Tag Archives: Spiritual Warfare

Deliver us from the Evil One

 

In so called reformed circles, it is sometimes common to hear of spiritual warfare that downplays any opposition to the devil or his minions.  Typically, this type of spiritual warfare focuses on the enemy within, namely sin, and poo-poo’s any battle with the evil one, because it is generally assumed that he has bigger and better things to do than cause your car not to start or give you a cold.  I say this last statement a bit tongue-in-cheek because there is another approach to spiritual warfare, that typical of the charismatics, that blames everything on the devil, from a flat tire to spilling your coffee on the way to work.

So what is the biblical approach to this?  Does the devil come against us either personally or by way of a second-tier demon, as in say The Screwtape Letters?  Or is there little to no evil activity by way of the evil one that is directed our way?

The first passage we will look at is a familiar one, though the proper translation is not as familiar, at least not familiar to most of us who memorized the KJV.

Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. Matthew 6:9-13 ESV

The ESV, cited above, is in line with the King James Version on the translation of this passage, particularly verse 13 and the phrase, “deliver us from evil.”  Interpreted in this way, it would seem that our prayer should be for deliverance from general evil, which may come in many shapes, sizes, and forms.

However, this is not the best translation.

The NKJV gets this phrase right when it translates, “But deliver us from the evil one.”  How can we conclude that this is more accurate?  The Greek word for evil here is the word ponerou and it is an adjective.  Translating this word would leave us with the English equivalent for evil, however, as we can see in the ESV translation, it is functioning as a noun (technically a direct object).  How can an adjective function as a noun in the sentence?  Because it is functioning as a substantival adjective, meaning it acts as a noun in the original Greek grammar.  So wouldn’t this simply mean that the ESV translation is correct and our prayers should be to keep us from evil (note that the ESV recognizes the possibility of “evil one” in its footnote)?

Not necessarily, because not only is this word functioning as a noun, but it has a modifying article tou which when put together in its context would be more accurately translated, “the evil one” (tou ponerou).

This isn’t simply an academic exercise throwing around Greek words and phrases to impress or confuse, but has profound application in our prayer life and the direction toward which we should approach spiritual warfare.  It gives us a crystal clear statement that the devil, whether by secondary means or not, is in opposition to believers and that God is willing and able to protect us from the evil one (Luke 22:31-32).

Though outside of Matthew’s usage, similarly, this exact phrase is translated as I’ve just described in 1 Thess. 3:3

“But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.” ESV

Here the ESV has chosen to translate the phrase “the evil one” while again offering a footnote for an alternative, this time for “evil”.  In this context, the Apostle Paul is concluding his second epistle to the Church at Thessalonica, by contrasting the faithless with the faithful Lord and stating His willingness and ability to guard them from the evil one, seemingly a related restatement of the passage from our Lord in the Sermon on the Mount cited above.

Additionally, John 17:15, in the midst of Christ’s High Priestly prayer we read

“I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.” ESV

Again the translation choice of the ESV is towards a specific “evil one” and not a general concept of evil.  Context again shows a petition made that God would keep His saints from the evil one, and He will.

Summarizing this brief survey we may conclude several points:

  1. Satan is active in opposition towards believers.
  2. God is sovereign over Satan.
  3. Believers are to pray for God’s protection from the evil one.
  4. Christ intercedes on behalf of the saints for protection against the evil one.
  5. God is ready, able, and willing to protect them from the evil one. And He does.

Of particular interest is that in these passages we do not see any command or instructions on engaging in personal combat with Satan, as some charismatics would have us to believe.  Likewise, we see nothing of the diminishing attention that Satan gets in some reformed circles.  Perhaps in a future post, we’ll look at several passages that give us more insight into the operations of the devil in the lives of the believer and how we are exhorted to resist him, which is rooted and grounded in our Lord’s resistance of Satan 3 times in Matthew 4 and His subsequent death and resurrection (1 John 3:8).

 

See also: Ephesians 6:11, James 4:7, 1 John 2:13, Luke 22:31

For more on this translation discussion see Daniel Wallace Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, pg. 233.

