Johan Malan, University of the North, South Africa
Abstract: Every Christian should be able to offer effective resistance against the devil, the world and the flesh. In this review, basic biblical instructions on spiritual warfare are discussed.
Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Holy Bible except where otherwise indicated. Only very archaic terms have been substituted, between brackets, with correlating terms from the New King James Version (NKJV). All pronouns referring to the Godhead are capitalised. Edited by Bernard and Kathleen Reeves of London.
The biblical concept of spiritual warfare has a personal application in every believer’s life and relates to our struggle against sin and Satan. Temptations and deceptions are experienced by every person and originate from the flesh, the world and the devil. We should resist sin (Heb. 12:4) by crucifying the flesh with its sinful lusts (Rom. 8:13; Gal. 6:14), thereby overcoming this present, evil world (1 Jn. 2:15-17; Gal. 1:4) and prevailing against Satan (Jas. 4:7).
While engaging in spiritual warfare in our everyday Christian lives, we should guard against involvement with extreme and unbiblical forms of spiritual warfare. There are people who are so preoccupied with the devil that every problem or sin experienced by a person is related to possession by a demon or evil spirit. They even claim that Christians can be demon-possessed! Deliverance ministries that deal with problems of this nature are proliferating in these times of increased confusion and deception. They offer the services of exorcists to solve people’s spiritual problems that allegedly arise from demon-possession. Terms and methods often used by them are exorcising, inner healing, power encounters, the binding of the devil, the cancelling of blood guilt, curses and demonic bonds inherited from our forefathers, etc.
Strategic spiritual warfare, pioneered by C. Peter Wagner and George Otis Jr., is another deceptive variation, with aims shared by Marches for Jesus, viz the pulling down of demonic strongholds over cities, and even countries, in order to transform them spiritually and establish the kingdom of God on earth – part of the misconceived kingdom theology. Gatekeepers are assigned with the duty to protect liberated cities and territories against the return of demonic forces. For more information on this practice of territorial spiritual warfare, consult the Transformations articles on this website.
The following is a biblical teaching on spiritual warfare:
“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day…” (Eph. 6:10-13 NKJV).
We have not only been endued with the power of the Holy Spirit to give us boldness, wisdom and courage to proclaim the gospel of salvation (Acts 1:8), but also to enable us to be victorious in the struggle against the enemy of our souls. Christians often neglect this aspect of their spiritual lives and are consequently weak, unprotected and even unarmed for the fierce battle in which all of us are involved.
In the spiritual battlefield, the Bible clearly identifies five major fronts on which the devil and his demonic forces launch their vicious attacks against all people and especially against Christians. On each front the devil adopts a different strategy and role.
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist, steadfast in the faith” (1 Pet. 5:8-9).
As adversary the devil will try to destroy your life, your health, your marriage, your Christian ministry and all other interests that you have. The intensity of his opposition to believers knows no bounds as he is a murderer from the beginning (Jn. 8:44). Wars, disasters, accidents, incitement to suicide, and various other means are employed by him to give vent to his aggression and murderousness. He does not have unlimited powers over people, but as far as he is allowed to go he relentlessly pursues his objectives.
Apart from sudden, violent attacks, he also uses slower methods to achieve his purpose. Many people’s lives are ruined over a long period by being enslaved to liquor, tobacco, drugs, sexual perversions and various other addictions.
Countless problems, obstacles, disappointments and irritations are employed by Satan to discourage Christians and induce them to abandon their efforts for the Lord. Never acknowledge defeat, but stoutly resist the evil one through a steadfast faith in the Lord Jesus. “For consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest [you] be wearied and faint in your minds” (Heb. 12:3).
The devil tempts people to commit moral sins by enticing them through their unregenerate nature and fleshly lusts. Due to the fallen nature of humanity, the result of our first parents being deceived by the devil, “the heart is deceitful above all things” (Jer. 17:9) and is inclined towards sinning. The following are examples of some of the sins which Satan may tempt our unregenerate, fallen nature to succumb to:
love of money,
A prayerful and holy life surrendered to the Lord Jesus Christ is needed to overcome these and other temptations: “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mt. 26:41).
True dedication to the Lord demands the surrender of the old, sinful nature (the flesh) to be crucified and ever to be kept in that position: “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Lk. 9:23). That was Paul’s way of living: “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Gal. 6:14); hence his advice to the Ephesians: “...that ye put off concerning the former [conduct] the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Eph. 4:22-24).
Do not yield to temptations, but submit yourself to the Lord and resist the devil. The Lord Jesus will understand your problem, and is also able to help you because He Himself experienced and overcame temptations: “For in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to [rescue] them who are tempted… For we have not a High Priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 2:18; 4:15-16).
