BTC – Phase 3 – Lesson 5
By Ann M. Wolf
With Grace we are “overcomers”: It is natural to experience a few “extra” ups and downs at the start of our walk with Jesus, as well as throughout our spiritual journey. Many describe this as “the devil coming against us”; and maybe this dramatic assessment is partly true in that the “spirit” which opposes the Spirit of God will attempt to distract us from our goal of transformation or might attempt to use our weaknesses (or those of others) to snag us into a carnal debate or drama of some sort.
But it is also been suggested in Scripture, that whatever this so-called “enemy” means for our destruction, God can use for our good, even the challenges of life which can expose to us what our next areas of growth might be. Thus, our mistakes can become the “lead-in” for what we learn next, as we go to God for help and for strength.
So where is the warfare? “Spiritual warfare” is not actually the” enemy coming against us”; rather, the term “spiritual warfare” refers to how we choose to respond to life’s challenges when they come…and they will come, since we do still live in “the world,” of which realm according to Scripture, is run by “the prince of the power of the air,” Ephesians 2:2.
However, our instructions in Scripture are clear…we are to offer “good for evil,” “forgiveness in the face of disappointing behavior,” and we are to “pray for those who persecute us.” We are also told to “mind the Spirit” (focus on the Spirit,) over and over again.
But how hard is this? Without the help of the Spirit of God….it is almost impossible to love that much; yet with the Spirit, “all things are possible.” So our warfare, as those who walk by the Spirit, does not involve “fighting with the enemy” or “battling against the ways of darkness”; but for us, warfare becomes a matter of learning how to consistently hold to the values of mercy, while seeking the power found in Grace…that we might become as vessels of Light in the face of darkness.
The world is the world (behaves in a worldly manner), and the agenda for the world is usually self-based, although from time to time we are blessed by some who inspire us with their love and mercy. So, we can hope for the best from others; but realistically, until souls develop a hunger and thirst for God and for authentic spirituality… much of the time, the motives we will encounter from others, will be largely flesh-based and centered around ego, desires, material gratification, control, power, etc…..all “natural” instincts which any of us have, until the soul begins its journey toward God-consciousness.
By the way, it may take a while to work all of those same kind of “ways/wiles” of the “old-nature” out of ourselves, even after we gain the Spirit; giving us reason to focus more on “minding our own spiritual business,” then over-examining the condition of others.
According to Scripture, our response to “worldliness” and even to persecution should be one of love, though, as already mentioned, this ability will likely take time to develop, which is another reason why the Spirit is given to us, to help along “The Way.”
By our relationship with the Living Spirit of God within us, we have the support we need, to learn to respond to all situations with love. Thus we see the words of Jesus in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”
Jesus instructed us to “cast the net” or in other words….He commanded us to “teach, baptize, and then teach more.” (Matthew 28:19-20 KJV) “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” Based on these words at the conclusion of the Book of Matthew, we know that it then rests upon us to become effective and loving persuaders of people, encouraging them to reach for God; and via our love, invite those in the world to also “enter” into the Net or come into to a safe place with great potential for soul-growth. (The word “Saved,” or “Sozo” in the Greek, refers to “being rescued and brought into a place of safety.”
Meanwhile, as we remain busy with these loving endeavors of the soul, our perception of others will also gradually change, even toward the ones who may not yet have the ability to respond with love. In this cycle of mercy, as we develop deeper levels of compassion and as we pray for others, we are not as easily enticed to become bitter because of the behavior of others as we might have experienced in the past.
Isn’t this an amazing and ingenious formula for keeping us in the spiritual zone? It is actually very difficult to operate from two totally different motives at once; or in other words, it is hard to hate anyone while we are in the act of sincerely praying for them. These instructions to “pray for those who persecute us” represent another example of the wisdom and marvelous leading of our Good Shepherd.
“Did the Devil make me do it?” In learning about how to operate lawfully (by New Testament standards) in situations of spiritual warfare…let’s get a bit more specific about the dynamics of “enticement” and how we might choose a better way, or as the Good Book tells us, “resist the enemy and he will flee” or in KJV, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” – James 5:7.
