Written Sermons & Bible Studies

Don’t Take the Bait

Today, I want to talk about the Bait of Satan. Over twenty years ago, John Bevere wrote a book with that title. In the book, he discusses how the offenses we hold onto destroy our life, our relationship with God and our witness as Christians. The offenses can be those where we suffered a clear injustice. They can also be offenses where we believe someone offended us, but their interpretation of the offense is different from ours. He speaks of a very strong form of bait that Satan uses to draw us into bitterness and brokenness that separate us from each other and from God. I want us to consider three forms of bait used by Satan. There are many more. The three I want us to consider today are fear, offense and conflict. As we gather with our family for the holidays, one family member may offend another, and conflict may arise. Fear is also a bait that Satan uses to ruin our lives. With so many in our congregation afflicted by health issues, it would be normal to be afraid. Yet, fear can drain our lives of joy and peace. As followers of Christ, our joy and peace are greater than our fear.


In our Scripture reading today, Paul warns against those who cause offense and dissension. They act as bait to draw us into greater conflict and alienation. Satan ensnares us in fear and behavior that separates us from others, creates a barrier between us and Christ, and ruins our witness to the world.


Romans 16:17-20


I urge you, brothers and sisters, to keep an eye on those who cause dissensions and offenses, in opposition to the teaching that you have learned; avoid them. 18 For such people do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the simple-minded. 19 For while your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, I want you to be wise in what is good and guileless in what is evil. 20 The God of peace will shortly crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.


Last week, I went fishing with a group of friends. Two of the group are avid fly fishermen and will not fish with anything but a fly rod. They limit their selection of bait and give the fish a more sporting chance.


That does not describe me. I like using the fly rod. I even caught a huge fish on a fly. But, if the fly rod is not productive, a spin rod and lures are not beneath me. If a spin rod catches fish and a fly rod won’t, I am going to the spin rod. I will even stoop so low as to use live bait, and I feel no guilt from the barbaric use of live bait. Of course, I am not very vocal about my breadth of tactics with my fly-only friends. For all you fisherpersons out there, I am not opposed to anything that catches fish.


On the first day, I caught a 35-pound redfish on a fly and six redfish on the spin rod. My fishing partner caught 3 big redfish with the spin rod. My “fly only” buddies caught nothing. The second day we were all skunked.


I am not a “fly only” fisherman. I am a “whatever catches fish” fisherman. I prefer the fly rod and will try to catch fish with the fly rod, but I have no moral objection to whatever works.


Satan is much more like me – tactically speaking – than my “fly only” buddies. Satan is out there fishing for us. Satan is not a “fly only” fisherman. Satan will use whatever will catch you and then he will, with great skill and patience, land you and destroy your life. Satan doesn’t restrict his choice of bait.


I caught a big redfish on a fly. On my first cast, I was a little behind the fish. My second cast was right in front of the fish, but he ignored my fly. He didn’t swim away. He stuck around looking for my next cast. The third cast was in front of him again. As I stripped the fly across his line of site, he grabbed it and took off. When he stopped, I set the hook deep. That fish was now mine. He should have left so that he was not tempted by my fly. Instead, he swam around looking for bait. When I offered him my bait, he grabbed it.


Of course, the fight was on. I would have to bring him to the boat, and there would be an extended tussle, man versus fish.  However, once the hook was set, the outcome was assured. He was going to be landed, and his picture would be taken. I would have to fight him, but I am a skilled and patient fisherman. The fish would end up in the boat.


I want you to be keenly aware that Satan is skilled. Once you take the bait of Satan, he is patient and skilled. He hides the fact that you are hooked and slowly brings you in, ruining your life through the whole battle.


For those who hunt, you know that once the prey comes into the bait area, it is over for the prey. A skilled hunter does not miss. Satan is skilled.


Luckily for the redfish, its captor is a person of grace. After a few pictures, I showed the fish grace and released him back into the water. Given the short memory of fish, in no time he will be no worse for the ordeal I put him through. Likewise, even after being totally ensnared by Satan, the grace of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit can free us, if we are open to the power of Christ in our lives.


So, what would have “saved” the redfish that I caught? The only salvation available to the redfish was not taking the bait. Once he took the bait, it was over. If redfish listened to sermons, a sermon on not taking the bait would be a valuable sermon. It might be titled, “Don’t Take the Bait.”


In the passage from Luke 17:1 Jesus said to his disciples, “Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to anyone by whom they come!”

The Greek word for stumbling is also a device used to trap something alive. To ensnare it. Jesus uses stumbling here to represent an action or occasion that leads to sin. Satan lays traps and baits us. He creates occasions for stumbling or entrapment. It is our task to avoid the bait and to swim away quickly when it comes in front of us.


But Satan is wily like fishermen. We use a platform above the water to see and sneak up on the redfish. Once we see the fish, we use a pole to push our way up to the fish without disturbing them. We make sure the sun is in front of us to avoid shadows on the water that would warn them of our presence. We do not move around in the boat to avoid any unnecessary sound. We stalk the fish. Satan is a stalker of humanity just like I was a stalker of redfish.


I mentioned three baits that Satan uses. One is fear. Once we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, Christ is always with us and for us. Christ is greater than all our fears. Yet fear still traps us. We worry about tomorrow. We fret about what might be and lose sight of the life that we are given today. Maybe we were hurt in the past and now fear getting involved with other people.