It is tragic that so many Christians have backslidden because they became victims of the tempter. In a survey among fallen pastors in the USA, the sins of pride (self-esteem), love of money, and adultery proved to be the most common ones committed. These sins have also wreaked havoc among other professing Christians who live fleshly lives that are not crucified to sin (Lk. 9:23; Gal. 6:14). They do not heed the commands to holiness in 2 Corinthians 7:1, Galatians 5:16 and 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8.
As deceiver the main thrust of the devil is to distort the truth about God and His Word, and to spread various lies about Christianity. He also sows serious doubts in people’s minds about the existence of God by false evolutionary propaganda in the guise of science; about the historical accuracy and inspiration of the Bible; about the historicity, deity and the uniqueness of Jesus, His teaching, His substitutionary death and resurrection; and about the Christian church, due to its divisions and its confusion in doctrine and practice. During the end-time in which we live, deception will more than ever before be prevalent in the world. Satan is described as “…that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan which deceiveth the whole world” (Rev. 12:9), so we are warned that: “…in the last days perilous times will come… evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived (2 Tim. 3:1,13 NKJV). “For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist” (2 Jn. v. 7).
Your knowledge of God and of His Word of truth will protect you against deception. “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (Jn. 8:32). The Bible is the sword of the Spirit which nullifies and destroys the deceiver’s clever but false arguments and theories (Eph. 6:17).
Ignorance is the breeding-ground for spiritual deception. Many people have inadequate knowledge of the truth of God’s Word, and are consequently easily deceived by false prophets: “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who [secretly] shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them… And many shall follow their pernicious ways… And through covetousness shall they with [deceptive] words [exploit] you” (2 Pet. 2:1-3).
False prophets abound in these last days. Most of them have large followings because their heresies are acceptable due to the already distorted views and tastes of millions of deceived believers. Many believers neglect sound biblical doctrine and instead cling to the heresies of false prophets: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Tim. 4:3-4).
Millions of believers are falling to the wiles of Satan, and are being spiritually deceived and ruined. They naively expose themselves to heresies propagated by deluded pastors and persuasive preachers. Paul wrote to some like them: “I marvel that you are turning… to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach any gospel to you other than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed (Gal. 1: 6-8 NKJV).
Many preachers distort the gospel message, undermine the doctrine of salvation and introduce deceiving spirits to their naive audiences. In so doing they are used of the devil to wage his spiritual war against Jesus Christ who is the truth, against the Holy Spirit who is the Spirit of truth, and also against the living and true God whose Word is truth. The rapid expansion of deceptive teachings such as the Toronto and Pensacola phenomena and the seriously deficient Alpha course is proof that few people test the spirits: “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 Jn. 4:1).
Satan often tries to justify his deception with quotations from the Bible. Scripture verses are twisted, quoted out of context and applied wrongly to support a misleading statement, interpretation, or dogma. He used this method when trying to tempt Jesus in the wilderness, but was defeated by the correct quotation and application of scriptural truths.
Christians who backslide are being spiritually robbed by the devil and will appear empty-handed before Christ’s judgement seat. Even though they still cling to their basic faith in Christ as Saviour, they will still suffer great loss. Jesus said: “Behold, I come quickly; hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown” (Rev. 3:11). At His judgement seat: “…the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is... If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire” (1 Cor. 3:13,15).
A Christian can also be robbed of his time and material goods which he needs to serve the Lord. Be vigilant because the devil is indeed a thief who intends to rob you in any way possible: “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy…” (Jn. 10:10). Do not render yourself an easy target to the thief who is intent on depriving you of as many blessings and possessions as he can – even your life!
In the final instance, the devil also attacks believers by actively accusing them in various ways – either through others or by manipulating their own thoughts. He will also keep on accusing them at the throne of God until the middle of the tribulation period, and until the time when: “...the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night... Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! For the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time” (Rev. 12:10,12).
However, we have an Advocate with the Father at His throne in heaven, Jesus Christ the righteous, who pleads on our behalf (1 Jn. 2:1). But we must always walk in the light of His presence, have fellowship with the Lord in prayer, observe the command not to sin, and experience the continuous cleansing by His blood. (1 Jn. 1:7).
The devil also accuses believers before secular authorities and organisations to bring about the rejection and persecution of evangelical believers. Jesus said: “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you... The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (Jn. 15:18,20).
Pray for your government and support proper campaigns to secure the right of freedom of religion, religious education, religious broadcasts, etc. Do not become complacent and take these privileges and rights for granted. They have often in history been denied to Christians in many countries. All that is needed for evil to triumph, is that good men do nothing. Do not neglect your calling to be the light of a dark world and the salt of a corrupt earth.
