In the Bible it is written, “And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them.” (Re 13:7)
Warring against the saints is the activity of Satan and of those that serve him. The above text shows us that Satan actively fights against believers, and that he will ultimately appear to win.
Revelation describes the future apex of this battle, but it has already begun, “for we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against … the rulers of the darkness … against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Ep 6:12)
Yes, the enemy of God wars against believers every day with every means at his disposal. Let us understand what the Bible says about Satan and his warfare, his basic nature and how he works, and then understand how we may overcome and defeat him in our lives.
First, let us understand the basics about our enemy. Satan is an evil being that is limited in power, knowledge and wisdom, acting only by divine permission. (Job 1:12, Re 13:7) He is proud (Is 14:12-14, 1Ti 3:6), a liar, a murderer, and he does not abide in or submit himself to the truth. (Jn 8:44) His primary activity is deception: long ago he deceived a large number of the angels in heaven and convinced them to join him in fighting against God (Re 12:4, 7-9), and ever since that time he has regularly tempted people to sin against God and each other by lying to them and suggesting sinful, evil things to their minds. (Ge 3:4-5, Job 1:12-15, Ac 5:3, Ep 2:2)
At times, God gives Satan permission to afflict people physically (Job 2:7), and to control the elements of nature for destructive purposes. (Job 1:16, 19) Satan may also gain access to people’s bodies and minds and directly control them in varying degrees. (Mt 4:24, Lk 22:3, Ep 2:2)
In addition to Satan himself, who is also called the Devil (Re 12:10), there are also a large number of other devils, which are evil spirits similar to Satan but are of varyingly diminished strength. (Mt 17:21, 12:24, 2Co 12:7, Ja 2:19) All of these beings share a common evil nature and intent, in which they never appear to compromise, slack or deviate. (Jn 10:10a) This singular intent is to grieve and anger God by harming people and convincing them to disobey God and alienate themselves from Him. Satan and all of his followers (angels, demons and people) will eventually be eternally punished by God in the Lake of Fire. (Mt 25:41, Re 20:10)
For our purposes here we need not distinguish between any of these evil beings, which we will now call collectively, the enemy, or understand them in any further detail. The above is all we need to know about them.
To understand how the enemy works, let us study the words of Jesus spoken to new believers about spiritual warfare in John 8:31-36. “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (vs. 31-32)
The people to whom Jesus is speaking have just believed on Him a few moments before. After they believe on Him, the first thing Jesus says to them is that they aren’t free; He wants them to understand that they are in bondage and how to become free.
But these new believers do not understand. “They answered him, We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?” (vs 33)
They are in such bondage they do not even know they are captive. These believers have been taken captive so deeply from within that they have lost the very concept of freedom. They do not even know what freedom is. They think Jesus must be talking about institutional slavery or something.
And these new believers back in Jesus’ day were not so very odd. Most of us are just like them. We say, “We are not slaves,” but we also do not understand.
Most of us today are in such bondage that we do not even know we are captive. We have been taken captive so deeply from within that we have lost the very concept of freedom. We do not even know what freedom is, and we are, in fact, hostile to the very notion of it. We are just like these early believers; Jesus might as well be speaking to us. Perhaps He is.
These young believers challenge Jesus. We challenge Jesus. He explains. We ought to listen.
“Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” (vs 34-36)
Let us look very carefully at what Jesus is saying here, for it is not an answer that we expect – and this fact is of utmost importance. We expect one answer, but we receive an entirely different one. Getting Jesus’ message here is the very first step in understanding spiritual warfare. It may be the only step.
One way to describe the work of the enemy is that by deceiving people he brings them into bondage. (Lk 13:16) Similarly, God uses this same kind of terminology to describe the work of Jesus: “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound.” (Is 61:1) It is by speaking the truth and helping people to believe it that Jesus sets people free and destroys Satan’s works. (1Jn 3:8) It is a different way of thinking about freedom and bondage than what we might be used to.
When we think of freedom we often think of a lack of restraint, a lack of rules, being at liberty to do as we please. When we hear that Jesus has come to set us free we might think He has come to relieve us of any obligation, of any expectation placed upon us, that He doesn’t care how we act or what we do, that we don’t have to obey His laws any more, that there are no more rules to follow. This is what we might expect to hear … but it is not what Jesus says.
If we do in fact expect to hear this kind of answer from Jesus it is because we are already deceived: our thinking about the matter of freedom is entirely wrong. And this is likely the very reason Jesus is speaking with us about it. He wants us to understand what freedom is and He wants us to experience it. He is coming to rip the doors off of our prison and set us free, but we are so used to our slavery that we don’t want freedom. In fact, at first, the very idea of freedom seems repulsive to us … and that is our problem.
To properly understand freedom we must first begin to understand something else: our own nature and purpose. To borrow an illustration from Tim Keller (The Reason for God), if we want a fish to be free, and by that we mean we don’t want the fish to have any rules or constraints, and so we take the fish out of the water and put it on land … then the fish will die. A “freedom” (as in the absence of rules or restraints) that separates a fish from water is not beneficial for the fish because the fish has a nature that thrives only in the water.
Now, if a certain fish is so corrupt in its heart and desires that it doesn’t like being in the water, and so it is constantly trying to jump out of the water, then this fish is not really being offered freedom by those who would grant its desire to be on the land. Such a fish is actually in bondage because it is not inclined to live according to its design, and those who would grant its desire by giving it what it wants are not setting it free, they are destroying the fish. We discover here a relationship between freedom, design and purpose.
As another example to help us understand the relationship between freedom and restraint, let’s consider traffic law. Are we free in our driving only if there are no traffic laws, no signs or stop lights, and everyone does whatever they please? Is freedom found in a lack of restraints, a lack of rules, a lack of order? Some might call that a kind of freedom, but a better word for it is chaos. It will tend to produce traffic jams, injuries and untold inconvenience … not your typical notion of freedom.
Similarly, when we think of a free country, do we envision a land in which there are no laws? Not if we are thinking clearly. A free country is one in which there are good laws, laws that are in accordance with human nature, designed and enforced so as to allow all who obey them to live in safety, comfort, health and prosperity. For example, when I visited Singapore, a strict, benign dictatorship, I was shocked to see young girls riding the subways and walking about alone on the streets late at night — perfectly calm and safe, not a care in the world. I come to learn that sex offenders, rapists and kidnappers were not being tolerated in that land; relevant laws were effectively enforced and all offenders were severely punished and then promptly executed. As a consequence, people did not commit these types of crimes … so young girls felt safe no matter where they were. This is what we call freedom.