As for the so-called “devil”…..here’s a question many of us have asked ourselves, “Is Satan an actual “negative being” who tempts us to do wrong?” Well, I’ve never believed that the devil is a wicked “dood” with a pitch fork constantly plotting against us. But in terms of “energy,” we all know what it feels like to be around “bad energy” and any “energetic influence” which attempts to lead us away from love, can’t be good. The Bible also tells us that certain demons are like fallen angels of sorts; and therefore, these ones are like beings of some kind, capable of influencing humans, if we give them place. Therefore Paul tells us not to give the enemy place, “Neither give place to the devil.” Ephesians 4:27 KJV
So, based on that assessment, there clearly are writings in the Bible about the existence of “Satan,” or “The Devil,” as being some sort of negative, deceptive, and conscious force, out to distract us from our spiritual goals….yet, in James 1:12-16 we learn that “every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.”
So, what does that mean? Well….when difficulties come or when “temptations” are experienced… the so-called devil apparently doesn’t “do” much “to us”; but instead, this enticing “spirit” (a spirit which is against the Spirit which is God) can only ‘suggest” behaviors or “invite us to respond in a certain way, attempting to appeal to those parts of us that still might operate or react from the “old nature.”
How can we avoid “taking the bait?”: So, though the invitations to take the wrong path may appear, the choice of what to do remains with us, to “receive” and entertain those ideas, or reject them in favor of holding close to the ways of the Spirit of God.
Our Choice & Choosing Correctly: It has already been mentioned that focusing on the Spirit of God as we under-go our own spiritual transformation, can certainly help us stay on course; but I have also learned from personal experience, that reviewing our basic values and principles on a regular basis, while staying very close to the written Word of God, can certainly help as well, when confronted with difficult choices. When we know what our values are, and if we maintain awareness of Whom we serve, then, “making good choices” or “maintaining more loving perceptions,” will come easier, while the temptation to give in to remaining flesh-based cravings, will have less influence upon our decisions.
“Who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit” – Romans 8:1 (KJV): OK. What do the expressions, “carnal behavior,” “lust,” or “flesh” refer to? Well, Galatians, Chapter 5:19-21 mentions 18 characteristics of the old-nature. “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, 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.” KJV
This nature is also called the “fall-nature” or “adamic nature,” as described in Genesis regarding the fall of Adam and Eve. So these expressions, including the term “flesh,” is used to sum up childish, self-centered, or immature behavior that we operate from before committing to spiritual growth and before we have that wonderful point of reference we gain from the Spirit of God, making it possible to operate from a “New Nature.”
As much as we would like to think of ourselves as basically “caring people,” and in spite of our best efforts, all of us have experienced “falling,” in that we have either broken one or more of the Ten Commandments at one time or another, or found ourselves indulging in any one of those eighteen negative attributes, since those qualities are typically found in most all of us, prior to reaching for God and before gaining the Spirit to guide us.
It takes two: One vivid example of temptation and how it works is found in the story of Jesus in the wilderness, when he was confronted by the devil. For this interaction to have succeeded (in Satan’s mind), it would have required Jesus to have some lust in Him that the enemy could have appealed to. But since Jesus had no such lust or base quality within Him, there was nothing to entice Jesus with.
And so it is with any of us; as we take on more and more characteristics of the Spirit, due to our association with the Spirit, the enemy has less and less to use about ourselves, against us, when trying to hook us with some remaining “tare”(old-man tendency) in us.
By the way, having a “lust” could refer to any one of the eighteen characteristics of the old nature; or there may be other applications of the same principle. For instance, some of us could suffer from having a lust for superiority, which could lead us into gossip. Perhaps some of us may have experienced having had a lust for power and control over others at one time, due to a lingering “root of insecurity” still within us. Maybe, we’ve experienced a lust for excessive amounts of attention from others, having caused us to be self-centered in conversations and interactions with others. We also see in Scripture, that envy, which is another fear-based state of consciousness behind many nefarious deeds, well…this can be a “lust,”…”Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?” – James 4:5 (KJV)
So, where’s the hope for us? After we read the list of the “old-man” characteristics in Galatians, we then discover hope as we continue to read and find the “Fruits of the Spirit,” in verses 22-23, giving us an idea of what our behavior might evolve into, based on walking in mercy and grace over time:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23
Yes, part of the whole reason for Jesus to have lived among us was to have offered His amazing example of mercy at the Cross, (followed by His glorification,) and then to set up the conditions for us to gain a “New Nature” via a personal relationship with His Spirit, which would lead and guide us from within. He spoke of this Gift many times, such as in John 14:16-17….“And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him: for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.”
