One of the troubles we face in this life as Christians relates to the enemy of our souls – Satan. He frequently attacks Christians with lies. Scripture tells us, “When [Satan] tells a lie, he speaks from his own nature, because he is a liar and the father of liars” (John 8:44d). One of the ways that he lies is by twisting Scripture to mislead and confuse believers. He misquotes, misinterprets, and misapplies the Word of God according to his own evil designs. The enemy is also known as the accuser of believers (Rev. 12:10). But, one of Satan’s favorite means of attack is to remind believers of their past sins (Zech. 3:1-4). Even though we may have repented, confessed the sins to God, and have been forgiven (1 John 1:9), Satan will still use those sins to attack us. He will even go back to the sins of our unsaved days to discourage us.
Think about times when the sins of your past come to mind and you begin to feel the pain, remorse, and shame once again. It was as though the thoughts came out of nowhere! No matter the sin (sexual sin, lying, stealing, harmful speech), and no matter when it occurred – it becomes a weapon in the hands of the enemy. Satan wants us to see ourselves as condemned, without hope, and unworthy of God’s grace and love. It is true that none of us are worthy of God’s grace and love, but Satan wants us to view ourselves as being beyond the limits of God’s grace and love. He wants Christians to forget who they are in Christ. Scripture says, “Don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be deceived: No sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, or anyone practicing homosexuality, no thieves, greedy people, drunkards, verbally abusive people, or swindlers will inherit God’s kingdom. And some of you used to be like this. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:9–11).1 Satan strives to cause us to think of ourselves as – sexually immoral, adulterers, thieves, greedy, drunkards, and verbally abusive. These things described us before Christ. We are no longer known by such things. We are new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17)!
Why does the enemy continually bring up our past sins (ones we have repented of and confessed to God)? He wants us to be discouraged, defeated, and passive in the Christian life. When a Christian is discouraged, defeated, and passive, it is very likely that he/she is shrinking back from God. He/she is probably not spending as much time in the Word of God, prayer, serving in ministry, and evangelism. We begin to think things like, “How could God love me?” Our minds become filled with our long list of transgressions against God. We begin to hide from God and fellow Christians. We hide because we don’t want anyone to find out about our past sins or our depth of discouragement. This is exactly how Satan wants us to respond. He wants Christians hiding from the Lord and fellow believers! This is why God warns us in His Word, “Be serious! Be alert! Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. Resist him and be firm in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are being experienced by your fellow believers throughout the world” (1 Pet. 5:8–9). And here also, “Therefore, submit to God. But resist the Devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, double-minded people!” (Jas. 4:7–8).
Satan is using this knowledge of our past sins to lie to us about our current identity. He wants us to believe we are still that laundry list of sins. But, God says that we have a new identity in Christ. Remember this, “And some of you used to be like this. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11). We need to remember the truth of God’s Word when Satan’s attack comes. This is why Paul wrote, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you previously walked according to the ways of this world, according to the ruler who exercises authority over the lower heavens, the spirit now working in the disobedient. We too all previously lived among them in our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts, and we were by nature children under wrath as the others were also. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace! Together with Christ Jesus He also raised us up and seated us in the heavens, so that in the coming ages He might display the immeasurable riches of His grace through His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— not from works, so that no one can boast. For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:1–10). Did you see all of the past tense statements? We are no longer those people because now we are in Christ. In Christ we are spiritually alive and forgiven (Eph. 1:3-8). We are no longer condemned because we are in spiritual union with Christ (Rom. 8:1-2). We are at peace with God in Christ (Rom. 5:1).
Another thing we must remember to do is pray. When we are under spiritual attack we need God’s help to stand firm in the faith (Eph. 6:10-18). Tell God what you are thinking. There are times when such attacks come that I tell God, “Lord, I know Your Word says that I am forgiven for those sins. I have confessed them to You. Your Word promises that You have forgiven me and cleansed me from all unrighteousness.” Jesus Christ died for our sins. He endured the punishment that our sins deserved. Our sins are paid for! Christians, we are loved by God and reconciled to Him. The Lord Jesus satisfied the Father’s wrath for our sin and we have been declared righteous in Christ (Rom. 3:21-26; 1 Cor. 1:30-31). It is by God’s grace that we are saved from our sin and the wrath to come. Our relationship with God in this life is not based upon our performance. God is gracious to us because of our relationship with His Son Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:3-6; 2:4-10). Satan continually reminds us of our performance. He wants us to view ourselves as receiving God’s favor in direct correspondence to our performance. His favorite sayings are, “You didn’t serve enough, pray enough, give enough, read enough, study enough.” There are times when these statements are true, but our proper response is to confess to God our sin and ask God for help to do things differently, not wallow in shame.
When Jesus was tempted by Satan, He used God’s Word to defend Himself (Matt. 4:1-11). We should do the same thing when Satan attacks us. We also need to pray. We need God’s help to stand firm in the faith (Eph. 6:10-17). The attacks will come, how will we respond the next time the “flaming arrows of the evil one” come? I would also encourage you to speak with a trusted, mature Christian friend (of the same gender, or if you are married – tell your spouse) about the things that Satan uses to attack you, and ask him/her to pray with you and for you. We all face these attacks from the enemy. Let’s not live in shame and defeat. Let’s remember the truth of God’s Word, “And some of you used to be like this. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11). We have conquered Satan through the blood of Christ (Rev. 12:11). We are victorious through our faith in Christ (1 John 5:1-5).
1Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, HCSB®, and Holman CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers. The Holy Bible: Holman Christian Standard Version. (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2009).