The True Enemy

lion

We’ve been looking at the spiritual battles we face every day. This battle is not a physical one that involves heavy armor and artillery. Instead it’s a spiritual battle in which we are both participants and battle fields. It’s a continual conflict we must be prepared for and committed to. We defend ourselves with God’s armaments as described in Ephesians 6:10-18, and Paul emphasizes in verse 12 that our adversary is not of this world. Rather, our enemy is the ruler of darkness.

Know Thy Enemy

Our adversary goes by many names in popular culture, but the Bible writers most commonly refer to him as Satan, the Devil. It’s important we get to know our enemy if we’re going to defend against his assaults on our souls. Once we understand his tactics and motivations, then we can truly use God’s guidance to protect our souls from his snares.

John 8:44 uses some strong language to describe Satan. Jesus calls Him a father of lies and a murderer. We see those accusations bear out in places like Genesis 3, where he him deceives Eve and brings death to the Garden. In the recorded temptations of Jesus, Satan tries to twist the truth to appeal to Jesus. He even quotes scripture at the Son of God.

I Peter 5:8 describes the devil like a prowling lion. Satan is on the lookout for any opportunity to destroy our defenses and devour us. Jesus, in the parable of the sower in Mark 4:15, says that the devil can snatch the word from our hearts, and II Corinthians 14 says he disguises himself and his messengers in a form of truth. That is one of our greatest dangers — that we may let him convince us we are doing right when, in fact, we have let him imprison us.

Stay on Target

We often hear Satan referred to as the leader of evil in this world. I would rather contend that he is the evil. He is the entire opposition. He is the target, and we have to stay on target. He has no troops. He has no soldiers. He only has prisoners. Yes, some of the prisoners do not understand their own captivity; some may even feel passionate they are doing the right thing. But that changes nothing. Captives are still captives, and we should never want to attack and destroy captives. We should want to free them.

Romans chapters 5 and 6 speak about our spiritual victory in great detail. In chapter 5:6-10, Paul describes our state as being helpless and at enmity with God, but He still sent His Son to die for us. Chapter 6 then describes that helpless and hostile state as one of imprisonment to sin. Why does God not give up on us? Because He realizes we are not His adversary. Rather, we become prisoners to His adversary when we sin; our attitude toward those who reject Christ should be just as merciful and loving.

God does not create bad people. In the beginning, God created humans and said we were good. We are, as the psalmist writes in Psalm 136:13-16, “fearfully and wonderfully made.” God put no more or less care into my creation than He did a terrorist, an abortion doctor, or a junkie. He loves me no more or less than any of those. I am no more or less deserving of God’s grace than any of these. People we define as bad guys were created good. They have simply made bad choices. They are prisoners to sin, as we all have been. They and we need the freedom only Christ can give.

Don’t let secular fights distract you from the target. In Hebrews 12:1-2, the author of that book tells us we need endurance, and that endurance comes from laying aside the weights of this world. Part of that is laying aside the squabbles that distract us from our spiritual battle. When we get caught up in whatever the current hot-button topics are, we give up energy that should otherwise be dedicated to fighting temptation and reaching souls. In fact, Satan could be using some of those very things in your life to distract you from the real battle. We have to stay on target.

Overcoming Through God Alone

To overcome, we have to own our faith. We have to be able to put a complete trust in God because His word is close to our hearts. That’s what Ephesians 6 about when Paul writes that we should be wearing His truth, readiness, righteousness, and salvation. That’s why we carry His truth and faith to defend ourselves. It’s so we keep God ever close to our hearts and our minds. It’s so we are ever doing His work and focusing on His word. It is that closeness with God that will let us overcome.

In II Corinthians 10, Paul returns to this idea of spiritual warfare, and verse 3 reminds us that, though we are in combat, our conduct should be always spiritual. Our weapons are only powerful through God, and we must hold every thought in captivity lest they be taken captive by the devil. But the good news is this: Satan flees in the face of resistance. James 4:7 simply says to resist the devil, and he will flee from you. It’s that simple.

God has already won. We have but to endure until our trials are over and we can share His victory. We have to know God’s word, and wear our faith, hope, and love like an armor. God can protect us, but He has to be in our hearts and minds, in our hands and on our lips. We have to be busy with His work, and then we will have no time or opportunity for Satan to deceive and imprison us. Then we should be about the business of freeing other captives and bringing more souls to Christ. The war is already won, but there are many victories to be had. There are many captives to free. We can do it because our God is with us.

Resisting the Spirit

girl sitting in the sunset

We’ve spent several lessons talking about letting the Holy Spirit rule our lives, and what the fruit of the Spirit looks like in action. We’ve talked about yielding to the Spirit and giving control over to our God. The truth is, though, that we so easily resist the Spirit and try to do things our way. We want to live by the flesh as outlines in Galatians 5:19-21:

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Resisting the Spirit – The Challenge

Academically, we all know that living by the flesh makes it impossible to please God, as Paul points out in Romans 8:6-8. The problem is that, in the moment, the satisfaction that can come from fleshly living can be a more powerful motivator than Spirit living. We know when we are walking into a bad situation and choosing to sin, but the immediate payoff is strong. We are lying to ourselves if we deny that a life of sin can look more compelling at a glance.

Resisting the Spirit can help us succeed financially. We don’t feel so beholden to such strong ethics on how we make money, nor will we be spending time at church when we could be working. We can talk ourselves into ignoring the guilt sinful behavior should bring, and such living can simply seem more fun. We’re gaining instant gratification for whatever passions we choose. The temptation to simply give up self-control makes Spirit living a challenge.

Resisting the Spirit – The Results

Unfortunately, living with less control can lead to consequences in this life. While there may be immediate gratification for giving in to temptation, it can also lead to pain in the long run. How many marriages break up because one partner or the other fails to exercise self-control? How many relationships are in ruin because one partner or the other simply will not put others before self? Lack of contentment and self-control can also lead to debt and financial ruin.

We can talk about statistics surrounding unplanned pregnancies, broken homes, prison recidivism rates and other crime statistics. We can point to anecdote after anecdote of the effects sin has on lives and homes, but the biggest problem is that such living separates us from God. And the farther we get from God, the harder it can be for us to return. By no means does such sin make it difficult for God to restore us. He can restore anyone who is guilty of anything. Where it gets difficult is within our own hearts.

A Father Who Forgives

So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

– Romans 8:12-17

Our hope in the Spirit is this: we have a God who loves us as children and wants to restore us to Him when we fall. He has made the way open to us to live like Him, we have but to let the Spirit into our lives through His word. If we live by the Spirit, we will bear fruit that will enrich our lives and the lives of those around us, and every day brings us closer to our God.

lesson by Aaron Kadel