Thus, the New Testament is full of passages which point our attention back to the Spirit, time and time again, as the best “defense” if you will, against having our consciousness in the wrong place and offering the wrong response, when the “fiery darts” come. See Ephesians 6:16 (KJV) “Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.”
So, as our minds and hearts are “stayed on God,” (focused on God,) we have a greater ability to “discern,” by the Spirit when negative bait is being dangled before us; and therefore, our chances of exercising our New nature in Christ, rather than being led around by the “old nature, “ is also increased.
In verses Galatians 5:16-17, we see…”Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary, the one to the other; so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.”
Learning to Stand: So, in essence….the issue regarding “Spiritual warfare” is not so much whether or not the so-called enemy will attempt to entice us into loveless behavior, because it will; but rather, our “warfare” looks at how we will react to those challenges and how we will stand prepared to respond from the Spirit, hopefully, because we have learned to remain focused on the Spirit. Then, once we learn to “Stand,” we can help others develop the same ability; thus the reason for our gatherings (church services & bible study classes) is to support one another throughout our spiritual transformation process, encouraging one another to hold to the Spirit throughout everything our lives.
As we develop “Godly consciousness,” this will eventually reflect in all of our choices.
Doing battle with Godly weapons of warfare: In learning how to respond to life’s challenges in a Godlier manner, can you see that there truly is a battle of sorts that we must expect to endure as part of our strengthening process? And isn’t it wonderful to know that, the answer to any such “warfare,” according to Paul, is to “Walk in the Spirit” and stick to all the Godly weapons of warfare as are listed in Chapter 6 of Ephesians, which means that rather than focus on the struggle, or as some like to say, we “focus on the solution instead of the pollution.”
In so doing, the more we become established in our relationship with the Spirit and the more we remain aware of our Lighthouse Principles on a regular basis, the more adept we will become at recognizing any “spirit” which might attempt to lure us away from what we hold dear “in Christ,” and the more we will sense or discern “the nature” of any suggestion or element which would attempt to hook onto any remaining “old-man” quality or “tare” in us.
And even if we do get confused or “off-target” from time to time, while we are “working out our salvation in fear and trembling,” the mercy of God is new every day and the Spirit is with us 24/7, by which we can re-new or strength and begin again. The main thing is to “never give up” reaching for God’s “Way.” “And let us not be weary in well-doing: for in due season we shall reap if we faint not.” – Galatians 6: 9 (KJV)
Bowling….strike ten! Let’s do drama!: Come to think of it, this plan of the so-called “enemy” to “invite, suggest, or entice,” has the potential of operating pretty efficiently in its ability to drag in lots of others folks into drama. The way the game of “bowling” is played, is that a heavy ball is hurled down an alley to knock about a lot of pins at once. So when it comes to us, if a “negative spirit” succeeds in getting us “to react like the devil to the devil,” well, within minutes, lots of people can potentially get caught up in a debacle of emotions and drama…all at the same time.
Ooooops! Back it Up!: But by the same token, the reverse can happen. If we can succeed in showing love and mercy under duress, imagine what marvelous affect we might have on many around us….all at the same time. It is for this wonderful goal that we are willing to “resist the enemy, that he would flee,” as we die to the ways of the “old nature” and embraces the habits of the “new nature in Christ.”
Recognizing and overcoming “The Four Ds”: As I mentioned above, the “spirit which is against the Spirit of God” evidently loves to employ many strategies designed to lead us off of the “narrow path” onto the “wide path,” which includes the use of what I like to call the “Four Ds.” There are many convincing ways in which these “Four Ds” can become operational if we are caught off-guard, but here are just a few examples:
- To Distract – Do we give in to the feeling of being “too busy” or “too upset” (or “too anything”) to stay focused on God or to spend time in His presence as well as on our studies? Then…if so… are we staying stuck in old patterns of behavior, of thought or emotion, and then wondering why we are not feeling very well? Are we choosing distractions over determination?
