Spiritual Warfare and Deliverance Book 4:- Spiritual Warfare: Winning the Daily Battle with Satan, By Dr. Ray C. Stedman
Chapter 4: The Tactics of Terror
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.
Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities,
against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
herefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes,
you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Ephesians 6:10-13
I ONCE HEARD OF A MENTAL HOSPITAL that had devised an unusual test to determine when patients were ready to go back into the world. They brought candidates for release into a room where a tap was turned on, sending water pouring out over the floor. Next they handed the patient a mop and told him to mop up the water. If the patient had a firm enough grasp of reality to turn off the tap before mopping up the water, he was ready to go out into society. But if he started mopping up the water without turning off the tap, they knew that more treatment was needed.
While you and I would never miss such an obvious step as shutting off the tap before mopping the floor, the fact is that many Christians live their lives in a way that is from a spiritual point of view equally absurd. Each of us as Christians have been given the mop of God's truth and we have been told to use it to help mop up the evil in the world around us. But we can only be useful in mopping up the evil around us if we first have enough sense to shut off the flow of evil that pours into our own hearts from the world rulers of this present darkness.
That is exactly what the apostle Paul urges in Ephesians 6:10-13. We can be of no possible help in solving the moral, social, and spiritual problems of the world as long as we remain part of the problem. This whole passage is designed to awaken us and call our attention to the need for understanding the nature of our problem. As we have seen, it is through the channels that the Bible calls "the world" and "the flesh" that the devil makes his indirect and most insidious attack upon human life. "The world" is human society, along with its prevailing false values, amorality and immorality, godlessness and atheism, hedonism, paganism, New Ageism, and other deceptive ideas and isms.
"The world" brutally demands our conformity to its false values and ideas, and mercilessly punishes those who refuse to conform. That is why, down through the centuries and right into the present day, "the world" has practiced persecution and intimidation against Christians because when Christians truly practice their faith and preach the gospel, the world and its false values stand exposed and condemned.
"The flesh" is that urge within us toward total autonomy and rebellion, toward being our own little gods accountable to no one, responsible to no one, obeying no one, respecting no one, and running our own little worlds to suit ourselves. It is that continual tug of self-centeredness and selfishness within each of us that keeps us from being completely His.
As you can clearly see, this struggle against the influences of "the world" and "the flesh" is not something merely theoretical or remote from our experience. It is a battle in which we are all engaged every moment of our lives because "the world," the outer arena of battle, is always around us while "the flesh," the inner arena of battle, is always within us. We cannot escape "the world," nor can we run away from "the flesh." We must always begin our battle right at the point where we are.
John F. Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States, was a commissioned naval officer during World War II. In August 1943, the patrol torpedo boat he commanded, PT 109, was rammed and sunk by an enemy destroyer near the Japanese-held Solomon Islands. Kennedy and a fellow officer swam from one enemy-occupied island to the next until they found some friendly islanders who helped them get a message to U.S. forces. Years later, Kennedy was regarded as a war hero. His response: "It was involuntary. They sank my boat."
So it is with us. We don't have to volunteer to find ourselves in the middle of a war. It's involuntary. The war has already come to us. It is raging all around us, through the channel of "the world." And it is raging within us, through the channel of "the flesh."
You might be thinking, "That doesn't seem right at all! I thought that when you became a Christian, Jesus would set you free from the kingdom of Satan so that the devil could no longer touch you! I thought that conversion would take you out of the battle, not thrust you deeper into the conflict!" If that is your concept of the Christian life, you couldn't be more wrong! When you become a Christian, that's when the battle really begins!
Certainly, it is true that the devil can never totally defeat a Christian. Those who are genuinely the Lord's, who have come into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, have been delivered from total defeat. The devil can never get us back into the position of unconscious control he once exercised over us, as he does over the rest of the world. But the devil can demoralize the Christian. He can frighten us and make us miserable. He can blunt our effectiveness and make us feel weak and unfruitful for God. Even though we are ultimately victorious through Christ, it is at times possible to be more miserable as a Christian than you ever were before.
The devil has a special reason for wanting to make Christians feel defeated because a demoralized Christian is a Christian whose effectiveness has been diminished. The unredeemed worldlings are no problem to him they are already in his grasp. Let them try to solve the problems of their lives and the world through legislation, education, and a change of environment none of that bothers the devil in the least. He is quite content to let them go on rearranging the pieces of the puzzle without ever solving it. But the presence of every Christian in the world bothers the devil greatly. Why? Because each Christian is a potential threat to the solidarity of the devil's kingdom, to his rule over the rest of mankind and that is why the devil focuses special attention on us and seeks to hinder and discourage us.
