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A Quick Knockout
In my last blog, I left you with a warning to keep your chin down, and your hands up against attacks from the enemy, since you are most likely to be attacked when you first move forward to engage. I also said that, according to Paul, these attacks would come in one of two broad categories: your faith or your conscience. Today, I want to start with attacks against your conscience. In many ways, attacks against your conscience can be compared to the enemy going for the quick knockout, since the devastation can be very quick and very dramatic. This is the stuff highlight reels are made of!
One Person's Victory Another's defeat
Any of us who follow fighting have our favorite finishes, and my list includes Dan Henderson's brutal knockout of Vanderlei Silva, Gabe Gonzaga's high kick to the cranium of CroCop, and my all time favorite: Ryo Chonan's flying scissor-heel hook to finish Anderson Sylva! Another brutal knockout that is definitely NOT on my list of favorites is that of David Terrell's quick KO of Matt Lindland. The reason it is not on my list is that Matt is a great friend and co-founder of Agon Ministries with me, so it kills me to see that video clip (by the way, Lindland would destroy Terrell 99 times out of 100!). The point here is that one person's highlight reel is another person's embarrassment, depending on whose side you are on, and it is the same with the spiritual battle.
Satan's Highlight Reel
If Satan and his fight team were to show their highlight reel, it would include many of his victories that we are well aware of. Most recently, we remember the Ted Haggard scandal, but history is littered with men who are remembered for their moral failure, while their life accomplishments are all but forgotten. These would be the most likely candidates for the enemy's highlights.
Satan Delights in Your Crash
It is a lot like the life of Vinko Bogataj from Yugoslavia. While you probably don't recognize the name, if you're a bit older, like myself, you will remember him from the opening segment of the 70's show "Wide World of Sports." The show opened with a line about the agony of defeat while showing his now-infamous ski crash, which has become synonymous with that phrase. However, hours earlier, Vinko had jumped over 400 feet, but no one remembers that, or his name--only the crash. Satan delights in the crash of personal moral failure involving God's children and the fact that this failure is often remembered more than anything else we do before or after. He loves the quick knockout, and he is swinging at you! Probably not him personally, but he is definitely working against you through this world system that he has so much influence over. I probably don't need to go into a list of all the ways this world tempts us and pressures us to violate our conscience. You just have to look around and you will see it. Part of the problem is that too many of us are not looking around and seeing it.
"It's okay to look" - LIE!
If I had a dollar for every time a man has told me it's ok to look, I could run Agon Ministries without any outside donations! The truth is that it is not ok to look at anything and everything you have a desire to look at. But before we turn this into some legalistic list of things you can't look at, or things you can't do, let me explain why it's not ok, and why if you really think this through you won't want to look. You see (pun intended), it all starts with the eyes. In Genesis 3 we read that when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and it was a delight to the eyes she took of its fruit and ate This is much like the start of King David's sin with Bathsheba, when he rose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king's house," and he "saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. Not only did they see the fruit and the woman, they noticed them. They were a delight and beautiful.
Don't Take the Bait
You can't always control what you see, but you can control what you take note of, because once you linger and notice the beauty and attraction you have taken the bait. You will find that the object of your attraction has been planted in your heart to be looked at any time you choose to think about it. This is a very dangerous position to be in when there is so much at stake. By noticing things that have not been given to you by God to enjoy, you have allowed the enemy to move the fight into your heart and thoughts. Whether it is in the area of sexual lust, lying to get something, or any number of other ways this could play out, you risk suffering the quick knockout. You risk becoming known to your children, spouse, church, co-workers, and many more as someone who cannot be trusted and who violated their conscience. This is not what God intends for you. In Ephesians 1:17-18, Paul prays this about the eyes of our heart: ...that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints."
This is what God wants for you: wisdom, revelation, knowledge, enlightenment, hope, riches of his glorious inheritance.
Sounds really good doesn't it?
But this is exactly the opposite of what the enemy wants for you, and therefore he attempts to get the eyes of your head to place images on the eyes of your heart that draw you away from God and force you to fight in his arena. He wants the fight to take place where you are struggling with images of his design instead of being enlightened as God intended. In the spiritual battle, just as in the physical fight, we absolutely have to control where the fight is fought. In the fight world, there are few fights that have illustrated this more than when Chael Sonnen fought the number two-ranked middleweight in the world, Paulo Filho, for the WEC title last year. Paulo is a remarkable ground fighter, and Chael knew that he did not want to stay on the ground, where Paulo is so dangerous. For almost two full rounds, Chael completely dominated the Brazilian by utilizing his wrestling background to avoid takedowns and keep the fight where he wanted it. It was one of the most impressive performances I have ever seen, until the final seconds of round two, when Chael decided to sit in Filho's guard to ride out the round. Finally provided with an opportunity to work his ground game, Paulo locked in a very tight arm bar. Chael, knowing only seconds remained, refused to tap but screamed in pain which caused the referee to step in and stop the fight. In just under 5 seconds, Chael went from one of the most devastating performances in MMA, to just one more guy on Paulo Filho's highlight reel. On November 5th, Chael gets a second chance (a lot like you do in the spiritual fight when you're on God's team) when he fights in a rematch for the WEC World Middleweight Title. In my next blog we will talk with Chael about the importance of dictating where the fight is fought and how he intends to do that for a full five rounds on November 5th.