Freedom then is not found in the absence of law but in having the right kinds of laws, restraints which reflect our purpose and design.
We are designed by God for one purpose: God’s pleasure. (Pr 16:4, Re 4:11) God is most pleased in us when we are most satisfied in Him, when we delight in Him, in His nature and in His ways — when we love, worship, revere and obey Him. (De 6:5, Ec 12:13)
Our purpose and design imply that when we are aligned with God and in fellowship with Him we are the most fulfilled, complete and joyful. (1Jn 1:4-7, 15:10-11) Freedom for us then is to be inclined and equipped to live as we are designed, to have the tendency and ability to walk in a manner consistent with our purpose: to delight in, love and obey God.
This is why Jesus said to these new believers that sin (the violation of God’s Law, 1Jn 3:4) leads to bondage, the opposite of freedom. Obedience and freedom are connected the same way that sin and bondage are connected. The inclination to sin is bondage; the opposite inclination, to delight in, love and obey God, is freedom.
Essentially, when Jesus is explaining freedom to these new believers He sums it up like this: One who sins as a manner of life is a slave to sin. Slaves aren’t free. Slaves come and go … they aren’t part of the family … but the Son, who is in His essential nature inclined to delight in, love and obey God, is always in God’s family. If the Son sets you free by giving you His nature to delight in, love and obey God, then you will be truly free.
So, if you want to sin, if you have a broken nature that is not aligned with your design and purpose, then a lack of restraint and permission to do what you wish (our common definition of freedom) is simply bondage of the very worst kind, like a fish that hates the water being given some help to get onto the land. It is a bondage of the will that seeks its own destruction, a slavery of evil desire that does not value its own freedom and is inclined against it. As the alcoholic is free (allowed, permitted) to drink, he is the more a desperate prisoner. The same is true of the glutton, the gossip, the lascivious, the envious, the hateful.
Freedom: the inclination and ability to delight in God and obey Him (to live according to His Law). Not a definition one might expect, not at all. Most people I know would call that legalistic, being under law, and returning to bondage. Satan has done his work quite well among us … yes indeed.
The very concept of an absence of restraint in life is in itself a lie. Paul says we are designed as servants: “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” (Ro 6:16) As created beings we always serve something or someone. Our choice in the matter is not whether we will serve, but who we will serve. To the degree that we serve God we become righteous, whole and free; to the extent that we serve anything or anyone else we suffer in confusion, darkness, brokenness and bondage. There are no other options.
To be clear, Jesus is not promoting legalism, pursuing acceptance with God merely by keeping a set of mechanical rules. What Jesus is saying is that He came to change our hearts and give us a new set of desires so that we can live according to our design. His Law defines what freedom looks like, provides the benchmark and the standard, but it cannot give us the nature we need in order to follow it. Freedom is not in throwing out the Law, but in being given a nature to obey it from within.
Jesus did not come to do away with God’s standard (Mt 5:17-19), but to write His Law on our hearts and put it into our minds (He 10:16) so that what we want to do is what we ought to do. He came to fix our corrupt, broken nature — to heal the heart of the little fish in us that hates the water. He came to change us so that we want to keep his Law and obey Him, so that in our inward nature we are inclined to obey Him, love Him, delight in Him and walk in constant fellowship with Him. This is our design. Our duty has always been to love God and each other. (Mt 22:36-40) Jesus came to redeem us so that this would be both our delight and our reality, not our drudgery. Getting this concept is the key to freedom.
It is a remarkable concept, a very hinge of life, that the Law of God is a “law of liberty.” (Ja 1:25) Everything contrary to God’s Law leads to bondage, corruption and death — and everything that aligns with it tends to liberty and wholesomeness. (Ps 1:2-3, 119:1-3) This is a fundamental concept that very few seem to understand. Like the key to the cell of your imprisonment, get hold of this idea … in the very core of your being. Satan goes against this concept every single time he moves against you: it is the essence of his warfare, how he keeps you locked up.
The Nature of Sin
A second remarkable concept embedded in this text in John 8 is this: sin always springs from a lie.
If the truth sets you free from sin, then the only way to be a slave to sin is to be apart from truth, to be living and operating in a lie.
That is, very simply, how spiritual warfare works. Satan lies, we believe him, we sin, we break God’s Law. This alienates us from God and separates us from His love and fellowship. Further, in this act of sin, Satan begins to take us captive: that is, our act of believing the lie and sinning against God changes our nature so that we are no longer as inclined to delight in, love and obey God as we were before we sinned, and we are now more inclined to disobey God and distrust Him and alienate ourselves from Him. The lie is, in itself, a call to us to pull away from God, to withdraw from Him. As our nature changes to be more inclined to withdraw from God, the lie becomes even more attractive, more appealing, more comforting, more powerful.
So, in this condition of having believed the lie and having sinned against God, the lie is now offering us what we are now more inclined to desire, so we are now prone to become even more convinced of the lie and to cling to it more tightly. We are then inclined to sin more, to violate God’s Law more. As we continue to follow this path we become even more deeply trapped in the lie. This creates a cycle of deepening sin and deception: bondage.
Satan continues to lie to us more and more, about all kinds of things, and we begin receiving these lies too. He lies about God and what He is like. He lies about us and what we are like. He lies about other people and what they are like. He lies about pleasure and what it is for. He lies about our design, about our purpose, about what is good and what is bad. His lies are endless, and they are convincing.
Listening to and receiving these lies leads to more and more sin, to more corruption of our heart and nature so that we are even less inclined to delight in and obey God. The cycle continues, spiraling deeper and deeper into bondage and darkness and corruption. This is how the enemy gets us to live contrary to our design and thereby steals from us, kills us and destroys us. (Jn 10:10a) This is the enemy’s plan for us and how he works it.
