I have a friend, Don Snow, who is retired from the Army. He finished his tour in Vietnam and has some great stories. My favorite is about his first night mission. Upon entering a village one particularly black, inky night, Don heard breathing on the other side of a fence. When he took a step, a step was taken on the other side. When he stopped, it stopped. And so it went, the full length of the fence.
As Don approached the end of the barrier, he slipped the safety on his M- 2 carbine and set it on automatic. His heart beat wildly, tension sweat soaked through his shirt, and the pit of his stomach ached with emotion. Each muscle quivered and twitched. He breathed shallow and rapid. The moment was intense. There was no way to know how many enemy Vietcong were on the other side. But Don was ready for whatever might happen. He was a welltrained veteran.
As he got to the end of the fence, he took as deep a breath as he could and held it. He still heard breathing on the other side, but the steps had stopped. Then, with all the strength, quickness and agility he had, my friend coiled and sprang around the comer with his carbine blazing. To his surprise he killed the biggest pig in Vietnam.
The poor hog never knew what hit him. For that matter, the animal didn’t even know there was a war going on, and until that moment didn’t care. Most people are like that pig. They don’t know a literal war is going on, and they don’t care.
God’s Word talks about war raging in the supernatural heavenlies. There is a battle raging—and we are the objects of the fray. To the winner goes the spoils the old saying goes. Satan wants us and God wants us. The devil wants us because he hates God. God wants us because He loves us. Still, the whole idea of spiritual warfare is hard to grasp.
Whether we realize it or not, each of us also lives in a combat zone. A battle rages on Earth as well as in supernatural dimensions. And whether we like it or not, there are going to be casualties. Casualties are one of the products of war.
Satan’s strategy in the war is twofold: (1) to keep non-believers from believing; and (2) to keep believers powerless in sin. He uses lies, accusations and confusion as his primary weapons for occupying the ground he takes from us and for keeping us on the defensive.
However, we do have protective armor and an arsenal of our own. Otherwise it wouldn’t be a war. Without our weapons and armor the enemy would walk right over us. But unless we’re aware of the battle, we won’t have a reason to put on the protection and utilize the arsenal. Only then can we counterattack and take the offensive.
Pigs don’t like basic training; they’re not aware of the need and quickly become casualties. Soldiers may not like spending time on the basics either, but at least they realize the necessity. Boot camp prepares us for war by teaching us the basics of fighting. That’s what this chapter is all about. You may not like it, but it’s necessary. Plow through it anyway. Don’t be a pig.
We’ll be discussing three concepts you need to know before counterattacking the enemy in battle: Éclairs in Your Refrigerator; Polar Bear Alert; and How Aliens Get Their Feet in the Door. Don’t treat these three subjects lightly. Learn about these ideas now to understand what’s being said later.
Éclairs in Your Refrigerator
Why is it most Christians are not empowered by the Holy Spirit most of the time? I believe it’s because of what I call “éclairs in your refrigerator.”
Picture this. Let’s assume you’re on a diet, but on the way home you walk by your favorite bakery. The pangs of hunger are overwhelming and at that moment you would rather be fat than hungry, so you go in and buy two chocolate éclairs. Upon arriving home you feel guilty and somewhat defeated so you put the éclairs in the refrigerator and go into the living room where you kneel and pray, “Oh, God, help me not to eat those chocolate éclairs.”
How much power was in that prayer? The answer is to be found in the analysis of your heart. Why did you put the éclairs in the refrigerator? To save them, of course. You wanted to make sure the pastries wouldn’t spoil until you could justify eating them. In other words, you had already made up your mind to live against your prayers.
You prayed and asked God to help keep you from eating the chocolate éclairs, but you only were waiting for the right opportunity to chow down. You were giving lip service to God; you were double-minded as you prayed.
Double-minded prayers say one thing while meaning another, and you can’t get away with that when you’re dealing with God. How can there be power in a prayer when you really aren’t open to his answer, especially if he says something you don’t want to hear: “Don’t eat ‘em!”? The result of such a prayer is obvious—there is no power!
You must understand the principle of éclairs in your refrigerator in order to win the battle that’s ahead. When your heart doesn’t match the words of your prayers you are double-minded; you have éclairs in your refrigerator. Éclairs stifle the power of prayer.
Examples of double-minded people abound:
The homemaker who won’t miss her soaps during the week but wonders why she is having thoughts about having an affair.
Teenagers who say they just want to “talk” but go out and park to “watch the submarine races,” and then are confused when their passion takes them beyond “just talking.”
