It Is Written

Temptation is warfare; the enemy’s always looking for a way to distract, preoccupy and devour. (1Pe 5:8) We need to be on guard 24 x 7; we can’t afford to give him any more ground (Ep 4:27) to steal our joy, kill our witness and destroy our fellowship with God. (Jn 10:10)

When Satan tempts us, we’re drawn away by our own lusts and enticed. (Ja 1:14) When we yield to our desires and pursue them we sin, which alienates us from God and brings us into spiritual bondage (Jn 8:34): it’s a kind of death. (15) This is how Satan defeats us, and he’s a master of war. How do we resist and overcome him? (Ja 4:7)

When Jesus Christ was tempted of the Devil (Mt 4:1), what did Jesus do? He quoted scripture, verses He memorized from the Bible, but not random verses — He selected them surgically, tactically, the perfect text to counteract each dimension of Satan’s attack. (4, 7, 10) Jesus was defending Himself with the sword of the Spirit: the living Word of God. (He 4:12)

The attack on Christ itself was deliberate, thoughtful, calculated, probing, searching out any area of potential weakness Satan suspected might be present within the Son of God. Jesus was in a veritable sword fight with Satan; He could have engaged Satan in any way He liked and been victorious, but He skillfully wielded the Word of God as an example for us to follow. We do well to study and learn from Him. (1Pe 2:21)

It takes practice, lots of practice to become a master swordsman, and it can be a life-and-death matter: in real sword fighting we only lose once … then game over. If we must fight, and our only weapon is the sword, it’s wise to master it, to be as skilled as we can be. Yet we we’ll never be a match for Satan, so what do we do?

First, we should acknowledge that Scripture is the sword of the Spirit (Ep 6:17): the Holy Spirit owns this sword: it belongs to Him and He knows best how to use it. Yet we must also realize that we are supposed to take up this holy sword: the Holy Spirit doesn’t fight with it all on His own, He expects us to pick it up and defend ourselves; there’s a synergistic dimension to this warfare.

Bottom line is we must become deeply familiar with His Word (Co 3:16), listen as God teaches us how to defend ourselves with it (Ps 119:19), and continually abide in Him as we’re doing battle. The scripture must become an extension of our minds and hearts, engrafted into our very being, much like the Holy Spirit. (Ja 1:21) We fight along with God, Who fights within and through us (Php 2:13), so we engage the enemy as a single, triune being: soul, Spirit and Sword. (2Co 10:4)

We should be consuming the Word constantly (Ps 1:2), in a consistent pattern of prayerful memorization and meditation, throughout the day, every day. (Ps 119:97) We should be exploring it both on our own and in community, challenging ourselves and others with the goal of learning how to better defend ourselves from lies, to firmly ground and strengthen ourselves in the truth, so we understand the divine way. (Ep 3:16-18)

It’s a discipline of building patterns of instinctive self-defense into ourselves with the Word, developing spiritual muscle-memory, learning how to wield His Sword in conflict. The more scripture we ingest, the more of it we internalize, so it becomes more a part of us, and the more the Spirit has to work with in defending us.

Then, we should be observant, alert, sober, vigilant (1Pe 5:8-9); as Satan is tempting us, we should notice what he is leveraging within us: what lies are we still holding on to, that he is able to exploit within us to lure us into pursuing an ungodly path? (2Co 2:11) We ask the Spirit to reveal this body of lies to us, and then guide us into those passages of scripture perfectly suited to shed light on our particular darkness. (Jn 8:31-32) Then we memorize these texts and meditate on them, asking Him to give us repentance, a deep change in our thinking so we believe Him and His Word, transforming and renewing us way down into our subconscious minds. (Ro 12:2)

Then, the next time Satan comes at us, we look for the lies (Jn 8:44) and quote the relevant scriptures like Yeshua did, reminding ourselves and reinforcing the truth within our spirits so the lies won’t be available for Satan to exploit. This is how we resist him, how we deliver ourselves from bondage and overcome the world. (2Ti 2:25-26)

And when we fail, as we all do, when we get ourselves into a spiritual rut, unable to deliver ourselves, we confess our faults, our patterns of iniquity and defeat, to those in spiritual community we trust, so they can pray for us and with us, shedding light on our darkness with the Word (Ac 26:17-18), that we may be healed. (Ja 5:16)

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Endure Hardness

God encourages us, as good soldiers of Jesus Christ, to endure hardness. (2Ti 2:3) He is calling us to voluntarily accept difficulty, obstacles and challenges which come our way, to count it all joy (Ja 1:2) and persist in hope, adapting, equipping and strengthening ourselves to make the best of our circumstances for His glory as well as we can. We can do this knowing God is sovereign over all, that He sees us, and has arranged our trials for our good. (Ro 8:28)

As a bit of perspective, consider this incredible man; his legs are mere twigs, capable of very little, yet he walks and runs with his arms, using his hands instead of his feet. He tends sheep, harvests crops, navigating forests and difficult terrain, apparently providing for himself and maintaining his own homestead under near-poverty conditions with little, if any assistance. He appears to have incredible ingenuity, discipline, persistence and endurance. (See video) He could complain, he could quit, and most of us wouldn’t blame him. But he doesn’t appear to be feeling sorry for himself.

