Episode 36: Wrong Attitudes Cultivated by Satan, Part 1

Peace to Live By Episode 36: Wrong Attitudes Cultivated by Satan, Part 1 - Daniel Litton
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[Transcripts may not match broadcasted sermon word for word, and may contain extra material that was cut from the broadcast due to time constraints]

       As we go through each day of our life, our attitudes we exhibit on a daily basis are very important. These attitudes can help carry us along to successes in life, or if they are the wrong attitudes, they can end up dragging us down into thinking the wrong things. We then wont have successes in life because we are looking at things in our life in wrong ways. What we think in our minds matter.

       Now, don't be deceived, as they are definitely forces behind what we think. For the Christian and even the non-Christian, Satan is constantly seeking for ways to mess up the thoughts going through our minds. Satan knows that if he can get us to believe wrong things about ourselves and about the world we see around us, then he can have great successes in getting us to do nothing, or to do the wrong thing. Satan is full of lies, and wants us to believe his lies. In fact, Jesus called him "a lair and the father of lies" (John 8:44, ESV).

       Today, I want to talk about three of six particular wrong attitudes that we can identity in our lives, and seek to eliminate in the process. These are six bad attitudes that Satan works to cultivate into the mind of the Christian. Undoubtedly, there are more wrong attitudes that could be listed here. I think you'll see that these six attitudes may be present in your own life in some way, or that you are tempted from time to time to cultivate these attitudes. But as Christians, our goal is to align our thoughts with Truth--God's Truth--and seek to eliminate wrong thinking from our minds, from our lives.

       Of the six wrong attitudes I am going to point out, that we can develop, the first three I want to talk about today are the following:

1) Having a legalistic attitude,
2) Having a perfectionistic attitude, and
3) Having a negative attitude.

Next time, we will talk about these final three wrong attitudes:

4) Having a hopeless attitude,
5) Having a fearful attitude. and
6) Having a bitter attitude.

So, today, let us examine each of these attitudes one by one, and look for ways to rework our thinking patterns to be aligned with God's Word where needed.

       Number one, let us look at having a legalistic attitude. Probably the chief way Satan gets people trapped into a legalistic mindset is through the twisting of Scripture, particularly wrong interpretations of verses and passages which make us scared into seemingly obeying God. Times also come when people may feel tempted to twist a verse or passage in the Bible because they want to justify their wrong behavior. Really, I think we’ve probably all done this on some scale one or more times in our lives. We can create rules for ourselves and even more so for others that God never made rules. We can make the Christian life so hard by looking at Scripture without love in view that we just make is a rigorous list of rules and regulations that we have to follow in order to be pleasing to God and help others.

       Which brings up my next point, which is another way Satan cultivates a legalistic attitude is get us to believe that we have to perform for God in order to be accepted by him. He gets us to believe that if we don't go through the motions and do enough good that God will not accept us. But this is a lie from Satan. When each of us became saved, accepted Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior, we became completely accepted by God, among many other things. Since God imputed Jesus' righteousness and sacrifice for sins to our account, we were declared not guilty for all accounts of sin in our lives. When God looks at each one of us, he sees Christ's blood covering our sins.

       The Apostle Paul said that no one is made right with God, or accepted by him, by following a list of rules or laws. It is true that God still wants us to be pleasing to him, doing what is right in our day-to-day living. But this does not mean that we have to do a certain amount of good things before God will approve of us and look favorably upon us. God wants us to do good, and to seek to please him, but we are righteous no matter what. Even when we slip up and sin, God still accepts us. He does not withdraw from us and reject us. Jesus said, "behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20, ESV). This was written down for us also.

       Sometimes Satan will even us church leaders to get to us, by them saying we have to follow certain things in order to be obedient to God, like being involved in this or that ministry, or in a certain amount of ministries. And sometimes, Satan cultivates this perception in our minds, even though the leaders actually aren't really saying this. Either way, we can find ourselves stretching ourselves too thin, trying to hit almost every ministry our church offers. We may go to church on Sunday morning and Sunday night, have prayer meeting Monday night, then Bible study on Tuesday and Wednesday, and on and on it goes. But this isn't right. We shouldn't be stretching ourselves so thin, even if it's for the benefit of others, and the degradation of ourselves. We have to care about keeping ourselves sane, and care about family obligations and other obligations where needed.

