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Paul J. Bucknell
Purpose: Spiritual warfare is commonly heard of, but many do not know how it is suppose to help the average Christian. Actually, spiritual warfare is for daily living and not just for those extreme struggles. Learn how to use truth to destroy powers of darkness.
Spiritual Warfare at Work! is part 4/5 of the third lesson called Gaining Strength in the Discipleship Level 2: Reaching Beyond Mediocrity.
Without God speaking, our faith will run on empty. We will have no confidence that He will be with us. When the Word of God is effectively shaping our hearts, however, then the Holy Spirit has full reign in our lives. We are filled with excitement about being His and living out His will.
Remember, Satan will do everything to destroy this belief that God will speak to you. He will try to confuse you, disappoint you, etc. Don't be tricked. If Satan tried to trick Jesus to not trust the Father in the wilderness, you can be sure he will do the same with you.
The reason for this is that when God's Word abides in us to the point that we can see and feel it, then our faith grows. Every believer knows that with a little mustard seed of faith that we can do anything! "And whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son" (John 14:13). The evil one does his best at keeping the living Word of God from our lives.
Many stop their teaching on this subject at this point. We need to go further. The believer tends to think of faith as something only for those great heroes of faith such as: Hudson Taylor, Moses, J. O. Fraser, Abraham, etc. This would be a terrible mistake. God wants all of His children to grow in their faith to continually bear fruit.
This discipleship level 2 series focuses on how to rightly use God's Word to strengthen our spiritual lives. God expects us to use His Word to grow in our faith to overcome all sorts of problems and accomplish, in a positive way, His good will. As Peter mentioned, the Lord wants to fill us with all sorts of knowledge, self-control, virtue, love. etc.
If we waited to see the typical miracle to build up our faith, we perhaps would never gain the faith that we ought. They happen far to rarely. We will never grow in our confidence to get to that point where we can believe those great things because we do not believe Him for personal matters. God, however, wants to help us to become those overcomers. ￼The word for 'overcomers' comes from the Greek word, 'nikao' from which the running shoe, Nike, gets it name.
Each of us have many opportunities to allow God's Word do marvelous work in our personal lives. God is just begging us to join Him in letting Him make those changes. We might keep our sins hidden from others, but they are clearly seen by the Father. God wants to reveal His divine power in our very weaknesses.
I probably am the worst sinner here. Being brought up in a broken hope, I never gained the normal affirmation of love and security. Without a mentor, I was easily fooled by the evil one. I did not know how to handle myself. God put a lot of my personal sins away when I came to know Him. My swearing and stealing instantly disappeared. My early Christian life, though, was know for swaying back and forth, up and down. The Lord had a lot of work to do in me.
It did not have to take so long to learn these things, but I did not have anyone to explain them to me. And I, to make matters worse, was very insecure and made sure I kept by spiritual struggles private - (sign of pride). This compounded the problems. I remember the battles of faith far too clearly.
When we went through the self-evaluation sheet, we were to circle two or three items from the left and right side. On the left, we were to see how God has already worked in our lives. These are areas that God will want to use you to help others who are struggling in this area. You believe God can help you in that area. You have seen it in your life. On the right side you might have high numbers from 5-7. God will want to be working on these areas.
Our hope is that some of these root issues are largely resolved in these lessons. By resolve, I do not mean to say that you will not struggle with them. You will struggle even for a period after you have overcome. You will hear the battle waging in your mind. At that time you will go to God and plead that He speak and teach you to build up your faith. You will see His wisdom and strength and see His victory (be careful: pride goeth before a fall). Remember it is Him. Only Him. He is the victor. This is His grace at work in your life.
As you see yourself grow in overcoming this and that problem, you will begin to see the pattern of spiritual warfare. You will see how God's Word is used to overcome these personal issues and be able to similarly use it in other struggles that you or others face.
As you see yourself grow in overcoming this and that problem, you will begin to see the pattern of spiritual warfare. It is wonderful to see how God's Word is used to overcome these personal issues and be able to similarly use it in other struggles that you or others face.
You should remember that the earlier lessons spoke about hope, faith and choices. We will tie this altogether now. God wants to grow us so that we can be like Him and bear fruit. So He will speak to us and help us as needed. He is our great Mentor. Don't demand how God should work. Instead, be like Jesus' mother who simply asked Jesus to help and trusted that He would handle the problem (John 2:1-11).
Bring the problem or concern to Him in prayer that you want Him to work on. You could ask for direction and discerning God's will but first focus on a way to improve or overcome a personal problem.
Pause in prayer
Pause now and ask Him to teach you how to overcome.
This might sound simplistic but remember the words of James, Jesus' brother, "You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures" (James 4:2-3).
What we need to understand is that Satan's power is all rooted in deception.
Darkness has no inherent power but lives in the absence of light. So it is with spiritual powers. When the church does not shine in the community, evil creeps into the society. As it is with the society, so it is with the individual believer. When the truth is not being lived out, darkness will creep in and occupy your heart and mind.
The fact is, even though it is terribly dark, one only needs to turn the light on for the darkness to go away. We do not fight the darkness. We bring the light! We must live out Christ's light. We can see this in the following verses from the Apostle Paul.
"For you were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. And do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light" (Ephesians 5:8-14).
This is the way spiritual battles work, a battle between truth and falsehood. When a person believes in some lie or truth regarding some issue, he will make decisions based on that perspective. This is the reason God's Word is so powerful because it brings light into otherwise dark situations.