A man who says he wants to quit drinking but continues to go to parties, to walk by the tavern he normally visits or to keep a bottle hidden in his closet.
The family in debt who prays, “God, help us to be responsible with our spending,” but continues to go shopping for entertainment.
The student who prays, “God, help me not to cheat on the test today,” but then picks his seat next to the smartest person in class.
The person who joins the church prayer chain to stay current with everyone’s information.
The teenager who prays, “Oh, Lord, help me not to do drugs tonight,” as she goes out the door on her way to a party where she knows drugs will be available.
These people want to continue their behavior more than they want to change. They ask God for power to do what they really don’t want to do—a useless endeavor. They have éclairs in their refrigerator. They are doubleminded; there is no power in their prayers.
You may be double-minded and not know it. If you have never asked God to show you the éclairs in your refrigerator, it may be that you have some pastries in cold storage and are unaware of it. You need to get rid of them. They are footholds the enemy can use as a base of operations to oppress you.
God looks at the heart; He’s not concerned with your words. And since He knows you much better than you know yourself, you can’t deceive Him. Sometimes you can fool yourself, but you can never bamboozle God. If you try, you’re only storing éclairs in your refrigerator. Since éclairs kill the power of prayer, you can’t look for any help from God when your words don’t match your heart.
Start getting mentally prepared to deal with the éclairs God shows you. A failure to clean out your refrigerator will defeat the purpose of this book and will spoil the best reason for you reading it. You can’t be double-minded and be victorious. Repentance must be complete. Otherwise, you’re apt to end up a battlefield casualty.
Polar Bear Alert
Before we talk about this second concept, I want to ask you a question. Is temptation sin? Don’t respond too quickly. Before you decide, think back to last Sunday in church. You sat there with your Bible open, listening intently to the speaker, when out of the clear blue sky a flock of wild thoughts flew over and some of them circled and landed—you thought about “that.”
You know what “that” is. “That” is the tempting thought you had. I don’t know what naughty image came to you, but that was the “that” I’m talking about.
I know what “that” is for the guys; I am one. Men generally have tempting thoughts in one or more of four areas: sex, money, glory and “macho” power. Sexual fantasy is the biggie, but money runs a close second. Honor, notoriety and glory take a lot of time too. Dominant, aggressive men also have a macho, defend-the-poor-with-your-imaginary-karate kind of fantasy. Okay, so you were sitting in church with your Bible open. All of a sudden a flock of wild thoughts came flying overhead, and one circled and landed. Is that sin?
Doing “that” would be a sin, but thinking “that” isn’t—yet. Don’t feel defeated with the first thought. You have a sin nature, you have to endure direct, frontal assault (“fiery arrows”; see Eph. 6:16) from the enemy and you live in a world system controlled by that same adversary. That’s three fronts from which war is waged. Therefore, it shouldn’t be surprising that improper images come to mind. The first thought is not sin—but you’re close.
If you make the conscious decision to dwell on an impure thought, embellish it and let it run for a while, you just sinned.
The Bible says if you look at a woman with lust in your heart, it’s the same as having committed adultery with her (see Matt. 5:28). Or if you look at a man with anger in your heart, it’s the same as having murdered him (see vv. 21-22). Sinning in your mind is still sin.
Sin is like a pane of glass with a circle drawn on it. Add 10 pie-shaped wedges and call them the Ten Commandments if you want to. Now, take a hammer and try to break your favorite piece of pie. What happens to the pane of glass? It shatters. It’s impossible to break just a single piece. When you’ve broken one, you’ve broken them all. That’s why all sin is the same in God’s eyes whether thought or expressed. But sin happens in your mind before it ever gets expressed in your behavior. If you can head off dwelling on tempting thoughts, you’ve gone a long way toward controlling sin in your life.
Here’s the principle with which we’re going to work: When your imagination comes in conflict with your will, it’s your imagination that usually prevails.
That means you will most often do a variation of whatever you think about most. Therefore, it’s necessary to discipline your thoughts by taking them captive to the obedience of Christ.
Here comes a flock of wild thoughts. Temptation has hit. Now what are you going to do? If you don’t have a mechanism to take the thought captive, your imagination will run wild and you will sin. That’s why you need to learn how to have a polar bear alert.
Go in the corner and don’t think of a white polar bear.
What did you think of? A polar bear, that’s right. Not just because you’re rebellious. You are, but not just because of that. It’s because you didn’t have anything else to think about. If all you have to think about is a white polar bear, what are you going to think of? A white polar bear.
