To Prevail Against the Enemy

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To Prevail Against the Enemy

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Have you ever read the book The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis? In this satire Lewis fictionalized an ongoing correspondence between a rather inexperienced demon named Wormwood and his mentor, Uncle Screwtape. On pages 32 and 33 Screwtape counsels Wormwood on an important strategy Wormwood was using to lead a Christian astray: “My Dear Wormwood, I am amazed that you should ask me whether it is essential to keep the Christian in ignorance of our existence. That question, at least for the present phase of the struggle, has been answered for us by the Master Himself [Satan]. Our policy, for the moment, is to conceal ourselves… “I do not think you will have much difficulty in keeping the patient in the dark. The fact that ‘devils’ are predominantly comic figures in the modern imagination will help you. If any faint suspicion of your existence begins to arise in his mind, suggest to him a picture of something in red tights, and persuade him that since he cannot believe in that, he therefore cannot believe in you.” We need to expose the devil for who he really is. This knowledge can give us the backbone to stand up to the devil and his schemes designed to rob us of our reward. No enemy can be resisted effectively unless we focus on what power he actually has and does not have. Three common errors concerning the devil are: (1) people do not believe he exists, and that is a mistake; (2) people do not take him seriously, and that is a mistake; or (3) they surrender to his control and that is the worst mistake. To get him in focus, let’s first look at what he isn’t, and then examine what he is. What the devil is not The devil is not a nobody. He exists and is engaged in an aggressive strategy of persuasion. He also is not a comic character. He is not an imp with horns and a pitchfork, dressed in red tights. Furthermore, he is not all-powerful. His power is formidable, but God limits his power. His influence is pervasive but not omnipresent. What he is Satan truly is alive and hard at work on planet earth. He is invisible, deceptive, very experienced and shrewder than any human. Serving under him is a power structure of demons ready to do his bidding. His work is wicked. His strategy is to lead into disaster those humans who can be persuaded to follow him. But although he is the god of this world, he is limited in his authority. And as Christians, we have no reason to feel afraid, victimized or intimidated as long as we remain close to our Protector—God (1 John 4:3-4 1 John 4:3-4 [3] And every spirit that confesses not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof you have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. [4] You are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.
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). In Mark 5 we see one of the most vivid and gripping portraits of evil in the entire Bible. The first person we meet in the opening verses of this chapter is the devil’s prisoner (Mark 5:1-5 Mark 5:1-5 [1] And they came over to the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes. [2] And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, [3] Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains: [4] Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him. [5] And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones.
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). This graphic picture is hard to look at. The man was demon-possessed—hopelessly and helplessly under the domination of demonic powers. His body was so controlled by satanic influences that it was merely a base of operation for the demons. Even his vocal chords were under their control (Mark 5:6-13 Mark 5:6-13 [6] But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him, [7] And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with you, Jesus, you Son of the most high God? I adjure you by God, that you torment me not. [8] For he said to him, Come out of the man, you unclean spirit. [9] And he asked him, What is your name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many. [10] And he sought him much that he would not send them away out of the country. [11] Now there was there near to the mountains a great herd of swine feeding. [12] And all the devils sought him, saying, Send us into the swine, that we may enter into them. [13] And immediately Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand;) and were choked in the sea.
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). It is interesting to note how much these demons knew. They knew that Jesus was the Son of the Most High God and that His power was greater than theirs. They knew their final destiny (the abyss, Luke 8:31 Luke 8:31And they sought him that he would not command them to go out into the deep.
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and Revelation 20:2-3 Revelation 20:2-3 [2] And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, [3] And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.
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) and when they were to be sentenced to that place (Matthew 8:29 Matthew 8:29And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with you, Jesus, you Son of God? are you come here to torment us before the time?