 

 

Taking Every Thought Captive

 

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ 2 Corinthians 10:5

In the realm of spiritual warfare, one of the chief strategies deployed in the fight has been developed from a phrase found in the passage cited above, “take every thought captive to obey Christ.”  Typically, this wartime strategy, around which several popular “Christian” books have been written, is viewed as a command to control the thoughts of the mind and should one get out of line, we are to capture it immediately and bring it into conformity to all that our Lord commands.  While this is likely an appropriate way to avoid thinking unholy thoughts, by “capturing” them, literally forcing them out of your mind by meditating on Scripture or the attributes of God as He has revealed, this is not an accurate interpretation of the passage.

Note again the larger context of the Apostle’s argument, 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. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.”

We may observe that the context for this statement is indeed spiritual warfare, “we are not waging war according to the flesh.”  However the opponent that Paul identifies is not one’s own thoughts, but the thoughts of others.  He is not describing a personal strategy in which he takes his own thoughts captive, instead he is describing the warfare that takes place between himself (and likely other Apostles) and those who raise “arguments and every lofty opinion…against the knowledge of God.”  It is those contrary thoughts of others that the Apostle identifies as the target of captivity.

Turning again to our own internal battle of spiritual warfare in the mind, is this a passage that we can employ to exhort us into taking rogue, sinful thoughts captive?  Yes and no.  We’ve seen how the context dictates that the warfare the Apostle has in mind is with those who raise thoughts contrary to the knowledge of God.  However, we may well find ourselves in the cross-hairs of the Apostle should our own thoughts be contrary to the knowledge of God.  Some examples of these thoughts would be:

  • Doubt
  • Worry
  • Anxiety
  • Lust
  • Pride
  • The desire for control
  • Anger
  • Revenge

All these and more are contrary to the knowledge of God, or better, contrary to what we know about God as He has revealed concerning Himself through His Holy Word.  Therefore we may say that the exhortation derived from this passage to take every thought captive is not an immediate rallying call for spiritual warfare of the mind.  However, we must set our minds on things above, as we read in Colossians 3:2 and elsewhere.  Should we find ourselves given to rebellious, sinful thoughts, this passage from 2 Corinthians puts us in the cross-hairs of God’s Word that, like a two-edged sword divides and discerns our thoughts laying them open and bare before the Almighty.

Are You Making War?

It’s been nearly a year since I asked the following questions on this blog, “What’s it going to take Christian?  What will it take for you to stand and say enough is enough?  What will it take to arm yourself with the sword of the Spirit and prepare yourself for this war?” If you read that post,  The Unseen War, or  Make War from October, or Battle Cry  in November, then you know this battle is not something to be taken lightly.  I would really like to know, why it is that most Christians are not only unwilling to fight, but most don’t even realize there is a war going on? 

Pastor John Piper puts it like this,

“Until you believe that life is war – that the stakes are your soul – you will probably just play at Christianity with no bloodearnestness and no vigilance and no passion and no wartime mindset.  If that is where you are [this morning], your position is very precarious. The enemy has lulled you into sleep or into a peacetime mentality, as if nothing serious is at stake. And God, in His mercy, has you here [this morning], and had this sermon appointed to wake you up, and put you on a wartime footing.”

If you’re reading this message today, then I pray too that God would have mercy and awaken you to the battle that is taking place.  It’s literally all around us and it is taking place on multiple fronts.  It’s an unseen war, but the casualties are very real, very visible. The primary front where the war is taking place lies within you.  Be honest, did you ever think that 24/7 there is a war going on right inside of you?  It is a battle for your soul and if you are a Christian you need to be made fully aware of this fight, which you are equipped to defend yourself against, and that you should not be satisfied with anything less than victory. 

Have you ever wondered why it is that you have so much inconsistency in your Christian walk with God?  Consider the ups and downs, triumphs and failures that seem to happen so frequently in your life, as though you were being tossed around like a ship at sea.  Maybe you make it a week reading the Bible consistently, only for it to make it back to the shelf for a month.  Perhaps you are battling a particular sin: lust, alcoholism, laziness, gluttony, anger, greed, indifference to everything that doesn’t include you, pride, fear, or jealousy.  You want to fight and make some progress, but can never seem to claim victory.  Do you know why that is Christian?  It’s because you haven’t declared war!