A prime target area in Satan’s campaign of slander is the true brethren themselves. He is ever busy sowing seeds of discord and disunity among them by accusing the one by the other. In this way he hopes to drive in a wedge between believers, thereby harming the work of the Lord.
Do not react to grievances and condemnatory thoughts emanating from the unfounded or exaggerated accusations of the evil one. Resist all incitements of this nature and guard the peace and unity among the true brethren in Christ, “forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye” (Col. 3:13). “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness, considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted” (Gal. 6:1).
It is tragic to observe how quick some true believers are to condemn one another because of slight differences of opinion. Be gracious and patient with evangelical brethren and only reject unscriptural doctrine and challenge false prophets and teachers who deceive the unsuspecting.
Lastly, the devil will also accuse you personally and try to instil a guilt complex in you. He will tell you how bad you are, how unpardonable your sins are, how irrevocably you have sinned against the Holy Spirit, and how miserably you have failed in your service to the Lord. In this way he intends to burden you with guilt, destroy your faith and render you completely depressed, disheartened and powerless. Always remember that you have a sure place of refuge against the accuser of the brethren: “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth?” (Rom. 8:33-34). “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (Jas. 4:7).
Stand on the promises of God in His Word, put your trust in Him, and thus shield yourself against the fiery darts of the wicked one. In this area of spiritual warfare one should pray for divine wisdom and a spirit of discernment. You must learn how to distinguish between Satan’s false accusations which must be resisted and rejected, and the conviction of sin by the Holy Spirit.
From the preceding description of the spiritual war it is quite obvious that the attacks of the enemy are comprehensive. The effects of this battle often extend into the physical realm where they manifest as adverse circumstances in our daily lives. These circumstances are always aimed at discouraging us and weakening us spiritually. The victory must, therefore, be gained in the spiritual realm if we are not to be paralysed by the enemy and surrendered to the bondage of sin. This is essentially a battle for the spiritual control of the mind and body. Paul says: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war [according to] the flesh: For the weapons of our warfare are not [fleshly], but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds; casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:3-5).
From this description of the spiritual war it is obvious that the enemy’s strongholds in our lives result from vain reasoning and fleshly exaltation that arise from evil, misguided thoughts. If the strongholds of sin are to be pulled down and eliminated, every thought must be taken into captivity to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). Should this not be done, the enemy of our souls will gain a large measure of control over us by establishing wicked and uncontrolled thoughts or desires in our hearts and minds.
Due to our fallen human nature, our contact with the world, and our inability to determine the origin of all ideas, there are various ways in which we can be tempted to sin:
· Wrong ideas and evil intentions may emerge from your own fleshly nature and subconscious mind. “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (Jas. 1:14-15; see also Mk. 7:21-23). Remember that the old man (your old, sinful nature) is completely corrupted by deceitful lusts (Eph. 4:22; Rom. 6:6). It cannot be reformed but must be crucified.
· Many of the things that you see are pleasing to fleshly desires and also lead to sin: “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (1 Jn. 2:16; see also Mt. 5:28).
· Sinful thoughts are often stimulated by immoral TV shows, pornographic videos and magazines, or the conducting of immoral discussions. Do not expose yourself to these evils: “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners” (1 Cor. 15:33).
· Doubts, evil thoughts and sinful desires are stimulated by spiritual agents from the kingdom of darkness. They have the ability to aim fiery darts at you (Eph. 6:16), thus defiling your mind. They can also cause your thoughts to wander and render them uncontrollable when you want to read God’s Word, pray or listen to a sermon.
Have you given the enemy the opportunity to make inroads into your mind and establish strongholds of sin in your life? Please recognise that these sins may have started with a single thought or evil suggestion that was not resisted or subjected to the authority of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. Once certain ideas are established in your mind, they often tend to dominate your thinking and actions.
From the roof of his palace King David saw a beautiful woman who was bathing, and coveted her. He devised an evil plan to get rid of her husband in order to have her as his wife. He acted on the spur of the moment and did not subject his desires and plans to the authority of the clear precepts in the Word of God. In the process he transgressed the following commandments: “Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not commit adultery… thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife” (Ex. 20:13-14,17).
Instead of observing these statutes, David entertained all sorts of fleshly rationalisation and evil schemes to gratify his lusts. In doing so, he allowed the enemy to erect a stronghold of murder and adultery in his life. On realising his awful sin and defeat by Satan, David was a broken man under strong conviction of sin. He unconditionally put his trust in the Lord to forgive him his very serious sins and restore him to a Spirit-filled life of dedication and obedience: “Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow… blot out all [my] iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a [steadfast] spirit within me. Cast me not away from Thy presence; and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation” (Ps. 51:7-12).
