I have the privilege of calling two wonderful countries “home.” I love the USA, the place of my birth. I love the brashness and assuredness. I also love my adopted country, Finland. I love its humility and its consistent ability to understate the obvious. Let me give you a picture of this contrast. In the U.S., it would not be a strange site to see multiple businesses on the same road proclaiming “We are the best!” Yet, in Helsinki, there is a restaurant/hotel, Suerahuone, which confidently proclaims it is “probably” the best. Now, if one were to simply look at location – the owner must have a reliable and well-to-do clientele to afford this location – and its longevity of 170 years, one could see where they “probably” have the right to their claim.
Another contrast is Nokia’s recent fall from the top of the phone market. They developed and used one of the most stable operating systems; yet, Apple, Google, and Microsoft’s brash claims to be “the best” eventually eroded the market share of Nokia. Why? Most simply, their understated accuracy in marketing finally was overpowered by the more flashy competitors.
Why am I talking about marketing when I have only my experience as a consumer in the restaurant and cellular markets? This week during prayer, God began to show me a parallel in the spiritual world.
Satan rarely attacks the followers of Christ with banners proclaiming “The best!” We would not be fooled by that strategy! It does not matter to me which cigarette is the best, for I will never smoke them. I do not care which liquor is the best, for I will not drink them. I care not which drug dealer has the best cocaine, etc. as I will never use drugs.
Therefore, satan comes in with a more subtle attack. He is patient. He knows his destiny, and he wants you and me to accompany him. How can he trip me? He uses words, simple words. Words that cause me to drag my feet while walking with God. He chooses words that will cause me to falter or take an unnecessary detour. Why? Because satan knows that if he can just get me away from of the presence of God, he can potentially trap me while I am weak.
Words have great power. English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton once wrote, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” There is much truth in that statement. Words catch us unawares. Words can arrive with no warning and cut through one’s heart, creating a mortal wound. Words can also be like a grain of sand in one’s shoe. At the start, one does not even notice the sand. Yet, as it stays in the shoe throughout the day, it develops a sore, which causes us to limp. The limp causes our muscles to work abnormally while trying to compensate for the pain of the sore, which subsequently causes us to walk with an incorrect posture, thus generating back pain. Eventually, if not remedied, this simple grain of sand will affect the entire body. This is Satan’s favorite tool.
How does he do this? John 5:24 (KJV) Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.
Condemnation is satan’s favorite weapon. It is so deceptive. Many times, we even miss its presence! Let me give you an example to which almost everyone can relate. Consider a time when you spoke harshly to someone that you loved. It is likely that you were disappointed in your actions. Now, consider the “voice in your head.” What are the words that came into your mind? Were they something like, “That was a horrible way to treat them. I don’t even know why they would want to be around me. I know that I wouldn’t. I’m such a lousy person, I don’t know why anyone wants to spend time with me. I’ll just give them what they want and just stay in my room all the time. At least then, I won’t be able to hurt them.”
Condemnation only destroys. It is even part of the word concept. Occasionally, the city where I lived as a child would decide that a certain building was no longer safe for occupancy. They would condemn the building and then destroy it. When Satan uses condemnation, his intent is to destroy you. Jesus never uses condemnation.
Romans 8:1 (KJV) There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. Jesus did not come to destroy. His Spirit would have spoken,” You shouldn’t have spoken to them that way. What you said was hurtful. Next time, be nice, and they will see Me in your actions.”
Do you see the difference? While condemnation is destructive, the Holy Spirit brings correction and growth. Condemnation causes one not to want to try to be better while the Holy Spirit gives correction and guidance.
You may ask, “How do I know the difference?” The answer is simple. Study your feelings. How do your thoughts make you feel? Do you feel worthless? Do you feel as if you can do nothing right? Do you feel that there is no more reason to try? If so, that is not the right voice. We need to ignore it, for it is condemnation and its goal is to destroy us.
Does the voice bring correction? Does it give you a desire to improve? Does it give you a way to become a better person and Christian? We should listen to this voice. We should learn to recognize it. Correction’s desire is to make us better, not destroy.
Jesus always uses correction, but satan only knows condemnation. Jesus wants you and me to grow, while satan wants to destroy us. Jesus’ desire is to spend eternity with us in heavenly peace. Satan also wants to spend eternity with us… in the fires of hell and torment.
Which will we choose? For me, the choice is easy; I’ll take gentle correction over condemnation any day. I hope you will, too.