Posts Tagged ‘spiritual battle’

Part of the fruit of “The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil” is the inherent belief that we know what is best for us, and ultimately what will make us happy.  Reflexively, we view situations through the lens of our own experience, and then lean heavily on our own understanding.  We may try to evoke some scriptural justification for our assessments, but it is the Spirit of God that offers us the balance. 

For instance, we can watch the evening news, and in our frustration, we can decide that what we really need is boldness, and then start praying for a “spirit of boldness” to be released; when the Spirit of Lord is actually trying to get us to take our eyes off the circumstance (i.e. temporal), and get us to engage in the actual spiritual battle (2Cor. 4:18).  Without the temperance of the Spirit, our fervor tends to drive us toward destruction.

No doubt, it was zeal for God that compelled James & John to want to call fire down from heaven (Luke 9:54), and Peter to swing the sword in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matt 26:51), and Saul to persecute Jesus’ followers (Acts 8:3).  But all were eventually admonished for doing what seemed right in their own eyes.   Indeed, boldness without discernment is a dangerous thing.

In much the same way, knowledge can be a two edged sword.  It is only when knowledge encounters humility that it has the potential to become wisdom.  Without the moderation of the Spirit, knowledge can simply puff a man up (1Cor 8:1), and God resists the proud (James 4:6).

Our carnal mind likes to classify things as either “good” or “bad”, but context is essential.  Paul tells us to eagerly seek spiritual gifts (1Cor.12:31), but then warns that without love, those gifts become worthless (1Cor. 13:1-3).  Scripture cautions that we are justified by faith and not by works (Gal. 2:16), but then declares that faith without works is dead (James 2:17).  We learn that there is power in the name of Jesus (Mark 16:17), but find that doing things in Jesus’ name is of no eternal value, unless we actually know Him (Matt. 7:23). 

To our finite way of thinking, things like justice and grace are diametrically opposed, and yet they are both perfectly reflected in the person of God.  The balance of these (and many other) issues can only be found in Him.  Ultimately, this is what allows us to be in the world, but not of the world (John 17:15-18).  Only He has the words of life (John 6:68), and apart from Him, we can do “nothing” (John 15:5).

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On this side of eternity, there is a battle that goes on every day of our lives, and if we do not discern it, we can quietly live an existence of turmoil and defeat.  It begins with our first thought of the day, which sets the tone for everything that follows it.  And while the objective of this war is ultimately the fidelity of our hearts, the battle itself is most commonly waged upon the fertile ground of our minds.  Even if the enemy never successfully wrestles away our allegiance, succumbing to this daily struggle can drastically impact the fruit produced by our lives.  When Jesus spoke of the greatest commandment, He not only told us to love God with all of our heart and soul, He instructed us to love Him with “all” of our mind.  But what does that really look like?


First and foremost, our journey with God must begin with a change of mind, which is commonly referred to within the scripture as “repentance”.  The book of Proverbs says that as a man thinks, so is he (23:7); therefore, when we surrender our lives to the Lord, our ways of thinking must also be placed on the altar.  We can no longer be conformed to the patterns of this world, and we need to allow ourselves to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom 12:2).  It is not simply resisting “evil” thoughts, and having “good” ones.  The Apostle Paul warns that those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. He adds that the mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace (Rom 8:5).  Similarly, the book of James (1:8) warns us that we cannot have it both ways, as a double-minded man is unstable in everything he does.


While those words are clearly ripe with implication, how to apply them may not always be obvious.  Thankfully, the scripture gets very practical on this matter.  It tells us that we shouldn’t allow our minds to be consumed with earthly things (Phil 3:19, Col 3:2), or to let our hearts be troubled or afraid (John 14:27), or even to worry about tomorrow (Matt 6:34).  It says that because “seen” things (i.e. natural) are perishing, we need to stay focused on “unseen” things (i.e. spiritual), which are eternal (2Cor. 4:18); and that we need to fix our attention on the person of Jesus Christ (Heb. 12:2).  In a more general way, it tells us to look for those things which are noble, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable, and praiseworthy; and to set our minds on them (Phil 4:8).


