Warfare against the world, the devil, and the flesh – Part 1

"And he entered the synagogue and continued speaking out boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. 9 But when some were becoming hardened and disobedient, speaking evil of the Way before the people, he withdrew from them and took away the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. 10 This took place for two years, so that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.  11 God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, 12so that handkerchiefs or aprons were even carried from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out. 13 But also some of the Jewish exorcists, who went from place to place, attempted to name over those who had the evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, "I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches." 14 Seven sons of one Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 And the evil spirit answered and said to them, "I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?" 16 And the man, in whom was the evil spirit, leaped on them and subdued all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. 17 This became known to all, both Jews and Greeks, who lived in Ephesus; and fear fell upon them all and the name of the Lord Jesus was being magnified. 18 Many also of those who had believed kept coming, confessing and disclosing their practices. 19 And many of those who practiced magic brought their books together and began burning them in the sight of everyone; and they counted up the price of them and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. 20 So the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing." (Acts 19:8-20)

"Unreserved readiness to change is an indispensable precondition of the conception (formation) of Christ in our souls and it must endure with undiminished vigor all along the path of our transformation. The significance and the value of such an attitude also appear from the fact that the better a man's inward condition and the more he feels touched by God the wider the doors of his heart will be opened and the readier he will show himself for being changed." (Transformation in Christ by Dietrich von Hildebrand) One question I ask myself and others is: what motivates you to want to grow in Christ and what demotivates you or discourages your growth. It is crucial that we can clearly identify both of these to continue to grow in Christlikeness. "For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers." (Rom. 8:29) If conformity to Christ is God's high calling, what inspires us to continue to change and what hinders us, keeps us complacent and works against our conformity to Christ? In a word, it is the downward pull of the world, the devil, and the flesh. 

We come to another topic this week where godly theologians disagree: spiritual warfare and especially casting out demons. Note that the word "exorcists" (v.13) is used to describe unsaved Jewish priests and is not the word or phrase used by our Lord or the gospel writers to describe "casting out demons". Some believe that this ministry was only for the apostles and ended with them (cessasionists) whereas Scripture reveals many people other than the apostles who cast out demons (Luke 10:17-20; Mark 9:38-41; Acts 8:4-8) and church history records the continuation of this ministry. ["Others, along with Justin Martyr (100-165), Irenaeus (120-202), Tertullian (160-230), and Origin (185-254), also affirm that Christians in their era did cast out or, as they said, exorcize demons. The point under consideration should be clear: Christians after the era of the New Testament did continue to engage in the casting out of demons and did so in close conformity with the practice as we see it in the New Testament."]

Having said this, from my understanding and experience, I believe that the teachings in the epistles combine warfare with demons along with warfare with the flesh and the world system and that all three areas must be dealt with for on-going spiritual freedom. (See Ephesians 2:1-3; 6:10-20) Thus I am sending you a document on Spiritual Warfare I adapted for A Day Alone with God retreat from Ken Boa's teaching on this subject in his book Conformed to His Image that covers each of these three battle fronts. To grasp the Scriptural understanding of spiritual warfare, I recommend reading and journaling through this document. There are many good books on this subject which I have also recommend in this document both for your own spiritual freedom and to assist others in this much needed but often under-taught and misunderstood area of spiritual growth. [See Neil Anderson Steps to Freedom  – $4.99  Manufacturer: Gospel Light; Manufacturer Part No: ISBN # 830735860]

Note verses 8-10 above and the emphasis on teaching and being taught the Word of God. We see this in many other passages in Acts. We note it also in Paul's three missionary journeys (Acts 13-14; 15:36-18:22 and 18:23-20:39) as he retraces his steps to teach these new believers the Word of God:  "And having spent some time there, (in Antioch) he left and passed successively through the Galatian region and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples." (Acts 18:23) "After some days Paul said to Barnabas, "Let us return and visit the brethren in every city in which we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are."  41 And he was traveling through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches." (Acts 15:36, 41) Knowing, obeying, praying and declaring God's Word to ourselves and others is our most powerful weapon of warfare against the world the devil and the flesh. There is no shortcut; Cliff notes won't do. Satan's main weapon is lies and unless we personally know God's truth we simply cannot defeat him. Our scabbard will be empty when we reach for the sword of the Spirit.

 The Flesh – Satan speaks lies to our flesh (The flesh, denotes mere human nature, the earthly nature of man apart from divine influence, and therefore prone to sin and opposed to God.  Strong, James: The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible).

 The World – In the attached warfare document Ken Boa writes: "The world is an enticing magnet that constantly lures us to conform to its standards.  It tempts us to seek the approval and plaudits of people rather than God.  It pulls us into greater involvement with the temporal value system with its quest for wealth, power, prestige, position, popularity, and pleasure, and draws us away from the eternal value system revealed in Scripture." 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." Thus the world system lies to us, from fast food commercials (have it your way, you deserve a break today) to out and out atheism seen in intellectual circles especially in academia and the scientific community.

 The Devil and demons- 1. Satan, saw·tawn – A superhuman adversary. 2. daimonion (δαιμÏŒνιον, 1140), pertaining to a demon, is also mistranslated "devil," "devils." They disseminate errors among men, and seek to seduce believers, 1 Tim. 4:1.


1. Evaluate yourself on your "Unreserved readiness to change" more and more into the likeness of Christ.

2. Write out a brief statement of your understanding of the flesh.  Where do you feel you are most susceptible to the lies of the flesh ("your own particular form of carnality") and what can you do, through Christ, to break its power over you?

3. Write out a brief statement of your understanding of the world system. Where do you feel you are most susceptible to the world and its lies? What can you do to break its power over you?   Meditate on the following passages to see how they relate to our conflict with the world system and journal your thoughts: Rom. 12:1-2; Luke 9:23-25; John 15:18-19; 17:14-17; Philippians 4:8; Colossians 2:8; 3:1-4; James 4:4.

 4. Write out a brief statement of your understanding of how the devil and his demons work to defeat you.  Where do you feel you are most susceptible to the work of evil spirits? What can you do to break their power over you? Try going through the seven conditions of salvation, willingness, confession, renunciation, forgiveness, submission to God and resistance in prayer over any sins in which you feel you may be in bondage to the enemy. (See attached doc. p. 12)   

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