When a Christian lives in obedience to the will of God, he threatens Satan's rule on earth. Every effective Christian is a potential door of escape, helping worldlings to move out of the devil's realm of darkness and into God's realm of eternal light. Every Christian who lives a life that is yielded to God and resistant to the schemes of the devil is a corridor of liberty, a center of light, dispelling one more patch of darkness and ignorance from the world around him.
The devil cannot allow people to escape from his dominion, so he is especially vicious and persistent in his attacks upon Christians. He marshals all his forces against us in order to discourage and dishearten us, so that we will not be effective and useful to God. Sometimes the devil attacks us as "a roaring lion," clawing at us through catastrophic circumstances in order to knock us off our feet and keep us from standing for God. At other times he comes as "an angel of light," a seductive and alluring temptation, offering us some attractive lure that seems so right yet which has a deadly, poisonous trap hidden within.
To be sure, Satan will assume direct control of a human life whenever he can, producing an Adolf Hitler or a Charles Manson demonic men, motivated by strange and' unexplainable passions. Sometimes the devil assails us through "the world" with its intimidating pressure to conform, to not be different, to go with the flow lest we be ostracized and thought of as "fanatics" or "religious extremists."
But most often the devil comes in disguise, through the channel of "the flesh" our inner selves with silken, subtle, suggestive schemes. That is the avenue of satanic attack the apostle Paul warns us most strenuously about: the subtle schemes of the devil.
The original extremist
According to the Bible, "the flesh," in this symbolic sense, is identified with the body that ultimately dies. Paul says, "But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness" (Romans 8:10). Notice that Paul doesn't say "your body is growing old and dying," as we would say. No, he says the body is already dead. He looks to the end of our physical lives and says that it is as good as dead already.
In this temporary state we live in prior to our resurrection, the body is the seat of sin or "the flesh" this evil principle of self-centeredness within each of us. Therefore "the flesh" is going to be with us for life. We may as well face that. We are never going to get away from it. We shall never escape it until that wonderful day of the resurrection from the dead.
But the body, soul, and spirit of man are inextricably tied together. No one can understand this. Where does your soul live in your body? Do you know? No, but you know that you have a soul, even though no one can locate it in the body. The relationship between the body, soul, and spirit is beyond our comprehension. But because they are so inextricably tied together, "the flesh," linked to the body, touches the whole person.
This is an important concept to understand. This means that the devil can influence us in the body, in the soul, and in the spirit. He has access to the whole person through the channel of "the flesh." Put another way: We are subject to the influence of these world rulers of this present darkness through our mind, our feelings, and our actions through our intelligence, our emotions, and our will. We need to see how this works. Through the channel of the mind the intellect the devil makes his appeal to human pride.
Through the channel of the emotions, the devil works on human fears and passions. In the realm of our actions, our behavior, the things we choose to do and say, the devil makes his appeal to pleasure, since we are essentially sensuous beings.
See how accurately this concept is illustrated by the story of Eve in the Garden of Eden. We are told that when she saw that the fruit was good for food it offered the pleasant sensation of eating (the appeal to the body); and it was a delight to the eyes, awakening within her a sense of beauty (the appeal to the emotions); and when she saw that it was desired to make one wise (the appeal to the pride of mind, the appeal to intelligence, and the love of wisdom and knowledge), she took it and ate.
These are simply the channels by which human beings are moved, whether for good or for ill. This is the way men and women are. Both God and the devil appeal to us and seek to move us through these channels: the emotion (the heart); the mind (the intelligence); and the will (the power to choose).
You may say, "If the devil and God both move us by the same channels, what is the difference?" The difference is simply this: The devil moves to create an imbalance, an eccentricity. The devil is the original extremist. God moves, however, toward balance, harmony, and beauty. The difference is not how they work, but the direction in which they move.
A Sanity of Balance
The greatness of the gospel is in its appeal to the entirety of our humanity, to our whole being, body, soul, and spirit, and to the whole of life. It is this fact that reveals the divine origin of the gospel so clearly. The gospel of Jesus Christ touches and explains all of history. It has a clear and consistent worldview, and it provides a framework for every science, every endeavor to investigate reality, and every effort to understand and make sense of all the events of history.
