The Tactics of Terror
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the
Some time ago I 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 any candidates for release into a room where a tap was turned on and water was pouring out over the floor. Next they handed the patient a mop and told him to mop up the water. If the patient had sense enough to turn off the tap before mopping up the water, he was ready to out into society. But if, as in the case of may, he started mopping up the water while the tap was still running, they knew more treatment was needed.
When we laugh at that, I am afraid we are laughing at ourselves, because that is what many of us are doing. Each Christian, facing the personal world in which he lives, is given the mop of truth and told to use it. But we can only help in that world if we have enough intelligence to conquer first the evil which is pouring into our own hearts from these world rulers of present darkness.
That is exactly what the Apostle Paul is urging in Ephesians 6:10-13. We can be of no possible help in the solutions of world problems as long as we remain part of the problem. Therefore this whole passage is designed to awaken us and to call our attention to the need for understanding the nature of our problem. As we have seen, it is through the channels of the world and the flesh that the Devil makes his indirect and most insidious attack upon human life. The "world" is human society, blindly and universally accepting false values, shallow concepts and insights, and deluded ideas of reality. At the same time it almost desperately insists upon conformity to those standards and insights. The flesh is that urge within us toward total independence, toward being our own little gods and running our worlds to suit ourselves. It is that continual drift within us toward self-centeredness and selfishness that keeps us from being completely His.
You can see immediately that the struggle against the influences of the world and the flesh is not something remote from us, nor something which occasionally comes to a certain few Christians. This is a battle in which we are all engaged every moment of our lives because the flesh, this inner arena of battle, accompanies us everywhere we go. We cannot escape it, we cannot run away from it. Therefore we must begin our battle at this point.
But someone says, "I thought that when you become a Christian, Christ sets you free from the kingdom of Satan, and the Devil no longer can touch you--that you have nothing to do with the Devil anymore." Is that your concept the Christian life? Nothing could be more wrong! When YOU become a Christian, the battle only begins.
It is true the Devil can never totally defeat a Christian. Those who are genuinely the Lord's, who are born again, who have come into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, are delivered from total defeat. We do not hesitate to emphasize that! The Devil can never get us back into the position of unconscious control which he once exercised over us, as be does over the rest of the world. But the Devil can demoralize the Christian. He can frighten us, make us miserable, and defeat us in many ways. He can make us weak and barren and unfruitful in the things of God. It is quite possible, it least periodically, to be more miserable as a Christian than you ever were before.
The Devil is especially interested in defeating Christians. After all, the unredeemed worldling is no problem to him. All the quite sincere but rather pathetic efforts of worldlings to solve the problems of, their lives through legislation, education, and a change of environment do not bother 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 this 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.
If the Devil did not oppose the Spirit of God, every individual Christian, without exception, would be a powerful force to destroy the Devil's kingdom of darkness. Each Christian would be to others a door of escape out of the unconscious control of these world rulers of present darkness. Every Christian would be a corridor of liberty, a center of light, dispelling the darkness and ignorance of the world around him.
The Devil cannot let that happen if he can help it, so he attacks the Christian, especially and particularly. He marshals all his forces against us, coming sometimes as "a roaring lion" in some catastrophic circumstance which seems to knock us off our feet so that we cannot stand. At other times he comes as "an angel of light;" alluring, appealing, offering something that seems to be just the right thing for the right moment. Or, he will take over direct control of human life whenever he can. Thus we find men like Hitler arising on the world scene from time to time, demonic men, motivated by strange and unexplainable passions. Sometimes the Devil assails us through the world with its monstrous pressure to keep in line, to not be different, and with its ostracism of those who attempt to swim against the stream. But most often the Devil comes in disguise, through the channel of. the flesh-our inner selves with silken, subtle, suggestive wiles. That particularly is what the Apostle is warning against--the wiles of the Devil.
We must now take a closer look at this flesh within us. 'According to the Bible, the flesh, in this symbolic sense, is identified with the body which ultimately dies. In Romans Paul says, "your bodies are dead because of sin" (Romans 8: 10). We would say, "The body is dying because of sin," but the Apostle looks on to the end and says that it is as good as dead already. We all agree with this. 'We all must die," we say.
