Keys of Spiritual Warfare

26033-thinkstockphotos-100176797-1200w-tnMy first introduction to the subject of spiritual warfare was around 1990. The church we were members of at the time held a conference called Resolving Spiritual Conflicts. Little did I know at the time that God would use that seminar to open my eyes to the reality of the spirit world, and the forces of darkness that occupy it. Because I didn’t grow up in church, I had no prior understanding of these things whatsoever.

Over the next several years, my understanding grew as I studied and read books on the subject, went through several phases of inner healing and deliverance, taught and ministered to women in addiction recovery, in church, in support groups, went through extensive training, and used all of this in my own ministry for over 10 years. It certainly wasn’t something I would have chosen to do, but it was part of God’s assignment for me and He gave me the grace I needed. Below are a few nuggets that may be helpful for those who haven’t gone down this same road. Far too many believers are still bound up, including pastors and leaders, and need to be free to be effective witnesses for the Kingdom.

Since the beginning, the enemy’s strategy against man has been to call into question God’s Word and His nature. This is clearly seen in his conversation with Adam and Eve in the Garden. In Genesis 3:1-5, the enemy questions what God said, and then lies about why He said it, implying that 1) He didn’t really mean what He said, and 2) He is trying to keep something from you. In other words, God’s Word can’t be trusted and He is stingy and withholding good things. We know our ancestors believed the lie, and to this day, many still believe these same lies. I was once one of them.

Satan’s greatest weapon against us is deception, for the nature of deception is that you don’t know you are deceived. In order to get free from deception, you must trust someone else (who is telling you that you’re deceived), more than you trust yourself. Not many are willing to do that. But there is another weapon he used before they got to the stage of deception, and that is temptation. We see this in verse 6 – “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” Here, we see the three most common ways the enemy tempts us, 1) the lust of the eyes, 2) the lust of the flesh, and 3) the pride of life. This same strategy is seen in Jesus’ encounter during His forty day fast in the desert. It is also mentioned in 1 John 2:16. If we can learn to recognize these three types of temptation, we can resist them, and he has to flee. (James 4:7)

The third weapon the enemy uses against us is accusation, for his name means “accuser” (see Rev. 12:9). He is said to accuse God’s people day and night, before God’s throne. (Rev. 12:10) Unfortunately, he also works through God’s people to accuse each other. He first deceives us into believing that other Christians are the enemy, then uses us as his pawns to bring strife and division to the body through false accusations. We must learn to discern and confront this in ourselves if we are to bring in the great harvest of souls God is longing for!

Not only does he continually attempt to stir up dissension in the body, but also in our relationship with God. As stated earlier, he deceives us into believing lies about the nature of our heavenly Father. He looks for every opportunity, especially in our sufferings and trials, to malign His character. If we believe God is angry, disappointed, fed up or disgusted with us, or that we’ve sinned one too many times, we will not draw near to Him. If we believe God judges us when we sin, that He withholds from us because He is stingy, that He is displeased with us in our weakness and immaturity, we will not learn to trust Him. If we believe we must adhere to a set of rules, perform our perceived religious duties, such as fasting, prayer, worship, etc., or act super spiritual all the time, we will become religious and self-righteous, like the leaders in Jesus’ day.

The devil will even twist Scripture to achieve his purposes, just as he tried with Jesus in the wilderness. He disguises himself as an angel of light, often in the form of a “prophet” or “teacher,” or other leader that will lead us astray. He is able to perform false signs and wonders, deceiving many who flock to see such things. One key to discerning true supernatural activity, prophetic words, dreams, visions, or other revelations is this – does it lead you to worship Jesus in a deeper way, or does it cause you to follow after man?  Does it cause you to go harder after God, or lead you to pursue greater knowledge? We must use wisdom and discernment to recognize the difference.

There is much more that can be said, but these are basic truths, keys to help you get free and stay free from the bondage of the enemy. May the Lord continue to teach us His ways, so that we can walk in truth and the freedom He paid such a high price to give us!

