We have been talking about spiritual warfare and how we as Spiritual Soldiers fight the wars that come to us. Some of this blog series concerns understanding spiritual warfare and its principles. But I also want it to be a battle manual to help you be victorious in war.
We have talked about reasons to study and practice spiritual warfare and the lay of the land on the battlefield. Now we will discuss three levels of spiritual warfare every Christian faces. Let’s dive in!
- Fighting the Flesh
The first level of spiritual warfare every Christian must fight is the war with the flesh. By flesh I referred to our desires from before we met Christ. For some it is a daily battle they feel they can never win.
But as with all of these levels of spiritual warfare we must learn to fight with the right tools and the power of the Holy Spirit. Some people do not believe fighting the flesh is a spiritual battle. But when we must rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to win this battle, it is a spiritual battle.
As we live in this world we are under constant threats from temptations within and without. But our former desires are the enemy violating our conscience and character with temptation. When we see things in the world we begin to think about them, dwell on them in our minds.
Then our former passions remind us of what life was like before Christ. We begin to think about the pleasures we enjoyed without needing to be disciplined. James pinpoints our desires as the beginning of our fight with the flesh (James 1:14-15).
Using a combination of images from hunting to birthing James begins with a hunting metaphor as we are lured and enticed by our own desires. Then he switches to a birthing metaphor as our desires conceive and develop, giving birth to sin. But sin leads to death when it is fully grown.
We must not blame God for temptation because he doesn’t use temptation (James 1:13). We deceive ourselves if we believe God is involved in our temptation (James 1:16). Instead we need to believe that God is a good God who brings us good gifts from heaven (James 1:17). The devil lies to us and makes us believe God is at fault when he and his demons attack us with temptations in this world.
As you can see even our temptations and our evil desires come from the spiritual realm. This is why fighting the flesh is a spiritual battle. It may be engaged by the physical realm but every part of the battle is spiritual in nature.
We cannot fight the spiritual battle with the flesh by mere willpower. It will never be enough, and we will always fall back into the same desires, temptations, and sins. We need the power of the Spirit to rescue us and make true to us the sacrifice of Christ on our behalf.
Long ago on the Cross Jesus waged the war against sin and death for us. He made eternal life available to us. Once we understand that Jesus has already won the war we have the power through the Spirit to be victorious in the battle with the flesh.
Rest assured, the flesh will always rise up, and our desires will tempt us again. We must be connected to Jesus (James 15:1-11). Without a continuous and vibrant relationship with Jesus we will fall prey to the flesh again.
So let us continue to contend with the flesh, crucifying it (Galatians 5:24), denying it and taking up our cross daily (Luke 9:23). We must fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). When we look at Jesus, we can’t look at the world or its temptations, our flesh, and its desires. Your eyes can only see one thing at once. So focus them on Jesus.
Ask other believers to become accountability partners with you. They are fellow brothers and sisters in arms with you against the flesh. Do not fight the flesh on your own. Expose its evil thoughts and desires to others, and the light of Christ through them will help you to vanquish the darkness within.
Exposing the fruitless deeds of darkness (Ephesians 5:11) robs them of their power against you. It will also keep your pride from rising up and thinking you can handle such evil foes on your own.
- Fighting the World
The apostle John uses “the world” in three different ways throughout his writings. When we fight the world we are not fighting the physical planet we live on. We are not fighting the people in the world. These are the first to definitions of how John uses “world.”
Instead, as he refers to the “evil world system,” this is what we fight against. This world is run by the devil, the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2). It is always opposed to God and stands against Him, opposing His will and desire for the people of this world.
The world began as good, completely prepared by God for our benefit. And God had desires for us to love and serve him. But sin destroyed God’s desired plan for humans. It brought death into this world as the consequence for rebelling against God.
Sin affected every part of this world, even creation itself. Death and decay became the natural order of things. For humans, sin affects every part of our society from the whole to the individuals. To be sure there are individuals opposed to God and working for the devil directly. But most people have no idea how affected they are by the world system.
From politics to economics we are bombarded with sinful ideas that seek to divide and destroy us. We could blame people for this, but it is the work of one Satan who seeks to divide everyone so he can conquer us.
He wants to separate Christians from the rest of the world. As far as he is concerned you as a Christian are an enemy combatant and he wants to take you out of an effective role as one of Jesus’ lights (Matthew 5:14-16).