The Bible acknowledges that all of this won’t come easy.  While it concedes that we will have to take “every thought captive”, it also assures us that through the power of God’s Spirit, we can demolish every argument and pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of who He is (2 Cor. 10:5), and that by carrying our concerns to Him in prayer, we can experience a peace that will further guard our hearts and minds (Phil 4:6-7).


This picture stands in stark contrast to the paradigm of our culture, which encourages us to open our minds (including our imaginations) to every possibility, and to lend equal weight to every viewpoint.  The scripture warns us to “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition, and the elemental spiritual forces of this world, rather than on Christ (Col. 2:8)”.  But that guidance is challenging, especially in an age when our senses are relentlessly bombarded with images, ideas, opinions agendas…  Readily drinking these things into our soul is akin to swallowing untreated water from the river; it is bound to make our hearts and minds sick.


I would suggest that upon hearing news of break-ins around our neighborhood, most of us would consider taking additional steps toward keeping our home secure.  And so it should be with our minds.  If we consistently battle anxious thoughts, or find ourselves mired in the hurts of the past, or are consumed with fear about what the future holds, or recognize that our outlook has become overwhelmingly negative, or are filled with animosity toward other people, or catch ourselves wondering whether God & His promises are even real, maybe it’s time to call on the Holy Spirit and to invite Him to become the new filtration system for what flows in and out of our minds.

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We live in an interesting era, where most people don’t struggle with the idea of a spiritual realm, or even the existence of spirits; but where many (including a significant number of professing “Christians”) struggle to accept the notion of a literal devil, or the existence of hell.  For the first 30+ years of my life I was essentially blind and numb to spiritual things, but all of that changed when I had a very real encounter with the Holy Spirit of God.  That singular moment changed the trajectory of my life by making God real to me in a way that He hadn’t been before; but it also opened my eyes to the invisible realm, which includes demons, and demonic activity.  I’ve had curious people ask me about such things, and I like to use the “Lion King” as an example of how it works.


Simba represents each of us, while Mufasa represents all three persons of God.  He is Simba’s father, who gives his life to save him, and whose spirit guides him.  His rules were meant to protect his children, but Simba chooses to go his own way.  Scar represents the enemy of our souls, whose real intention is to steal, kill, and destroy.  In the presence of the genuine King, Scar is powerless, but after Mufasa’s death, his accusations drive Simba from his father’s kingdom (the Pride Lands), and cause him to forfeit his rights as an heir to the throne.  Just as Satan has demons to do his work, Scar has his pack of Hyenas to do his bidding. 


As long as Simba was willing to live the “hakuna matata” (no worries in Swahili) lifestyle with Timon and Pumbaa, he posed little threat to Scar, and was largely left alone.  Of course, he had to live in a very demeaning way for a lion; eating bugs and the like; but his friends made it bearable.  That was until Nala shows up, and reminds him of where he came from, and that his family is suffering at the hands (or paws) of Scar and his sidekicks.  But even though Simba wants to help, the voice of the accuser again causes him to doubt himself.  Though Rafiki plays the role of a prophet, it is eventually the voice of his father that is able to remind Simba of who he is, and of what his destiny was meant to be.  With the word of his father burning within his heart, Scar becomes powerless to stop Simba from taking his rightful place as the heir to the throne.


Like Simba, we have all gone on own way, and the accuser of the brethren has a lot to say about it.  If we believe in what he is saying, we will forfeit our rightful place in our Father’s kingdom.  If we choose to take the “hakuna matata” approach to the problem, we will live well beneath the level we were created for, and never find our way back to our homeland.  We all desperately need to have the same revelation that Simba had, which is that we are loved, forgiven, meant to dwell in our Father’s kingdom, and created to be an heir to His throne.  Our identities need to become rooted in that revelation, and it needs to propel us into the battle against the illegitimate authority of our enemy.  The scripture tells us that our battle is not against flesh and blood, “but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Eph. 6:12)”.  If we are really worried about the direction our country is headed, I would suggest that this is the battle we need to be engaging in.

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