He was wearing the angriest, edgiest t-shirt that beautiful Sunday morning when we were going to have a special day of worship. One of the church members commented wryly on his choice of attire. “Hey, I don’t dress like everyone else, God understands,” he shot back.
Yes, God understands, and perhaps there could really be a good reason to wear something that sent a message of utter despair and hatred – I can’t think of one, but hypothetically, there could be. No, God doesn’t want us to judge others based on appearance, and yes, He wants us to welcome anyone into His house just the way they are. But here are a few points about this young man:
He’d been seeking counseling for problems with violence and rage for years, and hadn’t yet overcome them, though they’d significantly diminished. He had a hard time believing that God loved Him, and cringed at the sound of any music that wasn’t dark or depressing. He was very emotional and would sink into despair when he felt guilty for the things he had done wrong, and it took a lot of counseling and encouragement to get him to believe that he was loved and forgiven. Demons plagued his mind, convincing him that they protected him, and that if he ever got completely free, he’d become weak and bland, and worse than anything, “uncool.”
It was clear that he showed up to church with that t-shirt on purpose. It was a subliminal message that he was not about to let go of the demons of anger and hostility. He wanted God on one hand, but he wanted the “comfort” of those longstanding demons at the same time. Why would he even come to church at all if that was his attitude, you may wonder? It’s because underneath all that confusion, was a guy who knew deep inside that he needed God. We were the only church he’d found that wasn’t scared of his weird reasoning, or of the demons that were lying to him every day. So he showed up, month after month, humbling himself at times, and resisting at times, taking big leaps of faith and seeing Gods faithfulness, and then falling on his face, needing a lot of tough love to be pulled out of his pit of darkness again. But he always showed up.
What was his biggest obstacle to getting free? He clung to the things that still pleased his demons while still praying to God and reading his Bible every day. He was trying to stop cussing, to control his anger, to rebuke the devil, treat his wife well and work hard on his job. Yet he loved that culture of darkness that made him feel cool and tough – the music, the clothes, the video games. The Bible says, “‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things edify.” (1 Corinthians 10:23) Sure, the Bible says nothing about what t-shirt we can wear, what kind of music we can listen to or if video games are a sin. But God prompts us to see what the devil uses to contaminates us. We can try to rationalize it away (but that’s my favorite band! those pictures are a part of my past!) but God knows, the devil knows, and our spirit knows. There may be items in your home that are perfectly harmless to anyone else, but because of your emotional attachments to them, they don’t edify, and if they don’t edify you, they shouldn’t be a part of your life. They become footholds – open doors for the devil to linger and linger, even though you pray and rebuke him regularly. Emotional attachments are the easiest access for spiritual contaminants.
If you enjoy your deliverance dragging on for ages, if you have a high tolerance for demons inhabiting you, by all means, keep on showing up to church while clinging to things that are defiled by flesh emotion. But if you want your freedom tomorrow, sacrifice it all, fearlessly, ruthlessly and no turning back. Take a moment to analyze what could still have a hold on you – photos of ex-boyfriends or girlfriends, old music albums, clothing, mementos of your old life, self-help and even Christian books by people who’s lives don’t match up with the word of God – pray and be honest with God, and He’ll be honest with you. Then act your faith and throw off any remnants of the devil’s hold on you. Revolt against the fact that your spiritual life is stuck. In light of the freedom you could have, you don’t need that stuff at all.
Have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; have mercy on others but with fear, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh. (Jude 1:20-23 MEV)