The gospel is not content simply to treat the symptoms of the human condition. It offers a radical solution to our fundamental problem. We often come to Christ asking him to resolve some immediate difficulty in which we find ourselves, like a man with cancer going to a doctor and saying, "I have a rash on my arm. Oh, yes, I do have cancer but don't bother with that. Just treat the rash and I'll be on my way." No doctor worthy of his medical degree would honor such a request and neither does the Great Physician, Jesus Christ.
The Lord does not simply treat our symptoms and stop there. He knows us better than we know ourselves, and He knows that if He merely solves this small problem here or that difficulty there, He has only touched the surface of our lives. The rest of our lives, the core of our lives, will remain diseased and dying. So, in His gospel, Jesus makes His appeal and applies His power to the wholeness of our humanity and to the wholeness of our lives. His goal is to confront the eccentricity and imbalance that sin and the devil produce in our lives, and to bring us into a sanity of balance.
You can see this wonderful sanity in the life of our Lord. Read the Gospel accounts and you are instantly impressed by the marvelous balance in the personality of the Lord Jesus, and by the perfect poise He exhibits in every circumstance. His words challenge and confound the greatest thinkers of His time, and they listen to Him with astonishment at His insight and wisdom. "No man ever spoke like this man!" is their awed response and, of course, they are exactly right. There never was another Man like Jesus Christ.
But Jesus is not all intellect, making His appeal to the philosopher and thinker alone. As you read the Gospel account, you see that He is also warmly human, a Man with an unmatched depth of compassion and human concern. He laughs, He weeps, He touches lives, He awakens the emotions and wonder of those around Him, He attracts people to Himself, He displays a supernatural magnetism and warmth. He is not content merely to feel certain emotions nor to merely communicate great truths. Rather, the beautiful balance of His personality is expressed in His practical deeds, in His actions in the unforgettable, undeniable events like the healings, the raising of the dead, the confrontation of evil and hypocrisy, the sacrifice upon the cross, and the resounding miracle of the resurrection.
What's more, this wonderful sanity of balance that we see in the personality of our Lord Jesus Christ is also evidenced throughout the Bible. In every book, on every page of Scripture, we see that the whole man is ministered to: the needs of the soul, of the body, and of the spirit all kept in a delicate equilibrium with nothing out of balance.
Everything is in harmony--the mind, the heart, and the will are all moved together. When God gets hold of a human life, He touches every part of that life. Anything less is an incomplete message, a mere fragment.
I am indebted to Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones for pointing out that this sanity of balance is beautifully expressed in one of the great hymns of our faith, "When I Survey The Wondrous Cross" by Isaac Watts:
When I survey the wondrous cross,
On which the Prince of Glory died...
Notice the depth of meaning in these words: My mind is engaged when I think about the cross, when I give intelligent consideration to what it means, when I think of all that was involved in that supreme hour when Jesus hung between heaven and earth! The cross captures the human dimension of the intellect.
And then, another dimension of our humanity is touched by the next few lines of the hymn:
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
My emotions are engaged when I think about the cross. I am moved to both grief and joy when I think of what the cross cost the Lord and how the cross has enriched and rescued me. Anyone who can talk about the cross of Christ without being emotionally moved has not really understood the truth. The truth of the cross is designed to reach the heart, to move us and involve us at the level of our feelings. And this hymn goes on to probe our emotional response to Christ and the cross in the next lines:
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small...
Here, compressed into an economy of words, is a sense of the grandeur of the work of the cross, the extent of it, and the glory of it.
Love so amazing, so divine
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
Love does what? It demands! My will is engaged when I think about the cross. In the words of this hymn, I find a compelling call to action.
In his baptized imagination and poetic soul, Isaac Watts understood that the appeal of the gospel is to the entire span of our humanity, in all of our human dimensions. The whole human being mind, emotions, and will is totally engaged by the cross of Jesus Christ. That is how God works!
He is thorough. He is balanced. And He calls each of us to this same sanity of balance.
Now let's contrast the wonderful balance of our Lord with the actions of the devil. What does the devil try to produce in our lives? He tries to create imbalance! He works overtime to enlarge one element of human nature at the expense of the others. He pushes us toward extremes, and tries to turn us into people who are characterized by only one thing. Instead of whole, balanced persons, we are grotesque caricatures of what God created us to be.
