Lord Jesus has blessed us with His peace but the first disciples suffered tribulations that led to violent death for them and of the faithful during the initial years of the church. Even today in many parts of the world persecution is common and faith in Lord Jesus pits us in battle against the devil and his forces. We are fighting for our lives not only in this world but for eternity whereas they already know their fate and want to take as many as possible with them. On the other hand our role is to snatch back as many souls as we can and in this is our victory.
Why do we suffer attacks from the devil? – Lord Jesus has said, ‘Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword’ (Matthew 10:34). But the Gospel is a message of peace with God, and the Lord has done this by reconciling us to God the Father through propitiation of our sins by His sacrifice. The Messiah faced tribulations during His stay on earth and the way to peace is through battles and trials and not through avoidance of conflict. As children of God believers are peacemakers and a peacemaker has to be first prepared to face those who are disturbing that peace and this is often the path of getting involved in the battle (Matthew 5:9). Only from a position of strength do we earn peace.
How is our God given peace disturbed by the devil? – Lord Jesus has overwhelmed the devil and all charges against us were cancelled and nailed to the cross and He has ‘disarmed principalities and powers’ and triumphed over them (Colossians 2:14-15). But the defeated devil is still active in the world with no authority over believers unless conceded to him by them. Our Lord has given us weapons that ‘are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds , casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and for bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ’ (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).
What are these strongholds and imaginations that we pull down? – The devil puts thoughts into our mind that are contrary to God’s commands and leads us into disobedience. The supposed question that the serpent had asked Eve is, ‘Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?’ (Genesis 3:1). The Jewish scholars translate this not as a question but as a statement, ‘Yes God has said you shall not eat from the tree’, thereby challenging Eve with the implied question, so what? This is always the first line that Satan speaks to us about any command of God thus saying that it will not matter to Him if you do not follow. This initial seed of doubt then develops into a stronghold that made even a person of faith like Abraham flee to Egypt forgetting that a God who has made such a great promise will be able to meet all his needs. The devil tries to question about our salvation also putting doubts about forgiveness itself.
The next point is about imaginations and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God. Satan sinned by imagining that he can reach a position of equality with God and he lured Eve by encouraging her to be ‘like God’ by knowing good and evil. The devil uses the same trick that he used with Eve and tried with Lord Jesus in the wilderness. The question was the same, ‘If You are the Son of God’ implying even if You are the Son of God, You are still starving here. Use this authority and turn stones into bread or use angels to protect You and prove to everyone Your Divine status by becoming like God. The imaginations use God’s promises for self exaltation rather than giving glory to God that He can meet my needs. Late Ravi Zacharias noted that ‘we are living in a generation that listens with its eyes and thinks with its feelings’. Obviously they can be easily misled with great visual effects of lies displayed in a pleasing manner.
Another example of imaginations is about the continuation of the effectiveness of God’s promises after the apostolic era. The Scripture says, ‘He (LORD) has sent redemption to His people; He has ordained His covenant forever; Holy and awesome is His name’ (Psalm 111:9). Forever or ‘olam’ is not about meeting conditions but it is an everlasting covenant that gets recreated and renewed every day by the Creator. Satan leads us to fulfill self created requirements to receive what is freely given by God through His grace and love. Apostle Peter has warned us about false teachers ‘who will bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who brought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction’ and these teachers who would work as agents of the devil will lead people astray with their ‘deceptive words’ (2 Peter 2:1-3).
A rat lives in a house and presumes itself to be the owner but it comes out occasionally to nibble at bits and pieces in the house. Many of us live like this not realizing that as a child of God I have a perfect right on everything in His kingdom but scrounge something from the Scripture and live a life filled with doubt uncertainty. Every thought that leads us to a position other than that of our authority as child of God, has to be brought into obedience to Lord Jesus. Till we are in close fellowship with God the Father and His Son through the Holy Spirit, we shall never be victorious in the Lord. We become vulnerable the moment we step out of God’s protection through continuous absence from before Him.
Our responsibility in keeping the devil at bay – We know that ‘whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God’ (1 John 5:4-5). The key to succeed in this battle is to walk in faith in the finished work of the Son of God. The moment we receive the Savior as the Lord and King over our life by surrendering to His authority we are accorded the right to be a child of God (John 1:12). As a child of God our citizenship is in heaven and we are governed by the laws of heaven and not by the natural laws of this world. The natural law of this world must burn and destroy anyone who is thrown into a furnace that is heated seven times more than normal. But the citizens of heaven, filled with faith, could declare, ‘The God we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace’ (Daniel 3:17-26). The heavenly laws are over and above the natural laws, and when Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were pulled out of the fire, ‘on their bodies the fire had no power; the hair of their head was not singed nor were their garments affected, and the smell of fire was not on them’.
