Before we look briefly at the actions of a warrior in this spiritual battle we are all called to fight, I want to refer you to last week’s post about the attitudes of a warrior. These actions must flow from a heart that is in a right relationship to God. We must let God work in our hearts first, or we are attempting to fight in our own strength. There is no faster way to experience burnout, discouragement, pride, legalism, and fear than trying to fight a spiritual battle in our own strength.
Many of the actions we will consider today will be expanded on in coming weeks as we consider the armor of God. Today I will attempt to be brief. I’m not saying I’m going to succeed. 🙂
1. Cast Off Sin
Paul calls our sin “deeds of darkness” and holds them up in contrast to the “armor of light” in Romans 13:12–
The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.
Our culture tells us that sin is normal, natural. We see sins that were once at least hidden away in the dark and secret places being brought forward and glorified, and we see holiness treated as sin. Regardless of all of this, our personal responsibility before the holy God of the universe has not changed. We are called to live holy lives– lives that can stand up not to the warped spotlight of the world, but to the pure light of the very glory of God Most High.
Peter tells us that our fleshly lusts wage war on our souls. They are serious. We must deal with them.
Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. (1 Peter 2:11)
Often, the casting off of sin is a spiritual battleground. This is not some simple exercise in self-discipline, but a daily surrender and yielding to the strong leading of the Holy Spirit. Anything that causes us to sin must be cast out of our lives, no matter how precious it is. In Matthew 5, Jesus tells us that even those things we think are necessary to life– our own body parts– must be cast aside if they cause us to sin:
If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.
Christ was so very serious about this concept that He repeated it again in Matthew 18. We cannot fight against the enemy if we’re not willing to also fight against our sinful flesh, doing whatever it takes to cast aside our sin.
2. Keep Serious Watch
Sober-mindedness is something I should have included last week in the attitudes of a warrior, for we see it here in Peter’s exhortation to us to be alert–
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
We must be serious-minded, and we must be keeping watch at all times. Think of a battleship on high alert as opposed to the guys in the crow’s nest on the Titanic as it neared the iceberg that destroyed it.
Temptation is going to come. Pressures will arise that make us more vulnerable to the enemy’s fiery darts. Sometimes we will be caught off guard by the battle– usually about three minutes after we fall flat on our faces we will realize that we are under attack. But if we have a sober mind and a watchful stance, that will happen less and less. We will begin to recognize our vulnerable spots and be able to set a guard around them. We will recognize signs that we are under attack from the enemy and be able to shore up our defenses.
I will give you an example from my own life. I recently realized that I have this tendency to fall into a particular sin right after some stressful event. I would resist well all through the stress, but as soon as I relaxed I’d find myself back in that sin. And I realized that this is a place of vulnerability for me, and that I needed to set a more careful watch there and be more serious about setting up strong boundaries for myself. As I recently went through another time of stress, I asked friends to pray for me and I kept myself highly accountable in this area. And God brought me through it, because that is His desire. Victory!
Here is what God has been teaching me about this– I am vulnerable right when I think I am standing firm. That’s because of pride. Paul addresses this very thing in 1 Corinthians 10:12–
Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.
Those words take heed— that is exactly what we’re talking about. Pay attention. Keep watch. Dig your heels firmly into the Rock, and stand.
3. Put on the Armor
We will spend several weeks talking in detail about the armor of God, so we’ll just touch on it here. The armor of God is what protects us and prepares us for battle. We are naked without it. Lately I have found myself entrenched in an ongoing battle that requires me to daily pray through the armor and ask God specifically to clothe me in it. As I have begun to do this daily, I have experienced far more victorious days and far more consistency in my ability to resist. Paul’s teaching about the armor of God is in Ephesians 6–
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 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. 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.
We have to remember that this is a spiritual battle against spiritual enemies, and that we cannot expect to fight it with anything other than spiritual weapons. And when we use the weapons and the armor that God has specifically provided us, we find they are highly effective– more effective than self-help books, motivational tricks, positive self-talk, any of it. Because we’re not able to help ourselves, friends. Putting on the armor requires us to recognize our inability to help ourselves and our deep need for Him and His strength.
For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. (2 Cor. 10:3-4)
4. Stand Strong and Resist!
The commands to stand, to be strong, and to resist appear over and over in Scripture with regards to spiritual warfare. Look again at Paul’s words in Ephesians–
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 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. 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. Stand, therefore . . . (emphases added)
The exhortation to stand and to be strong also appears in 1 Corinthians 16–
Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.
Ladies, don’t be offended at that “act like men” thing. Be a soldier, a grown-up. Stand up and be strong. Resist temptation and endure when you have done everything else you could have done. And remember that in our resisting, we must do it from a place of nearness to God.
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.
Did you catch that? That promise? Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Because if you’re standing firm in your faith, standing close to God, clothed in His armor, ready for action, Satan just can’t stand that. So keep standing, friend. In the evil day, when you’ve done everything, keep standing. Who knows. You might be just moments away from the devil’s fleeing with his tail between his legs. Don’t give up. You have been given victory in Jesus Christ!
My promise that this would be a brief post has clearly not been kept. So far we have dealt with the defensive postures of the believer as he faces spiritual conflict. I will wait for this last command– to take the offensive and fight the good fight– for another day and another post.
As we face battles in our life, let’s do so with seriousness toward our sin, with sober-minded vigilance, with the armor of God surrounding us with protection– and let us stand and resist.
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
There is a purpose in the battle– we will be restored, confirmed, strengthened, established. And will will experience the eternal glory of the amazing God of the universe.
This battle we fight– it will be worth every blood-stained, hard-won inch. Have faith.