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). That proves that understanding and belief do not make one righteous. “Even the demons believe—and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?” (James 2:19-20 James 2:19-20 [19] You believe that there is one God; you do well: the devils also believe, and tremble. [20] But will you know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
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). Strategy for standing firm Ephesians 6:10-18 Ephesians 6:10-18 [10] Finally, my brothers, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. [11] Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. [12] For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. [13] Why take to you the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. [14] Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; [15] And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; [16] Above all, taking the shield of faith, with which you shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. [17] And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: [18] Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
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gives us an excellent strategy for standing firm against the schemes of Satan. “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11 Ephesians 6:11Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
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). Even if only one piece of armor is missing, Satan will see where you are vulnerable and attack at that place. To overcome the enemy, we first need to put on the full armor of God. That armor includes truth to help us withstand Satan’s deceptions, which lead to sin, to misplaced priorities and to disbelieving God. Truth, found through studying the Holy Bible, refocuses us and motivates us. The belt of truth also reminds Christians to live lives of honesty and integrity. Next God’s armor includes the breastplate of righteousness. Doing the right things we learn from God’s Word protects our hearts and consciences from being seared by habitual sin, one of Satan’s strongest traps. The armor also includes the sturdy shoes of the gospel of peace. The good news of God’s plan provides a firm foundation and motivation to spread the gospel and share it with others—an important step in God’s plan to defeat Satan’s kingdom. The shield of faith protects against Satan’s fiery darts of doubt and confusion, and the helmet of salvation focuses our minds on the goal we are headed toward. This protects us from the detours and traps Satan sets up for us. The sword of the Spirit—the Word of God—is the only offensive weapon. It provides the ammunition we need in each situation, if we keep it sharp through constant use. After putting on all this armor, we need to resist the enemy through the power of God. Peter tells us to cast “all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith” (1 Peter 5:7-9 1 Peter 5:7-9 [7] Casting all your care on him; for he cares for you. [8] Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour: [9] Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brothers that are in the world.
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). Thirdly, we need to walk in faith by the Spirit of God. Paul described this in Galatians 5:16-25 Galatians 5:16-25 [16] This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. [17] For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that you cannot do the things that you would. [18] But if you be led of the Spirit, you are not under the law. [19] Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, [20] Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, jealousies, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, [21] Contentions, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. [22] But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, [23] Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. [24] And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. [25] If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
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. By avoiding the works of the flesh and growing the fruits of the Spirit, we can walk in Jesus’ steps. A winnable war I will close with a final word from Uncle Screwtape, which should encourage us to remember that we are fighting a winnable war. “Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human no longer desires but still intends to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys” (page 40). “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” And that is what Job said: “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15 Job 13:15Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain my own ways before him.
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). That may seem “irrational,” but that is the way we need to be because present physical circumstances are a poor indicator of what we should do in a severe temptation. We need to ask God to help us be more like Jesus, with the ability to quote Scripture when we are under temptations (Matthew 4:1-11 Matthew 4:1-11 [1] Then was Jesus led up of the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. [2] And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungered. [3] And when the tempter came to him, he said, If you be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. [4] But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. [5] Then the devil takes him up into the holy city, and sets him on a pinnacle of the temple, [6] And said to him, If you be the Son of God, cast yourself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning you: and in their hands they shall bear you up, lest at any time you dash your foot against a stone. [7] Jesus said to him, It is written again, You shall not tempt the Lord your God. [8] Again, the devil takes him up into an exceeding high mountain, and shows him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; [9] And said to him, All these things will I give you, if you will fall down and worship me. [10] Then said Jesus to him, Get you hence, Satan: for it is written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve. [11] Then the devil leaves him, and, behold, angels came and ministered to him.
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). Then ask God to help us develop a good set of spiritual armor, without which we cannot stand against such an adversary as the devil. And pray for the day when Satan will be removed “so that he should deceive the nations no more” (Revelation 20:3 Revelation 20:3And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.
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). Recommended reading To learn more about our adversary and how to defend against him, request or download the booklet Is There Really a Devil?