The strongholds of sin were immediately pulled down in his heart, and the fear of the Lord restored. Always reassert the authority of God over your mind and all the thoughts and desires of your heart. Test all your thoughts and ideas before accepting them. If they are not in full agreement with the Word of God, then reject them: “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps. 139:23-24).
Sinful thoughts must be dealt with immediately, and not given any chance to establish themselves in your heart or mind. The fiery darts of the enemy, as well as doubts and vain arguments that exalt themselves against the truth of the Word, can be quenched by the shield of your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Eph. 6:16).
If you do not shield yourself against evil thoughts, they will take root in you and eventually get their way with you. They will actively resist and slowly begin to subdue the good thoughts. In the process they will defile your mind and undermine your motivation to serve the Lord by inducing you to say and do wrong things. Are the thoughts of your heart under control and well pleasing to the Lord, or are you wilfully and foolishly accommodating evil thoughts?
It is clear that in his war against Christians and in his efforts to deceive non-Christians Satan has an active department of religious affairs. He and his accomplices (demons and deluded human false prophets) pose as ‘angels of light’, cleverly disguising themselves as Christian leaders, prophets and evangelists. They claim to come from God with a gospel of prosperity and peace, with signs and wonders, to bring in a spiritually renewed, peaceful, ‘Christianised’ world.
For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works (2 Cor. 11:13-15).
Such deception by Satan’s agents has been common since the start of the church age, and will vastly increase during the end-time. They are now stepping-up their efforts to deceive all people into accepting the coming universal messiah of all faiths, with signs and wonders, and by a false gospel of global peace and unity. He will be the Antichrist who, with the False Prophet, will unite all religions. Jesus Himself earnestly warned against this satanic deception: “Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in My name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many… For there shall arise false [christs], and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect” (Mt. 24:4-5,24).
Spiritual deception in the name of Jesus Christ is rapidly on the increase in the world. In the light of this very common strategy of the devil we are exhorted not to accept any person or his message at face value. Investigate the matter thoroughly to expose its roots. Jesus says: “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves” (Mt. 7:15). Outwardly they pretend to be true prophets who serve the church in the name of the Lord Jesus, but inwardly they may well be unregenerate and false. Money and fame are probably their gods, and they do not have true Christian principles.
Jesus describes the final exposure and eternal doom of the false apostles on judgement day. Although they even cast out devils as practising ministers or mass evangelists, they are agents of the kingdom of darkness with the assignment to mislead and confuse people: “Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? And in Thy name have cast out devils? And in Thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity” (Mt. 7:22-23).
The deception of false prophets amounts to a complete misrepresentation and falsification of the real Jesus. His name is used but another doctrine is attached to it under the direct influence of deceiving spirits from Satan. The result is a great falling away from the true faith: “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy” (1 Tim. 4:1-2).
How are people who hold traditional Christian views being deceived into believing false doctrines? Paul clearly answers this question by indicating that Satan’s deception is the motivating force behind the distortion of biblical truths among believers: “For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his [craftiness], so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him” (2 Cor. 11:2-4).
The following are examples of the false kinds of Jesus and the associated false gospels now being proclaimed:
False kinds of Jesus
A Jesus without the cross. He is only a good spiritual leader and a moral example that we should follow. Love and tolerance are his main virtues.
A gospel in which the atonement for sins on the cross is not emphasised. New birth is substituted by good works and rituals like baptism and confirmation.
A Jesus who only delivers people from political oppression, social injustice, and economic suffering by means of social reforms and even revolutions.
A liberation theology (contextual theology, social gospel, or revolutionary theology) in which political liberation and social justice are the main objectives.
A Jesus who is a sinner. He does not call people to repentance and cannot save them from sins. This falsification of the real Jesus is evident in films such as Jesus Christ Superstar, The Last Temptation of Christ, and Jesus of Montreal.
A humanistic gospel which explains sin as freedom of expression and not something inherently evil, so repentance is unnecessary. Jesus is not God, but is depicted merely as a prophet who has raised himself above his fellow sinful, human mortals.
A Jesus whose main mission is to heal people and to make them rich and prosperous to live a trouble-free life on earth.
A prosperity gospel and kingdom now theology in which believers become like little gods who can manipulate cosmic powers.
The universal Jesus, or cosmic christ of all faiths. He will unite Christianity with Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and all the other religions by claiming their messianic titles.
A gospel of universalism which teaches that all religions worship the same Creator God. They all await the same cosmic messiah who will unite humanity politically, socially and spiritually.
The above-mentioned false kinds of Jesus and false gospels are quite clearly not promoted by the Holy Spirit but by deceiving spirits from Satan’s kingdom. They disguise themselves cleverly and imitate the work of the Holy Spirit. Their strategy is such that people fail to recognise them and remain under the false impression that the power of the Holy Spirit is manifesting among them. The deceiving spirits work through false prophets who outwardly seem to be godly men who can also preach very well (2 Cor. 11:13-15).
