2 This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. 4You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 1 John, 4:2-4 NIV
There is sometimes a notion in Christian circles that the closer you try and get to God, the harder the enemy fights against you.
Whether or not this is theologically sound and true, scripture does teach that, since the fall of mankind, we have known good and evil (Genesis 3) and that we have an adversary; the enemy (or devil) and he does indeed exist. (1 Peter 5:8) He works in the spiritual realm with many tools and weapons. (Ephesians 6:12) And his primary mission is to keep us in our sin, separated from God.
Talking (or writing) about the enemy is not an easy task. It challenges us to recognize and deal with the darkness that exists in this world and in that, there are so many angles we could pursue. Another challenge is that of avoiding extremes. Too far in one direction; that of citing every single thing that doesn’t go one’s way as an attack of the enemy. Or, to the other extreme, completely avoiding or failing to recognize him altogether. Neither extreme is particularly helpful (or realistic).
Similarly, we put ourselves in harm’s way when we underestimate or overestimate his influence. While God retains ultimate power, our enemy (Satan) is not powerless. We know the end of the story; that in the end (and even today) our Lord, Jesus is triumphant. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that we’ll face our share of challenges and turmoil. Jesus recognized (if not promised) it. (John 16:33) The enemy may be trying to influence your thought life, the ministry you’ve been called to, a family situation or your work life in the marketplace even as you read this. But even as Jesus identified that indeed we would “have trouble in this world,” He also repeatedly reassures us to “take heart,” for He has “overcome the world.” And that in and through life with Christ, we can too.
With all of this as a backdrop, in this post and likely a few to follow, I’d like for us to look at and consider a few of the ways the enemy “attempts to invade our camps,” and some of the strategies we’re guided to use in dealing with if not straight out eradicating him when he does.
Again, while there are so many directions we could go with this topic of dealing with the enemy in the camp, for now, let’s start out by focusing on two specific areas in which he attacks; our identities and our mindsets.
As we begin to approach these topics, let’s proceed with the reminder that the enemy has already been defeated by our King Jesus and therefore, we, too can keep him from wreaking havoc in our day-to-day lives as long as we are willing, with the Lord’s assistance, to focus and remain diligent.
In doing so, perhaps a good question to begin with is, “How can we resist the devil?”
One commentary I found broadly addresses this question and lays out 3 key steps this way:
“First, we acknowledge that he actually exists. Next, we become aware of his activities (2 Corinthians 2:11), which include temptation, slander and false accusations. Finally, we submit to God and stand firmly against the devil’s attacks by putting on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:11; see 6:10 – 18). Because of what Christ has already accomplished through his death and resurrection, we can claim spiritual authority over our adversary (1 John 4:4).”
Similarly, John Piper, in his article, “Awake and At War,” speaks of this as the “good warfare” we are called to engage in (1 Timothy 1:18) which includes daily resistance of this enemy (1 Peter 5:9; James 4:7), the daily refusal to give him an opportunity (Ephesians 4:27) and the daily stand against his schemes (Ephesians 6:11).
Armed then, with these powerful verses to encourage us, let’s consider two of the ways the enemy seeks to attack.
Our Identities and Our Mindsets
While as Christ-followers, we’re regularly assured throughout scripture that our identity is to be in Christ (e.g., John 1:12; Ephesians 1: 4-5; Romans 6:6; 1 Corinthians 12:27; Romans 15:7), the enemy will do everything he can to separate us from the love of and life in Christ Jesus.
He attacks our sinful nature through temptation and, when we fail, condemnation, seeking to convince us that we’re “less than” or not worthy; horrible people.
We are, by nature, sinful. Each of us has, multiple times fallen short of God’s standards. But through our confession, repentance and belief that the shed blood of Jesus will cover His followers, sin and failure do not need to define or dictate our identities, as Satan would have it.
Satan is referred to as the father of lies (John 8:44); a purveyor of half-truths, a deceiver (2 Corinthians 11:14) and a crafty foe (Genesis 3:1). But we don’t need to fall prey to the enemy’s schemes.
In 2 Corinthians 11:3 (NIV), the Apostle Paul warns believers in Corinth, “…I am afraid that just Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” I believe this can also serve as a caution for us today, so we will not be outwitted by Satan and we are not ignorant of his designs.
If ever in court as a witness, we are asked to swear an oath to speak the “whole truth and nothing but the truth.” We will do well to be aware of the half-truths of Satan and to flee from his temptations to utilize them in our own lives and in our dealings with others. Protecting our hearts, minds and identities in Christ from Satan’s lies and half-truths are a great way to claim spiritual authority over our adversary.
The Bible guides and encourages us to “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)
Here are Five steps to renewing your mind that I’ve found helpful to use when the Enemy attacks:
- Begin with prayer. Ask the Lord to guard and direct your mind within this attack and as you proceed through the next steps.
- Recognize the enemy as the source of all destructive self-focused and/or self-defeating thoughts.
- Replace destructive self-focused thinking with a God-focused mindset.
- Rest in the truths that you are accepted and redeemed in Christ Jesus.
- Repeat steps 1-4 regularly.
…need a little further help with renewing your mind when the enemy attacks? Check out this list of Bible verses for some additional instruction and encouragement.
The enemy will do everything he can to set up camp in our minds and to try and dictate our identities. When we put on and utilize every tool God had provided for us as Christ-followers, we don’t have to live in fear of Satan. Together, in, with and through Christ Jesus, we can and will overcome him. Whether in this world or when Jesus comes again, our enemy, the devil will ultimately be defeated. I hope and pray that in these truths you find great comfort and peace.
In future posts, we plan to consider and unpack how the enemy attempts to invade our camps through distractions, conflict and strife.
If this post or any of the things we’ll be writing about in the coming weeks strike a chord with you in one way or another, I’d love to hear from you. Send your feedback to me at [email protected]
Right here with you,