When I was a teenager, I had a friend who always wanted to wrestle with me. Now, this was not an even match. I weighed 110 lbs soaking wet; he was probably at about 180-200 lbs. and regularly lifted weights. The irony is that he could never pin me, and most of the time, I was in the position of the advantage.
Now, you may be asking, “And…what is the importance of that tidbit?” I have been thinking about Paul’s words in Ephesians 6:12: For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (KJV)
We are in a wrestling match. This is not a simple contest between two boys trying to prove their manhood, but a real battle with eternal consequences. Winning, or losing, will not only affect our ego, it will determine our ultimate destiny. If that was not enough pressure, our opponent refuses to fight fairly!
When I was a child, wrestling was popular entertainment in the mid-southern United States. Every weekend, there were wrestling matches advertised on posters, billboards, and in the newspaper. I remember that there was much discussion about Mr. Wrestling I and Mr. Wrestling II. They wore masks and no one knew who they were. There was much talk in the media trying to solve this mystery.
Today, I want to pull back the mask of our deadliest opponent. The answer may shock you. It may not be whom you expect, for he has expertly hid himself behind many different masks in an attempt to confuse you. His tactics are so diverse and his subterfuge so elaborate that many times we incorrectly assume that someone else is our enemy. Think you know the answer? Let’s look at the enemies that we can readily name.
This enemy has been in existence since before time. He has years of accumulated experience and knowledge, and is an obvious possibility because his moniker simply means “adversary.” In the Bible, he appears to be involved in much that is evil, and is even named as the primary tempter of Jesus. He is known to be the prince of this world and the leader of the demonic world. Even with all this supposed power, he is obviously not equal to God, as he was cast out of heaven by the “finger of God.” Additionally, he is only one spirit and is not omnipresent like God. I doubt that I catch his attention very often, if ever.
With all his experience and knowledge, he has three weapons that he relies upon: fear, doubt, and guilt. He likes these weapons because they each counter our ability to have faith in God. Fear and doubt are near-opposites of faith, and guilt causes us consider ourselves unworthy of God’s assistance.
Jesus gave us an example of the perfect defense against Satan’s attacks, and it is found in His rebuttals to Satan’s temptations. Jesus used the Word of God. Satan cannot stand against God’s Word and our faith in it. His surrogates, the demonic powers, have even less power and ability than he.
Romans 8:38-39 says, “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (KJV)
Now, you may ask, “How can I be my own enemy?”
The answer is simple. We know our weaknesses. We know how to convince ourselves to do what we want, even when it is wrong. We lie to ourselves by saying, “It will be okay this time.” or “I will only do this one time.” The list of excuses that we feed ourselves is endless. You know them as well as me. We’ve all used them.
What about the excuse, “The devil made me do it?”
Let’s look at this from two different angles. First, since the demons are not omnipresent like God, do you (I) really think that you are (I am) of such importance that there is a personal demon assigned to you (me)? They are limited in number and have the whole world to try to influence. Secondly, even if they happen to be involved with the temptation of the moment, you and I have a will. We are not puppets awaiting someone, or something, to pull our strings.
In Romans 8:38-39 (shown above), there are two notable things missing from the list. The first is “the past.” The occurrences of our past can insert patterns into our life that limit our ability to believe that God loves us. The second is me (you). I can choose to separate from God.
So… the mask has been removed. The enemy is exposed! I am my greatest enemy! You are your greatest enemy! Hurray!
Oh, wait! We still have a match to win. How do we do this?
2 Corinthians 10:3-6 (KJV)
3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:
4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)
5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
6 And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.
2 Corinthians 10:3-6 (AMP)
3 For though we walk (live) in the flesh, we are not carrying on our warfare according to the flesh and using mere human weapons.
4 For the weapons of our warfare are not physical [weapons of flesh and blood], but they are mighty before God for the overthrow and destruction of strongholds,
5 [Inasmuch as we] refute arguments and theories and reasonings and every proud and lofty thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God; and we lead every thought and purpose away captive into the obedience of Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One),
6 Being in readiness to punish every [insubordinate for his] disobedience, when your own submission and obedience [as a church] are fully secured and complete.
This is one of my favorite scriptures, as it teaches a key to spiritual warfare. It shows that the battle is in our mind.
Casting down imaginations – The Amplified Version refers to arguments, theories, and reasonings. Lenin was purported to say, “If you tell a lie often enough it becomes the truth.” Hitler stated, “Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.” That which is imaginary is not reality. What imaginary things have we convinced ourselves are truth? Have we persuaded ourselves that our struggle is normal and God is not interested in our overcoming it? Are we suffering from an ailment or disease and believe that it is “our cross to bear?” The imagination is a powerful force in our lives.
Every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God – The AMP puts it this way: “…every proud and lofty thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God.” How many ideals do we encounter that is contrary to God’s Word and His character? Yes, this includes the immorality of this day, but what about our perception of Him? Do we see Him as a powerless baby in the feed trough? What about seeing Him as a dead man hanging on a tree, or in a grave? Maybe we see Him as an uncaring, unreachable deity, somewhere in heaven, who is waiting for us to fail so that He can smash us under His thumb. These ideals are against the true knowledge of God.
Bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ – (AMP) “We lead every thought and purpose away captive into the obedience of Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One).” What do you think about? Sidney Sheldon wrote “In His Steps,” a book about a town who consciously chose to ask “What would Jesus do?” before every decision. They literally brought every thought into captivity and the town was transformed.
Are your thoughts bombarded by guilt of past sin? Do you have difficulty accepting the love of Christ? Do you have difficulty accepting that Jesus wants to heal you? These thoughts need to be brought into captivity. There is a Chinese proverb that states, “You cannot prevent the birds of sadness from passing over your head, but you can prevent their making a nest in your hair.” This quote could easily refer to thoughts. I cannot eliminate every unacceptable thought, but I certainly can put it into prison and never let it see the light of day. I do not need to continue thinking on it.
The strongholds that Paul is teaching about are all in your (and my) mind. I am my worst enemy. If I bring my thoughts into captivity, then Satan cannot steal my faith, he cannot destroy my trust, and he cannot dampen my joy. Satan can only work in the rooms of my mind that have an unlocked door. We have all heard the phrase, “An idle mind is the devil’s playground.” Do you have a playground monitor?
I hope this helps you in your battles. Now, please forgive my departure from this blog post – I’ve a wrestling match to win!