 

 

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The Only Legitimate Form of Control

How-To-Teach-Your-Child-Self-Control-713x509Galatians 5:22-23 is a familar passage: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” The fruit of the Spirit is the manifestation of the character of Jesus seen in and through us when we submit to His leadership. In this brief article, I want to focus on one aspect of these attributes of His nature, the fruit of self-control. Self-control can be described as self-discipline and restraint; willpower and levelheadedness. Vine’s Dictionary defines it as, the virtue of one who masters his desires and passions, especially his sensual appetites.”  

Jesus exemplified self-control many times, in His dealings with the religious leaders, in His power over temptation, in His willingness to submit to the tortures of, and leading up to His crucifixion, to name a few. He never retailiated when wronged nor tried to defend Himself against His persecutors. He was victorious over the enemy and His own flesh in His wilderness testing. He is our model for what self-control looks like.

As believers, we often work harder to try to control others than we do ourselves. Leaders frequently attempt to control their congregations because of the fears and shame they struggle with. Yet, as Graham Cooke says, “Self-control is the only legitimate form of control in the Church.” Stiving to control others is actually a form of witchcraft, and a sign that the controller is controlled by fear and shame.

Self-control is one facet of God’s Spirit that is sadly lacking in many churches and believers’ lives. A lack of self-control often manifests in angry outbursts and fits of rage, fleshly indulgences like overeating, overspending, pornography, sexual sin and various addictions. Rather than seeing it for what it is and seeking help, many come up with excuses as to why they are the way they are, and that they can’t help themselves, which is another example of a victim mentality. When we succumb to this toxic thinking, we are deceiving no one but ourselves.

Two of the enemy’s favorite forms of temptation are the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes. He used this tactic back in the Garden of Eden and still does to this day. If he can tempt us to indulge our fleshly desires and passions, he can damage and even destroy our witness for the Lord. We must learn to recognize his subtle strategy and resist him by submitting to God’s Spirit and the fruit of self-control. If Jesus lives in us, it is not impossible, for He is far greater than the enemy. We can do ALL things through His limitless strength within us!

We become what we behold, so the key to allowing the fruit of the Spirit to flow through us is to meditate upon these virtues as seen in our Lord and Savior. As we meditate upon His Word, we, like Jesus, become the word made flesh, taking on His likeness more every day. When we demonstrate the fruit of self-control, others will take notice and know there is something different about us. And more importantly, we will bring glory and honor to God.

Overcoming Temptation

No one is immune to temptation. It is familiar to us all. It entered the human temptationexperience at the beginning of time and is one of the three most common ways the enemy attacks us. The Scriptures give many examples of the temptations of the saints and provide wisdom to help us if we will heed it.

The first instance is found in Genesis 3, the story of the fall of man. No doubt, we are all familiar with the details, however; there are a couple of things I want to point out. First, the enemy lies to Adam and Eve, telling them that God has lied to, and withheld something valuable from them. (v. 4-5) At that moment, a seed of doubt was sown into their minds about the trustworthiness of their Creator. This seed of doubt, this thought, was the impetus for the temptation.

The thought, when dwelled upon, caused the first couple to consider their options. If God couldn’t be trusted and was withholding something of value from them, what was it? Eve looked at the fruit, turning her focus away from the One who had freely given them everything their hearts could long for. She chose to turn her attention to that which He had not given them, and had actually forbidden them to have. In doing so, she “saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” (v. 6)

There are three main areas the enemy targeted – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. The lust of the flesh involves satisfying our appetites. The lust of the eyes speaks of greed, envy, and coveting that which we do not have. The pride of life includes that which we can achieve or accomplish. 1 John 2:16 further confirms this, “For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.”

Jesus was tempted in the same ways during His time in the wilderness. (Matthew 4:1-11) We, too, have been or will be, tempted in these areas. It is not a sin to be tempted; it is a part of life in this fallen world and will be until Jesus returns. Many years ago, a former pastor said to me, “Temptation is about fulfilling a legitimate, God-given need, in an illegitimate way.” God has given us valid needs and desires that we cannot deny. He has promised to meet every need and longing of our heart when we seek Him first. Our part is to trust Him. Every temptation we face is another opportunity to trust Him.

When those seeds of doubt come and the devil whispers in our ear, “Did God really say…?” we must keep our eyes fixed on Him and remember, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet He did not sin.” (Heb. 4:15) The One who overcame all temptation lives within us that we also might overcome!