When I went through cancer, a wise person told me to only deal with what I knew and not speculate or worry about the next test, treatment or procedure. They said that I needed to live in the now. The future would come soon enough, and it would have its own set of problems and joys. Whether my life was measured in days, months, years or decades, fear would not change the outcome. All fear could ever do was steal whatever life I had left. Fortunately, it has been measured in decades, but regardless of its length, fear could not prolong my life, but it could steal whatever life I was given. My wife Jan told me that as her grandfather was dying, he told his family “Don’t waste time worrying”, because he regretted how much he worried about his life.


Fear can also stifle your life. Fear can prevent you from taking action. Fear can make you disengage from life and from others. While life offers few certainties, we do have the ability to make decisions and act. We may not be able to control our circumstances or how others treat us. We may not be able to avoid injustices, illness or hardship, but we can choose how we respond to them. We can choose to engage in life without fear. We can make decisions and act. We can lean on the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We can rely on Christ to see us through. When Satan baits us with fear, he wants to separate us from Christ and from others. As Christians, our primary purpose in life is to love God and to love others. Fear blocks both.


How do we avoid fear? Don’t take the bait. You can feel it when fear comes to you. That is the time to pray. It is a time to focus on today. It is the time to rebuke the fear in Jesus’ name. It is the time to ask, “what can I do next?” Ask yourself, “how can I take one step forward and then another.”


Another bait of Satan is offense. When we take the bait of feeling offended, we step into a difficult trap to escape from. In John Bevere’s book, The Bait of Satan, he says that an offended brother or sister is harder to win than a fortified city. Within the walls of offense, we become a prisoner. The inability to let go of past offenses creates a distrust or fear of relationships. When we stay offended, we are unable to release the past. Life becomes stagnant; we can’t move forward. When we are trapped by a perceived offense, we are not looking beyond themselves. We are not looking to God and allowing the Spirit to flow in our lives. We can be offended when we have expectations about other people, and we are let down or disappointed by them. We may even be treated unjustly. However, the offender is rarely tortured by our carrying the burden of offense. We, on the other hand, are stifled by the offenses we carry.


As the past offenses in our life pile up, we start looking at life and people around us through the filter of negative experiences. All those past hurts, rejections and bad moments hinder our ability to believe in God and others. When offended, we become resentful and hold grudges. We carry the weight of offense and pollute our next relationship or avoid relationships altogether. We judge God and others through our pain and not through the promises and love we have in Christ.


When it comes to this bait of Satan, he approaches us with great stealth. He can pole right up to us, and we do not even realize he is there. For example, our pride can blind us to the bait of offense. We feel we are right to be offended since we were wronged, and the other person was the one who hurt us. In the end, who wronged whom does not matter. What matters is our clouded and dark spirit overtaken by offense.


So, how can we escape the offense trap? Here are three paths.


First, get rid of your expectations and be grateful for the blessings that come your way. You can never control how a person treats you. If you demand people live up to your expectations, you set yourself up to be offended. Enjoying the blessings that come from your relationships is very different from expecting others to bring you happiness, joy or any other benefit.


Second, accept what life gives you and move forward with a positive mindset. Strive to make decisions and take actions in response to what life brings your way. With humility, expect nothing and with gratitude, accept everything.


Third, release the offense and forgive the offender. Scripture says to forgive others as Christ has forgiven you. Seek the help of the Holy Spirit in prayer. If we believe in the power of Christ to heal and restore our life, escaping Satan’s trap of offense must be at the top of our prayer list. A whole person filled with the Spirit cannot harbor offenses. Offenses need to be released to escape the traps of Satan.


Lastly, conflict is a trap. We choose to engage in conflict. This trap can be avoided and sidestepped by refusing to engage. Walk away. Leave the room. Simply refuse to engage in conflict. Jesus often found himself in heated disputes with the religious leaders. However, he did not escalate the conflict that the religious leaders wanted. Instead, Jesus quietly asked questions that revealed the dark hearts of his aggressive counterparts. Satan uses the bait of conflict to destroy relationships and separate friends and family. Often, conflict turns into feelings of offense and then the relationships suffer over long periods of time.


Today, I am talking about offense and conflict because we are entering the holidays. I want all of us to realize that we have a choice. We can amplify previous offenses and we can re-engage with old conflicts, or we can release past hurts and grievances and set aside old rivalries. We can rebuild relationships and free ourselves from the bait of Satan that ruins our walk with Christ. We can decide today to release ourselves from the captivity of past offenses and conflicts with family and friends.


Recently, I wrote an eBook called “How to Stop Miserable Family Holiday Gatherings.” The purpose of the book is to give people practical tips for a happier experience and greater sense of togetherness with their family. The book is also meant as an outreach to people in the community and an invitation to come and visit our church. If you are interested, you can download a copy from our website at pgf.church.


Like the redfish I caught, the only way for him to avoid getting caught was to never take the bait. The holidays may present lots of bait. Your uncle will want to discuss politics—don’t do it. Your cousin will want to talk about her ex-husband who offended her years ago—don’t do it. Your brother will want to challenge you on why you made the decision you did—don’t do it. If you are invited into an argument or conflict—don’t do it. If you are urged to bring up past hurts—don’t do it. Before you go to any gathering this holiday season, pray. Begin by asking God to help you let go of any feelings of offense. Ask God to give you wisdom and help you remain at peace. Ask God to show you how to avoid conflict and witness the grace of Christ.


In our Scripture reading, Paul says: 19 For while your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, I want you to be wise in what is good and guileless in what is evil. 20 The God of peace will shortly crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

About Pastor Tim

Tim Holmes

Senior Pastor

Categories
Social Share