There are many who actually take pride in emphasizing one part of their being above everything else. There are the intellectuals we call them "eggheads" or "brains." They say there is nothing important in life but the mind, the ability to reason, and they give themselves over completely to the development of that one area of life. As a result, they are so absentminded, so impractical, so emotionless and arid in their personalities that we can hardly live with them! Because they are out of balance, we call them "eccentric. "
Then there are the emotional people, those who say, "Oh, don't talk to me about intellectual things or practical matters. I'm a free spirit! I want to experience life! I want to , feel!" These people are always living in their momentary emotions. They are led about by their feelings. They do not make careful, thoughtful decisions based on biblical principles or facts or information. They simply do whatever "feels good" or "feels right" at the moment and as a result, they create enormous chaos for themselves and the people around them. The world has become increasingly filled with people who believe that feelings are all that matter. Rarely, anymore, do you hear people say, "What do you think about this or that?" Usually, people today ask, "How do you feel about it?"
Some feelings-oriented people are given to intense, obsessive self-examination. They marinate themselves in their own emotions, and are narcissistically introspective, endlessly examining themselves. Of course, there is nothing wrong with self-examination kept in balance with a focus on God and on others, a certain amount of inward focus is very much a part of the Christian life. But some people never look anywhere but within! They are constantly looking at themselves, examining themselves, thinking about themselves, over-dramatizing themselves, talking about themselves, psychoanalyzing themselves, obsessing over themselves. As a result, they are so self-absorbed, egocentric, and emotional that we can hardly stand to be around them!
Then, of course, there are those who say, "I have no patience with intellectualism or emotionalism. I believe in being practical. I believe in action." We call such people "hard-headed pragmatists" or "do-ers." They are concerned only with deeds, accomplishments, actions, and results. They don't ask, "What do you think?" They don't ask, "How do you feel?" They ask, "What do you do?" They ask, "What have you accomplished?" They ask, "What's the practical use or benefit of this?"
These are three personality extremes the intellectual, the emotionalist, and the pragmatist. All three of these extremes are wrong. They are unbalanced. God did not create human beings to be extremists. He created us to be balanced, to exhibit a rich and well-integrated blend of human intellect, emotion, and will. It is not God who produces these extremes in us, but the devil. The devil takes each of these facets of our humanity (which God designed to be used as human assets and strengths), and he prods us toward an unhealthy imbalance and eccentricity.
Take the realm of the mind, for instance. One of the schemes of the devil is to tempt people to exalt reason to the exclusion of faith. Faith is a function of the will, of the soul. That is why faith is the, most human characteristic of humanity. It is that element of our humanity which is our basic motivator. That is why everyone can exercise faith. You are not human, you are not even alive, if you cannot exercise faith.
But the devil tries to move from a balance in this area by appealing to our pride. We love to think of ourselves as rational, intellectual beings who have a logical reason for all our ideas, beliefs, and actions. But this exaltation of reason opens the door to error and arrogant self-deception. We delude ourselves into thinking that we are motivated by logic, when in fact we are generally motivated by emotions, desires, and dimly understood drives then we use our intellect to come up with pseudo-logical, self-deceptive rationales to justify our illogical, emotional decisions!
One of the great examples of this, which we often hear these days, is the worldly teaching that the Bible is a primitive book for a primitive age, that biblical truth and morality are "irrelevant in today's world," that all truly "enlightened," "educated," "modern," or even "postmodern" people know that the Bible is just a collection of outdated stories, fanciful myths, and out-of-date moral concepts. Secure in our intellectual smugness, we know that the Bible cannot be believed as a historical record, nor relied upon as a moral guide. Not only are we free to ignore biblical truth, but we don't need to believe in any concept of truth. We are free to invent our own reality, our own truth, our own morality, our own worldview, without some deity looking over our shoulder, telling us what is right and wrong.
The same people who tell us that the Bible is no longer relevant and trustworthy never stop to ponder the fact that the further our society moves away from the teaching of Scripture, the more debased, corrupt, and cruel humanity becomes. As the world has moved away from belief in God and the Bible, we have seen a corresponding rise in crime, political corruption, teen pregnancies, teen suicides, divorce, fatherless children, disrespect for marriage, single parent families, abortion, pornography, drug abuse, alcoholism, racism, plus a general decline in personal integrity, responsibility, decency, and civility. The worse the world gets, the more people apply the "solutions" that created the problems in the first place and that is why there is a spiraling upward of social ills and a spiraling downward of morality and decency in the world.