This time, let’s try it this way. Make the white polar bear cause you to think of a pink elephant. The white polar bear is going to be the catalyst generating the image of a pink elephant in your mind. Ready?
Go in the corner and don’t think of a white polar bear. What did you think of? Did you say a pink elephant?
Wrong. First you thought of a white polar bear, and then a pink elephant.
The difference between the second time and the first time is subtle but very important: The white polar bear didn’t stay in your head as long when you had a pink elephant to think about. That’s a crucial concept if we call temptation the white polar bear and the things of God the pink elephant.
If you can sensitize yourself to temptation so that you’re aware when it comes, the tempting thought will stay in your mind for a shorter period of time because you put something else in its place. Since you can’t think of two things at the same time, and if you practice substitute thinking, you’re not going to sin. Temptation will be removed before sin occurs. You will use temptation as a catalyst to make you think of godly things. That’s pretty simple. But you’ll need some practice to get good at it, especially if it’s not something you’ve done much.
I don’t know if you’ve ever seen an old World War II submarine movie. The sub is on the surface, and as an enemy plane flies overhead, you hear an “Uugga Uugga” sound from a claxon horn and someone screaming into the intercom “Dive! Dive! Dive!” Then the guys scramble down the ladder from the conning tower into the sub and close the hatch just as the water starts coming in. It’s an intense moment that grabs your attention.
You want temptation to get your attention. Whenever you have a polar bear alert it will be necessary to have a horn blast in your head. And whenever that occurs make yourself think of 2 Corinthians 10:5 (you’ll need to memorize it):
We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.
“This is too far out for me,” you may be saying. But stop and think for a moment. This idea can work for you. You can use temptation to remind yourself to start reconstructing the verse, and by the time you put 2 Corinthians 10:5 together in your mind, whatever it was that was tempting you will be so far gone it just won’t be a problem anymore. You will have done some substitute thinking and you won’t have sinned.
My favorite spot is Hume Lake Christian Camp in California. One day, after teaching the polar bear alert concept, I was coming out of chapel following a couple of high school guys. They didn’t know I was behind them. As we got to the street a girl wearing shorts shorter than what was appropriate (a little “cheek” was slightly exposed) walked in front of us. As they checked her out, without looking at each other, in unison they shouted “polar bear alert” and hung a left toward the camp store. The concept works!
Use it against improper fantasy.
Use it to displace emotion in order to keep anger from ruling your life.
Use it when you are shopping to keep from lusting after things.
Use it when walking by the refrigerator if you are trying to watch your weight or practicing self-discipline.
Try it. It works.
Remember, when your imagination comes in conflict with your will, it’s your imagination that usually prevails. You’ll probably end up doing a variation of whatever you think about the most.
As strange as it may seem, this is one of the most practical devices you can use to keep from sinning, which makes learning the technique worth the time. Don’t you agree?
How Aliens Get Their Feet in the Door
A person who makes provision for sin opens the way to the influence of Satan. He or she offers a geographical place for the enemy’s clout. That is the nature of the word translated “foothold” or “opportunity” in Ephesians 4:27.
When you willingly stick your face into God’s face, say “No!” and refuse to repent, it’s as if you took a wood-splitting maul (a fat ax) and drove it into your chest, but it didn’t break the skin. Instead it left a wedge-like divot—a place for critters to hide. That newly created cavity in your sternum is a foothold. It’s the result of ground you gave to the enemy. Chronic sin produces openings for your adversary.
To help you grasp this principle, I’d like you to visualize a tiny Aliens kind of character with a strange shaped head, a potbelly, skinny little legs, lizard-like skin and suction cup fingers. You can see the little guy sitting in there, and it was you who made room for him. He’s outside, not inside; he doesn’t possess you. But he has a place to hide.
Actually, the alien could look like lots of things, and may not even look like anything at all. But he represents an enemy of Christ, and he’s under the direction of the devil himself, assigned to the place of opportunity you provided because you didn’t take care of your sin properly.
When you finally decided to repent from your long-term sin and claimed 1 John 1:9—“But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong” (NLT)—the cleansing winds of prayer came, blowing your sin away. Once again you were right with God and filled with the Spirit. But look closely. Do you see the alien’s legs blowing in the wind? The little guy is still clutching the edge of the crevice in your chest with his little suction cup fingers. He’s not in your life, but he keeps hanging around because the foothold is still there.
