A Fight You Can Always Win

This blog is for those who possess saving faith in Jesus Christ. An intellectual understanding of the teachings of Christ alone is not sufficient to save anyone. Saving faith is a total resolve to trust in Jesus, which means the person enters the process of giving Jesus the entire ownership of their life. The soul of a Christian (not in name only) comes under divine protection so that Christ rescues those who live by trusting in Him.

It is never wise to build teaching as a reaction to error. Charismatics have distorted the teaching of spiritual warfare; however, they do not undo the war waged by godly men in times past. Martin Luther was keenly aware of the battle, as were many others. Furthermore, the testimony of scripture is replete concerning the campaign begun in heaven when Satan swept away a third of the heavenly host.

The warning is to Christians throughout the New Testament - be aware of the schemes of the devil. "Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil." (Ephesians 6:11) Yet all the warnings coming from conservative Christians today seem to speak directly to the issue of sin.

Let us consider a larger picture. Paul tells us in the very next verse that sometimes, the battle is not primarily our flesh. "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places." (Ephesians 6:12)

The previous warning by Paul is different from his appeal to the Church in Rome. "Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts" (Romans 6:12) There is no mention of the devil in Romans 6, where the focus is entirely on the war the Christian endure from his flesh. In Ephesians 6, the battle is exclusively against the rulers, powers, world forces, and spiritual forces in heavenly places. These battles are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but they are distinctly separate in these two passages.

On the other hand, our brother James brought them together in the fourth chapter of his letter. He begins with the sin that dwells within. "What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members?" (4:1) He then switches gears and moves on to a second enemy - the world. "You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God?" (4:4) The world is outside of us, even though a lust for the world is within. Worldliness leads to hostility toward God and separation from Him. This warning is severe and should always be paid close attention to, as it can reside within our hearts.

However, James does not stop with two battles that can rage simultaneously. He takes the fight a step further and makes this assertion, "Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." (4:7) In James's scenario, three enemies are attaching at the same time - The world, the flesh, and the devil. His strategy is to defeat the devil at the point of his fall into sin. He says, "God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble." (4:6) Don't miss it. The problem is three-fold: the flesh that lusts for the world, and the devil who instigates us to rise in pride, take matters into our hands, and consider what we want that is opposed to God's will.

Two elements are necessary to gain victory in this situation. First, there must be submission to God, which amounts to humility. Only a humble person submits. A proud person tries to control the situation. How does this happen you ask, how do I humble myself? Answer: you don't. First, we must realize victory does not begin with us, but with God. "He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us"? God longs for His people to be spirit-filled. The very reason God gave His Spirit to His people is so that they would be humble.

So when we get to a worldly place, lustful, and influenced by the devil, James tells us. "But He gives a greater grace." It is to the grace of God that we must look for our salvation. We begin by grace, and we are to live by grace. When we get out of control, God has a greater grace. The blood alone is sufficient to continue washing away our sin and to make us submissive to God's will.

The second element that is necessary for our victory is we resist the devil. "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you" is not just filling up space in James's letter. Some situations look worldly that is caused by sinful and lustful behavior. Satan's greatest weapon against God's people is their propensity to sin through lust. He beats us with it if he can.

I do not have space to continue, but understand Ephesians 6 is identification with Christ. All the parts of the armor are Christ. To put on the helmet is to put on Christ, and so on. The armor is useful to shield from the sword. Yet Paul says, we wrestle! Wrestling is a close encounter, hand to hand, and body to body. Today's evangelical wants to make spiritual warfare something less than it is. It's in the Bible; it's God's word. He said it not me.

If you don't believe my understanding of the matter of Spiritual Warfare, go to MLJtrust.org. You can go to the section itinerant preaching by Martin Lloyd Jones, a staunch conservative preacher, and hear him speak to this subject. He sounds like a Reformer or a Puritan or Charles Spurgeon. All of which seem so much different than today's teaching, which is either crazy emotional and fanatical like witchcraft or so elusive, you can believe it does not exist. It does!


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