like “sexual identity” and “identity preference,” but deep down the voices of condemnation and self-hatred often trump the therapeutic and radical individualistic terms of our day.

The postmodern philosophers are keen to the crisis more than Christians ought to be. Although Foucault’s work is often hailed as one of the inspirations for various identity movements, Foucault himself favors the dissolution of identity, rather than its creation or maintenance. Postmodern thinkers tend to see identity as a form of subjugation and a way of exercising power over people and preventing them from moving outside fixed boundaries.

One Christian writer named Henri Nouwen, who struggled with sexual identity, wrote: “Over the years, I have come to realize that the greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity, or power, but self-rejection . . . As soon as someone accuses me or criticizes me, as soon as I am rejected, left alone, or abandoned, I find myself thinking, ‘Well, that proves once again that I am a nobody.’ … [My dark side says,] I am no good… I deserve to be pushed aside, forgotten, rejected, and abandoned. Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the ‘Beloved.’ Being the Beloved constitutes the core truth of our existence.” (Good Reads/quotes)

It seems that people all want to empower some one with the authority to define who he or she truly is, even to put a price tag on his or her very worth. The atheist or humanist must make themselves lord, or other people. They do not believe in God or the demonic. However, to continue to live as if we are what we do, what we have, and what other people think about us, is to remain in the identity crisis filled with judgments, opinions, evaluations, and condemnations. Yet, it is how God thinks of us that is infinitely more important when we each come to stand before Him.

Jesus said: “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (John 8:31-32).”

In Jesus Christ the identity crisis, as it were, is settled once for all. In Adam’s first sin all people are sinners and are under condemnation and remain subject to addictions, confusion, shame, guilt, and alienation (Romans 5). By faith in Christ all believers are declared pardoned, righteous, children of God, saints, and free. What defined us before Christ has been exchanged with a wonderful, new identity in his life, death, and resurrection.

Even now God sees us in Christ with a constant approval, as if we are now what we will one day become. As C. S. Lewis once said in a sermon entitled he Weight of Glory, “That Face which is the delight or the terror of the universe must be turned upon each of us either with one expression or with the other either conferring glory inexpressible or inflicting shame that can never be cured or disguised.”

Why do you think embracing one’s true identity is so complex?