       On the flip side of this, sometimes Satan gets us to think that enjoying free time, or time doing a hobby, is in fact bad. But, of course, this isn't true. To use an Old Testament passage, it is written, "“You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain" (Deuteronomy 25:4, ESV). It's not wrong to enjoy things we like to do throughout the week. Now, some like to have some 'free' time each day, say an hour or more a day. And some like to work completely on this day or that day, and then have days with larger amounts of free time. I think that it is important on our heaviest days to have at least one hour of free time. This might be at the beginning of the day or the end of it, to wind down after a long day's work. But we should have one day every week were we keep our schedules free and observe our Sabbath. This is what is pleasing to God, for he himself rested on the seventh day after creating everything that exists. He gave us this model to follow for our own good.

       For our second area of discussion today, let's talk about having a perfectionistic attitude. One way we can suffer from a perfectionistic attitude is when we obtain what I call an 'All or none' attitude in life. This is when we are too quick to pass judgment on others and on certain situations that occur in our life. We may see a fellow brother or sister sin and say, "See, I told you that person wasn't a Christian." But in judging a person on one event or action, we are usually incorrect in our judgment. A person is worth more than one event, and this is even true sometimes when the sin is a big sin. It use a current event illustration, we may look at the exaggeration of news anchor Brian Williams about his situation in Iraq back in 2003 and make an incorrect judgment that Mr. Williams is no good and must lie all the time. Now, whether he has told untruths at other times or not I do not know. But regardless, we should not be quick to assume and presume judgment. Personally, I like Brian and think he's a good guy and deserves a second chance, at least, based on what we know right now.

       Another thing that can happen to us is that we may feel that because we have failed, say, a couple times at doing something, that we will never be able to do it. We may develop an 'I can't do it' attitude. I myself have suffered from this attitude from time to time in my own life. But just ask successful people like Donald Trump or Michael Jordan, just to pick a couple random examples. If they had given up when they failed at something, they never would have obtained the successes they have today. We have to keep trying no matter what. Now sometimes, we have to change the way we are going about trying at something, because there may be a better way to do it, a way that brings a more likelihood for success. But regardless, we have to keep trying and not give up. And to not try at all is to face defeat, because not trying is defeat. It's better to try and be wrong than to not try at all. And, you don't have to always to do something the way others say you have to do it. Do it the way that works for you.

       A perfectionist also, for need of the feeling to stay seemingly perfect, may feel that they need to blame others from wrongs committed. But actually, the person blaming may in fact be the person responsible for the wrong. I may blame someone for cutting me off on the road, but it may be in reality that I was just driving too fast. A husband may try to blame his wife for the kid's incorrect behavior, when really it may be that the father is the one who didn't discipline the child at the right time. At work we may try to blame the customer, thinking the customer is just acting too demanding and unreasonably, but really it's that we are not utilizing a kind, willing attitude in wanting to help the customer. And we are not using patience where needed.

       We have to remember as well that it takes time to rework bad choices that we've made in our lives. We may have spent a lot of time in the past making bad choices, and then we start to make good choices. But it will take some time for those good choices to overpower the series of bad choices we have made. This can be particularly true when we become a Christian. We may seek to make change in our life, trying to do things the right way, the pure way, the correct way. And we may see that people don't accept our positive change right off the bat. It will take time, a lot of times, for people to accept the good choices because they are so used to the bad choices from the past. But people will see the change, and will accept it in most instances. It's never too late to become a Christian, no matter what your age, and to start doing good. It doesn't even matter if you've made a lot of bad choices in your life. Don't be afraid; God will help you make the change. And don't be afraid of what people will think.