These spirits and their human agents frequently use the name of Jesus, but they disregard the cross and do not convict people of their sin. They will rather make them laugh and engage in all sorts of antics. Jesus is depicted as the one who can do mighty works for them and also give His healing and reigning power to them. Different kinds of spiritual gifts are indiscriminately offered to entire audiences.
Apart from the fact that the deceiving messages are proclaimed by false prophets who were never true Christians (Mt. 7:23), the Bible also indicates that certain Christian ministers will depart from the faith that they previously confessed, and that for the sake of popularity and special spiritual gifts they will give heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons (1 Tim. 4:1).
Peter refers to these fallen pastors who will bring in damnable heresies, thereby “denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of” (2 Pet. 2:1-2).
The shocking fact is that the false teachers are not rejected because of their heresies, but enjoy considerable public support. Because of their popularity and success they become puffed-up and arrogant, and ridicule evangelical ministers and preachers who do not support the new movement because they still uphold the sound doctrine of the way of the cross. The false teachers of our time even go so far as to say that those who oppose them are resisting the Holy Spirit and provoking God’s anger.
There are a number of reasons why the false teachers enjoy large public support. Many of them appear to do spectacular signs and wonders, thereby leaving the impression that they have been specially anointed by God for their ministry in these crucial last days. They promise the most tremendous powers and gifts to all people, and draw large crowds with their sensational antics, statements and promises.
Another reason why people like the false teachers is because they all have sub-Christian standards for salvation. They make it easy for members of the public to profess Christianity and appear to enjoy it all. In most cases they do not even have to confess their sins. These lies and Christian fables suit most of the people. They quickly adapt to the distorted views and lowered standards, and strongly support the popular false apostles who comfort and entertain their audiences without disturbing them about their sins.
Paul exhorted Timothy to keep on proclaiming the true gospel, and to endure the afflictions and tribulations that would be imposed upon him by the false teachers who deceive the people with their many lies and false doctrines: “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry” (2 Tim. 4:2-5).
A person who stands firm on his Christian principles and engages in spiritual warfare will endure afflictions and persecution because of the truth. Confrontation with the forces of darkness is inevitable if you do the work of the Lord. Paul says: “Fight the good fight of faith” (1 Tim. 6:12). Take up the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, and the shield of faith, and keep on resisting the devil and all his plots and lies that were devised to undermine the kingdom of God.
We are commanded to make use of the weapons that God has provided for us in the battle against Satan and all his evil devices. It is not necessary to be spiritually defeated or forced into retreat: “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds...” (2 Cor. 10:4).
The following weapons are mentioned in the Bible and should be actively used to resist the devil:
We are involved in a battle of faith. Peter says: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist steadfast in the faith” (1 Pet. 5:8-9). We must have an unshakeable faith in Jesus as our Lord and our God (Jn. 20:28) and also in the conquering power of His Holy Spirit. Our faith must continuously be strengthened as we grow up to spiritual maturity. The victory belongs to the Lord, and we must put our trust in Him to deliver us: “Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world. And this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith” (1 Jn. 5:4). “Fight the good fight of faith” (1 Tim. 6:12). “…above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked” (Eph. 6:16).
Are you ready to quench the fiery darts of the devil with the shield of your faith in the Lord Jesus or are you unprotected against all the confusing, deceiving, insinuating and unclean thoughts that the devil launches at you? Take refuge in Christ against all the attacks of the enemy, as you will never overcome Satan in your own power. Faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross will make you more than a conqueror. “The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe” (Prov. 18:10).
It is important that our spiritual protection and victory should be based upon the shed blood of the Lamb! On the cross He has broken the power of sin to set us free: “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:7). He died on the cross, “that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb. 2:14).
During the coming great tribulation when the devil will come down to earth with great wrath knowing that he has but a short time, there will still be only one effective weapon against him. Although many of the true believers of that time will die as martyrs (Rev. 6:9-11), they will prevail spiritually against the attacks of Satan through faith in the Lamb of God who was slain to redeem them: “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb” (Rev. 12:11).
The blood of Christ, which is the symbol of His atoning death, gives life (Jn. 6:53-56), it cleanses us from all sin (1 Jn. 1:7) and ensures victory in the battle (Rev. 12:11).
Identifying ourselves fully with the victory of Jesus on the cross and waiting on the Lord to fill us with His Holy Spirit, gives us confidence to witness to other people and to resist the devil. After his conversion, Paul was “filled with the Holy Ghost… And straightway he preached Christ… that He is the Son of God” (Acts 9:17,20). The bold and fearless testimony of a believer not only confirms his faith in the Lord Jesus, but also ensures the retreat of the enemy (Jas. 4:7).