When we’re tempted to say we can’t, thinking life is just too difficult, that our obstacles are too great … we should step back and get some perspective. This little man will, in all likelihood, stand up straight and tall on Judgment Day, and by his tenacity and industriousness put many to shame (Mt 12:41-42), those who faint in the day of adversity (Pr 24:10), who drop out of their race when it gets hard, who give up and quit when the going gets tough (1Co 16:13), who won’t faithfully make the best of their circumstances for the glory of God.

We may not think we have much to work with, we may think the odds are stacked against us, but we likely have much more capability and potential than we think. (Pr 13:23) God will not judge us based on our achievements in themselves, but on what we do with what He gives us. (Lk 12:48b) Don’t compare yourself with how others are today, but with who you were yesterday. Pursue continuous improvement in every aspect of your life.

If we’re always prioritizing our own comfort and ease we become enemies of the cross (Php 3:18); we won’t grow as we should in God without a struggle. (He 12:10-13) We’re called to prepare our minds for strenuous activity (1Pe 1:13), to diligently add to our faith (2Pe 1:5-7), to exercise and push ourselves. (1Ti 4:7)

The key is to start small, just take one more step, one day at a time. (Mt 6:34) We may need to take baby steps at first, and it may take a long while to train and discipline ourselves to endure hardness, to get to where we should be in this journey, taking up our cross and following after Him every day, to be worthy of Him (Mt 10:38), but it’s the way of God: His strength is made perfect in weakness. (2Co 12:9)

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He May Devour

Satan is as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. (1Pe 5:8) As a lion roars after its prey (Ps 104:21), so Satan’s roar induces fear, disarming and incapacitating us, as we might expect. But his devouring is not what we might think, not at all. How does Satan devour us?

Satan comes to steal, kill and destroy (Jn 10:10), and he does it through lies. (Jn 8:44) As we believe his lies, we give him place in our lives (Ep 4:27), allowing him to occupy and direct our thoughts, which distracts us and leads us away from God. To the degree we allow Satan to occupy us we enable him to consume us, to misdirect us and waste our efforts, devouring our potential in God, piddling away our precious time, energy and gifts.

Satan may attack us directly to induce fear and paralyze us, lying to us about God’s goodness and faithfulness (Ps 119:75), causing us to be afraid and/or resentful and bitter, stealing our hope and joy in God. (Php 4:4) We resist him by faith, returning to God’s precious promises and grounding ourselves in them (2Pe 1:4), and quench all his fiery darts. (Ep 6:16)

But by far the greatest leverage Satan has in our lives is our own negligence and passivity, our lack of discipline. As we fail to focus our minds, our free mental capacity, on God (Ps 104:34) and on His Word (Ps 1:2), meditating on Him and on His Law (Ps 119:97), we allow our thoughts and imaginations to wander off the path. (Ps 119:10)

How much of our lives do we actually spend focused on God, meditating on His Word, praying and seeking His kingdom and righteousness? (Mt 6:33) Where is our attention, and what eternal profit or fruit is coming from it? When we’re giving an account of every idle word (Mt 12:36), and likely also every thought behind our words and actions (Ec 12:14), what proportion of our lives will survive the fire (1Co 3:12-13), and not be consumed by the enemy, vanishing like so much vapor and smoke? (14-15)

Satan takes advantage of us at every opportunity (2Co 2:11), waiting and watching for any opening we give him, and begins to occupy and devour our head space when we aren’t focusing correctly, invading our thoughts and emotions. He inflames our lusts and provokes our imaginations with ungodly suggestions, tempting and distracting us and literally spending us, frittering away our lives on the irrelevant, the temporal, the mundane. To the degree we permit him to distract us like this, the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke out the Word, pushing it off to the side, out of mind, and we become unfruitful. (Mt 13:22)

The more ground we give up to Satan, the more ground he takes, and the more he occupies and devours us. This process has a compounding affect, increasing its hold on us over time, crippling us and dragging us down into captivity whenever he wishes. And once he has us in his clutches, he does not give up his ground easily: God must help us get back on track, He must enable us in our struggle back to freedom. (2Ti 2:25-26)

