Excuse me, Stephanie. I don’t know about you, but I am not on a first-name basis with the enemy thank you very much. Ok, before you get your good Christian panties in a wad, let’s talk about this.
The other day in church, my pastor mentioned something in passing that wasn’t even part of the main message, but I got stuck on it. He said the devil would never call you by your name. He calls you by your sins. The things you are most ashamed of. Until they become your identity.
Immediately I was like, what? No way. I’m not answering to my sins. But think about it. Addict. Adulterer. Gambler. Liar. Alcoholic.
Labels some people wear like armor. Shields against the things life throws at you. Or maybe a disguise. Camouflage so you can hide in plain sight. We cover ourselves in these words so people know what to expect from us. I’m a mother. I’m a writer. I’m a wife. I’m a Christian. I’m funny. I’m unyielding. I’m resentful. I’m short. Pile them on, one after another until people no longer have to decide for themselves who you are. You’ve already told them. And not one of them is I. Am. Loved.
Because, while I know that’s true, it’s an afterthought. Something so obvious I don’t think about it. I think more about how I hate what I said to my daughter the other night, and how those harsh words might shape her. I. Am. Loved. Sure, but what about how I flipped that guy off who cut in front of me? Geeze that was dumb. Which quickly becomes I’m dumb. And now the enemy is talking again. I. Am. Loved. And every time I hear it, there’s another argument against it. Why am I arguing with God? LOL that’s a whole nother discussion. And yes, a whole nother is a completely acceptable term. Why am I so certain He’s mistaken, and I know better? Do I trust Him? (No. Not always. Sinful. Remember?) And the enemy sees this. And enjoys using it.
Here’s the thing about these labels the enemy calls you. They’re true. (Ouch). Which is why he says them with a smile when he whispers them in the night. When he yells them at you while you sit in a ball on the shower floor with your hands over your face. When he says them over and over and over while you walk to work, make dinner, work out.
It’s why it works. It’s why you turn towards him when he calls. But you know what you’re really doing when that happens? Turning away from Jesus. The one who loves you. See, they both know you. Which is why the enemy is so good at getting you to get your eyes off Jesus. They both care about what happens to your soul. But only one wants what’s best for you. And the other wants what’s best for him. Do you know the difference in their voices?
One is maddeningly quiet, the other maddeningly loud. One will help you heal, the other wants you to live in your pain. One uses conviction, the other uses guilt.
See, the problem with labels we wear, is they become our identity. Even Christian can be used as a weapon of the enemy. How can you call yourself a Christian when you just gossiped about that woman? When you just passed by that homeless person with a sneer? When you aborted your baby? When you voted for this candidate, or that one? See how slippery this slope gets? Didn’t take me long did it?
The only label you can safely wear, is love. You are loved. Don’t believe me? Open your Bible.
- Romans 8:35-39
- Ephesians 8:18-19
- Psalm 36: 5-7
- 1 John 3:1
- Romans 5:8
- Proverbs 3:11-12
- Psalm 31:7
- Lamentations 3:20-23
The Bible tells you this over and over again (these verses are just a few examples, there are hundreds about God’s love for His people), because God knows we are forgetful. We are insecure. Easily swayed away from Him, and the warmth of His love.
The enemy is cunning. And when he doesn’t lie to us, it’s even more difficult not to listen.
But, it’s important to remember, God would not hurt us. Conviction is different from guilt. Read that again. I’ll wait. Got it? I know I’ve talked about this before, but when labels are involved it’s important to circle back to this. Conviction is a healthy reminder that growth is needed. Guilt is pain and sorrow. Nothing more, nothing less. It isn’t meant to better you, or anyone around you. It is meant to capture you. To keep you where you are, and keep your eyes on your sin, instead of Jesus.
I think that’s the best way to tell who’s talking to you. Listen, I’m not one of those blessed people who hears the voice of God. I can pretty much tell who’s talking to me when I start spiraling into my dungeon of doom. But, even still, it can be helpful to stop the spiral, to get up off the shower floor, if you realize it. If you make a conscious effort to question your thoughts, rather than just listen to them and believe the labels. Take every thought captive as Paul says. (2 Cor 10:5). Want to know more about this, how Paul does it, and if it works? Check out Jennie Allen’s book Get Out of Your Head. A must read for spiralers like me.
Basically, anything that doesn’t hold up to the promises of God, isn’t from Him. Simple as that. While you may be an addict, if you are wallowing in shame about it, that’s the devil wanting to keep you there. The things of your past, are nothing more than that. Grow from them. Use them to show God’s love to others in this hurting world. Show people the difference between guilt and conviction. Most importantly, shed your labels, even if you wear them with pride. You answer to one name, and one name only. Loved.