If the devil walked up to you this morning with a contract in his hand and asked you to sign it, would you? I’m guessing you wouldn’t. You might not even read it. Even so, despite what you say, many of us actually do sign our names to binding agreements he writes for us all the time.
The enemy is too cunning to come at you the way I’ve described above. Instead, he looks for opportunities to sound like the voice of reason in the midst of chaos, a helper in your desperation, a friend to give compassion in a time of pain.
No matter that he may actually be behind the chaos, desperation, or pain, here’s how it works and what you can do about it:
First, you experience a real difficulty in your life. Whatever the source of the difficulty, it’s disruptive in your life.
A loved one dies even though you prayed they’d be healed.
The man of your dreams cheated on you.
You’ve tried for years to change your circumstances, but you’re where you were a decade ago.
Kids at school treat you like you’re stupid or unwanted.
An older relative of the same sex touches you sexually and it feels good.
You’re catching every red light when you’re already late.
Second, the enemy whispers an idea to you that seems to explain what you’re experiencing.
God doesn’t heal today.
You’ll never be good enough for a man like that.
God doesn’t care about you. You’re stuck.
Maybe I am stupid or unwanted.
The reason their touch felt good is because you’re gay.
This is a terrible day.
When I say the enemy whispers an idea, he doesn’t identify himself first. In fact, one of his tactics is to impersonate others. The words above might sound like the voice of a pastor, your dad or mom, your own voice, or even God. Neil Anderson pointed out years ago that sometimes the enemy poses as our own voice, so we think we’re the ones thinking a thought when we’re actually being fed an idea by a malevolent voice that means us harm.
Third, you either accept or reject the idea.
Accepting it means you give your assent—you internally give your nod of agreement. You switch every “you” and “your” to “I,” “me,” and “mine.” You’ve switched from a place of passive hearing to active thinking or speaking. Now the line is coming from your own voice.
Fourth, once you’ve accepted the idea, you act on it.
You take a step, you take action, as though the idea is true and reliable. The step itself may feel like it re-affirms the idea that the lie is true. One step turns to two. Two turns into three, and on it goes until you’ve practiced the idea in your head, heart, and actions so much that the untruth now seems almost indisputable.
Each step is a problem in its own way, but it is the third and fourth steps that engage our will to make the unholy agreement.
Though we do not realize what we’ve done, by agreeing with the enemy, we’ve done something binding, akin to signing our names to that contract I told you about at the top of this post. I know this isn’t fair. The enemy does not play fair. He’s the slimy salesman who dupes us when we’re vulnerable.
It can help to understand that, beginning with Adam and Eve, God has given people authority to rule:
“God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:28)
When the serpent came to them in the Garden and they took a bite of what he was selling, they in essence signed over their authority to rule to him.
At minimum, your thoughts and feelings, your body and your actions are all a part of your domain. When the enemy comes with a lie, he is trying to get you to take his counsel and establish a “rule of law” for how your domain, your kingdom, your life are going to operate—either under the ways of God or under the enemy’s ways.
This is why it matters what thoughts we allow to enter our mind. As Dallas Willard put it in Renovation of the Heart:
If we allow everything access to our mind, we are simply asking to be kept in a state of mental turmoil or bondage. For nothing enters the mind without having an effect for good or evil.…The power to choose our thoughts is, as we said at the outset, our most basic freedom, our first and primary freedom, and we must use it well.
The concept of a “self-fulfilling prophesy” is more than just a state of mind.
Too many of God’s children are living under faulty decrees in their lives with no idea that they don’t have to. Through it all, God abides the truth and He loves us tremendously! So much so, in fact, that Jesus came to take back the authority that the enemy has stolen through his lies. When we understand this, we can take our rightful place as those to whom He shares His authority and His Kingdom:
“I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.” (Luke 10:19)
“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
“Father, reveal anywhere I have made an unholy agreement. In Jesus’ name, I break agreement with the lie that ________________. Lord, replace this lie with your truth in my life! I agree with Your truth!”
Have you ever experienced an unholy agreement tripping you up or holding you back? Leave a comment below.
Wow! What a blessing to read this. Thanks Josh! I had a fierce battle this morning before I began my day. The enemy was certainly whispering, curse God because things won’t change in your life. Immediately God’s grace and peace brought me the most reassuring comfort from his word. Ephesians 6 specially. Jesus certainly has all the power and authority. Treasuring God’s word is key.. Thanks again Josh!
Whoa! Right on….
I’m in counseling with Bob and just asked what my trigger is and can only say, when I’m alone, I hear my voice saying “It’s safe, go ahead”. You blog has answered Bob’s question. What a relief! Praise God. 🙏🤙🏻
Thanks for this very articulate breakdown of how the enemy can lead us astray. I haven’t heard many pastors talk about this truth – we have a very real and very sneaky enemy. Paying attention to our thoughts is so vital, just as meditating on God’s word is life-saving. As believers, we do have power and authority over the devil. And as C.S. Lewis said, don’t blame the devil for too much, yet don’t think he’s not there trying to attack you either.
I especially like the vow-breaking prayer at the end of your post. Thanks Josh.
WOW. Thank you so much for this article. My sister , who is divinely guided by the Holy Spirit sent this to me, knowing I have been at war with those voices within that tell me I am not good enough, that I have no purpose, that Im stupid, mentally challenged ETC ETC… I REALLY struggled with these voices for most of my life and believed these lies…. It is time for me to start recognizing these whispered lies in my head at the enemy and rebuking them. I am ETERNALLY grateful for my sister Evgenya and love her deeply. May GOD BLESS HER furthermore. He has great plans for her, I am sure of it. <3 Thank you for this article. GOD BLESS YOU!!!! <3 <3 <3
So glad, Vasilisa! Thanks for reading. Keep coming back.