In this temporary state before the resurrection the body is the seat of sin or the flesh--this evil principle of self-centeredness in each ofus. 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 at wonderful day of the resurrection from the dead. The body is dead because of sin, and we live with it, therefore, for life.
The Devil's Access
But, the body, soul, and spirit of man are inextricably tied together. No one can understand this. Where does our soul live in your body? Do you know? No, but you now that you have a soul, 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 man. It is important to see this. This means that the Devil can influence us in the body, in the soul, and in the spirit. He has access to the whole man through the channel of the flesh. Put another way: We are subject to the influence of these world rulers of present darkness through our mind, our feelings, and our deeds 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 emotions, he works on human fears, and in the realm of deeds--the things we choose to do or say--the Devil makes his appeal to pleasure, since we are essentially sensuous beings.
See how accurately this 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 a 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 love of wisdom--she took and ate. These are simply the channels by which men are moved, whether by God or the Devil. This is the way men are. Both of the forces outside man which work upon man, God and the Devil, move him through these channels: the emotion---the heart; the mind--the intelligence; and the will--the power to choose.
Well, you 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 whole man, to the whole of life. It is this fact that reveals its divine origins so clearly. The gospel touches and explains all of history. It has a world view, and it provides a framework for every science,. every endeavor to investigate, every event of history.
The gospel is not content simply to adjust a few problems in man. We often come to Christ asking him to resolve some immediate difficult situation in which we find ourselves. But he never stops there. He knows us, and he knows that if he solves this small problem, here or that small problem there he has touched only a part of our life and the rest will remain out of balance, eccentric. So the gospel makes its al to the whole of man and touches every part of his life.
You can see this in the life of our Lord. Read the Gospel records and see what a marvelous balance there is in the Lord Jesus, what perfect poise he exhibits in every circumstance. He says things which absolutely challenge the greatest thinkers of his time, and they listen with astonishment to his words and insights. Some of them said, "No man ever spoke like this man."
But he is not all intellect, making his appeal to the philosopher alone. As you read the record, you see that e is also warmly human. He is constantly expressing compassion and human concern. He is easy to live with. Further, Jesus manifests both intelligence and emotionalism through his deeds. He is not content merely to feel certain things or to talk about certain great truths, but these find their ultimate expression in practical deeds, in actions--in unforgettable, undeniable events like the cross and the resurrection.
You can see this wonderful appeal to the whole of man In the Scriptures. What a marvelous sanity of balance is maintained in the Bible! The whole man is ministered to--the needs of the soul, the body, and the spirit---all kept in a delicate equilibrium with nothing out of balance. Everything is in harmony--the mind, the heart, and the will moved together. When God gets hold of a man, he begins to touch every part of his life. Anything less is an incomplete message, a mere fragment.
I am indebted to Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones for pointing out that this is beautifully expressed in one of the familiar hymns of Isaac Watts: "When I Survey The Wondrous' Cross":
When I survey the wondrous cross,
On which the Prince. of Glory died
To begin with, 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, when I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died--my intelligence is captured. I see there are deep and marvelous things about this event. And then what? Well, it moves my emotions:
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on a my pride.
I am moved, my emotions are immediately involved. I have learned that when people talk about the truth of the Word and it does not move them emotionally, they have not really understood the truth. Truth is designed to reach the heart, to move it and to involve it. As you go on in this song, you see bow marvelously the emotions are involved:
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small
Here 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.
Love does what? Demands! There is the will being I impelled to action:
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
The whole man is totally engaged. That is the way God works!
But what does the Devil do? Well, he tries to create imbalance--to build up one element of man's nature at the expense of others, to push us to an extreme, to turn us into persons who are characterized by only one thing. Instead of whole persons, we are grotesque caricatures of men.
There are many who take pride in emphasizing one part of their being above everything else. First, there are the intellectuals--we call them "egg heads," "brains." They say there is nothing important in life but the mind, the ability to reason, and they give themselves to the development of this area of life. As a result, the are so absentminded, so impractical, one 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. I have no patience with that. I want to experience life, to feel it, and to enter into things." These people are always living on their feelings,' their emotions. Sometimes we call them empty headed" because they never seem to use what is in their heads. These are the people who, when you ask them what they think , say, "How do I know what I think until I've heard what I have to say?" Or they are introverted, always feeling around inside, endlessly examining themselves. There is nothing wrong with self-examination; it is very much a part of the Christian life. But these people never do anything else. They are constantly looking. at themselves, morbidly examining themselves, and expressing gloom over what they find.
