I try not to give the devil too much credit in my life, and do not preach much about him. I figure, he gets enough attention from other preachers, and so I only talk about it when led to, but he is a real and living enemy and recently I have, through the grace of God, seen how he has been working in my life to steal my joy and bring me under a false condemnation.

Thatís what Iím going to talk about tonight, the way our flesh and the devil collectively try to convince us that we have lost our salvation.

Hereís the problem at a glance: if you and I have EVER done anything to disobey or rebel against the Lord, and we have, then the devil will, I promise you, come to you at some point in your life and tell you that your sin was SO BAD, that it was beyond forgiveness. Especially if you KNOW you screwed up. For example, you heard the voice of God telling you to go talk to someone, or knew that God was leading you to do something specific, and you wanted to, but you didnít. Or maybe you didnít even want to. And now you feel horrible about it. Well, here comes Mr. devil, feeding off of your guilt and shame and making you come under a condemnation that is not of God. Is it ok if I get real here, people? Ok.

Well, I know that you are all knowledgable people here tonight, and OF COURSE you would probably counteract him with scripture, you know. Repeat to the devil and ourselves Hebrews 8:1, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in the Lord, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." Now, thereís a problem. The devil knows scripture too, far better than you do in fact, and although that scripture is ABSOLUTELY true (there is NO condemnation for us!) he will oftentimes use the very same book to bring you back under a false condemnation again. Back under his domination, really. You automatically become a slave to him if you believe his lies.

So he comes back and says, "True, but Hebrews 6:4-6 says, í4For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, 5And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, 6If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.í"

Now, Iím not just making a hypotheticical situation here, this actually happened to me. You see, now you have a problem. The devil has just used the Bible, the very same book in the Bible, even, to "show" you that you are beyond forgiveness. I mean, after all, you should know better! I mean, youíve been saved for years! Itís not like youíre a baby Christian or anything. And you HAVE been enlightened. You HAVE tasted of the heavenly gift and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost. And you really believe that you have tasted of the word of God and the powers of the world to come. (Iím playing the devil here).

In fact, it is not only probable that you canít be forgiven for this one, it is "Impossible." Impossible. Thus saith Hebrews 6:4-6. Right there, in black and white.

Well, Iíve got good news for you. Our God is not a black and white God. Thankfully, we can look to him for the proper interpretation of this scripture. Amen? Amen. More on that later..

But this is the mind game that the devil recently played in my life. It was pure hell. It was hell on earth, because I was starting to believe it. I mean, Iím sure none of you have ever questioned your own salvation or believed the lies of the devil (Iím kidding), but I was starting to listen to him because it was there in black and white. And once you start traveling down that path, you automatically feel unworthy to come before God as a friend to even ask for his interpretation. This knowledge of good and evil has screwed up even how we come to Dad when we need Him most. Thanks, Adam! You see, before the fall, Adam and Eve had no problem approaching God like a daddy. He was, after all. Still is. Anyway.. Back to my story.

Let me tell you, there is NO worse feeling in the world than hopelessness. And thatís what I felt. Without hope life is is not worth living, and in my opinion, is the closest we can come to in this life to what hell is actually like.

The devil had been chipping away at my life, and slowly, but surely, the lies became more and more believeable. I had gone from knowing that "Nothing can separate me from the love of God" to believing I was possibly "a vessel of wrath fitted for destruction." Ha! Can you believe that! After all, it was, "impossible" for me to be renewed again to repentence, because it would "put Christ to an open shame" and "crucify Him afresh."

Here is how my story started. One sunny morning, I was sitting at a very long, old table doing a Bible study when God truly gave me a revelation. I mean, this was SO good that it was one of those live changing revelations that you get and it impacts you forever. Get my message on, "The God of the Old Testament" if you want to know what it was.

Well I had a client who was going through some hard times. This person came this same day, and the revelation that God had given me that morning was EXACTLY fitted for what this person was saying to me about her personal life. Anyway, I felt like I should tell this person what I had learned, I even felt like this was a moment ordained by God. But I didnít. And a large reason why is because she was my client. She paid my wages and I was afraid of losing her for a time or completely. In short, I sold out Christ for money, and fear. Thatís not, I believe, an understatement.

Is is ok if I get real here, people? Or is this too down to earth for us?

