“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
― Theodore Roosevelt “My life is coming to an end, and it is now time for me to be poured out as a sacrifice to God. I have fought the good fight. I have completed the race. I have kept the faith. The prize that shows I have God’s approval is now waiting for me. The Lord, who is a fair judge, will give me that prize on that day. He will give it not only to me but also to everyone who is eagerly waiting for him to come again.” The Apostle Paul – 2 Tim. 4:6-8
Last week we saw in Daniel 10 the great angelic warfare in the heavenlies between God’s angels and Satan’s demons (fallen angels) and Daniel’s participation in that battle through heartfelt, fervent, intercessory prayer. “Then he said to me, “Do not be afraid, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart on understanding this and on humbling yourself before your God, your words (prayers) were heard, and I have come in response to your words (prayers). But the prince of the kingdom of Persia was withstanding me for twenty-one days; then behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left there with the kings of Persia.” (vv. 12-13) This is probably Gabriel speaking to Daniel but it is an angel for certain as he speaks of how Michael, the archangel (Jude 9), assisted him in spiritual warfare so that God’s message and plan for Israel would be received and recorded by Daniel. Although it is a message of great suffering and conflict for what has proven to be 2,500 years and counting, it ends with the good news of ultimate redemption and blessings for the nation of Israel. Paul refers to these fallen angels/demons as “principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness of this world, and spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Ephesians 6:12 KJV) And this week we will look at two other “battle fronts” that Scripture reveals we must fight against – the flesh and the world system.
One of the main strategies of all three of our enemies is to lull us into a false perception of reality so we completely forget we are in a battle, and lose because we never enlist as soldiers of the cross as Paul/Scripture call us to do: “Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs (worldliness), but rather tries to please his commanding officer (the Lord Jesus).” (2 Tim. 2:3-4) As I mentioned last week in my message, it would be like a naïve 18-year-old telling his Dad that he was signing up to fight the in the battle of Normandy (D-day) in WWII, thinking D stood for Disney World. Likewise many people, including some believers, naively think this life is supposed to be fun and happy times, when God tells us over and over again it is a battle to the end and demonstrates it clearly through the battle our Lord fought and won on the cross and calls us to do the clean-up work until He returns.“[Even] now I rejoice in the midst of my sufferings on your behalf. And in my own person I am making up whatever is still lacking and remains to be completed [on our part] of Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of His body, which is the church (saved and pre-saved people).” (Col. 1:24) Only Jesus could pay the penalty of sin for all who trust Him for salvation but we are called to participate in His redemptive work by fighting the world, the flesh and the devil for the sake of others and for our own souls (a meaningful/rewarding life now and eternal rewards in heaven as we fight for and with our Warrior King Jesus). “Beloved, I implore you as aliens and strangers and exiles [in this world] to abstain from the sensual urges (the evil desires, the passions of the flesh, your lower nature) that wage war against the soul.” (1 Pet. 2:11)
Once we enlist as soldiers for Jesus (and re-up each day) we need to know how to fight these three enemies. Genesis 3, Matthew 4 and 1 John 2 give us an overall big picture of the strategies of our enemies, and then we will look at the battle plan from our Lord.
SATAN’S TEMPTATIONS OF EVE, MANKIND AND THE LORD JESUS
Eve – Genesis 3
Mankind – 1 John 2:16
Jesus – Matthew 4:1-11
Appeal to physical appetites
The tree was good for food (3:6)
A craving for physical pleasure
He was hungry. The tempter said, “Tell these stones to become bread.”
Appeal to personal gain/coveting
Pleasing to the eye (3:6)
A craving for everything we see
Popularity – jump down, you will not strike your foot against a stone
Appeal to power/glory
For gaining wisdom – be like God (3:5-6)
Pride in achievements/possessions
I will give you all the kingdoms of the world
Note how Jesus defeated Satan. “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'” ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'” (Matt. 4:4,7,10) Likewise we are to “Submit yourselves to God (know and obey His Word). Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7)
Knowing and obeying God’s Word is how God “provides a way out in every temptation.” (1 Cor. 10:13; Matt. 4:1-11) [“In Genesis 1 God spoke a creative Word; in Genesis 2 He spoke a commanding Word (v. 17) and in Genesis 3 Satan questions, distorts and refutes God’s Word and Eve “disparaged the privileges (2:16), added to the prohibition (3:3) and weakened the penalty” (see 3:4 vs. 2:17) – Walvord & Zuck Bible Knowledge Commentary.] Satan twists God’s Word and tries to convince us that God withholds from us and does not have our best interests at heart so we will take matters into our own hands to our own destruction.
I have attached Ken Boa’s Morning Affirmations which is a list of prayers to begin each day, including prayers for spiritual warfare against the world, the flesh, and the devil. (http://www.kenboa.org/text_resources/free_articles/5513) You may want to make a copy of this and pray through it for a season to “train” your mind for warfare. Below we see the battle plan against our three enemies. (Note, I added a definition of the “world” and Romans 12:2 for the battle against the world.) Each battle plan starts with the letter “R” to help us remember what to pray. Renewing our mind through Scripture keeps us from being conformed to the world and transforms us more and more into Christ’s likeness. We Reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to Jesus to battle against the flesh. To reckon means to affirm and claim what is true of our new nature in Christ. Before we were saved we were under the power of sin and Satan and could not resist his temptations. Now we can resist his temptations but we still have to choose to do so. This is a matter of the will as seen most clearly in Jesus’ temptation in the Garden of Gethsemane when He said (as a Man, a human being): “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” (Matt. 26:39) Jesus surrendered His will to God’s will, which as believers we can now choose to do, but we still must make the choice. Paul shows us this battle of the will in Romans 7:14-8:4 and how we are to “not walk according to the flesh (my will) but according to the Spirit (God’s will).” (Rom. 8:4) We Resist the devil by first of all submitting to God (and His Word). Putting on God’s armor means knowing God’s truth and fighting the devil by quoting God’s Word to him and to ourselves by faith.
