by Mike Ratliff
I have taught and written much about the battle believers have, and will always have in this life, with their flesh. Most believers are enslaved to their flesh. Why? We were made with an insatiable desire for fulfillment. At birth we inherited our Sin Nature from Adam. We were all born that way. Prior to our salvation we sought fulfillment via it. It primarily utilized our flesh for that purpose. At our salvation through the washing of regeneration, our Sin Nature was cleansed from us. We are no longer hopeless sinners because of that.
However, if believers are not discipled correctly to become Spirit-filled, they may remain Christian babies for much too long. These believers have not learned to crucify the flesh. Instead, they still seek fulfillment from via the flesh, which is sin. The first battle that all Christians are in, is the battle to become free from the flesh’s dominance in our lives. We must learn to mortify our sins as we become Spirit-filled. We will always be in this battle, but there are victories available.
In this post we will look at the other battle, which begins when believers begin to have those victories over their flesh. This second battle is the one that all believers who continually seek to grow in their knowledge of and obedience to the Word and to serve the Lord more faithfully will find themselves in. This battle is marked by their walks and ministries not becoming easier, but much more difficult.
In fact, if a Christian no longer has to struggle against the world, the flesh and the devil then he or she is one who has fallen either into sin or into complacency. A Christian who has no conflict is a Christian who has retreated from the front lines of service. The Church is under attack–both from the outside and the inside. Here is the pattern of regression: from loss of first love for Christ, to compromise with the world, to tolerance of sin, to contentment with programs and activities, to satisfaction with possessions and self.
How do we fight this second battle? We find our answer in Ephesians 6.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.” (Ephesians 6:10 ESV)
The unprepared believer becomes the defeated believers who seeks to serve the Lord in his or her own wisdom and power. The strength of the Christian life is dependence on God–our union with Him; any other strength proves to be impotent. The Lord’s strength is always sufficient for the battle (Philippians 4:13); it is not the amount of the strength we have that is important–only its source. In the ultimate sense, the church’s battles with Satan are already won (Romans 5:18-21; 1 Corinthians 15:56-57; Hebrews 2:14); trust in Jesus Christ initiates a person into that victory. Appropriation of the Lord’s strength comes through the means of grace–prayer, knowledge of and obedience to the Word, and faith in the promises of God.
“Put on the whole armor of God” (Ephesians 6:11a ESV)
In order to take advantage of the strength of God’s might, a believer must also put on the full spiritual armor that He supplies. (2 Corinthians 10:3-5) The Greek word translated as “put on” here is ενδυσασθε or “enduo.” This word carries the idea of once and for all, of permanence; something to be put on permanently; not put on and taken off occasionally. The armor of God is to be the Christian’s life long companion–providing divine power. This armor equips a believer beyond the initial facts of the Gospel; it is living the obedient, scripture-dominated, Spirit-empowered life that enables us to stand firm.
“that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:11b ESV)
Because he is God’s enemy, he is our enemy, and the only way he can attack God is through us. The Greek word translated as “schemes” here is “μεθοδιας” or “methodia” carries the idea of craftiness, cunning, and deception. Scripture is clear about Satan’s very real and personal existence. (Isaiah 14:12-17; Ezekiel 28:1-10; Revelation 12:7-9)
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12 ESV)
One of Satan’s most effective strategies, and therefore one of a believer’s greatest dangers is the delusion that no seriously threatening conflict between good and evil is really raging in the invisible and supernatural realm. The war between God and Satan has not diminished but intensified, and so has its front on this earth. The Christian’s struggle is not only against Satan himself but also against a host of his demon subordinates, a vast array of adversaries who, like the devil, are not flesh and blood. Our greatest enemy is not the world we see, corrupt and wicked as it is, but the world we cannot see.
The phrase, “but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” describes the different strata and rankings of those demons and the evil, supernatural empire in which they operate. Paul’s purpose is not to explain the details of the demonic hierarchy but to give us some idea of its sophistication and power. As we contemplate that we must also remember this promise, “Do not fear or be dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours but God’s” (2 Chronicles 20:15)
“Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” (Ephesians 6:13 ESV)
Every day since the Fall has been an evil day for mankind, and every day will continue to be evil until the usurper and his forces are thrown forever into the bottomless pit. In the meanwhile the Lord makes us able to resist in the evil days as we take advantage o the armor He supplies. Our responsibility is to resist and stand firm. The greatest joys come in the greatest victories, and the greatest victories come from the greatest battles–when they are fought in the power and with the armor of the Lord.
Over the next several posts, we will look at Satan’s methodology in this battle, his tactics, et cetera. We will also take a closer look at the armor and how its proper use enables us to stand firm in the thick of this second battle.