This cycle is only broken one way: “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” (Jn 8:32) Jesus comes to us with the truth, through the Bible or a godly servant or in a thought prompted by His Spirit … and He offers us freedom and light and mercy. If we receive the truth, the power of the lie begins to break, we begin to change direction, our nature, tendencies and inclinations begin to change toward God instead of away from Him, and we start to find the way of deliverance, the way back to God, the way back to our design and purpose. Our heart becomes more inclined to delight in God, to obey God and to love Him. We move toward freedom, the freedom to do and to be what God has made us to do and to be. It’s sure not rocket science; kids can get this.
The Snare of the Devil
God says this same kind of thing another way in 2 Timothy 2:24-26 “The servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.”
A snare is a trap that suddenly incapacitates, renders helpless, captures. By definition, the victim cannot see the snare and therefore has no protection or defense against it. It is placed in a strategic place by an enemy that understands the weaknesses of his prey and how to catch it.
Satan has a snare placed in our life in every place where we have believed his lies. We walk about with these snares within us, and they do not take us down at random times. When we are walking in lies we are at the mercy of the enemy, a prisoner of war, and are manipulated by him based on his timing and plans for us. The text above states that these snares spring on us at Satan’s will, not ours.
In this state we are opposing ourselves, defeating ourselves, hurting ourselves – walking in a manner that is inconsistent with our design and purpose. We are not doing this against our will, not at all: our will is fully pleased in this corruption and is addicted to it. We “oppose ourselves” in that we are committed to that which destroys us. Satan is able to steal, to kill and destroy in and through us because we have given him the ability to do it to us by listening to him and believing him.
The only way out is to hear the truth and turn around: repent. God has to expose the lie that is operating in us, and we have to allow God’s light in the matter to confront us and challenge our unbelief. We then must begin to receive what He says and submit to Him and to His truth. God must give us the nature of Christ to do this, for it is only His life in us that will turn to the truth and receive it as a manner of life.
The access that the enemy gains in our lives to steal, kill and destroy may be thought of as “ground” obtained in war. When two armies are fighting they control the territories which they each occupy. Everything living in and about each area is subject to the will and control of the occupying force. In a sense, the army is the governing authority wherever it exists.
Using this kind of language, God instructs us to not “give place to the devil.” (Ep 4:27) He is saying that when we believe the enemy’s lies and fall into sin we give him room to work – we give him ground: territory, access, governing control in our lives.
Satan gains a stronghold through deception: this ground is a portal of access, a place of residence, an occupation in part of our inner being, a presence in us and with us to influence and control us … from within. The stronghold generally begins as a willing cooperation in the mind and spirit, and may eventually lead to fully developed physical control (demon “possession”). However it is all on a continuum and based on the same simple principle: sin rooted in lies.
In instructing believers, God describes the entire world of unbelievers in these terms: “Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” (Ep 2:2-3) The enemy “works in” the disobedient, the unbelieving world, actually living vicariously through them, by being in league with them, suggesting things to them, prompting them, and thereby leading them as they respond to and follow after him. As unbelievers receive and act on these inputs and impulses from the enemy they allow the enemy to live through them, doing what the enemy wants them to do, effectively serving him and (for the most part) never even knowing it. The more deeply they are taken in the lies the more they are like puppets responding to the manipulation of the enemy, yet with a will that is fully aligned with and committed to their puppeteer.
Truth be told, as God does in the above texts, every believer starts out in this condition: newly converted to God but still aligned with and accustomed to walking as a child of disobedience, according to the promptings and inputs of the enemy. It is still so natural to the new believer to be controlled like this that – just like they were as unbelievers — they are not even aware of the control: they don’t even know they are aligned with and captive to the enemy. So God steps in and starts to shake things up in order to get them free.
This sanctifying process is one in which the strings, the lies of the enemy that he uses to manipulate and control us, are broken one by one by the powerful truths of God. As we start to follow Christ and turn toward truth we start to expose these lies, turn away from them and become more and more free. The enemy thus begins to lose his “ground” in our lives, his place of residence, his occupying, controlling force. It is a process, just like falling into bondage is a process, one that takes time and many patient steps.
The first step in this process is to recognize the strings themselves and how they work, the lies that hold us captive and how the enemy uses them to control us. We must acknowledge that we are captive and begin to understand what this means. We are designed to walk, as it were, “no strings attached.” This is not, as we have shown, the absence of rules (a notion that is, in itself, actually one of the more powerful lies), but freedom to walk as we are designed: arm in arm with a holy God.
Let us now look again to the Scripture to see this process working in the lives of godly men and women. Take, for instance, Peter in Matthew 16:21-23.
From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.
In giving Peter the benefit of the doubt, and considering the fact that he appears to be earnest in his desire to serve and obey Christ, how do we intelligently integrate Christ’s response with Peter’s behavior? Clearly, Peter is not aligned with Christ at this point: Jesus calls him “Satan,” and states that Peter is an offence to Him. It cannot mean that Peter was actually Satan, or that he was trying to follow and obey Satan. We must understand that this response was a complete surprise to Peter, something that he did not expect and which shocked him into an embarrassed silence. How did Peter get to such a state? Why did Christ confront him in this way? In light of what we have learned already about spiritual warfare, consider the following explanation.
Peter, walking with Christ toward the last of His ministry, has been listening to the lies of the enemy for years. Lies about what is good and bad, lies about purpose and design, lies about comfort and power and pleasure. He is convinced that the best thing for Jesus (and also for himself, incidentally) is safety and comfort and happiness.
So when Jesus begins to explain that He is going to be betrayed and crucified in a few days, He begins to threaten all of these lies in Peter and to contradict them. A light is beginning to shine on all of Peter’s selfish ambition, his love of ease and pleasure and power.
When this light begins to penetrate Peter, an irrational passion begins to well up within him. Peter is stirred up emotionally. Peter begins to act threatened at the very core of his being and he becomes animated, he gets all fired up. It appears to Peter himself that his passion is about the welfare of his master. Peter begins to act out. He steps out in front of his Messiah and grabs Him, looks into his eyes and begins to rebuke Him and contradict Him. Jesus responds by calling Peter “Satan” and commanding him to get out of the way, pointing out that his affections are misplaced.