       Think of making change for the positive in your life like going on a diet. I think most of us have gone on diets, no matter what our weight, as we try to shed some pounds and get more into the image we would like to see in the mirror. A diet takes time, a change in food selections, hard work, etc. in order to get the results that we what to get. There are no quick fixes for losing weight, as most of us know. It took time to gain the weight, and it takes time to burn it off of our bodies. Well, in the same way, if we have been making bad choice after bad choice in our lives, we have cultivated a life that shows our bad choices. If we want to start acting differently and do what is right, we have to stop making the bad choices and instead replace them with making the good and right choices. As we continue to make more and more good choices, over time a lot of the consequences of our bad choices will disappear. Our habits will change, and we will become more like Jesus in the process. And it all starts at the point where we accept Jesus as our personal head, our Lord, to guide in right decision making, and as our Savior, cleansing us from all our sins, the wrongs we’ve done in the past.

       Now let’s talk about the problem of having a negative attitude. The way Satan typically embeds a negative attitude in our minds is through a past rejection in our lives, or a series of rejections, that has cultivated the negative attitude. I’ve talked about this before in the past, and I think it is a common problem, but for many people they may have grown up with a father, or even a mother, who had overkill discipline on them, who was too overbearing and strict. Often these parents belong to strict, legalistic churches, with legalistic leaders, and this can add fuel to the fire. Remember in Acts chapter 15 that the Apostles and elders did not put too heavy of a burden on the Gentile believers, but one that was reasonable. People can also have parents who totally neglect their children, which also begets a root of rejection in a child’s life. Whatever the situation, the rejection, or perceived rejection, can cause people to look at life in a negative way. I mean, after all, if you grew up with a negative parent, don’t you think it’s possible that negative outlook would have affected your outlook? Now, of course, this isn’t always the case, but a lot of times it is the case. For many people, they have to rework their minds, their view of life, other people, and the world around them through studying God’s Word, his goodness, which renews our minds into right thinking.

       A good way for us to detect if we are suffering from a negative attitude is by examining what we say on a daily basis. What is coming out of our mouths? Are we constantly tearing down others, saying negative things about them or negative things about the company where we work or even our own church? It is really revealing when you examine what you say. Often, we don’t even realize we are saying negative, wrong things until we stop and think about what we are saying. We get so use to being negative. I have found that a good way to combat negativity is to give people the benefit of the doubt. People can be so quick to judge others, and most often they don’t look at themselves first in the mirror to make sure they are in a position to judge. A lot of times we will talk about things going on in the news, right? We may see the action of a celebrity or politician and be too quick to judge. Instead, we should try to think positive and give the person the benefit of the doubt. Time will tell the true motives of the person, and often someone we’ve criticized really wasn’t that guilty to begin with.

       Let’s take a moment here and consider some sayings from James’ epistle. If we turn or tap to chapter 3, we can see a lot of useful information about what we say in our lives. As a matter of fact, read the whole chapter, and chapter 4, when you get a chance, as there is a lot of useful information here on this subject. I would like to note verses 5 and 6, which state:

“How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.” (ESV).

As we all know, it doesn’t take much to be said to start a firestorm. We see this in the media all the time. Something small is said, and it turns out to be the evenings headlines. The person may have be malicious or may have not been trying to say anything wrong. What we say can even go as far to mess up our lives, as James noted, and can cause people not to trust us. I also want to note verse 9 and 10 in James, which say,

“With it [the tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.” (ESV)

So, we see that we need to watch what we say, and I think it is good when we try to focus on saying positive things—things that build others up—and try to be levelheaded and give people the benefit of any doubt.