People who do not confess their sins to God and give testimony to others about their faith in Christ cannot possibly be saved. “...if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation (Rom. 10:9-10).
Another form of confessing your faith with your mouth is by praising the Lord. To sing His praises and exalt His wonderful and conquering Name scares the enemy away and releases power within you, “for the joy of the LORD is your strength” (Neh. 8:10).
A prayerless Christian is a powerless Christian. Intercession according to the will of God, and in the power of the Holy Spirit, can really change things. It moves the mighty arm of God and brings many blessings to people: “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (Jas. 5:16).
To pray prevailing prayers we should “draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience” (Heb. 10:22). We should live holy lives and pray in accordance with the will of God: “And this is the confidence that we have in Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us” (1 Jn. 5:14).
Always guard against inactivity in your prayer life, as well as other areas of your service to the Lord. Idleness is the parent of vice, and the enemy will certainly exploit situations like this: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58).
If we ignore the attacks of the devil, shrug them off as an illusion, or try to ward them off by resorting to psychological or medical therapy, the problems will become more deeply entrenched, which will have serious consequences. If we take refuge in the Lord by taking our burdens to Him in prayer, and also ask others to intercede for us, He will certainly deliver us from evil: “…the Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations” (2 Pet. 2:9); “…be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” (Eph. 6: 10). The victory belongs to Him who is mighty to save!
The Word of God is a mighty weapon in the battle against temptation, deception, unbelief, and other attacks that the enemy may launch against us. To be able to use it we must believe and know it: “And take... the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17).
The Word of God must govern your heart, renew your mind, and instil its divine nature and principles in your life. “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee” (Ps. 119:11). In the light of God’s Word the true nature of your thoughts and intentions will be revealed: “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing [apart] of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).
When the devil tempted the Lord Jesus in the wilderness, He refuted all the deceptive and distorted statements of Satan from the Scriptures: In the correct application of the Word He replied by saying, “It is written…”
The quotation of biblical truths settles a matter beyond any doubt or further arguments. The Word of God has an authority that no one can challenge. Do you study and try to memorise important texts in your Bible and apply God’s commandments and promises in every area of your life? “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine?… Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers… shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:35-39).
But that which ye have already hold fast till I come. And he that overcometh, and keepeth My works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations (Rev. 2:25-26).
From the preceding discussion it is obvious that only a sanctified, Spirit-filled person is well prepared for the battle against the forces of Satan that continually exploit the fallen, sinful nature of humans. We are tripartite beings and Paul mentions all three aspects as relevant to the process of sanctification and defence against the devil’s attacks: “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He that calleth you who also will do it” (1 Thes. 5:23-24; emphasis added).
The three basic aspects of a human being are each associated with three distinct attributes which are most relevant to the experience and process of sanctification:
Faith, hope and love
Intellect, will and emotions
Senses, physiology and members
The spiritual life of a Christian is marked by faith, hope and love. From God’s perspective, all unsaved persons are spiritually dead. They have a spirit but it is alienated from and unresponsive to God and, if not made alive, this leads to eternal death and damnation.
The child of God is spiritually alive because there is a bond of faith between him and the Lord. Note that a living faith is much more than the mental acceptance of the principles and foundations of the Christian faith. You must confess all the sins of which the Holy Spirit convicts you and embrace the Lord Jesus as Saviour. Then you will be made spiritually alive by being born again to live the life of a believer and a child of God.
As with the other gifts of the Spirit, faith is dynamic in its nature. You can have more or less of it. It is precisely here that the challenge lies to become spiritually mature: “…till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine” (Eph. 4:13-14).
Satan will attack your faith in God with great force. He will try to destroy or weaken it by introducing doubt, fear, and other negative thoughts. Things may happen to you that cause you to wonder whether the Lord is still with you and whether He really loves you and cares for you. It is a terrible sin to doubt the nearness and love of the Lord during trials and afflictions (cf. Ex. 17:7). In so doing you are conceding victory to the enemy. When we allow Satan to sow doubt and bitterness in our hearts we will grieve the Holy Spirit and become discontent and even complain against God. In this state of mind we will adversely affect other people and pull them down spiritually (Heb. 12:14-15).
A doubter does not have a meaningful spiritual life. Least of all is the effectiveness of his prayer life: “…let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord. A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways” (Jas. 1:6-8). “Without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him” (Heb. 11:6).
We should resolutely press on in the battle of faith, despite the fierceness of the attacks against us, until that day when the victors will be rewarded in heaven: “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses” (1 Tim. 6:12).
Paul encourages us that: “…we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil” (Heb. 6:18-19).