Then, of course, there are those who say "I have no patience with the thinker or with the feeler. "I'm a man of practicality." "Hardheaded," we call them, involved only in deeds and concerned only with practical matters. "What do you do)" is always the issue with them. All three of these extremes are wrong. They are unbalanced--not what God intends man to be. It is the Devil who pushes us into these extremes. It is the Devil who takes each of these elements and tries to get us off balance within them
Take the realm of the mind, for instance. Through the wiles of the Devil we are encouraged to exalt reason to the exclusion of faith. Faith is a function of the will, the soul. That is why faith is the most human characteristic of man--because it is a function of the soul--that element of man 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 logicians, justifying everything we do on the basis that it is a logical development of a certain premise we have taken. But this exaltation of reason opens the door to error and deceit.
One of the great examples of this, which we are hearing a good deal about these days, is the teaching, in popular books and elsewhere, that the Bible is too primitive. It no longer makes its appeal to "grown-up man" to "man come of age." These descriptive phrases make their subtle appeal to the pride of intellect: "Man come of age"; 'Twentieth century man!"
The Bible, the thesis goes, offends the integrity of modern man, strains his credulity. We can no longer accept it as a historical record; it is simply the attempt on the part of the early church to express things in mythical form. These things did not really happen but are reported as though they happened in order that we might get the great truth behind them, Man "come of age" does not worry about the form in which truth comes, out about the truth itself.
Continuing this line of thought, man come of age needs to have a new concept of God. Man needs to understand God in a different light. What is this new concept?
What is this amazing insight to which mature man has come, through the difficult struggle of the ages, having finally grown up and become able to see something new about God? What is it? Well, it is that God is no longer the Father, as our Lord Jesus pictured him (which, in one book is ridiculed as "the Old Man in the Sky" concept). God is not a Father, in that sense. The new idea is that God is the "Ground of our Being." If you really want to be an intelligent man, if you want to understand what this whole business of Christianity has been driving at all along, then move on to this new concept of God--he is the Ground of our Being! This theme has been offered as if it were a revolutionary advance in theological thinking.
The fact is, this idea presents the most primitive concept about God. Turn to the story of the Apostle Paul's journey to the center of intellectualism of his day--the city of Athens--and read his great address to the Athenians on Mars Hill. As he walked around the city, he found evidences of a superstitious, ignorant, and pagan faith everywhere he went even finding an altar that was addressed 'To an Unknown God." He said to them, "it is the God whom you ignorantly worship that I have come to declare to you" (Acts 17:23). He started on that level.
He said, "Look, you know yourselves that God does not dwell in temples made of stone--not the God who made the heavens and the earth and all things that are in them. Your own poets have recognized the fact that God is not far from any one of us, for in him we live and move and have our being." They already knew that much about God. That is the simplest level of faith--primitive faith, the faith which is the result of an ignorant searching and groping after God. But it is through such teaching as I have been describing that the Devil cleverly succeeds in pushing the mind of man, through an appeal to his pride, out to what he thinks are new advances but in reality are nothing more than a simple and primitive understanding of God.
In the realm of the mind, the Devil is constantly trying to create doubt. Here he plants his heresies and incites false teaching. False teaching always takes an extreme position, exaggerating one particular aspect of truth and blowing it up out of proportion--extremism. That is one of the Devil's favorite maneuvers. He does this even about himself in trying to make people believe there is no Devil. After all, isn't concealment an essential ploy in trying to capture some wild animal? You try to hide yourself; you do not want to be seen. This is what the Devil does. He persuades people that there is no such thing as the Devil. Then he is perfectly free to do exactly what he wants to do with humanity.
But if someone wakes up and refuses to believe that, then the Devil comes and says, "You're perfectly right! Of course there is a Devil. You know it and I know it. But my power my cunningness, my strategy, and my wiliness are so great that you had better give all your time and thought in an effort to overcome me!" Thus he pushes some over to another extreme which will lead on to superstition, voodooism, and other fear-related positions.