God’s remedy is for us to prayerfully, soberly, carefully and vigilantly (1Pe 5:8) train and focus our minds (1Pe 1:13), to get in the habit of routinely hiding God’s Word in our hearts (Ps 119:11), memorizing it and meditating on the Word continually (Jos 1:8), desiring the sincere milk of the Word that we might grow (1Pe 2:2), receiving with meekness the engrafted Word which is able to save our souls. (Ja 1:21) Whenever our mental energy is free from earthly responsibility in stewarding our resources and relationships before God (Ps 112:5), our minds should return to its default state of prayerful meditation. (Ps 119:20)

As we do so, we prayerfully focus our will on diligently adding godly character to our faith (2Pe 1:5-7), exercising ourselves in godliness (1Ti 4:7) that we might grow in grace. (2Pe 3:18) This is how we resist the devil steadfast in the faith (1Pe 5:9) and are transformed by the renewing of our minds, that we might prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God. (Ro 12:2)

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The Travail of His Soul

Our response to the crucifixion of Christ reveals who we are; this becomes the ultimate litmus test, revealing the inward nature of both God and Man.

In contemplating the Cross, in particular the immense soul-crushing suffering of Christ on our behalf (Is 53:4-6), as the innocent Son of God becomes our sin (2Co 5:21), we may begin to comprehend God’s amazing character and appreciate the intensity of His passion and love. God in Christ, laying down His life for us, showing us how He loves us: this is how we perceive the love of God. (1Jn 3:16)

The Passion of the Christ

As Father God sees the travail and suffering of Jesus Christ, not merely the intense physical suffering but also His vast, mysterious spiritual agony (Mt 27:46), He is satisfied. (Is 53:11a) In God’s reaction to the Cross, we find that Christ’s payment for our sin is both necessary and sufficient for our salvation. (1Jn 2:2)

Seeing God the Father’s response to the Cross helps us fathom not only the goodness of God (in that He so graciously provides each of us a way to be reconciled with Himself – Jn 3:16), but also the severity of God (in that He requires such a complete and costly sacrifice for sinRo 11:22a) Further, we also experience both God’s justice and mercy (in that He fully accepts Christ’s sacrifice on behalf of those who believe, though none of us deserve it. – Is 53:11b) This is a priceless window into the matchless power and wisdom of God. (1Co 1:23-24)

Yet it also appears that Father God will partition the human race based on our response to His Son (Jn 3:36), and to the Cross in particular. (14-15) Our reaction to the Crucifixion will reveal everything about us that’s worth knowing (1Co 1:18); this determines our eternal destiny. (Jn 6:53) Disvaluing the Son (Ps 2:12) and His provision of salvation (He 2:2-3) deeply angers the Godhead. (He 10:29)

What will it be like on Judgment Day, as we stand before Jehovah God of the Universe and behold His nail-pierced hands? How will ignorant, ritualistic, self-centered worship pale before Him, in light of the infinite cost He paid to save us? (1Jn 3:1) How will indifference (Re 3:16), or a spirit of disobedience (Co 3:6) fare before the Cross in the presence of His incredible suffering on our behalf? (Mt 10:38)

If the Cross has not yet overwhelmed us with the love of God, with the majesty of God, if it isn’t moving us into holiness with God, and continually drawing us into gratitude and true worship (Jn 4:24), then we’re not yet rightly valuing the Cross of Christ; we’re not really getting it. (1Co 2:14) The spiritual mind is grounded in the supreme value of the Cross (Ga 2:20); this doesn’t come naturally; we should pursue God for this grace. (Ep 3:14-19)

A proper valuation of the Cross positions it uniquely within our hearts: the Cross on the one side, and all the world on the other. (1Jn 2:15-17) The crucifixion of Christ, when rightly valued and understood, tells us we no longer belong to ourselves; we’ve given up the right to go our own way; everything about us belongs to Christ now. (2Co 5:14-15) The Cross effectively crucifies the world unto us, and us unto the world. (Ga 6:14b)

If our affection and focus is still on the things of this world, if our appetites still command our attention and loyalty, then we’re still enemies of the Cross of Christ … and we aren’t yet His. (Php 3:18-19)

To glory in anything else, to depend on, exult in and/or rejoice in what is outside of and apart from God in Christ, especially in the context of the keeping of our souls (1Pe 4:19), highlighting anything we think we’ve done to contribute to our eternal salvation, devalues Christ our Savior. (Ga 6:14a) Knowing Christ, and Him crucified, is where we must begin. (1Co 2:2)

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