Is the flame of hope still burning brightly in your heart? Are you looking forward to the coming again of Jesus and the eternal life that is awaiting you? Is this hope the anchor for your soul in the stormy and troubled waters through which you have to pass? Cling tightly to the hope ahead. It is a blessed and purifying hope that will motivate you to trust in the Lord always and stay on course in your spiritual life: “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a [special] people, zealous of good works” (Tit. 2:11-14). “And every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure” (1 Jn. 3:3).
Satan will persistently try to weaken or obliterate your expectation of the Second Coming in order to reduce your spiritual motivation and endurance. He does not want you to pursue holiness and effective service while waiting for the appearance of the heavenly Bridegroom. He will do everything possible to deceive you into believing the amillennial interpretation in which prophecies on the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ are spiritualised away and relegated to a distant future.
When hope in the Second Coming has been effectively weakened, the devil replaces it with secular objectives, e.g. the promotion of the humanistic peace programmes of the new world order, as well as the unholy unification of world religions. In this way a man-made Utopia is being built up which excludes the only real solution for this sinful and sick world, namely, the coming of the Prince of Peace and the physical manifestation of His kingdom on earth.
Hope is a very important aspect of a Christian’s spiritual life. Apart from the eager expectation of the coming of the kingdom, you should put your trust in the Lord for the needs of your everyday life, also in humanly-speaking impossible situations (2 Cor. 1:8-10; Rom. 5:3-5).
As saved people, we are rooted and grounded in the love of Jesus Christ. Of these three – faith, hope, and love – it is undoubtedly love that is the greatest. I am referring to God’s divine agape love that reaches out to the world in its desperate need. Human love can be noble, even self-sacrificing, but it is, at best, flawed with elements of self-interest and pride. More usually people are selfish, often covetous of others’ possessions and status – even of their marriage partners.
In the revelation of God’s love He took the first step by reaching out to us in our sinful condition. “God commendeth His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Jesus paid the death-penalty imposed upon all sinners in order that we may be forgiven and set free from the bondage of sin. The Holy Spirit convicts people of their sinfulness and lost state. He makes them aware of Jesus Christ’s love for them and of His saving grace and gives them the faith to accept Him as Saviour.
Faith is, therefore, only the means to an end, namely, to become open to the love and mercy of God in order that it can be received into your heart. Love is still the greatest issue involved in your salvation.
Love must become the foundation of your whole life. You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind and your fellow human beings as yourself (Lk. 10:27). This agape love must permeate your relationship with others.
The love of God will also enable you to defend yourself against all the hateful feelings and actions that the enemy can muster against you. The power of true love cannot be conquered: “Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it” (Song 8:7). To share in the victory of love you must have a heart filled with it: “…the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom. 5:5 NKJV).
The human soul is the arena of fierce battles against the enemy. The following three aspects are considered here:
The human mind is an important faculty through which we gain knowledge of truths, as well as of lies, which penetrate to the depths of our souls. Through the mind and the senses of sight and hearing we receive the gospel of Christ and come to faith in Him: “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). “Take heed… how ye hear” (Lk. 8:18).
A vast amount of lies and evil teachings also enter our minds from outside. Satan uses them to create confusion and to establish false ideas in the human mind. Is your mind under the control of the Holy Spirit, or is it a receptacle for vile, immoral thoughts, materialism, deceptions such as evolution, unbiblical cult and New Age teachings, with which the devil, the god of this age, blinds the minds of unbelievers (2 Cor. 4:4) and also deceives believers? Pray that the Holy Spirit will help you to resist Satan’s cunning tactics and enlighten the eyes of your understanding (Eph. 1:18).
The plans and strategies whereby the enemy attempts to deceive us intellectually and spiritually, must be unmasked and every thought taken into captivity to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:4-5). Otherwise, the devil and his lying emissaries will slip in unawares and sow confusion in our minds and souls, thereby blinding us to the truth.
Although the human will is neutral and allows us to make moral choices, it too easily reacts to the evil and worldly desires of humanity’s fallen nature if it is not exposed to the truth. For this reason the Bible exhorts us to gain knowledge about the will of God, and to commit ourselves to do it: “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God” (Rom. 12:2).
Pray and ask God to reveal the deeper aspects of His will to you and to work in you “to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Eph. 1:9; Phil. 2:13). Pray also that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will (Col. 1:9), that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God (Col. 4:12).
Are you making progress in this regard, or does the devil constantly succeed in provoking you to do your own will and to gratify the cravings of your sinful nature? Ask God to free you from the snare of the devil, if he has taken you captive to do his will instead of God’s will (2 Tim. 2:26).