The worldly fights of God’s people are fought by heavenly forces and Lord Jesus in His Old Testament appearance planned the battle for Joshua and after seven days of going around Jericho, glorifying God of heaven, on the seventh day the walls of the city fell inwards to grant victory to Joshua’s army (Joshua 6:2-5). The citizen of heaven casts his net on the right side and fish stream in to be caught and the ‘multitude of fish’ in the net makes it difficult to draw it in but the net does not suffer any damage (John 21:6).
How do we claim the benefits of the heavenly laws? – Noah was found righteous in his generation and he walked with God’ (Genesis 6:9). On the other hand Abraham was commanded by God to ‘walk before Me and be blameless’ (Genesis 17:1). The same ‘Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness. And he was called the friend of God’ (James 2:23). Noah’s righteousness was comparative with his generation and looking at that generation, ‘LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth and He was grieved in His heart’ (Genesis 6:6). And Noah got drunk and exposed himself and that is why God asked Noah to ‘walk with Him’ for he needed continuous support (Genesis 9:21).
Compared to this the righteousness of Abraham is for all generations and he was asked by God to ‘walk before Him’ for He could move in faith and obedience even to offer his only son as a sacrifice.
The third example is of Prophet Elijah, who introduced himself as one who stands before the LORD God of Israel and could then stop the rain and dew for three years and was fed by the ravens and a widow who was on the verge of death due to starvation (1 Kings 17:1). He was operating under the laws of heaven and was visibly lifted up to heaven by a whirlwind and did not die a natural death (2 kings 2:11). He is so blessed for He stands in the light of God’s glory. Moses was the only person in the Old Testament with whom God talked ‘face to face’ and he could be in God’s presence at any time. We have the same blessing for our ‘body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own’ (1 Corinthians 6:19). The Spirit of God cannot be felt and we can communicate with Him and through Him with God the Father and with God the Son and the Holy Spirit guides us, empowers us and teaches us the real meaning of the Word of God to enable us to walk in close fellowship with God.
Lord Jesus while looking at His followers declared, ‘For whoever does the will of God is My brother and sister and mother’ (Mark 3:35). He called out to ‘Levi, the son of Alphaeus, sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, ‘Follow Me’ – And Levi left that lucrative job and followed (Mark 2:14). We are required to do God’s will and this we can do by following Him and not by moving ahead of Him. We do not humbly seek the blessings from God but we demand, claiming that I have been going to the Church, I daily read the Bible and pray. It is like telling God, ‘How dare You refuse me now’ after my having done so much. It is like the elder brother of the prodigal son who wanted to please his father with his works (Luke 15:29-30).
It is only through the continuous presence of God in our lives and by following Him in obedience that we become capable of receiving all blessings of God and be a blessing to others by doing the works that our Lord did. A citizen of a country in a foreign country is supposed to be in regular contact with the government of his country. Our government of heaven has laid down its rules for us in the Scripture and our contact is through the study of this Word and through being led by the indwelling Holy Spirit.
How do we escape the attacks of the devil? – King David deviated from his duty to lead his army in battle against Ammon and remained in Jerusalem and then sinned with Bathsheba. He further sinned by arranging for the death of Uriah, her husband, in battle (2 Samuel 11-12). Nathan the Prophet challenged the king and David confessed and said, ‘I have sinned against the LORD’ (2 Samuel 12:12). The King not only accepted his sin but also prayed to the Lord God, ‘Wash me thoroughly from my inequity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgression, and my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight – that You may be found just, when You speak, and blameless when You judge’ (Psalm 51:2-4).
But ‘If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us’. God is willing to forgive if we confess our sins like David but ‘If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us’ (1 John 1:8 -10). When we do not follow the Lord, we do not want to obey Him and we want to prove He is a liar, then how can we expect to receive anything from Him. Apart from God we are directly under Satan’s control or vulnerable to his attacks. The weapons of our warfare with the devil and his demonic forces and how to use them effectively, are included in the next blog.
Lord Jesus prayed to God the Father to keep us from evil and we are sent by Him in His authority and power and fitted with His weapons of war. As His followers we stand in the victory over sin, Satan and death and through His resurrection He has opened a way for us to live above sin. We are seated with the Lord in heavenly places, bestowed with all spiritual blessings and help of angels is available when needed. But are we aware of and willing to use all spiritual resources made available to us?