Many of you may be familiar with the story of Frank Abagnale. Maybe not with his name but perhaps with the movie about his life entitled Catch Me If You Can which was based on a book of the same name, or perhaps you are a big fan of the Broadway musical based on the movie.
Frank William Abagnale Jr. (born April 27, 1948) is an American security consultant known for his history as a former confidence trickster, check forger, and impostor between the ages of 15 and 21 years old. He became one of the most famous impostors ever, claiming to have assumed no fewer than eight identities, including an airline pilot, a physician, a U.S. Bureau of Prisons agent, and a lawyer. He escaped from police custody twice (once from a taxiing airliner and once from a U.S. federal penitentiary), before he was 21 years old. He served less than five years in prison before starting to work for the federal government. He is currently a consultant and lecturer for the FBI academy and field offices. He also runs Abagnale & Associates, a financial fraud consultancy company. (full Wikipedia article here)
Do we ever behave like Frank?
Do we ever pretend to be someone we are not?
Maybe we would not consider ourselves impostors, but would our wives, our kids, our close relatives accuse us of being hypocrites? Do we perhaps pretend to be better than we are? Maybe we have been pretending so long we have begun to believe our own lie.
If I could have a dollar for every time someone has told me that Christians are hypocrites, I would be a very wealthy man. But I do not believe that this problem is unique to Christians. We live in a world where people carefully edit and photoshop their lives sharing the best moments of their lives or portraying their lifestyle a being much superior to what it really is.
We want to project a certain personal image. We are afraid of people seeing our flaws. We perhaps fear rejection if someone knew us for who we really are.
How do these lies affect our relationship with God?
Many of us get so used to portraying a reality that is augmented or carefully edited that we end up trying to do the same in our spiritual life. We try to look holier than we are. We approach God but we don't completely open ourselves to Him, lest He see us for who we really are and stop loving us. Perhaps we would never say this out loud, but how often do we have parts of our lives that we try to hide from God or behave as if He didn't know?
Jesus begins the sermon on the mount with the Beatitudes, and He begins the beatitudes by saying,
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
Matthew 5:3 ESV
Out of all the ways that Jesus could have begun this great sermon, He decides to begin with a blessing for those who are poor in spirit. Jesus began by saying those who recognize their poverty have a special blessing! And what a blessing it is! Jesus says "for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
Unless we recognize we are poor in spirit we miss out on the blessing. The kingdom of heaven belongs to those who look at themselves and realize they are poor in spirit. Those who look at themselves and realize they desperately need God.
Unless we recognize our constant need of God we are doomed to fall short of what our lives could be if we would only turn to Him and allow Him to do for us what we can never do for ourselves.
As long as we are fighting using our own strength we are bound to lose. When we lie about our spiritual situation we become trapped by our lies.
You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
- John 8:44 ESV (Bold mine)
We need to understand that there is a war for our souls. Jesus contrasts Himself with the enemy (thief) saying,
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
- John 10:10 ESV
Jesus wants us to have life, and have it even more abundantly. But for that, we have to come to Him. We don't make our lives more abundant, Jesus does that for us. We must also be aware that there is an enemy who is seeking to kill and destroy
For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,
- 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 ESV
This war that is going on is not a regular war and is not fought with physical weapons, guns, grenades, etc. Interestingly in Ephesians Paul mentions the one offensive weapon we have in this war.
Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.
- Ephesians 6:14-20 ESV (bold mine)
I realize I shared 6 verses when I could have shared only verse 17 (and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,). But I really believe that the context is very important. Paul is dealing with warfare, he is describing armor, and the only offensive weapon available to the Christian is the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God!
Think about it, this is what Jesus used when tempted by Satan in the wilderness. You can read the full account on Matthew 4, but it is worth highlighting how Jesus responded to each temptation by saying "it is written." Jesus used Scriptures to fight temptation and He won the victory over Satan, using only what is available to us, the word of God!
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
- John 3:31-32 ESV
We get caught up in lies and begin to search for something to guide us. So many are wondering, groping in the darkness for truth, for a sense of direction, in bondage to sin and addictions. God's word is available to us, it is the truth and it sets us free!
When praying to the Father Jesus said,
"Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth."