Against the World: Renew [“There are three New Testament words for world, and each is used in different ways. Notice how the major word, kosmos, is used in these three verses: John 3:16; 15:19; 1 John 2:15. In the first of these verses, “world” refers to people, the objects of God’s love. But in the other two verses, the world is our enemy. In these contexts, it is the organized system of temporal values which are opposed to the life of Christ in the believer. In his book, The Adversary, Mark Bubeck defines the world as “a composite expression of the depravity of man and the intrigues of Satan’s rule, combining in opposition to the sovereign rule of God.” As such, the world promotes an attitude of independence from God.” Ken Boa -Conformed to His Image]
•I will not be conformed to this world, but I will be transformed by the renewing of my mind, so that I may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)
•I will set my mind on the things of the Spirit. (Romans 8:5)
•Since I have been raised up with Christ, I will keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. I will set my mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. (Colossians 3:1-2; also see 3:3-4 and Hebrews 12:1-2)
•I will be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving I will let my requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard my heart and my mind in Christ Jesus. Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, I will let my mind dwell on these things. (Philippians 4:6-8; also see 4:9)
Against the Flesh: Reckon
•I know that my old self was crucified with Christ, so that I am no longer a slave to sin, for he who has died is freed from sin. I will reckon myself as dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. I will not present the members of my body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness, but I will present myself to God as one alive from the dead, and my members as instruments of righteousness to God. (Romans 6:6-7, 11, 13)
Against the Devil: Resist
•As I submit myself to God and resist the devil, he will flee from me. (James 4:7)
•I will be of sober spirit and on the alert. My adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But I will resist him, firm in my faith. (1 Peter 5:8-9)
•I will take up the full armor of God, that I may be able to resist and stand firm. I put on the belt of truth and the breastplate of righteousness; I put on my feet the preparation of the gospel of peace; and I take up the shield of faith with which I will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one. I take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. With all prayer and petition I will pray at all times in the Spirit and be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints. (Ephesians 6:13-18)
[My comment: Notice that after we put on the armor of God the first thing we do is drop to our knees in prayer. Prayer and the Word are the two main offensive weapons; or praying according to God’s Word and will is powerful and effective in spiritual warfare for others and for ourselves. (James 5:16) This includes praying in the moment when we are tempted to sin, right in the midst of a difficult conversation with someone and we feel upset and want to say or do something that comes from our flesh and not the Spirit. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matt. 26:41)]
One more point: There are two different Greek words for God’s Word – logos and rhēma. Logos is used to refer to Scripture in general and rhēma is used to refer to hearing Scripture and using Scripture personally as it applies to us in particular situations. And, as it applies to spiritual warfare, note these three passages: “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word (rhēma) of Christ.” (Rom. 10:17) This means as I study and learn God’s Word (logos) I begin to “hear” Him speak to me personally as He opens up a verse or passage to me in a personal way (rhēma) and this builds my personal knowledge of Him (builds my faith/trust in Him). Now notice how Jesus demonstrates the personal application of Scripture (rhēma) through His knowledge of God’s Word (logos) in Matthew 4:4: “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word (rhēma) that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’” Here Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 8:3 (God’s Word – logos) to fight and defeat the devil. (He also quoted Deut. 6:16 and Deut. 6:13 which He had to know to quote it on the spot and so do we.) And finally, using the logos as rhēma is exactly what Paul is referring to in Eph. 6:17 as he calls God’s Word a sword that defeats the devil. “And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word (rhema) of God.” The point is that as we grow in the knowledge of God’s Word (logos) we will have more of His Word to use as a sword (as rhēma) against the devil. Or using the metaphor of arrows as God’s Word, we will have more arrows in our quiver.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION AND APPLICATION
1. “Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs (worldliness), but rather tries to please his commanding officer (the Lord Jesus).” (2 Tim. 2:3-4) Have you accepted the Spirit’s invitation to sign up for the battle?
2. “[Even] now I rejoice in the midst of my sufferings on your behalf. And in my own person I am making up whatever is still lacking and remains to be completed [on our part] of Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of His body, which is the church (saved and pre-saved people).” (Col. 1:24) What strikes you about this passage regarding spiritual warfare? Why was Paul suffering and how does that apply to us today?
3. Against the World: Key word: “Renew” •I will not be conformed to this world, but I will be transformed by the renewing of my mind, so that I may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2) Every day we are either being conformed to the world (made to be more like it) or we are being transformed into the likeness of Jesus (made to be more like Him). What can we do (or fail to do) in this daily battle against the world?
4. Against the Flesh: Key word: “Reckon” •I will reckon myself as dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. I will not present the members of my body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness, but I will present myself to God as one alive from the dead, and my members as instruments of righteousness to God. (Romans 6:6-7, 11, 13) What does the word reckon mean here in this context? How is our will involved in the battle against the flesh? How can identifying idols help me in this battle?
5.. Against the Devil: Key word: “Resist” •I will be of sober spirit and on the alert. My adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But I will resist him, firm in my faith. (1 Peter 5:8-9) •I will take up the full armor of God, that I may be able to resist and stand firm…. With all prayer and petition I will pray at all times in the Spirit and be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints. (Ephesians 6:13-18) What is the devil always doing (through his demons)? What is the first thing we do after we put on all the armor of God? (See James 5:16)
6. What is the difference between logos and rhēma and how does this relate to spiritual warfare?
7. What motivates you to stay in the battle?