In this confrontation there is, evidently, a whole lot more going on than meets the eye. Note that there is an irrational emotional component to Peter’s behavior: rather than a humble questioning of Christ’s statements there is a forceful challenge and confrontation: this is irrational in light of the fact that Peter knows Christ to be deliberate and wise. Peter acts as if he is fully convinced that he is in the right on this one, and that his Master is in error. Peter has deceived himself into thinking that he is serving God by contradicting, rebuking and blocking his Master’s plans. In his passion he gives himself to seeing that his ideas in the matter are imposed, enforced and carried out. The reality is that Peter is so in league with the enemy at this point that Jesus does not bother to distinguish between the two of them.
Jesus exposes this reality in Peter by pointing out that his affections and values are corrupt and ungodly. Peter, after walking with Messiah for three years, is still thinking like the world, liking what the enemy likes and hating what the enemy hates. Peter is captive to a whole body of lies that are still very deeply rooted in him and he doesn’t even know it. Peter is thinking that bondage is freedom and that freedom is bondage. Peter’s world view is broken … and Peter likes it this way.
Peter’s behavior appears selfless on the surface, and his own perception of this further energizes and emboldens him, but it is all a lie: Peter is being energized in irrational emotion to protect an interconnected network of lies in his heart that have no other defense. This body of lies has given the enemy access to live in and through Peter without his knowledge, to set up shop, take up residence, a permanent welcome presence. The enemy has taken ground, taken control, and established a little kingdom of darkness in Peter.
Peter loves this darkness and is in league with the enemy to protect it. Darkness brings with it an emotional connection and attachment, a love, an attraction, a loyalty. This disposition hates the light (Jn 3:20-21); that is, darkness brings with it an emotional alienation from the truth, a dislike and disgust that is expressed emotionally through irrational fear, anger and anxiety when truth approaches to threaten the bondage and darkness with light and freedom.
At the first dim ray of light that begins to shine on this little kingdom in Peter and expose it, the enemy offers Peter an emotional impulse of self-righteous, indignant concern. The enemy is constantly feeding impulses, thoughts and emotions to deceive and control Peter and Peter is used to receiving these inputs and walking in them as if they were his own. He has become passive in developing his own thoughts and feelings in things and has relied on the enemy’s constant stream of input as if it were coming from his own will and heart. This has been going on Peter’s whole conscious life. Peter’s inclination to accept these impulses is rooted in Peter’s love of darkness and his ignorance of spiritual dynamics. Peter buys into this lie just like he is used to doing and is therefore personally energized by it. The enemy then suggests that Peter act out on this impulse and confront Jesus … and so Peter does. Peter is not innocent, but he is not acting entirely on his own: he has an enemy constantly at work to manipulate and deceive and ensnare him. And Peter has now been snared again: he is partner in crime with the enemy, is fully engaged in and approving of the enemy’s lies – and he has absolutely no idea what is going on.
Does this dynamic sound familiar? It should. The same kind of warfare is happening moment by moment in every one of us. (1Co 10:13)
And Jesus does not respond to Peter’s participation with the enemy tenderly. There is no excuse for Peter’s ignorance and love of darkness. Jesus’ love for Peter calls for some intensity in exposing Peter’s role in it.
This is not a new technique and pattern for the enemy. We can see him at work in the Fall itself, in the very first human sin. Freshly consider the details of the account and see his tactics more fully exposed (in the text highlighted to help us focus on key phrases).
Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, “Yea, hath God said, ‘Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?'” And the woman said unto the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, ‘Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.'” And the serpent said unto the woman, “Ye shall not surely die: for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. (Ge 3:1-6)
The initial approach the enemy took with Eve was very strategic. He opened with a very specific lie about one thing: the goodness of God. Essentially, the enemy accused God of lying to Eve about the consequences of eating from the tree, claiming that God wanted to keep something good from her and her husband. This accusation seems to be at the heart of every single lie the enemy has ever told, and he has been incredibly effective with it, deceiving every intelligent creature that God has not supernaturally enabled to resist him. (Mt 24:24, 2Th 2:10-12, 1Ti 5:21)
When Eve is left on her own, to act according to her own unaided (shall we say free?) nature and will, she considers what the enemy is saying and does not immediately reject his claim. At this instant she evidently gives the enemy a foothold in her mind and spirit: by finding the lie the least bit plausible she opens herself to receive an unspoken impression from the enemy about the nature of the tree. What the enemy then offers Eve is a second wordless lie, a feeling cast upon her heart which is carefully and intentionally designed to lend credibility to the first lie.
Note carefully the wording of the text first bolded above, “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food.” (vs 6) Observe from context that Eve has seen this tree before; in order to obey God’s command she must know what the tree looks like and where it is located. The narrative implies that Adam has shown her the tree and helped her learn how to identify it, giving her ample time to study its appearance. She must already be very familiar with the appearance of this tree.
Further, we also know that Eve has no personal information about the edibility of its fruit, only that she must avoid eating it. No one has ever eaten of this tree, nor of any tree like it. Yet all of a sudden, without any new experience with the tree itself, something is different in her awareness of it. “And when” suggests that this is a new impression, not one that she has experienced up to this point in time. Now, Eve perceives something about the tree that she did not perceive before, and this happens without her or Adam eating from the tree. How can Eve suddenly begin to think that this forbidden tree is good for food?
This perception that the fruit of the forbidden tree is good to eat cannot rationally originate from within Eve herself because she has no data or experience that will enable her to produce it. Nothing about the tree itself has suggested this idea to her before, or can rationally be grounds for the suggestion.
If the idea cannot come from within Eve herself, it must be offered to her by another intelligent being, which surely isn’t Adam or God. There is only one option left …
And when Eve receives and accepts this impression, internalizing it and owning it, she begins to move into alignment with the first lie about the goodness of God, which this second lie is designed to support.
At this point, after receiving both the initial verbal lie and the lying impression, she receives a second impression that reinforces the first two lies and appeals to her on an entirely different, aesthetic level. She begins to perceive that the tree is “pleasing to the eye.” Again, she has seen and studied this tree before so that she will be sure to recognize it and avoid eating from it. Now she is feeling something about the appeal of the tree that she did not before; when she first beheld this tree and studied it she evidently did not notice or perceive it as pleasant to look at. The enemy is evidently offering her another sensation, the feeling that she is enjoying the sight of the tree and finding it pleasurable in some way. As she perceives this feeling and internalizes it, she actually does begin to enjoy its appearance all on her own. If she saw any beauty in the tree before, she is now apparently noticing, appreciating and enjoying the sight of the tree much more. As she does, this experience begins to produce more fruit in her, enticing her to meditate further on what the enemy is saying and to contemplate it.