- To Discredit – Do we get enticed by discussions and intrigue about whether or not the Bible holds any real value…that is, before we have even studied Scripture? Do we see the mis-takes of others, including those of some well-publicized religious leaders “through the glass darkly,” before gaining enough wisdom and experience to know how to understand or support the people of God? Do we still get caught up in gossip and judgment by over-emphasizing the unfortunate mistakes of a few in the Body who may need our mercy, our forgiveness, and helpful prayers instead? Are we minding our own spiritual business? Are we forgetting to apply the mercy to others that has been given to us?
- To Discourage – Do we become frustrated and overwhelmed with either the extent of our own learning experiences, with mistakes we keep making, or with the amount of what there is to learn as we begin the process of transformation? Do we give in to depression, dwelling on the negatives rather than fill our minds with new input which could lead to different results? Is our perception of life being more influenced by the “old-man/nature” or by the Spirit of God? Have we given God the time and effort needed to form a new way of experiencing life…or do we expect a “drive through break through?”
- To Deceive – Are we vulnerable and susceptible to the lure of sweet talk and “ear tickling gospels” which entertain us with what our carnal-based emotional nature loves to hear? Do we understand that the gospels of many social movements, religious leaders, cults, and certain cultures out there in the world are actually intellectual or political in nature, instead of being spiritually based (as they may claim); and do we understand that many of these kinds of groups value conformity and control and therefore do not value liberty, freedom of information, or individual freedom to learn and grow as the Spirit leads? Do we spend enough time with God through His Spirit (and by studying the Scriptures) to be able to “discern” whether or not a given “doctrine” or “propaganda” bears “Fruit of the Spirit?” There are good points to most all preaching out there, but what doctrine and experience will help us “die to the old” and learn to “walk by the New,” while holding to the personal liberty given when we remain “In Christ.” Only the credible Spirit of God can help us discern that.
Lead us not into temptation: “But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.” – Hebrews 10:39 (KJV)
Even if we come to understand the theory about “holding to the Spirit vs. giving in to the habit of reacting from the old ways”… we all quickly learn, that in spite of our resolve and good intentions, it is very hard at times to reign in the flesh nature and not give in to the “temptation” to just lash out in like-manner, when we feel attacked; yet, to give in to such enticements would represent elements of “drawing back unto perdition.”
However, Scripture does give us hope, direction, and a path to follow for all of our life, to include difficult times and situations…while the Spirit of God gives us the courage and determination needed to “overcome.”
In Ephesians 1:14 we see, “Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of His glory.” The saving of our souls is possible, because Jesus paid the price to redeem our souls. He takes, He breaks, He saves, and then He gives us back into service. Our soul is in the process of becoming Spiritual by the Spirit, bringing to pass, our souls being “formed into Spirit.” So, as we are “being formed” into Spiritual beings, it becomes very important to hold especially close to God and glean the strength and wisdom needed to learn to respond to all challenging situations with Godly love.
“Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” – Ephesians 6:11 (KJV): We will cover the “Armor of God” (Ephesians 6:10-18 KJV) later in our Studies however for now, just remember that as you continue to seek the Spirit, you will develop the wisdom, knowledge, and strength you need, to know how to respond to each life event in a Godly way.
Jesus also commands us to show Mercy toward others, no matter what we see happening; and He will be there to help us all accomplish this as well.
Support for the ongoing process of Spiritual growth: “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.” – 1 Corinthians 9: 24 (KJV)
Making a commitment to undergo spiritual transformation does involve an initial moment of decision, while the growth process (of letting go of old habits) takes a lifetime.
So, hang in there through it all and draw lots of support around you. Listen to Spirit-filled music to retain your focus. Keep seeking the Spirit in your private time with the Lord, and keep enjoying your Bible, especially the words in Red that are the words of Jesus.
The Holy Ghost (leading and guiding element of God) knows what you need at all times and will be sending you inspiration and blessings in due season, throughout your process of growth. You will soon come to recognize God’s signature on those special moments which happen just for you, to lift you and guide you. These experiences will also serve to increase your faith, that whatever God has begun within you can be finished and finished beautifully.
“Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls”- 1 Peter 1:9 (KJV)
By Ann M. Wolf – c 2010 – BMI – All rights reserved.