John 17:17 ESV
Sometimes we are waiting around for magic to happen and all this time God is pointing us to His word. Sometimes we are ignorant, and too many times it is due to spiritual laziness. We don't make the effort to familiarize ourselves with the word of God, the truth that sanctifies us and sets us free.
Making it Practical
Okay, now that we have all those Bible verses and all have taken care of all that theory, what does this look like in action?
How do I make this work in my life?
I am glad you asked.
When you find yourself struggling, feeling down or depressed, identify the lie from Satan that is causing you to feel this way.
- Reject it in the name of Jesus.
- And replace it with God's truth as found in His word.
When you feel worthless and like you can't do anything right. Reject that thought as a lie from Satan being whispered in your ear. Now replace that lie with a truth from God's word, such as:
For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
Ephesians 2:10 New Living Translation
When you feel abandoned and forgotten by the whole world. When you feel like no one in the universe cares. Reject that as a lie of Satan, and replace it with a truth from God found in the Bible.
“Can a woman forget her nursing child,
that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget,
yet I will not forget you.
- Isaiah 49:15 ESV
When you love Jesus but feel like you are the worst sinner in the world, like you will never be good enough. Claim
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Romans 8:1 ESV
I think you are getting the idea by now. Make a list of your favorite Bible promises. There are many lists available online. There is a list of Bible verses that help you understand your true value here. But remember, these lists are not exhaustive. I would like to encourage you to search, to read, and to compile your own lists.
Placing yourself in the Scriptures
Sometimes the wording of the Bible can feel distant and impersonal. We may understand intellectually the truth but it lacks the emotional impact that we could use at times. One way to make Bible promises more personal is to place yourself in the text.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
- Ephesians 1:3-10 ESV
Above we have a beautiful section from scriptures. But Paul's theological language can make this text feel cold, distant, and impersonal. Paul is not doing anything wrong, its just that we don't talk or think in this language.
But notice what happens when I change the "us" to "me." I am not changing the theological meaning of the text, I am just taking this Bible truth and making it very personal. That fact that Paul wrote "us" just means that each one of us, can read that text and be included. All of us, believers, who read it can say "me."
Here is what it would look like.
Blessed be the God and Father of my Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed me in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose me in him before the foundation of the world, that I should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined me for adoption to himself as sons (daughters) through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed me in the Beloved. In him I have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of my trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon me, in all wisdom and insight making known to me the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
The same text now has a different emotional impact.
Let's do this with one of my favorite verses in the Bible.
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
- Romans 8:31-39 ESV
Now making it personal
What then shall I say to these things? If God is for me, who can be against me? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for me, how will He not also with Him graciously give me all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect (me)? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the One who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for me. Who shall separate me from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things I am more than a conqueror through Him who loved me. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus my Lord.
This is one way to apply God's word, His truth, to my daily life. This is a way to take what can be an abstract theological notion and make it a practical truth that has an emotional impact on my life.
The Bible tells us that the word of God is alive.
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
- Hebrews 4:12 ESV
The word of God is not only alive it judges us, so I believe it is important to read it personally allowing it to have its full impact on our lives. We should read the Bible not only for abstract theological thoughts but also for the very real impact that theology ought to have in our daily lives. Right now I am focusing on the positive and encouraging portions of the Bible, but we ought to read the challenging parts similarly (love my enemies etc.)
An example of a passage that challenges us to grow spiritually is Psalm 139. The whole Psalm is amazing but I'll focus on the last couple of verses here.
For this passage I don't have to make any changes to the wording, it was originally written in a very personal way.
Praying Through Scriptures
This exercise of placing ourselves in Scripture is even more powerful when we pray those Scriptures. When we take God's promises as found in His word and claim them in prayer it revolutionizes our prayer life. We may not always know how to pray but that's okay. We don't have to be good at prayer, we just have to show up.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
- Romans 8:26-27 ESV
When we pray, God Himself helps us. We just need to show up and begin to pray and God will handle the rest.
Get a prayer journal, a notebook where you write down the passages of the Bible that speak to your heart. Write down the Bible verses that bless you. Write down how God has answered your prayers, keep an account of the blessings received. If Jesus memorized Scriptures and used them to fight temptation shouldn't we?
An example of a great passage to pray over your kids, spouse, friends, or anyone who is struggling is found in Ephesians 3.
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Ephesians 3:14-21 ESV
For a list of Bible verses that have significantly impacted my prayer life check this post out.