There is an active effort in our society today to erase the image of God as a loving heavenly Father. It began as an effort to devalue God's image by picturing Him disrespectfully as "the Old Man in the Sky" or "the Man Upstairs." It has gone so far today that even many churches and denominations now picture God not as a Father, but as a "politically correct" (and hence, biblically incorrect!) gender-neutral "heavenly Parent" or even a "heavenly Mother" or pseudo-goddess. The gender politics of the radical feminist movement have successfully infected the church, seeking to destroy the positive image of fatherhood and manhood in general, and the image of the heavenly fatherhood of God in particular.
If you want to be a truly "enlightened" and "contemporary" thinker today, you must not embrace the "patriarchal" concept of God the Father. No, you must view God in a more vague and meaningless way. You must view God not as a person, but as a "force" or as a "universal principle" or as "the ground of all being." This theme has been offered as if it were a revolutionary advance in theological thinking. It is, in fact, nothing but an ancient pagan heresy.
We see echoes of our own age in the story of Paul's journey to the center of intellectualism in his day the city of Athens. As he walked around the city, he found evidences of a superstitious, ignorant, and pagan faith everywhere he went. He even found an altar dedicated "TO AN UNKNOWN GOD." Then he went to Mars Hill and gave a speech to the Athenian intellectual elite. He said to them:
What you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else...For in him we live and move and have our being. As some of your own poets have said, "We are his offspring" (Acts 17:23, 25, 28).
Paul is saying, in other words, "Look, even you as pagans are intelligent enough to know that God does not dwell in temples made of stone. How could the Creator of the universe be contained by such a paltry man-made dwelling place? Even your own Greek poets recognize the fact that God is not far from anyone of us, for in Him we live and move and have our being. You already know that much about God now I'm going to give you the complete, biblical revelation, so that you will know exactly who God is!"
Primitive faith is the simplest level of faith, and we see such primitive, uninformed, ignorant, searching, groping faith among the intellectual elite of Mars Hill, and with many of today's nonspecific, nonorganized faiths, such as the New Age movement. Many New Agers believe in a concept they call "God" but they are apathetic or actively hostile toward faith in Jesus Christ. Like the Athenians, they worship an unknown God, and they do so in ignorance. It is the devil's plan to keep such people in their ignorance, always searching and never finding the truth that is right in front of their eyes.
We also see primitive, simple faith in the recovery movement founded by Alcoholics Anonymous. Many in the recovery movement say the Lord's Prayer and believe in a "higher power" but do not recognize Jesus Christ as their "higher power." This is not a criticism of those who are at this searching, groping stage there are many Christians today whose first introduction to God was in the form of this vague "higher power." As they grew in their understanding and dependence upon God for their sobriety, Jesus gradually revealed Himself to them. In time, they became not merely followers of a shadowy "higher power," but followers of the risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
But there are also many in the recovery movement who never move beyond primitive faith. There are even some who claim a pagan deity, a New Age concept, or some other substitute deity as their "higher power." Though the recovery movement has accomplished much good and has saved many people from alcoholism and other destructive habits, the devil will use anything to accomplish his purposes. It is part of his strategy to keep people locked in a primitive faith, never moving on to a more mature faith in Jesus Christ. The devil will frequently keep people in their primitive faith by appealing to human pride, planting such ideas in their minds as:
"I'm too sophisticated for old-fashioned, Bible thumping, organized religion." In other words, I'm intellectually superior to those ignorant fundamentalists and evangelicals who believe that outdated book full of myths and fables.
"I believe in God, but I prefer to imagine my own God. I would rather worship God in a meadow or by a running stream than in a church." In other words, I'm intellectually superior to those poor saps who waste their Sunday mornings in church when they could be sleeping or hiking in the woods.
"I don't need to read the Bible or go to church to understand God. The Bible can mean anything you want it to, and churches are just full of hypocrites." In other words, I'm so intellectually superior to everyone else that I can make up any god I want.
The devil cleverly appeals to human pride and arrogance, duping the "intellectual elite" into thinking that ancient pagan myths and heresies are really "new advances" in religious thought!