It is difficult to understand our life assumptions. A lot of what we have done in the previous lessons was to build discernment of those things which we really believe. We often think we believe one thing when we really do not believe it. ￼How do we know for sure? We can tell what we believe in a certain instance by our attitudes and actions.
When I gave an illustration of my reading of God's Word, how did I know I needed to repent? I was doing what I should, was I not? Not actually. I was not depending upon the Lord. Down deep I did not believe I needed the Lord's Word for that day. If you asked me, I would, of course, say I needed Him.
But somehow, another belief snuck into my life.
My response, in this case, dullness of heart, revealed my true heart's belief. I no longer really believed I needed God's Word because I was not acting consistently with that belief. I really did not care whether God could help me. I felt I was okay to be without Him. This is the reason the scriptures repeatedly tell us to renew our mind day and night (see Joshua 1:6-8). Success is dependent on the refreshing of our minds with the Word of God.
We need to stand guard over our thoughts. If not, we will fall. When we discover we have been waylaid and detect this through an improper attitude or action, then we need to go back and trace it to our wrong beliefs (belief of a lie, non-truth). If we only deal with the action, then we will not deal with the root problem.
For example, say I stay in bed and get up late two days in a row. No time to meet God. I should be able to see that there is something wrong with my heart. When I see something wrong on the outside, then I know I am believing something is wrong in the inside. The evil one only has access to our lives when we live by his suggested lie. Deception is the secret to his limited power.
Eve sinned because she ate the fruit. She first had to accept a lie of the devil, though. Once she did, then she could take the fruit and eat it. She had to believe taking the devil's offer was better than what God said. She was so sold on the devil's words, she even passed it on to Adam.
"When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate" (Genesis 3:6).
By seeing a problem with our action or attitude, we know we are living by a lie. Truth will produce goodness and righteousness. Only lies will produce wrong behavior and attitudes. We know we have been infiltrated by a lie when we start living apart from the Spirit of God. For example, if I am irritated, I have accepted some lie. Or if I steal a look at pornography, there are lies present that I believe. We do not need to be controlled by these lies as the passage in Ephesians 5 instructs us, but we can live by them. The evil one can influence our thoughts but cannot make us do these things. That is our decision.
It is easier to change our short term behavior than to change our minds, at least without the working of God's Word. Real repentance incorporates changes on both levels. If irritable, I have believed the wrong thing about God and His ways. This has to be uncovered or my heart will still be hardened (and irritable though I could hide it from others). If we dare run after the source of our irritability, we will find the flesh, our old ￼nature. We prefer our ways over finding God's grace for our needs. We look at our schedules and solutions rather than God's. A believer cannot live a good Christian life without the Spirit of God.
When we see a wrong attitude or decision, we need to train ourselves to see why we did this or that. Come in with the troops and expose our hearts and minds before the Lord. It sounds hard but fortunately, it is not, that is, if we are humble. Pride will cause us to stay deceived.
We have the light on our side. All we need to do is expose the lie. In this case where I am not dependent upon God, I repent by acknowledging I have failed to trust Him (how long I am not sure), seek forgiveness from God (restoration), commit myself to the truth and respond positively to the truth. In this case it would be repenting from and confessing a spirit of irritability and renewing my mind and heart to depend upon the Lord for trusting Him with my schedule.
A new Christian might look at his sin and think he is not a Christian. The 'young man' (spiritually young Christian) knows he does not need to doubt that. The ship (our lives) is the Lord. We just allowed someone else to control it. As master of the ship, we will take over control when we want. Never be shaken by the lies we might accept or even the sins we might do! The devil works in cahoots with our flesh (i.e. sin nature).
So when we see ourselves not having the right attitude, reaction or making the right decision, we should quickly recognize that we have been deceived. We have adopted the evil one's suggestion (which is always composed of lies (includes half-lies)). He has tempted us and we have fallen for it. He is so sneaky. If we rightly commune with God each day, we can stand guard against his devices, but we need to be so careful.
Even when we are doing well, he can sneak in with a thought "Oh you are doing really well!" just to lead us to a prideful spirit. We need to pay attention to the thoughts of our mind and recognize that we could get prideful over that statement. We can reject it simply by biblically restating the truth in a prayer.
Oh Lord, you helped me so much yesterday. Thank you for your grace. I never could have done it without you, and I never want to do it without you! Amen.
Do you see how it works? We take the truth of God's power that helped us and shine it into the darkness ("I did pretty good at it, didn't I?). The darkness is exposed by the light. This is the way all sin operates whether in the believer or non-believer.
Lies are inserted in our minds, and we succumb to these lies which become controlling thoughts. This is what happened in the garden of Eden and what still happens today. Most counseling today does not at all recognize the roots of the problems. They only treat the serious behavioral problems which result from our sin, usually by medicating them. How much better to free God's people to serve Him, the Living God.
Once you start to consistently apply these truths to your lives, you will see a string of victories. Your heart will be filled with praise. You will see the power of the truth and the way the Word of God comes into play. Where you once felt helpless, now you feel strong because the Word of Christ dwells in you!
If we have a problem weeding out a lie, it is probably due to it being hidden by a greater lie. We might be fighting the wrong enemy (even thought he small one is worth fighting against too).
-> Continue on reading part 5/5: See how it works out in daily life!
Discipleship at the 2nd level
by Paul J. Bucknell
God's Word comes alive as you learn how to use it to overcome personal struggles like anxiety, depression, pride, lust and anger. God has made you strong! Many worksheets! (300+ pages). This is the full resource with all the complete and updated pages included!
Scriptures typically quoted from the New American Standard Bible unless noted:
(C) Copyright The Lockman Foundation 1988