The attack continues. Eve suddenly begins to realize that this tree before her is … “a tree to be desired to make one wise,” that anyone who wanted to be wise would naturally desire to eat the fruit of this tree. Again, she cannot irrationally produce this awareness from her own experience. She was not told that this was a tree of wisdom, but a tree of the experiential knowledge of good and evil. The enemy lies to her about the association between these concepts, using an impression that the tree will not only give her knowledge but that it will also make her wise if she disobeys God and eats from it. She buys in.
From what we can see, it seems that the enemy is working Eve on multiple levels, communicating ideas to her by means of a visible, bodily presence as well as an audible tone, allowing him to employ a multi-faceted communication through body language and vocal intonation. He is connecting with her on a personal, friendly, relational level, not just giving her a sterile message in a vacuum. He is not intimidating but enticing, projecting thoughts, feelings, sensations and ideas into her through an invisible spiritual connectivity with her of which she is unaware. He is piercing her consciousness with these temptations, one after another, building momentum, appealing to her instincts to seek purpose and value, and to her love of perfection, wisdom, beauty and goodness. It is an all-out assault, and one that Eve actually might have enjoyed – finding herself in the presence of beauty and good food, and the promise of eternal wisdom … she does not appear to be the least bit threatened.
We may also infer from the account that Eve is largely passive in the use of her own mind and will in her interaction with Satan. She does not engage her will to turn away, she does not pause to seek out her husband and involve him as her protector, nor does she take even the first step in a rational analysis of the enemy’s claim to uncover and expose its open absurdity. God would not design and create her, place her in such a beautiful place, give her a husband to care for her and share life with her, and yet be malicious toward her. It is her passivity of mind and will that opens the door and provides the access for each successive step of the enemy. Perhaps her tendency to be in a more passive, receptive role as a female is why the enemy chose to approach her in isolation and not to first engage Adam.
Eve is offered these strategically positioned, consecutive impressions from the enemy and in her passivity fails to resist or expose any of them as lies, just as she has failed to reject his initial audible claim. The accumulation of all of these lies is a powerful force, designed and positioned by the enemy based on an intimate knowledge of his victim: it leverages every good impulse in Eve, as well as her temperament, as a tool to destroy her while she enjoys the process. She is designed to respond to goodness and to bless her husband – this is her longing and passion. By claiming that God is not good and then luring her through powerful emotional impressions, the enemy employs the power of Eve’s design to move her to willingly disobey God in order to find her fulfillment outside of God. In the process we have no indication that she was in any distress or under any sense of threat. By the time all of these lies are in place, both the overt statements and the emotional impressions designed to support them, Eve does what most anyone without divine aid will do: she willingly acts on them and sins.
Both Peter and Eve may not have been regenerate at the time of their fall, but in Abraham we have a case of a regenerate soul that was as surely duped by the enemy’s wiles as either of the souls above.
And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly. And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying … As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be. And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her. Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear? And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee! And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him. And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation. But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year. And he left off talking with him, and God went up from Abraham. (Ge 17:1-3, 15-22)
In the midst of one of the most intimate conversations ever recorded between the living God and a human being, the patriarch Abraham offers to God an unexpected response that is largely unexplained in the literature.
Note in the highlighted text above that Abraham, upon hearing that Sarah will have a natural born son through whom the Messianic promises will be fulfilled, bursts out with a cry of concern for a son that he sees now has no part in that messianic promise. God’s response appears to re-emphasize the promise of Isaac, at first completely ignoring Abraham’s plea, as if to say that God is unwilling to back down from the plan of action in spite of Abraham’s outburst. After this repetition, God then assures Abraham that his prayer for Ishmael has been accepted and that all will be well with him. God then re-iterates the messianic promise and departs.
Everything about this text suggests that Abraham is undone by the promise of Isaac: it is a major course correction for Abraham. What is going on here? Is there any evidence in following texts to support the idea?
Well, as we read further, Abraham rises and circumcises all the males in his household according to God’s command, but there is no indication that he says anything to Sarah or to anyone else about the promise of Isaac. The next thing you know, at the start of chapter 18, we find God coming back down to talk with Abraham some more. God shows up in trinity and surprises Abraham, who, recognizing them, hastens to prepare them all a meal and stands by them while they eat. Sarah herself remains in the tent out of sight rather than coming out to see the guests in person. They have, however, positioned themselves within earshot of her and likely of a good portion of the entire camp.
The very next words God speaks to Abraham are rather strange when we stop and think about them. “Where is Sarah, thy wife?” (vs 9) God asks where Sarah is (as if He doesn’t already know), getting everyone’s attention and announcing the purpose of His visit. Abraham responds, “Behold, in the tent.”
Then God repeats the promise of Isaac loud enough for Sarah and many others in the camp to hear. “And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son.” (vs 10)
How strange! Why is God going to all of this trouble, coming back down to Earth, having lunch with Abraham and repeating a promise to Abraham that He has already given him, but now in a public manner, such that many other people are hearing about it, including Sarah?
God is very deliberately making this promise a public one by Himself, on His own, evidently because this needed to be done. This does not come in the fashion and spirit of a kind re-assurance to one struggling to believe that God is powerful enough to bring His promises to pass, but more as a confrontation, a public proclamation in the face of Abraham’s persistent neglect to make the proclamation himself.
This may be additional evidence of our suspicion that Abraham has been struggling with this messianic promise … and his struggle is evidently not because he finds the whole thing too hard for God. It appears that Abraham hasn’t even told anyone else about the promise yet. He has evidently been trying to keep the promise of the future birth of the messianic line through Sarah a secret, and God will have none of it.
So Sarah hears the promise as she stands out of sight in the tent door, and reacts as if she has never heard it before. She responds internally just like Abraham did when he first heard the news. She does not react as if the news is public, as if Abraham has already told everyone about it but she hasn’t had the faith to believe, even when encouraged by her husband and community to do so. No, if this were the case, I would expect Sarah to react a little differently at the proclamation of God, she would be standing in the tent already wrestling with the promise and the proclamation would be an expected challenge to her unbelief, not a surprise to her. She would either respond with joy that she has finally heard the news from God Himself, or react with continued unbelief and dismay that has already worn her out with the struggle. She evidently does neither: she responds as if she has never heard of such a thing before, that a 90 year old woman would give birth. She appears to laugh at the idea instinctively, as an initial reaction, shaking her head in unbelief.