With Christians, the Devil often works in the realm of the mind so as to get us over-concerned in certain points of theology. There are those Christians who pride themselves on being Bible students and who know all the ins and outs of theology. They wander through all the dark woods of theological differences and climb the icy peaks of various doctrines, such as predestination and the decrees of God. For them, all that matters is doctrine. Or perhaps it is prophecy, or Bible numerics--they get so involved studying the numbers of the Bible that they end up using computer for their Bible study.
An Appeal to Fear
Now the realm of feelings yield a prolific area for satanic attack. We are so 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 nothing that is more uncertain and more unrealistic than our feelings. Most of the time they do not relate to reality at all because they are subject to so many influences.
The Devil moves some Christians to live on a plane of exhilaration, of constant When they get together, their meetings are a riot of hand clapping, shouting, and religious joy--or perhaps in accurately a religious Jag. Others he pushes to the opposite extreme. They think to express happiness as a Christian marks them as sinful. They are gloom and introspection, morbidity. Or the Devil leads people to shift from one to another--one time they are up and the next moment they are down, one day they are upon top and the next day, because of their feelings, they are down in the depths. They live on an emotional teeter-totter. If this describes you, then you have already succumbed to the wiles of the Devil.
This is what keeps some people defeated. The Devil gets them exercised about being and showing compassion to the point that they are acutely anxious all the time, filled with worry and fretful complaint. But when they see that is wrong, then he blandly seeks to push them over to the other side and they become callous and cynical, not caring for anybody. The Devil always makes his appeal in this realm to our fears while God makes his appeal to faith. From faith comes hope and love, but the Devil wants us to give way to our fears.
The one thing Jesus said over and over again to his disciples was, "Fear not. Be not fearful, be not anxious, be not troubled." Why? Because, "I am with you," he said. From fear comes despair, the opposite of hope, and hate, the opposite of love. That is 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 deeds, the Devil works to get some to seek a continual round of something new, something exiting--appealing to their desire continuous pleasure in activities. We have to be constantly satisfied with some exciting activity. The Devil pushes others in the opposite direction, into a rut called "tradition," which they fiercely defend. They say, 'These people that are forever running after new things! Not for me. I want the same things for breakfast every morning, for lunch every day, for supper every night. I come home at the same time, I read the same page of the same paper at the same hour of the day." Everything is the same, thus they avoid any painful adjustments to changes in their lives.
God never intended life to be lived that way, or the other way. God's will for man represents a great highway right through the center of life where die whole man is ministered to. That is where the Lord Jesus walked and that is where the Scriptures take us, if we walk by them.
Now, we've made just a brief survey of this subject. I have said almost nothing about the Devil's attack through the world, with its illusions, its allures, and its pressures to conform. "Everybody does it, you, know. This is the 'in' thing to do." The Devil gets us that way, too. But that is why we have the Scriptures, that is why the Word of God is given to us that it might instruct us in all the ways of evil. No wonder we do not escape if we will not give ourselves to an understanding of these.
But perhaps I have said enough to make you ask yourself, 'Who is sufficient for these things? How can we possibly understand all this? Who can hope to win against such a variety of attacks? Who can even grasp, lit alone answer, these subtle and powerful attacks against human life?" Does it leave you feeling rather discouraged) If it does, then look once more at what Paul is here. His word to us is: "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the miles of the devil."
You see, here is a provision. Perhaps the most healthy attitude we can have in the face of this revelation is to be overpoweringly aware of our sense of weakness. It is when we recognize we are weak that we are ready to "be strong in. the Lord and in the strength of his might," ready to give intelligent consideration to what that is and how to do it.
Teach us, Father, to have the humility to admit that we have not been doing a very good job on this score, and that we have been snared time and time again by the wiles of the Devil. Lord, grant to us a willingness to listen, to give careful, thoughtful, and continued attention to the way of victory provided through Jesus Christ our Lord, who has known all along that we would face this kind of battle and has been to tell us, but we have been so slow of hearing. Lord, make us attentive to his word. In Christ's name we pray, Amen.
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