Believer, at this very minute you are engaged in a war. Whether or not you are aware of it, you are being attacked on three separate fronts simultaneously by a powerful coalition of forces that wishes to destroy you, namely, the world, the flesh, and the devil. The world engages in a full frontal assault, blasting away in full view of your defenses. The flesh acts like a subversive fifth column, working from within to undermine and weaken your defenses against the other two enemies. And the devil sets up ambushes to catch you unawares. Given the differing strategies utilized by your enemies, God provides unique counterstrategies to employ against each one. If you would be an overcomer, you must deploy the forces God has provided and utilize them according to His orders.
The world. The forces of the world arrayed against you include both its people who entice you to compromise, and to sin and its many pleasures, both inherently sinful and potentially sinful when overindulged or misused. You are in the world; you cannot escape it; in fact, there are elements of it that are essential to your physical existence. How, then, do you prevent it from destroying you? The strategy that defeats this enemy is provided in John’s first epistle: “Do not love the world nor the things in the world” (2:15a). The word John employs for love is agape. In this context, it suggests a spirit of devotion, of giving yourself over to someone or something. To love the world is to give it a place in your heart and mind it does not deserve, to give to it time, attention, and energy that ought to be expended elsewhere. The assault from the world is usually direct: engage in this relationship or indulge in this activity. Believer, you must love the Lord; you must love righteousness; you must love the church. Your life must be centered around those things—not the world.
The flesh. The flesh can do only one thing: sin. Paul expressed what is true of every believer when he confessed: “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh” (Rom. 7:18a). Since the flesh is depraved and altogether wicked, the only successful strategy to defeat it is to run from temptations whenever and wherever they crop up: “flee from youthful lusts” (II Tim. 2:22a). It is not wise, clever, or macho to enter the arena where temptations fight. On this front, the key to victory is actually to flee. But the objective is not merely to run away from the temptation because Paul continues, “and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (v. 22b). You must actively seek to produce the fruit of the Spirit, and—this is important—you must do so in the company of other believers. The flesh is defeated as you actively desire to live the character of Christ, and an essential part of that strategy entails being engaged with other brethren, faithfully assembling with a local body of believers in order to be instructed in the Word and strengthened with their aid.
The devil. The devil will ambush you; his demonic emissaries are ubiquitous, lurking everywhere to pounce. It is impossible to know when and where they will attack and, unlike temptation, impossible to run from their presence. So you must confront the devil and his demonic spirits: “Resist the devil and he will flee from you,” is the strategy that wins the battle on this front, James says (4:7b; also, I Pet. 5:8). That errant thought that comes seemingly out of nowhere, that persistent prompting to sin that refuses to be squelched, that “bright” idea that is contrary to what you know the Word of God teaches must be recognized as the work of the devil and consciously refused. You must pray, quote the Word to yourself and to your adversary, sing hymns—or all of the above, and Satan will ultimately slink away—for a season. “Put on the full armor of God,” Paul instructed the Ephesians, “so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil” (6:11; read the passage to learn what the armor consists of).
In addition to these broad strategies, the Word provides multiple tactics to employ depending on the nature of the individual attacks. God will not leave you defenseless. He wants you to be victorious. And you can be an overcomer as you adhere in faith and obedience to His perfect instructions. “But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us” (Rom. 8:37).
Previous Page | Next Page