“Therefore let us arm our hearts with these and similar statements of Scripture so that, when the devil accuses us by saying: You are a sinner; therefore you are damned, we can reply: The very fact that you say I am a sinner makes me want to be just and saved. Nay, you will be damned, says the devil. Indeed not, I reply, for I take refuge in Christ, who gave Himself for my sins. Therefore you will accomplish nothing, Satan, by trying to frighten me by setting the greatness of my sins before me and thus seducing me to sadness, doubt, despair, hatred, contempt, and blasphemy of God. Indeed, by calling me a sinner you are supplying me with weapons against yourself so that I can slay and destroy you with your own sword; for Christ died for sinners. Furthermore, you yourself proclaim the glory of God to me; you remind me of God’s paternal love for me, a miserable and lost sinner; for He so loved the world that He gave His Son (John 3:16). Again, whenever you throw up to me that I am a sinner, you revive in my memory the blessing of Christ, my Redeemer, on whose shoulders, and not on mine, lie all my sins; for “the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all” and “for the transgression of His people was He stricken” (Is. 53:6-8). Therefore when you throw up to me that I am a sinner, you are not terrifying me; you are comforting me beyond measure.”
– An excerpt from Luther’s Commentary on Galatians
Practical help in fighting Satan’s condemnation
- Accept your guilt.
If you want to be rid of Satan’s games, quit fighting the secret inward battle of sometimes believing you’re doing good, and other times you are doing bad. Brazenly admit that you are not just a good person who has messed up a little, but are a condemned, depraved sinner, through and through, who, apart from Christ, has nothing good living in you (Rom. 7:18). This takes the ammo right out of Satan’s gun. “You think you are good, you call yourself a Christian, a real Christian would never do something like this!” All of that slides off you like water off a duck’s back. Why? Because you are no longer putting all of your emotional and spiritual stock in your goodness, but God’s, specifically in what happened at the cross.
- Stake everything on Christ’s death.
Drink in deep the pure, distilled, 200-proof grace that comes from Christ’s effective work on the cross. Simply put, when Jesus died on the cross, He paid your debt. So be on guard when Satan reminds you of how big that debt is, and tries to convince you that because of its immensity, you are not a real Christian. If you start to become depressed and doubt your salvation, the problem is not that you let God down, but it only reveals that you don’t really believe that Jesus totally paid your debt. Maybe you believe Jesus paid for eighty percent of your debt, but He is expecting you to contribute something. Maybe you believe its fifty-fifty. Maybe you even believe that Jesus did ninety-nine percent, and he is just asking for one measly little percent from you. Whatever you believe, if you do not have 100% complete confidence in Christ’s ability to pay the entirety of the debt your sin (past, present, future), you are no longer believing the Christian message of the Gospel (Rom. 3:20-28).
- Stake everything on Christ’s life.
Resting in the debt paying effect of the cross is only half of what was accomplished at Calvary. Jesus not only absorbed the wrath that our sins rightly earned from the Father, but He gave us something: His perfect record. Jesus lived a completely perfect, law-fulfilling life. He never fudged on the law, once. At the cross, when Jesus absorbs our rotten, filthy, guilt-stained record – He transfers His pure, clean, perfect record to us. When the Father looks at us, He does not just see guilty sinners who have been forgiven (though that is true) – He sees, in a very real sense, us as perfect as Jesus was. When that becomes rock solid truth to you, Satan loses all of his footholds of shame and condemnation in your heart. He can’t find anything to grab onto in Christ’s perfection. (2 Cor. 5:21, Gal. 3:10-14)
- Remind yourself of this daily.
Luther says we need to arm our hearts with gospel-packed statements, ready to return fire at the enemies attacks. Just because we believe the gospel to be true, doesn’t mean that we won’t forget, or that somedays it won’t feel true. On those days, where the world has distracted us, and Satan has set up a hidden snare of condemnation, have Scripture memorized that will send him running. I also find memorizing segments of some of my favorite hymns seem to help tremendously, such as, “…when Satan tempts me to despair, and tells me of my guilt within, upward I look and see Him there, who made an end to all my sin.” Surround yourself with people who will remind you of this truth.
The practical implications of this truth are limitless, but imagine for a moment if you could live a life free from shame, free from the lurking suspicion that God is secretly disappointed in you. Imagine what worship would be like when the gravity of the cross hits you, square between the eyes. Imagine the confidence you would have to confront your deepest insecurities. Imagine being able to turn the very weapons of shame and condemnation back on Satan to cut his accusing tongue out. Imagine a life where your worth and significance have nothing to do with yourself, and everything to do with Jesus Christ. This is the life that Jesus invites you into.