Another scheme the devil employs against us in the realm of the intellect is doubt. The devil plants his heresies and incites false teaching. False teaching always takes an extreme position exaggerating one particular aspect of truth and blowing it out of proportion, turning some small piece of God's truth into an overblown, extreme position. The devil even uses this ploy to promote false ideas about himself. He will cause some Christians to become so focused and fanatical about the subject of the devil and demons that they lose their focus on God and His Son and His power. To such people, the message of the devil is, "Yes! I am real, I am the devil! Remember, I am a powerful, cunning adversary, so you'd better focus all your thought and energy on defeating me!" And those who are lured into this trap run the risk of falling into the clutches of superstition, occultism, and other obsessive, fear-focused practices and beliefs.
At the other extreme, the devil will lead some people including many church people! to become so intellectually smug that they refuse to believe in the existence of a real, personal devil. I have actually met pastors who say, "I believe in God, I believe in Jesus Christ, but I do not believe in the existence of a personal devil" And isn't that a clever ruse on the part of the devil? Isn't concealment the perfect way to trap unsuspecting prey? That's why duck hunters hide in a blind, waiting for the ducks to pass by, unaware of the double-barreled, 16-gauge death that is waiting to explode in their direction! And this is exactly what the devil does. He hides, he lays in wait, he persuades people that there is no such thing as a real, personal devil and that is the perfect set-up for an ambush! When humanity is unbelieving and unsuspecting, then the devil is perfectly free to do exactly what he wants among us!
Among Christians, the devil will often attack in the realm of the intellect to lead us to be overly obsessed with certain points of theology. There are many Christians who pride themselves on being intense students of the Bible and systematic theology. They have studied all the great theological schools of thought. They have wandered through all the dark woods of theological differences and have climbed the icy peaks of doctrinal fine points, such as predestination and dispensationalism and prophecy and Bible numerics and on and on. God never intended that Christians should need a doctorate of divinity or a pocket calculator to understand His Word or to live out His plan for their lives. Jesus said that the faith that saves is a childlike faith, and I believe that one of the great triumphs of Satan has been his strategy of pulling people away from a simple childlike faith and leading them into endless, pointless disputes over doctrinal minutiae.
An appeal to fear
Another wide-open window of opportunity for the devil's scheme is the realm of emotions. We live in an age which practically enshrines the emotions as a god. "Trust your feelings, Luke!" said the New Age guru Obiwan Kenobi in the science fantasy film Star Wars and millions of movie-goers have been following that deceptive advice ever since!
We are used to believing our feelings. From babyhood we have been used to reacting to the way we feel and accepting the way we feel as a legitimate and accurate description of the way things are. Nothing could be more foolish! There is no more uncertain, unreliable, and unrealistic guide in life than our feelings. Feelings come and go, and most of the time they do not relate to reality at all, because they are subject to so many influences changing circumstances, our own changing perspective, and even the hormonal and chemical changes that take place within the human body and human brain.
The devil seduces some Christians into the belief that true worship, true faith, true joy consists of constant emotionalism. These Christians must have a regular dose of hand clapping, shouting, dancing, falling down, and an array of seemingly miraculous manifestations. If they don't experience these extreme emotional experiences, they feel that they are no longer experiencing the Christian life, they no longer "feel the Spirit." This can lead to a zig-zag, updown emotionalism where the Christian alternates between feelings of religious ecstasy and feelings of abject defeat and depression. God never intended for us to live that way. He intended us to live lives of balance and equilibrium, not trusting in momentary surges of emotion, but in His rock-steady, unchanging promises and truths.
The devil will seduce others into an opposite extreme, a morbidly unhealthy view of emotion a view which says that happiness is sinful and that joy is a mark of spiritual shallowness. Such Christians are all gloom and introspection, and the faith they practice is a stern,' gray, dismal shadow of what Christianity was intended to be. This extreme is no more godly and Christian than is extreme emotionalism. God created us as emotional beings, and He reaches us not only through our intellect and our will, but also through our emotions. The devil's scheme is to create an imbalance and to distort our emotions so that we are in one extreme or the other, so that we are either all emotion or no emotion at all! If you find yourself in these descriptions, then it is time for you to wake up and shout, "No more!" to the schemes of the devil.