Can you see how the devil used my mistake to keep me from repenting and coming to my Father in heaven?

That was horrible for me. It started a downward spiral of self-doubt and biblical speculation during which time I donít know if I once asked God what his opinion was about these circumstances or scriptures.

How many people have ever felt like this? Ever started down that path of self doubt and condemnation, only to finally get off it days, weeks, months, or even years later when you realize how foolish, prideful, and insulting to Godís grace it is? Please raise your hands. Youíre not alone, are you?

Ok. Good. Because hereís some REAL good news!

The Bible is FILLED with examples of Godly leaders who openly turned their back in disobedience to God RIGHT where He could have used them the most.

Isnít that great news? Ha! What an irony!

Anybody remember Peter? This guy that Jesus called a "rock?" Peter rejected Christ. More than once actually. The first time of noted importance is when the cock crew. But some people may say that Peter was not saved at this point and so Iím not going to use that example so that the devil canít use scripture to keep you under condemnation. Please turn to me to Galations 2:11. This is Paul speaking here. "11But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. 12For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. 13And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation."

Do you see what is happening here? Peter was preaching that everyone was equal before God in all counts and able to come to God to receive grace and mercy for salvation. But when he sat in the company of only Jews he created what Romans 14:13 calls a "stumblingblock, or an occassion to fall in his brothers way." Not only for the gentiles, but also for the man he was discipling named Barnabas. The gentiles at the time knew what was going on. It would be akin to us today going to a black neighborhood, making friends, eating dinners, and then when another white family moves into the neighborhood not having anything to do with them. Only this was worse, because Peter was tying it in to salvation.

A little historical note real quick. The Jews had rubbed their covenant with God in the gentiles face since shortly after it was made, and there was, at the time, and amazing feeling of inequality before God. THIS is one of the main things Peter was preaching against, and yet in practice he screwed up. Big time. It dirtied his testimony and had the potential to destroy EVERYTHING he had worked to accomplish in terms of his message with the gentiles. Those of you that have ever discipled any new Christian know the importance of living out your faith in your own life.

Now, to REALLY show you how Peter must have felt, turn with me to Matthew 18:6, " 6But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea."

Thatís Jesus speaking. And I can GUARANTEE you that Satan was right there REMINDING Peter of this and telling him that there was no hope.

I love Peter!! THANK GOD for Peter! He encourages me! Because I feel pretty good when I see his example! Revelation alludes to that the fact that his name is carved on the pillars of New Jerusalem, and yet he screwed up alot right when God needed him.

I like that.

What about David? I seem to remember something about this righteous man killing a guy and stealing his wife?

Or Moses, didnít he disobey God when striking the rock in Numbers 20?

So lets get this out of the way right now, all right? Worship team can come up.

You WILL fail. You WILL fail MISERABLY. We are still trapped in a sinful flesh that sometimes gets the best of us. We are born into a world hell bent on our destruction. And so we are bound to fail. The only person that didnít was Jesus. Praise God.

In fact, you may have a history of failing consistently in what you think are major ways. Now, if you are living in a consistent life of blatent, unrepentent sin or donít know Jesus PERSONALLY, then you need a different sermon. NONE of this applies to you. I want to make that clear. You ARE condemned. See John 3:18 for more on that. But if you know Jesus personally, then understand this: you are a work in progress. Ok? You, we are not finished yet. Give yourself a little grace here. Once youíre saved, youíre not automatically perfect! How many people know that already? God is still chipping away at this chunk of marble named Justin Hawley and making it look more like Jesus. And heís doing the same with you. Except your chunk of marble has a different name. :-)

And you know what, if the devil has you believing that you are beyond his forgiveness, you will automatically believe there is no hope for others. He will use your self condemnation to keep you from truly spreading the hope that God offers to us, and you will now be his slave. That is just one benefit he derives when you donít extend yourself the same grace Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Spirit offer us. Donít give him that much credit.

I have met so many people in my life with literally, little to no hope left. Those people you come into contact with DAILY- at Super America, the kid walking down the street, an unpopular child trapped in public school- they ALL need HOPE! They donít know that they are loved, and that their life WILL get better. And please, donít automatically assume that they know this. More than likely, they donít.

So give yourself some grace here. Ok? Give other people some grace as well. That is how simple it is. Isnít God great? God IS love! How many people are glad for that? Amen.