Author Alan Redpath offers the following statement, “Every gain I have made in Christian character will be resisted by the devil down to the end of life’s journey, and there will be no personal experience of the power of Jesus Christ in victory until I declare war on sin.”  Do you get that Christian?  This isn’t a game.  Christianity is not a show up once a week and play church.  “Christianity is not a settle-in-and-live-at-peace-with-this-world-the-way-it-is kind of religion, like most Christians live there daily lives.”  It’s a war.  Yet it’s not a war against anyone else, but against every one of those sinful desires that are battling inside of you.  As the Apostle Paul states in Romans 8:13 ESV, “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”  Each of us needs to come to the realization that “The only foothold Satan has in your life is your flesh and your sin.”  Now read that second part of Romans 8:13 again, “put to death the deeds of the body”, that’s war!  That is an all out war against sin and you need to learn how to fight. 

How then do we fight?  Romans 12:2 ESV states, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  The First assault for you to make in this war is to break free from the world, “Do not be conformed to this world.”  The pattern of the world lies to you and makes you believe that you have rights and freedoms that you can enjoy because after all it’s your life right?  The world tells you that it’s all about you, about you making money, you having a nice job, you having a big house, you having a new car, you saving for retirement.  What about God?  The world also lies to us and wants us to make peace with sin.  For instance, it’s not ok to make peace with pornography, it’s not ok to make a few clicks of the mouse and visit certain sites.  It’s not ok to go out drinking with the “guys/gals” or to subject yourself to offensive language in Rated-R movies or Explicit Lyrics music.  It is not ok to make peace with anger, greed, pride, or laziness because you are resolved that “this is who I am, so I might as well live with it.”  No, all of those are conforming to the world’s pattern and making peace with sin. 

You’re probably thinking, “wait a second, this sounds like legalism, you can’t say what I can and can’t do.  I’ve got rights and freedoms.”  It’s not legalism, dear friend, it’s holiness, it’s living Christ-like and trusting in Him to complete the good work He has started in you.  Legalism means that you are depending on your “good works” or morality to improve your standing with God.  Sanctification, or the process toward holiness, is wholly dependent on Christ, who has not only justified your standing with God if you’ve trusted Him as Savior, but it is Christ continuing to work in your life to make you more like Him.  It’s understanding that your power to fight doesn’t come from within, but instead comes from Jesus Christ.  It’s knowing that, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20 ESV 

The second advancement in this war is found in the latter part of Romans 12:2 ESV, “but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  Renewing your mind comes from thinking not on the everyday trivialities of this world, like money, a big house, or nice/new car, but on eternal things, like treasuring the Son of God, worshiping and loving the Lord, serving others.  “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8 ESV Have you ever thought about just taking off a day of work to spend time with the Lord, or to do something for someone other than yourself?  What about focusing on your relationship with Christ, instead of focusing on the fleeting material possessions of this world?  What about filling your mind with Scripture, not just the lyrics of your favorite song or catchy sitcom phrases.  This is the renewal of your mind.

The third wave of your attack in this war on sin is to realize your identity in Christ and that if you have trusted Him as your Savior then He has given you the Holy Spirit to help you wage your war.  Just like we alluded to earlier, this is where your true power towards victory comes from.  Ephesians 1:4-14 describes perfectly this identity we have in Christ.  1) vs. 4, We are chosen in Him 2) vs. 4, We are to be holy and blameless before Him 3) vs. 7 We are redeemed in Him 4) vs. 11 We have obtained an inheritance in Him. 5) vs. 13 We are sealed with the Holy Spirit.  How can we  not win this war, if we have fully realized our position in Christ?  As the Apostle Paul writes in his Roman epistle, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” Romans 13:14 ESV Every morning we wake up, our goal should be to “put on Christ” so that we are “clothed with the armor of light” and prepared to face the battle of the day. 

Redpath tells us to declare total war in our souls, “against everything that has not yet been judged, condemned, and confessed before God.”  As Pastor Piper concludes, “So immerse your mind and heart in the fountain of truth and life and power – the promises of God, and when the temptation comes, take this all-satisfying word, this sword of the Spirit, and believe it, and by it sever the root of sin. Kill it.”  Isn’t it time to make war Christian?  If you don’t pick up the sword of the Spirit, the Bible, and engage in war, you will be swept away when the more difficult battles begin.  There is no sideline in warfare, the battle rages on and you can either be a casualty or a victor.

*Given the alliance of Piper and Rick Warren, please see the warning post here: Red Skies In the Morning