The Art of War is a book written two thousand years ago by a Chinese general and is still considered a popular book of strategy today. It says that war is about deceiving your enemy in battle, and that one way is to distract the enemy into focusing on your secondary target so that you can attack the main target on the other side.
The devil does exactly the same thing to distract us. He wants us to focus on one thing so that we will miss the things that God wants for us. In this way, we can experience spiritual bondage. We are not in bondage to deeds, but to the desires or motivations that cause us to do deeds. People lie, gossip, and fall into sexual immorality because of what is happening inside their hearts. When you are in bondage in your heart, your poisoned motivations and desires cause you to commit poisonous acts. Don’t think that you can walk around with a wicked heart, put in a couple of hours of church time or good religious deeds, and win God’s approval. The devil wants us to focus on our deeds, but God looks at our hearts.
The devil wants us to focus on one thing so that we will miss the things that God wants for us. In this way, we can experience spiritual bondage.
1. I am motivated to be better at _______________ than you.
Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:3-4
The devil wants us to believe that our deeds define who we are. Satan tempts Jesus by saying, if you are the Christ then use your own power to feed your fleshly desire. However, it is not our deeds but our hearts and motivations that define us. For this reason, we need to surrender our hearts to God.
The deception here is that we prove our worth by our deeds. There is nothing wrong with ambition, competition or drive, as long as they are applied for the right reasons and are God-inspired. But if you seek to be better than others for no reason other than to gain value for yourself, then you are in bondage to that motivation.
So take some time to examine your motivations – why are you doing what you do?
2. I am motivated to be more affirmed by _____________ than you.
“Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’” Matthew 4:5-7
Again, Satan challenges Jesus’ identity by asking his to perform a deed.
Do you believe that you are what people say you are?
What is the devil encouraging you to do so that others will be in awe of you?
Some people won’t confront others because they need to be affirmed by others. But if you are really obeying God, at times you will do things that other people don’t like. We cannot worry about winning the affirmation of others; it is God’s opinion that counts, and He loves us all the time, regardless of our actions.
Imagine all you could do for God if you were focused solely on Him and never worried about what people would say about you!
3. I am motivated to possess more __________ than you.
“Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’” Matthew 4:8-10
Satan tempts Jesus with all the power and glory the world can offer. He wants Jesus to want all of this, to lust after things of the world.
Many times having money and resources ruins people simply because it magnifies their opportunities to be more of what they already are. Money is not the poison, but the love of money. If you are deceived into thinking that the more you have, the more important you are, then you will probably have a hard time giving to others.
Remember, our possessions and power do not define us, and therefore our motivation should not be aimed at these things.
Don’t stay in the bondage that Satan is throwing at you. Pray to God, who can help you with the sins and motivations you don’t even realize you have. Don’t get focused on the deeds, as they are not what defines you. Ask God to search your heart, cleanse your heart, and give you a focused dedication to Him.