Just as Jesus came to defy and overcome the darkness of this world (John 1:5), we as lights of the world are Jesus’ strategic soldiers to bring His revelation to the world of sin and its dastardly effects. We expose the deeds of darkness (Ephesians 5:11) and fight every thought and argument that opposes God and raises itself up against Jesus (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).
Jesus left us in the world, but we are not of the world (John 17:11, 14-18). We work for Jesus in this world, but it is not our home. We have a greater destiny to be with Jesus forever. But while we are here, we are His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20). We show others the glory of Christ. We are the aroma of death to some and the aroma of Christ and life to others (2 Corinthians 2:15-17).
So as we fight behind enemy lines for the truth of the gospel and the sake of Christ, we present Him to everyone we meet and allow the Holy Spirit to do his work of drawing them to Jesus (John 12:32; 14:26; 16:14).
I will quickly address the idea of getting involved in politics or activism. Some Christians get involved in these levels of government and social life. Are they wrong? That’s up to them and Jesus. But spiritual warfare concerns spiritual matters.
We’re not talking about warring with the world physically. We’re not talking about warring with our flesh with physical means. These are spiritual battles we take on for the sake of Jesus and the lost people around us you need to know Him because they are being manipulated by the devil.
There is nothing we can do through activism and politics that solve the spiritual problem. Only Jesus can change the hearts of the individuals around us. Only He can change your family members, your friends, your coworkers, and the strangers on the street. Only He can change the heart of your enemy.
Tools of God’s Kingdom include missions and missions work. Rest assured, any missionary will tell you about the spiritual battles they face on the mission field. It is through evangelistic efforts that the Kingdom of God makes headway we cannot have with any other worldly approach. We will address the powerful spiritual weapon of evangelism later in our series.
- Fighting the Devil
The final level of spiritual warfare is fighting the devil. By the devil I refer to the real person of Satan, his demons that serve him, and the spiritual entities of idols and other principalities. We will be going into depth on each of these entities, but they are enemies in our spiritual warfare.
I call the devil the enemy of your souls because that is how Jesus speaks about him and the rest of the Bible talks about him. Satan even shows up in the Old Testament, from where we give him his name. Contrary to popular belief, he is a real entity.
We will talk about his origin, his mission and goals, how he interferes with you in your mission, and his tactics. But we do not spend that much time on the devil. We do not want to give him any glory. He is a defeated foe and we treat him as such in spiritual warfare.
Next, his demons, whom I like to call Satan’s minions, are those fallen angels who masquerade as false gods and do whatever they can to distract you from your Christian mission. They can be very dangerous, just as dangerous as the devil.
We will talk about them in more depth. There are some truths and some false statements about them made by Christian teachers. I will go more into depth about these types of things when I get to demons. But talk of them will span into the realm of the third kind of devil out there.
Paul enumerates four different types of evil spiritual forces. We will also spend time talking about these. Some believe Paul lists a hierarchy of these creatures and entities. Others believe he is listing one type of evil spiritual force and giving it four different names.
But we will get into discussions about rulers, authorities, cosmic powers, and this present darkness (Ephesians 6:12). Based on your translation you may have different terms for these. But we will go more in depth on them as well.
Suffice it to say, no one should play around with evil spiritual forces. Just because we cannot see them does not mean they are not real or hold real power. We will also be talking about that, whether they hold real power or not.
Sadly, much of what we discussed in spiritual warfare is not considered even by some Christians to be a real danger and possibility. But that is the first lie of the devil and his friends. If they can get you to believe they don’t really exist then they already have you defeated.
These are surely not the only three levels of spiritual warfare, but they are some of the most dangerous ones. We must be aware of them. We must be able to distinguish between them. And we must be able to know when we are dealing with a spiritual battle or another type of battle.
I am looking forward to continuing to dive deep into the issues of spiritual warfare. As we continue our Spiritual Soldier Series I want to prepare you for what is out there, what you will come into contact with, and what you must be able to defeat in the name of Jesus.
How do you deal with battles on these three levels? Do you see temptation as a physical or spiritual battle? Do you notice things in the physical realm that have a spiritual source and therefore a spiritual battle that must be one before you see a difference in the physical?
We have spent a lot of time laying the groundwork in these beginning posts. We must understand the principles of spiritual warfare to be effective. In our next battlefield training we will focus on 7 Principles of Spiritual Warfare You Must Know.