In the spiritual battle, many a soul has been paralysed and defeated on the emotional level. Under conditions of tension and disappointment, emotional depression is permitted to develop, resulting in negative thoughts such as discouragement, apathy, and even a total loss of interest in life itself. There are also active negative attitudes that are used by the devil to attack people. These include hate, aggression, jealousy, self-centredness, worry, bitterness and an unforgiving spirit.
Human emotions must be brought under the control of the Holy Spirit; otherwise our carnal temperaments, stirred up by the enemy, will reign supreme. In a surrendered life you will discover that the joy of the Lord replaces and overcomes all negative experiences, observations and feelings. Paul, even under the most appalling and depressing prison conditions, could say with conviction: “Rejoice in the Lord [always]: and again I say, Rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4).
Are you filled with the joy, gentleness, meekness and self-control which comes from the Holy Spirit? (Gal. 5:22-23). Or do you still have an untamed temper that can easily flare up if you are provoked by the enemy? “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city” (Prov. 16:32).
It is a well established fact that highly emotional reactions do not lead to sound and lasting decisions. Many people who are emotionally charged, do things on the spur of the moment which they later regret. Even if the decisions were good, people find it difficult to uphold them after their emotional feelings have subsided.
Emotions are good and functional, but they must be under control and never allowed to reign supreme or to overrule intellectual reasoning and the quiet conviction of the Holy Spirit in the decision-making process.
The human body is likewise the territory where enemy attacks occur in the battle against the forces of darkness. Without a body, the spirit and mind of a person would not be able to express themselves. Any malfunctioning in this sphere would obviously also suit the devil’s plans. The following three aspects of the body can be seen as targets:
The five senses of the body are gateways through which a great variety of influences can affect you for good or evil:
Ear-gate: Hearing is the gate which admits both truth and lies to the mind, which processes the information. Decisions taken in the light of the facts gathered are of great importance in determining a person’s attitude. Corrupt conversation, dubious radio and TV programmes, the amoral, often satanic lyrics of pop and rock music with its heavy, hypnotic beat – all of which promote sinful, godless life-styles – enter the mind, emotions and spirit of a person via the ear-gate.
Eye-gate: This is equally important in admitting information into the mind. Think of all the deceptive propaganda and amoral material in books, magazines, TV, films and videos, and the pornographic video and internet images used by the devil to defile viewer’s minds – even the minds of Christians who foolishly expose themselves to such evil influences (1 Jn. 2:15-17).
Touch-gate: The sense of feeling can be perverted by indulgence in alcohol, drugs and sexual immorality. Unable to control their craving for sensual pleasure many become addicted to and enslaved by it.
Taste-gate: An undisciplined sense of taste can lead to over-indulgence in food and drink, which can harm the body and impair our usefulness in God’s service.
Nose-gate: The sense of smell can entice people with delicious aromas to overindulge in food, and, with alluring, heady perfumes, into sexual immorality.
The sixth sense: The devil tries to convince people that they also have a sixth sense and should learn to practise extra-sensory perception by way of Transcendental Meditation and other psycho-techniques. (For more information on this subject see the booklet on The New Age Movement).
Scripture says that our bodies are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps. 139:14), are the temples of the Holy Spirit and we should glorify God in them (1 Cor. 6:19-20). The devil tries to damage or destroy our bodies – so, avoiding neuroticism and unhealthy life-styles, we should try to keep them healthy and fit to serve God. Smoking, alcohol and drug abuse, and sexual sins must be abandoned and a healthy life-style adopted – ideally including a balanced diet of natural, non-GM, organic food, adequate exercise and sleep, and a happy mental outlook, rejoicing in the Lord (Phil. 4:4). We should avoid or minimise exposure to harmful chemicals, infections, atmospheric pollution, nuclear, vhf and uhf (phone) radiations. Pray for wisdom in caring for the body!
All the members of the body play a part in its wholeness and have marvellous capabilities which can be used either for good or bad purposes. The tongue, for example, can be used to speak truth, edify and bless, but also to lie, corrupt and curse – so Scripture exhorts us to refrain our “tongue from evil”, and our “lips that they speak no guile” (1 Pet. 3:10). To be wholly sanctified means that we reckon “our old man is crucified” with Christ, ourselves to be “dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ”, to “walk in newness of life”, so must not allow our body members to be used as “instruments of unrighteousness unto sin”, but yielded to God as “instruments of righteousness” (Rom. 6:1-13).
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Rom. 12:1). Paul also said: “I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me” (Gal. 2:20). Are you able to say these words, adding: “to see through my eyes, hear through my ears, speak through my lips, love with my heart, work with my hands and walk with my feet”?
“Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day” (Eph. 6:13) – and so defeat the devil at each level of the battle in your spirit, soul and body – and, as Paul desires for us all, may: “The very God of peace sanctify you wholly: and… your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thes. 5:23).