The Battle: The Conflict
I get up in the morning and make coffee.
Every morning I get up, let the dog out and make coffee.
Actually, I do not make coffee every morning, but letting the dog out is not optional.
I like to have cereal for breakfast. Another member of the family likes eggs. Yet another prefers pancakes. So, we have eggs or cereal or pancakes for breakfast. It does not seem like much of a battle does it.
Why talk about a battle?
Last week Robin Williams made the headlines by taking his own life. According to the World Health Organization 3,000 people commit suicide each day, and for every 1 that succeeds approximately 20 more attempt it.
Even among those that do not attempt suicide there are many who succumb to drug and substance abuse.
Causalities also include marriages that end in divorce, children who run away from home and broken relationships of all sorts.
While I was enjoying my breakfast, rockets were being fired from Gaza into Israel, and ISIS was continuing its reign of terror.
I believe that the suicides, social problems, murders, and wars are related. These things all point to a battle that rages first in the hearts of people.
The Bible offers an explanation and the way to understand the tremendous battle that rages around us.
It is in the Bible that we learn that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Understanding this gives us a foundation for understanding life.
The Bible tells us, “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” (Psalm 14:1, ESV)[i]
God, and His part in His creation, is essential to our understanding of creation, the battle, sin, evil, sickness and also all the good things we encounter.
In Genesis 2:8-9 it says:
8 “Then the LORD God planted a garden in Eden in the east, and there he placed the man he had made. 9 The LORD God made all sorts of trees grow up from the ground—trees that were beautiful and that produced delicious fruit. In the middle of the garden he placed the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” (NLT)[ii]
This garden was an ideal place. There was only one rule that was:
the LORD God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden— 17except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.” (Genesis 2:16, NLT)
This is a brief description of what the world was like before the battle began. God had placed a man and a woman into a garden that He had created just for them.
Then in Genesis 3 we find the opening of the battle, and the foundation for our understanding of it. Genesis 3:1-6 says:
1 The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the LORD God had made. One day he asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?”
2 “Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,” the woman replied. 3 “It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.’”
4 “You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. 5 “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”
6 The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too.
In this passage, we are introduced to our enemy.
Here we are also introduced to the cause of the battle.
Of our enemy, the devil or serpent in this passage, we learn in 1 Peter 5:8:
Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.
There are plenty of movies and TV shows that depict wild and fanciful things about our enemy.
Stories and myths exist in abundance and even we Christians get caught up in these.
It is of greatest importance in considering the battle that we do not go beyond what is written in Scripture.
The first thing we learn about our enemy is that he is a deceiver.
The second is that he is a tempter.
He lied to the woman in the garden and then he tempted her.
Look throughout the Bible and you will find that the devil consistently uses these same tactics.
He deceives people and then he tempts them. By doing this he gains control and/or power.
1 Chronicles 21:1 tells us, “Satan rose up against Israel and caused David to take a census of the people of Israel.” (NLT) This ended up being a tragedy in Israel and 70,000 people died as a result of it. By the way, these were 70,000 innocent people who had not been complicit in David’s sin.
This is how the devil works.
He has no pity.
A lion about to eat a Zebra does not stop to think about how the Zebra might feel. The devil also does not care how you and I might suffer.
What thoughts, what doubts, what fears will cause a person to commit suicide or murder for that matter? The devil plays on those doubts, fears and thoughts without pity or remorse. People die as a result.
In Acts 5, we are told that Ananias and his wife Sapphira sold a piece of property. They brought part of the money as a gift to the apostles but claimed it was the whole amount. In Acts 5:3 Peter asks, “Ananias, why have you let Satan fill your heart?” (NLT)
This illustrates how the devil works in the thoughts of a person to deceive and tempt him or her.
In this way, the battle can be taking place inside the head and heart of a person while he is enjoying his breakfast.
He may not even be aware that he is in a battle.
To Ananias and Sapphira it probably did not seem like a big deal. Whatever they thought, it ended up being a big deal.
Jesus said, “I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.” (Matthew 5:22, NLT)
How lightly do we call people idiots and how easily do we get angry with people?
These things do not seem like a big deal to us, but apparently they are a big deal.
Dare I talk about life choices that we make that God has warned us not to do.
This includes things like sex before marriage, sex outside of marriage, lying, stealing, cheating, coveting and anything against God’s law.
These things characterize the life controlled by the flesh or the appetites of the body, and the Bible tells us that being controlled by the flesh leads to death.
The devil is still in the business of saying, “You surely will not die.”
He deceives and he tempts.
David’s thought to number the people did not originate with him, but he thought it did.
Ananias and Sapphira’s thought to lie about the proceeds of the sale did not originate with them, but they thought it did.
Your thought to be critical of your wife’s scrambled eggs may not originate with you. However, like David and like Ananias you will be held responsible for your actions.
2 Corinthians 10:3-5 says:
3 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” (ESV)
In this statement, we get a glimpse of what it means to be in a spiritual battle. If we look at verse 5 we see that there are arguments and lofty opinions raised against the knowledge of God. We also see that the battle takes place chiefly in the thoughts. Thoughts have to be taken captive to obey Christ.
One human being listens to the wrong thoughts and ends up having revelations that he thinks are from God, and we have Islam. How many have died and suffered as a result?
One human being listens to the wrong thoughts and writes a book, and we have Nazi Germany taking over Europe and North Africa.
How many millions died?
These are large scale examples of what happens on a small scale in our daily lives when we do not take our thoughts captive to Christ.
Sin and the fall have brought death, disease, weeds, thorns, thistles, deformities and the like.
We have all been affected.
My eyes have been affected by the fall. Therefore, I have to wear glasses.
It is not that I committed a particular sin and so my eyes went bad. Rather, the fall has affected all of nature and all of our bodies.
I started out talking about Robin Williams and suicide as casualties of the battle, and they are. But please do not think clinical depression is just about thoughts. We know that there are physical, chemical imbalances that contribute to clinical depression and medications have been developed to help.
Medicine is imperfect and a lot of mistakes are made. Even so, the Apostle Paul took along the physician Luke in his travels. Medicine has advanced considerably since that day.
I believe that clinical depression is something that requires medical intervention. The insulin dependent diabetic should not feel guilty about using insulin, and neither should a person whose body does not maintain a proper chemical balance feel guilty about using antidepressants.
However, just because there is a physical component to depression does not mean it is not a spiritual battle.
The devil has no mercy.
If he sees a weakness, he attacks. We are all involved in the battle. The conflict exists even when we are going about something as routine as getting our breakfast.
This is why Proverbs 4:23 says, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”
There is much to be learned about the battle, but there is a simple foundation that needs to be laid. 2 Corinthians 10:5 “5We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” (ESV)
This requires that we examine our hearts. The Psalmist gives us an example when he asks of God, “23Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” (Psalm 139:23-24, NLT)
We are not on our own.
The Bible tells us, “the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.” (1 John 4:4, NLT)
The good news is that Jesus has defeated the devil.
The victory is already ours.
We can live in that victory.
I find that worshipping daily, spending time with God daily and asking God to examine my heart like the Psalmist makes a huge difference on my attitude and in my spirit.
I highly recommend some sort of devotional mediation and worship program to strengthen yourself in the inner man.
[i] The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®) copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles
[ii] Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation. Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Steam, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved