That Ancient Serpent

 

I had a trying morning.

I truly could not do anything without help from God because I have a natural tendency to get overwhelmed and consequently give up on things. As a Christian, this is a terrible obstacle in my faith and a wide-open, brightly-colored, loud and impossible-to-miss foothold for the devil.

So today I gave some thought to that idea and I’d like to write about it.

“Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.” – 2 Corinthians 2:11

In my own life, failures come more often when I am (willfully) ignorant of Satan’s devices. Ultimately sure, I know of the devil’s existence and I am aware that he wishes to lure us away from God and obedience to Him. I know that he draws us and tempts us and deceives us.

Yet, I need to bring that knowledge to the forefront of my mind, so that when those inevitable temptations and trials come, I can name the work of the devil and fight against it more successfully.

Not only do we need to discern what is pleasing to God and put on love and perseverance and a desire to please Him; not only do we need to acknowledge what is good and right, we need to open our eyes to what is going on behind the scenes of our daily lives.

Maybe you’re reminded of that quote:

“The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”

There is a lot of truth to that. Why? Because how can we expect to fight against, much less conquer an enemy we aren’t aware of? You can’t start treating cancer until there is a diagnosis, and even “preventative medicine” operates on the admission of the existence of sickness and disease.

Physical health is an excellent parallel to spiritual health. We are mindful of the things we eat, we know our physical weaknesses, we get checkups, we exercise and we may even endure painful surgeries and operations to rid ourselves of physical decay and disease. We fight to keep our bodies long-lasting and healthy and we educate ourselves on potential dangers and harms. Our spiritual health is far more important than our physical, yet we wreck our spiritual health absentmindedly. We resist the suggestion that we might be hurting our faith in any way. We miss clear signs and symptoms of infection.

There needs to be a change of mind.

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” – 1 Peter 5:8,9

If we have been baptized into Christ, we need to fight diligently against our adversary. As I found this morning, this means I need to humble myself and recognize my weaknesses so that I may grow in my faith. This is a concept that is understood in every other “battle” aspect of life: a city that doesn’t defend itself against an invasion will be overcome, a body with an immune system that doesn’t fight infection will be overcome, a team that doesn’t play, will lose.

The scriptures often use the soldier and battle imagery to describe Christians, faith, the world, sin and the devil. We need to put on that battle mindset, lest we be overtaken. We need to be purposeful in our faith, lest we be overtaken…easily.

So, throughout the day, if something undesirable happens (or many undesirable things happen), let’s stand guard: that’s our first, easy sign that we’ve entered a battleground. We need to be observant, ready and willing to examine ourselves. We know our weaknesses, where we’re lacking and where we have a tendency to fall; we know the devil’s first attack. Today, let’s fight against it.

Satan is just as real as God and if we aren’t careful, we may become less diligent than him in our spiritual goals. He is around every corner, watching for any sign of weakness in us that he may grasp and twist and use to his advantage. He has the power to turn something good into sin, all by playing at our hearts and desires. With an enemy like that, we cannot afford to be clueless and haphazard Christians. We need to know our enemy, know his tactics, know his beliefs and his goals and we need to act accordingly.

Prayer is awesome, and in the heat of things, it’s our strongest weapon, so let’s not forget to use it.

Undoubtedly, there will be times that we will fail to see or defeat those first signs, and there will be times we find ourselves in sin and faced with a decision: pride vs. humility. We should thank God for the moment we realize our error, because without a diagnosis there can be no hope for progress. For me, this is often a difficult moment because even if the driving emotion has passed, it isn’t enjoyable to admit my wrongdoing, sin, failure.

Yet, when I do humble myself and with the passing of even just a little time, I feel the most satisfaction:

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. ” – James 1:2-4

The deep comfort of this verse can only be felt when we overcome those trials, and it is truly a deep, real and embracing comfort. Each victory equips us further, each time we triumph means a potentially swifter win next time.

Let’s be ever-vigilant this day, anticipating ways in which the devil may try to lure us away and countering those attacks. Let’s study diligently to find out the boundaries of sin, to discover the armor God has provided for us and to plan the areas of life He desires us to obtain and conquer.

“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” -James 4:7

“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,” – Ephesians 6:11-18

“If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.” – Proverbs 24:10

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”- 1 Corinthians 10:13

“But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” – Ephesians 4:20-24

 “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality,idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy,drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” – Galatians 5:16-26

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