In the following conversation God exposes Sarah’s unbelief and laughter by asking Abraham about it. Again, why ask Abraham to give account for his wife’s response … unless Abraham is himself responsible for the fact that she is being surprised by the news now?
Sarah herself denies everything, of course, but God even makes her present lying and denials public. God then repeats the messianic promise again, publicly, so that everyone hears it and there is no mistaking it. Then God gets up and departs the camp. What is really going on here?
Think about it: for thirteen years Abraham has likely been telling upwards of a thousand people in the immediate community, as well as all the neighboring communities, that Ishmael is his prize, the one to carry on the family name and be the fountain of the coming Messiah. Abraham’s whole life and culture has been built around Ishmael, he has been pouring himself into this young man and teaching him everything he knows, and now he is finding out that it was all a lie. He has made a dreadful mistake and has taken everyone down the wrong road with him.
Now it is time for a bit of a reckoning … and Abraham hasn’t quite figured out how to handle it. Without some kind of supernatural sign, he will look like a nut case to finally claim that Sarah is now going to have a son in her old age, after being disappointed in her for so long and the both of them finally giving up on her ever having a child. It will seem like a demented form of mockery to everyone, a senility to be pitied or feared in the old man. Sarah will be as upset by the notion as anyone else, not to mention Ishmael … Abraham’s pride and joy. It is no easy spot to be in, for sure. In contemplating the matter he is not moved to act on it and engage Sarah or the community. He is evidently passive, negligent, listless, brooding … he does not appear to engage with and accept the whole truth of God as in his normal pattern of life.
But God intervenes. He comes down to Earth, Himself, and stands on the ground at the edge of Abraham’s camp. He draws the attention of the entire community and begins speaking in such a manner that anyone listening and thinking will know who this is. He appears to be a perfect stranger that none of them have ever seen, yet He knows Abraham intimately, He knows what Sarah is thinking, He claims to have the power of life in Himself. He is doing this in such a way that He reveals who He is to an entire community, unmistakably, in Person. No mortal speaks as this man is speaking. There can be no misunderstanding or confusion about this promise: it is the intention of God to continue the Messianic line through Abraham and Sarah. In about twelve months Sarah will have a natural born son conceived by Abraham: no one in the camp can deny the reality and significance of this entire experience. Abraham’s plans for Ishmael are done. It is over … for good.
So, Abraham is in a bit of a pickle now. He and Sarah are both exposed in several levels of failure. God has intervened and provided a major, public course correction that cannot now be denied. How does Abraham handle this? Not very well, I’m afraid.
Abraham promptly gives Sarah away to be the wife of another man … permanently!
Unbelievable? Don’t take my word for it, go and read the text for yourself. God deals with Sodom and Gomorrah in chapter 19, and the first thing we read in chapter 20 is that “Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She is my sister: and Abimelech king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah.” (vs 2) This must be within a few months of the events above (Sarah gives birth within a year of the second statement of the promise). It seems unthinkable that any rational, godly man would commit such a crime against the Messianic line. How did Abraham fail so completely … and so thoroughly?
Well, in hindsight, it is perhaps no real surprise. The enemy is watching every move of Abraham, listening to his every word, analyzing his every thought and feeling. God does nothing like what He was doing in Abraham but what Satan takes special notice. When God starts coming down into Satan’s territory and visiting with Abraham and having lunch with him, you can be sure that Abraham is on Satan’s radar. Satan knows that Abraham is carrying the Messianic line and he is doing everything he can to destroy it.
Abraham evidently does not realize the depth and the degree of the spiritual warfare that is taking place, but is rather unwittingly participating in it from time to time in a way that is very contrary to God’s plans. This cannot be because Abraham intends to resist God’s plan, for Abraham is a man of faith that loves and obeys God. We know this because God says so in the immediate context. (Ge 18:17-19) So how do we explain this odd, seemingly inconsistent behavior?
Since Abraham will not deliberately and knowingly disobey God, Satan only has access to the power of suggestion in matters that are not technically sinful for Abraham, to mislead Abraham and cause him discomfort and failure. As ammunition the enemy has been working with Abraham’s biggest fear, perhaps his only fear, that powerful men will kill him for Sarah because she is so beautiful. (Ge 12:11-13) Satan has evidently persistently leveraged this fear to get Abraham to tell half-truths about Sarah and has been exploiting this to separate the two of them. Evidently, Abraham has not realized this was the enemy and has been going along with it.
But now, now that there is a public promise of the Messiah through Sarah on the line, one that can no longer be misunderstood or denied, Abraham cannot be rationally deceived about what is right to do when the soldiers come from Abimelech and inquire about Sarah. Yet it appears that his fear has become a stronghold, a place where the enemy still works, reinforced through years of unhealthy patterns, woven deeply into him by the enemy over time.
But Abraham is also a man of prayer, a man fearfully obedient to God: I cannot, for the life of me, believe that when the soldiers are standing there in front of Abraham asking about Sarah’s availability that he does not pray and ask God for wisdom about what to do … something, by the way, that he should not have done. There is nothing to pray about here: Abraham must tell these soldiers that Sarah is taken, that she is married, and that they must leave her alone. Perhaps wisdom about how best to do this without unduly offending the king is all Abraham can rightly pray for now, but it seems that Abraham hasn’t made it quite this far and, if he prays about the matter at all, he prays about whether or not to let them take her. Not good.
It is certainly an opinion that can be debated, but I think that it is consistent with the life of Abraham and his faith that Abraham prays, and that he gets an answer: “Let her go. I’ll take care of everything.” Now, obviously, I am inferring this, and I think doing so legitimately from the text and from Abraham’s general character, and I may be totally mistaken. But one thing I do know is this: Abraham did not hear the voice of God telling him what to do in this context, he either acted on his own or he had supernatural assistance from the enemy. In my opinion, I am being as lenient on Abraham as I can, giving him the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps you will not go there with me. Either way, I think we will both agree that he got it wrong … he should not have given his wife away … again.