Another way the devil uses human emotion to keep Christians defeated is by leading us to be ruled by our negative emotions. He preys on our thoughts and induces worry in us, making us anxious about the future, anxious about making decisions, anxious about whether or not God really loves us and whether or not we truly belong to Him. God's prescription for this form of satanic attack is found in Philippians 4:6: "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."
Or the devil may appeal to us through our fears. He blunts our effectiveness by making us timid and afraid to move out in faith, to live boldly and speak out boldly for God, and to dare great things for God. The devil would have us shrink back, hesitate, and tremble. The devil always appeals to our fears while God always appeals to our faith. From faith comes hope and love, but the devil wants us to give way to our fears. God's prescription for this scheme of the devil is found in 1 John 4:18: "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love." And 2 Timothy 1:7: "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline."
Again and again in the Gospels, Jesus told His disciples, "Don't be fearful, don't be anxious, don't be troubled." Why? Because, He said, "I am with you." Fear and anxiety are the opposite of faith, of trust, of hope, of love. When we are fearful and anxious, we are seizing the reins of our lives from God's hands. We are saying, "God, I can't trust You to do what is right in my life. I don't know if You really know best, if You really care about me, if You're really taking care of me." Fear is the failure of faith. That is exactly what the devil is after. If you give way to fear, you will soon be discouraged and defeated. If you give way to defeat, you will begin to hate and the devil will have accomplished his purposes. He has destroyed, he has ruined, he has laid waste that which God loves and desires to bless.
In the realm of our will and our behavior, the devil seeks to draw us into a continual round of new, exciting activities. He tries to push us into becoming "workaholics," never knowing peace or rest or satisfaction, always driven, always active and often exhausted and defeated. He may even push us toward religious activity, being so busy working in the church and Christian groups that we never take time to follow the prescription of Psalm 46:10: "Be still, and know that I am God." We become like Martha in Luke 10. She was always busy, always doing, always preparing and cleaning and taking care of her guests and then she became bitter and annoyed when her sister Mary was found sitting at the feet of Jesus listening, learning, worshiping, and reveling in the presence of her Lord. It was Mary, the learner, who chose the better part, not Martha the workaholic do-er. If you see yourself as Martha right now, you need to be very careful and very much aware that you may have succumbed to one of the devil's schemes and it is time to wake up and find the peace and balance in life that God intended you to have.
The devil will sometimes push us in a different direction of activity he will lead us to wear a rut in the road of our lives, to dig such a deep trench of habits for ourselves that we cannot get out. We become slaves to tradition, to habit, to daily custom, to the attitude that says, "This is the way I've always done it why change?" So we go through our lives doing the same old thing, never risking, never attempting anything new, never allowing anything to shake us out of our complacency, until we one day reach the end of our lives only to discover that we never truly lived, never truly discovered the adventure that God planned for our lives.
God never intended life to be lived in a rut. His goal for our lives is like a great bustling superhighway right through the center of life full of action and activity, with rest stops along the way, with occasional detours and side roads, and with an ultimate and glorious destination: our eternal home. That is the road Jesus traveled and that is the road the Scriptures lead us on.
We've just made a very brief survey of this subject, the devil's attack through "the flesh." We will learn more in the pages that follow about the devil's attack through "the world," with its illusions, its allures, and its pressures to conform, its deadly message of "everybody does it." The devil gets us that way, too. That is why we have the Scriptures, that is why the Word of God is given to us, so that we might be instructed in all the ways that the evil one seeks to destroy us. We cannot escape if we do not know where the attack is coming from.
At this point, you may be thinking, "How can I possibly hope to fend off such attacks? The devil is too clever, and his schemes are too potent for me. I can never stand alone against such an enemy." And you are quite right you can't stand alone. The good news is that you are not alone! Remember, Paul's word to us is: "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes." You see, God has made a provision for you. Only when we recognize we are weak are we truly ready to "be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power."
Teach me, Father, to have the humility to admit that in my own strength I am defenseless against the snares and schemes of the devil, but that in Your strength I am invincible! Lord, help me to live a life that is whole and balanced, reflecting Your sanity of balance. Grant to me a willingness to listen, to give careful, thoughtful attention to the way of victory You have provided through Jesus Christ our Lord. He was the first one to enter the battle, and He has defeated my enemy on the cross. Though I have been slow of hearing in the past, let me now hear His clear call to me. Lord, open my eyes, and ears and make me attentive to Your Word. In the name of my marvelously wise and balanced Savior, Jesus Christ, amen.