Thursday, October 1, 2015

Spiritual Warfare A,B,C - Believer's 3 Common Enemies

Ephesians 6:10-11 "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil."

John 2:16-17 "Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world."

We saw in yesterday's post the two-pronged method for approaching spiritual warfare: Spirit-filled and word-filled living. Both the Spirit's leading and the authority of God's word go hand-in-hand in the Christian's daily warfare. Consider the following observation from Dr. Charles Stanley in his book: "The Wonderful Spirit-Filled Life", page 210: "Peace or no peace. Guilty conscience or no guilty conscience. The Word of God stands. It is the final authority for the Spirit-filled believer. The Spirit-filled life is a life lived in accordance with the teachings of Scripture - whether one feels like it or not and whether it bears witness to one's spirit or not." Dr. Stanley later on notes in page 213 of the same book: "That is why the Spirit-filled life begins with surrender to the Lordship of Christ. Surrendered Christians approach the text with humble hearts, not hidden agendas. Spirit-filled believers come to the scriptures with teachable spirits. They don't view Bible study as simply a fact-finding mission. They see it as an opportunity to peer into the mind and heart of God."

With thse thoughts in mind, today's post is all about identifying the three common enemies faced by every Christian. In the opening passage above we see them underlined: the Devil, the world and the flesh. The contexts of both scriptures indicate the following:

1. Common Enemy in spiritual warfare is The Devil.

2. Cravings that contribute to our spiritual warfare is the flesh.

3. Context in which our warfare occurs is the world. 

Enemy #1: The Devil
Ephesians 6:11 warns the reader of the "schemes" or "methodologies" of the Devil. Who is the Devil? A brief sketch of his personage and career reveals the following:

1. He was originally a powerful angel named Lucifer (Ezekiel 28; Isaiah 14), perhaps an archangel, who got his eyes off of God and instead focused on his own beauty. Shortly after the creation week scripture records Lucifer, now Satan or the Devil, leading 1/3 of the angelic hosts astray, who in their fall became the myriads of demons occupying the various orders of the kingdom of darkness. (Revelation 12) 

2. The Devil or Satan is a creature who is a liar (John 8:44), a deceiver and prince of the power of the air who blinds the hearts of unbelievers (2 Corinthians 4:1-4). As a creature, the Devil communicates his malevolent intentions through the vast network of demonic hosts we see mentioned in Ephesians 6:12.

3. We know the Devil tempted Jesus on three occasions in Matthew 4, and the Devil's aim is to do all he can to discourage and divide the church. (Matthew 16:18)

4. According to 1 Peter 5:8, The Devil is a roaring lion prowling about seeking whom he may devour. 

This sketch lays out for us why it is the Devil is the believer's common enemy in spiritual warfare. Now notice the second enemy...

Enemy #2 - The World
1 John 2:16 warns us about not loving "the world". The Greek word behind this word (kosmos) is the word from whence we get our terms "cosmetics" and "cosmology" and "cosmopolitan".  A "kosmos" or "world" refers to a certain orderly arrangement or system, hence for example, cosmetics are products designed to help someone arrange the colors and appearance of their face. I someone were to take up the study of "cosmology", they would be concerned about studying the arrangement of things in our universe. When reference is made to a "cosmopolitan person", that person is typically a traveler, a "person of the world" who dresses in the finest clothes and keeps up with the trends of things worldwide. 

Whenever the Apostle John refers to the term "world", he is talking about the organized system of thought that is under the authority of Satan. The Devil is the common enemy of the believer. Other than Adam, Job, King David and Jesus, no other person has ever had to deal with Satan directly, but moreso indirectly. Satan wields his influence through his vast network of demonic hosts (Ephesians 6:12) and through the network system known as the world.

The physical body gathers its understanding of reality through the five senses, and this is how the influence of the world makes its way through if unchecked by the vigilant Christ follower. This is why John warns his readers to "not love the world". Elsewhere in the New Testament we read about the influence of the world and the need to be cautious of it. Romans 12:2 states -  "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect." James 1:27 gives this insight: "Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world." Jesus gave this simultaneous warning and encouragement in John 16:33 - "These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” Now notice the third enemy...

Enemy #3 - The flesh
Notice what the Apostle John writes in 1 John 2:16 "For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world." What is meant by the term "flesh"? The term "flesh" can have one of two meanings in the New Testament. 

The first meaning of "flesh" refers to the physical body of a person, whereas the second meaning describes the expression of our soul's drives in cooperation with the remnants of sin in the soul. Galatians 5:19-21 gives the fullest definition of the flesh in the New Testament: "Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions,21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God."

The flesh is an "expression", a "reaction" to certain conditions whereby the inborn drives of a person are set aflame and decisions are made to feed the hunger. The indwelling Holy Spirit aims to teach the child of God to "put on Jesus Christ, make no provision for the flesh to fulfill its lusts." (Romans 13:14) 

Therefore when we are dealing with spiritual warfare, the flesh and the inward desires that go unchecked are among the most damaging of the three enemies. Unlike the Devil and the World, which attacks from the outside, the flesh works inward to outward. 

Closing thoughts for today
We considered in yesterday's post the approach one needs to spiritual warfare: namely the filling of the Holy Spirit and being filled with the word. Today's post served to unfold the believer's three common enemies: the world, the flesh and the Devil. Tomorrow we will consider the confidence the Christ has in spiritual warfare as we conclude this study on the A,B,C's of spiritual warfare.

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