What I do think I can say plainly from this text without any hesitation is that Abraham could not discern the will of God in this matter, a key matter of the protection and continuation of the entire Messianic line. It is plain to us now looking back on it, but if we had been there in Abraham’s shoes I’m confident that the best of us would have failed just as miserably, if not worse. If Abraham couldn’t get it right, neither can you or I. The enemy is just too strong in his ability to deceive us.
Hearing from God
If we can give Abraham the benefit of the doubt, that he prayed for supernatural guidance and that Satan answered him with what Abraham wanted to hear, and that Abraham was vulnerable to this due to a stronghold, perhaps we have an example in Abraham of something that we can easily verify from other places in the Word.
The enemy is constantly trying to deceive us by imitating the voice of God and he is especially good at it when we are in distress and very much want to hear a comforting word from God. In these instances it is very easy for us to think we are hearing God’s voice when it is the enemy. This is a key area of spiritual warfare where the enemy tries to steal, kill, and destroy in our lives like he tried to in Abraham’s life. When we are seeking supernatural guidance from the spiritual realm in times of distress we can count on hearing the voice of the enemy – we can be reasonably sure of it. If Abraham couldn’t tell them apart, who are we?
The solution? This is simple, once you understand the above: don’t ever trust any supernatural source, whether it be words or impressions or leadings, which you are not absolutely sure is God. If you can ask the question, “Who are you?” then do not try to test what is received – just forget it. This concept is presented and validated in detail in the article: The Voice of God.
Abraham, though he failed badly here, also happens to eventually become, through this failure, as great an example for us in hearing from God as we can imagine. Though Abraham wasn’t sure in Sarah’s case and got it wrong, there certainly were times when Abraham did hear from God and got it right. What we learn is that when Abraham did indeed hear from God, Abraham knew for certain that it was God: when God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, you can be sure Abraham knew without a doubt who was speaking. Abraham didn’t need to check with anyone else about the matter or “test the word.” If Abraham was willing to be faithful to God and maintain his spiritual integrity there was no doubt in his mind what he had to do. When God wants to guide us supernaturally in a matter there will be absolutely no question about it. In every other case, do what is right, the best you can, based on what you know: do not yield in passivity to any other form of spiritual impression or guidance like Abraham appears to have done when the king sent to inquire about Sarah. To do so is to play directly into the hands of the enemy. Wisdom is the primary means of guidance when it is not a matter of sin. If we can learn anything from Abraham’s failure, perhaps this is the most valuable lesson.
Fighting the Good Fight
Taking what we see in the Word about the nature of our warfare with the enemy, and with some insight into how he works provided in the examples of Peter, Eve and Abraham, we need to step forward into our own battle and begin to integrate these principles into our own personal journey, learning to “fight the good fight of faith.” (1Ti 6:12)
Let’s think in practical terms about how this might play out in daily life. So, you are walking out of a building and see an attractive person of the opposite gender. The person does not notice you and appears wholesome and decent, not enticing and alluring or seductive. You instinctively enjoy the sight, but the enemy immediately offers you a sense of guilt, along with the sensation that God is displeased with your enjoyment. In response you internalize and accept the guilty feeling, so the enemy follows by immediately offering you a sense rebellion against this prudishness in God, an irritation with His insistence that you not enjoy the beauty of others. Again, you accept this sense of rebellion, so the enemy offers you a feeling of being distant and disconnected from God and suggests that you begin to stare at the person and imagine being in relationship with them … in defiance of God’s unreasonable prohibition.
At this thought you come to yourself and realize that you are being tempted, and you turn your eyes away, still feeling guilty. The enemy offers you a sense of shame for having been tempted so and you receive this, and try to take your mind off the memory of the person you saw, struggling to regain your focus and what you need to do next. You breathe a quick, Forgive me,” and force your thoughts in another direction.
This has all happened in the space of maybe 2 or 3 seconds, in between errands on a Tuesday afternoon. This is life … and this is how the enemy works. Relentless, unperceived, lying, lying, lying.
The attack is unceasing … the enemy never rests … never takes a break. You don’t know the Word, the Torah, so you can’t fight back … reminding yourself that there is no sin, no lust, in simply enjoying beauty. It is actually your design, and God delights in wholesome beauty as much or more than you do. The guilt was a lie, the rebellion was against a lie, the accusation of prudishness in God was a lie, the feeling of being distant and alienated from God was a lie, and the shame was rooted lies. It was all lies, and you were buffeted by them simply because the very initial impression of the enemy went unnoticed by you: you did not resist him. You were passive in the experience, and the enemy has deepened his ground in you through the lies you have received, internalized and acted on. He will be back to extend this ground, leveraging what he has just done to bring more shame, more discomfort, more debilitating distraction.
You are walking out of a building and see this same attractive person and instinctively begin to enjoy the sight. You are in communion with God and know from Torah that He has designed and created this unique beauty and so you begin to thank Him for it. In spite of this, the enemy offers you a sense of guilt, along with the sensation that God is displeased with your enjoyment. In response you engage your will to address this sensation and ponder it. You notice that this impression feels strangely inorganic, artificial, external, inauthentic, not the way you intended to think or in the train of your normal thought pattern. You observe that the sensation is contrary to Torah and perceive that the enemy is after you again. You reject the impression and dismiss it, giving it no more energy or attention or time. It melts away, and you continue to thank God for His own beauty and for the wisdom of making males and females attractive to one another.
The difference is stunning. This is what the Bible is talking about when it says, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” (Ja 4:7b) Living a life in communion with God, saturated with Torah, aware of the dynamics of spiritual warfare and of your own feelings, mind and heart … it makes all of the difference.
So how do we pursue this journey of resisting the enemy, overcoming Satan and his wiles?
Get in the Word … and Stay
Perhaps the first thing that should be evident to us in this battle is that we are helpless without truth, and without God both purposing to teach us and show us the truth, as well as empowering us by His life to understand, accept, receive and obey it.
Our primary source of truth is the written Scripture. We need to have confidence in the written Word of God, the scriptures, in order to have any hope or comfort in our pursuit of freedom. “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” (Ro 15:4) God has intended to enable us in our pursuit of truth by providing the Scripture for us. Our part is to continually expose ourselves to this source of truth in order to grow in our understanding and obedience to the truth. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” (2Ti 3:16-7)
Getting into the Word is not just about reading the Bible in daily devotions, which might be likened to filling up a glass of water when you are thirsty and perhaps taking a sip or two. The biblical idea is more like jumping into a river, immersing yourself into it and acclimating to it … until God shows you that you have gills … and that you can actually breathe the water as well as drink it. You can abide in the water all day long and never come back to shore … the river of the water of life is where you abide and stay.