       But Satan will also use other people to bother us, both people who are troubled themselves and even our friends, but utilizing their weaknesses. Remember, often there is more going on than what you see with your eyes. If you’ll remember in Acts chapter that Satan sent a servant girl to follow around Paul and Silas, and the Bible tells us the Paul became really annoyed by this (Acts 16:18). Satan was trying to provoke a reaction in Paul, which in this case what a good action, but nonetheless Satan used it to get Paul and Silas locked up in prison in Phillip. But Satan will also use leaders or even our friends to say things that hurt us. Satan uses our weakness and the weakness of others. You might be at a Bible study, for instance, and Satan will tempt one of your friends to say something that will hurt you. His goal is to try to get you angry at the person, and get you feeling down about yourself. But if we realize that there is more going on here than meets the eye—that really it’s not just the person wanting to hurt us—but really that Satan is behind these attacks, it makes it easier for us to be gracious and not fall into his trap that he set for us. Remember, there is spiritual warfare going on, and Satan wants to get every believer down if he can.

       We also have to guard ourselves that we are not used by Satan to bring hurt upon others, whether Christian or non-Christian. Peter had this problem particularly, as noted in a few instances in the Gospels. Remember Satan used Peter to try to get our Lord to believe that nothing bad would happen to him in Jerusalem, all the while Jesus knew what was to come. And Jesus told Peter, ““Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man” (Mark 8:33, ESV). Peter got a harsh rebuke from our Lord. And we can and do fall into the same trap from time to time. Jesus said here that it is important for us to set our minds on the right things—what God wants us to be thinking about—lest we be used by Satan to accomplish some of Satan’s will. Of course, we have to be in our Bibles daily in order to be cultivating right thoughts in our minds. Satan will also use us to hurt non-Christians, in order to try to keep them from committing their lives to Christ. That’s why God wants us to show gentleness in dealing with them so that they are not too turned off by what we say. I’m not saying we shouldn’t state the truth, even when the truth is hard to bear. But we should not be harsh and unloving toward them, for God loves them and wants them to come back to him.

       So, in summery today, we’ve look at three wrong attitudes that Satan tries to and does cultivate into our lives. These are having a legalistic attitude, having a perfectionistic attitude, and having a negative attitude. Hopefully, we saw ways to identify these attitudes so that we can combat them in our lives, seeking to eliminate wrong thoughts and motives when we see them crop up. Next time, as I stated, we will talk about three more wrong attitudes, which are having a hopeless attitude, having a fearful attitude, and having a bitter attitude. I hope that today’s information was beneficial to you, and if you have any questions, as always feel free to send me an email.

       I know some of you have been listening and you’ve felt convicted about what I have said today. But don’t worry. We all have improvement needed in these areas. If you have felt convicted by God, I would say just to confess what you need to confess to him, and then try to keep your mind in his word on a daily basis. It becomes more and more difficult for us to be thinking wrong things if we are continually immersing our minds in right things. It is also good to supplement free time and perhaps drive time with sermons, messages, from Bible teachers that speak to you, ones who are grounded in God’s Word, speaking Truth. That way you can eliminate wrong thoughts, wrong attitudes. This is also a good way for you to cultivate right thoughts.

       Now perhaps today you’ve been listening to what I’ve been talking about and you realize you are not following the Lord Jesus, and see one or more of these incorrect attitudes at dominant in your life. Well, today, I want you to know that God loves you and want to be in a personal relationship with you. He wants to help you be a better person. He wants to help all of us become more like Jesus, and that includes you today. In fact, God sent Jesus to the earth 2,000 years ago, and he died on a cross to pay our sin debts, all the wrongs we’ve committed in our lives, and to make us right with God. Jesus rose from the dead and is today with God in Heaven. Jesus wants to help you. He wants to be on your side, and doesn’t want to be against anyone. God is not a mean, corrupt, or violent God who wants to hurt people. He is a loving, caring, and helping God, and wants to help you today and see others be helped.

       If you would like to come into a personal relationship with God today, then I want you to follow my lead in this prayer:

God, I have realized today that I’m not following you in my life. I’m not following your ways in doing things, but I’m doing things the wrong ways. Today, though, I want to turn from doing wrong and accept Jesus into my life as my Guide. I want to do things the right way. I believe Jesus died for my offenses and can make me right with you. I believe he rose from the dead, is alive today, and will help me in my life. Please Father, help me to start today in making right choices, and being close to you. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

-Daniel Litton