We have to remove the foothold, and to do that we must submit to God and resist the devil (see Jas. 4:7). Submitting to God is not the same as resisting the devil. Jesus was in submission to God, but when the devil attacked Him in the wilderness, our Lord tapped into “The” power source and verbally commanded the devil, “Go, Satan!” (Matt. 4:10). In essence, he said, “There is authority in My name.” Jesus submitted to God, but He also spoke words of resistance toward the enemy. Folks, that’s a two-step process, and Jesus followed it. No, more than that, Jesus established it.
King David probably raped Bathsheba, certainly committing adultery, and had a man murdered in an attempt to cover up the king’s sin and hide the fact that he got her pregnant. At least nine months passed with David in a nonrepentant state; we know this because David’s child was born before God confronted him through the prophet Nathan. In other words, David’s sin was long-term and chronic, and chronic sin usually results in footholds. It’s true that after Nathan nailed David with the words, “You are that man,” David—the man who knew the forgiving nature of God better than any other man—sat down and wrote the greatest statement of repentance ever chronicled:
Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a right spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me again the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you. Then I will teach your ways to sinners, and they will return to you (Ps. 51:10-13, NLT).
David submitted to God; there is no doubt about it. But not before Satan was given an opportunity to influence him.
The bottom line is clear: Chronic, prolonged behavior in one or more of the categories of sin will produce opportunities for the devil to manifest his influence in your life.
Chronic, prolonged sin is like Humphrey Bogart dragging his boat through the swamp in the old classic movie The African Queen. Katharine Hepburn had to pull off the leeches. It’s like Rambo hanging in the sewage pit. He had to pull out his knife and scrape ‘em off.
When you’re in the slime for a while, leeches attach themselves to your body. If you just fall into the swamp and hop right out, there isn’t a problem with the parasites, because there isn’t enough time for them to hook up. But when you stay in and go for a swim, you’ll pick up some every time. How fast and how many depend on a variety of factors, but eventually the bloodsuckers will attach themselves. When you finally decide to get out of the swamp, even after hosing off, the leeches remain. They are fixed in place, and washing won’t make them leave. They must be individually removed.
Sin is the swamp. Leeches are the enemies of Christ. The longer you stay in sin the more opportunity aliens have to attach. And once they are fixed in place, even the hosing down by prayers of confession often won’t remove them.
Another prayer is helpful—a warfare prayer. And the result will be deliverance without a lot of hassle.
Remember, Satan is not omniscient; he can’t read your mind. He’s real smart and can make some pretty good guesses as to how you will react in certain situations, but he doesn’t know your thoughts. That’s why you’ll have to get specific and sic Jesus on him. Christ will yell, “Go, Satan!” or its equivalent, which will get rid of the leeches. But you must determine not to go back into the swamp.
Let me add a word to temper your growing concern. I don’t want to give you “devilphobia” and cause you to think you give ground to the devil whenever you slide or stumble. You don’t have to worry about the postnasaldrip demon or looking for a demon under every rock. There is great protection in the power of God and His faithfulness. He’ll always give you time to respond to conviction and to repent. But don’t use the swamp for a hot tub; leech-like critters are the consequence.
The Next Step
Have you ever been angry with another person, God or yourself for a prolonged period of time?
Did you give away your virginity or have sex with your mate prior to marriage?
Has there been something or someone in your life that has had greater importance to you than Christ?
If so, prepare to check yourself for éclairs in your refrigerator and determine to practice polar bear alerts along the way. Then you can confidently go after your aliens and the footholds produced from your sinful past.
This book will take you through the process of submitting to God and resisting the devil in each of the categories of sinful behavior. Up to now the devil’s been able to shoot you pretty good, hasn’t he? Kind of like the pig.
Pulling It Together
1. “Éclairs in your refrigerator” means double-mindedness; your words don’t match your heart. Deciding to live against your prayers quenches their energy and renders them useless and ineffective. There is no power in the prayers of the doubleminded. Éclairs demonstrate a lack of repentance and prevent the removal of footholds.
2. A “polar bear alert” is a mechanism used to defeat temptation by helping us take our thoughts and feelings captive to the obedience of Christ. Since sin begins in the mind, polar bear alerts can be helpful in preventing sin and therefore keep footholds from occurring or reoccurring.
3. Prolonged sin creates footholds, which are pockets of protection for the influence of the enemy. Foothold removal often requires both repentance and resistance.
4. Begin now to agree to deal with double-mindedness (removing éclairs). Resolve to start taking thoughts and feelings captive to the obedience of Christ (polar bear alerts). And with a repentant heart determine to come against the power of the devil in Jesus’ name to remove the footholds in your life that have resulted from times of prolonged sin in your past (purpose to give your aliens the boot).