Having devotions is sort of like calling up an old girl or boy friend and chatting for a few minutes. In contrast, what we are talking about here is more like getting married and moving in together, having kids and starting a family and a business together … eating and sleeping and doing life with that friend non-stop, 24 – 7.
The Bible was not given to us to read … it was given to us to memorize, to hide in our minds and hearts. Of course, we have to read it, or have it read or quoted to us, in order to memorize it, but having it in our minds and hearts is the goal, not Bible reading. Reading is just getting the water into our mouth; it doesn’t do us any good until we swallow it and let it become part of us.
Getting the water down inside is done in meditation: praying through a text and savoring every word, thinking about what it means and implies and why it is written the way it is, how it relates to other scriptures and to yourself and to God and to others and to life. We are to be doing this throughout each day, every day, being in a state of constant and continual communion with God.
We cannot do this unless we trust our Bible implicitly as the Word of God. When we quote it and meditate on it, we are to submit to it as the inspired Word of God, our ultimate authority and guide in all spiritual matters, giving truth to us in words which we understand in our own language without someone else having to tell us what the words are and what they mean. Anything else is relatively useless in this warfare and inconsistent with God’s purpose in inspiring His Word in the first place. For more on this topic see, Given by Inspiration.
God is in Control
In our warfare we must also understand and constantly keep in mind that God has the enemy on a leash: though allowing the enemy to sin against Himself and us in grievous ways, God ultimately controls the enemy in every respect. Jesus said to Peter, “Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.” (Lk 22:31-32) God sets bounds for the enemy and enables us to overcome him when we pursue God and His truth. In your struggle, remember that God is in control and that He has a purpose in everything that happens. “All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Ro 8:28)
Operate in the Spiritual
The enemy is able to hear you think and sense what you feel; he is aware of the activity of your mind and heart. This is implied by the way he can weave lies, suggestions, impressions and emotions into your thought pattern and experience without notice. You don’t need to rebuke him audibly for him to hear you any more than you have to verbally consent in order to be in league with him. We resist him in the spirit realm, not in the physical.
Sometimes his advances will be dramatic, violent and supernatural, but most of the time he is very subtle, crafty, unobserved and unnoticed. Be aware of yourself, of your heart and mind and will, able to identify what is “you” and what is offered to you from another. Be intentional in the use of your mind, soul, heart and will in identifying and rejecting the enemy’s lies and suggestions. “Gird up the loins of your mind … be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour. Whom resist stedfast in the faith.” (1Pe 1:13a, 5:8-9) The command to resist implies that it is effective when God enables us. Neglecting to resist the enemy, being passive when he is advancing, is to give him ground to infiltrate and overcome us. This truth is the motivation for the insightful saying: “Passivity of the mind is the chief basis of possession.” (War On the Saints, Jesse Penn Lewis) It is not our lack of defensive capability that ruins us: what takes us down is our neglect to employ the capability we already have.
Obey the Truth You Know
James advises us to be “doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” Self-deception is perhaps the worst form of self-destruction, and it occurs whenever we are aware of the truth and we do not obey it. (Ja 1:22) In this we do the work of the enemy for him; all he has to do is watch us go down. If we are to overcome the enemy we must “love not (our) lives unto the death.” (Re 12:11) We must not allow the convenience and pleasure offered to us by the enemy to entice us to neglect to obey and follow after God. Truth should be viewed as priceless and non-negotiable, “Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.” (Pr 23:23) Let everyone be your teacher, but no one your master. (Mt 23:10) You are responsible for what you believe and what you do: no one else can be responsible for you.
It’s Not About the War: It’s the Battle
As a matter of overall perspective in our battle with the enemy, let us be very clear on one thing that must ever orient and guide our thinking and activity: God is omnipotent. If God breathes too hard He annihilates His enemies. Be not deceived: if God was merely interested in winning this spiritual war, there wouldn’t be one. There is another reason for the conflict.
God is not after a person that merely takes orders, follows directions, and does His busy work for Him. What God wants in us is an ally, a judge after His Own heart. (1Co 6:3) God is all about a process, not about the final outcome or the results. He has designed this process of spiritual warfare for a purpose, and His purposes are thriving in it. He can win a war like this.
Meanwhile, the enemy is free to fully infiltrate the camp, the army, mingle unnoticed and undetected throughout the infantry and the chain of command. We never really know if those fighting next to us, or giving orders and directing the battle, or even among our suppliers and medics, are on God’s side or not. It really doesn’t matter in God’s plan. This battle is unbelievably, ridiculously messy, and that is just fine.
This messiness is not only fine … it is good. It is, in fact, glorious.
In the midst of this spiritual chaos remember what you deserve: Hell for eternity!
And also remember what and Who you have: Yeshua … for eternity!
And remember that the battle is about truth, not your brother. You are the only one that will — or should — die with your beliefs. Allow others the freedom to disagree with you. Don’t be intimidated by other opinions or ideas. Truth knows no fear. Pity those who persist in error and seek like diamonds all the truth they do happen to have. Keep your expectations in line with God’s promises, and never, ever, let the enemy steal your joy in God!
Our hope in this battle is not in our own ability to fight the good fight, but in the fact that the law of the Spirit of Life in Yeshua has made us free from the law of sin and death. (Ro 8:2) He has already overcome the world, and encourages us to trust in Him and rejoice in Him because of this. (Jn 16:33) Our rejoicing lies in the fact that nothing can overcome His life in us. God’s nature in us is what is moving us to seek and receive truth, to reject lies and deception in every form. This life has delivered us from the law of sin and death, the inclination to receive lies and disobey God and alienate ourselves and others from Him, leading to spiritual, mental, emotional and physical corruption, and eternal separation from God — death. What operates in us now in this pursuit is the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. We who are pursuing God are going to be fine … there is no risk from God’s perspective. As far as God is concerned, we are already seated in the heavenlies with Christ, victorious at last. (Ep 2:6) Let us never forget it.