The Christian faith is not neutral. It is warfare. Christians are soldiers commissioned by their King to take ground in the name of Christ. The weapons of our warfare are not carnal. We do not fight with the forces of violence that is so often associated with religions around the world. Our weapons are of a spiritual nature, and they are designed to fight the true spiritual enemy of God. They are designed to “take every thought captive” and to “destroy enemy strongholds.”
2 Timothy 2:4 ESV No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.
Ephesians 6:13 ESV Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.
Last week, in my message on Christ’s temptation in the wilderness, I offered six military commands to the flock in their own battle with the Devil’s temptations. I offer them again here, as bold encouragement.
Take Courage & Fight Boldly
First, take courage and fight boldly! Jesus was led into battle. He fought for forty days, not just against low level demons, but against the Devil himself, and he won decisively. Though near the verge of starvation from a forty day fast, Christ, armed with the Word of God and the Holy Spirit, fought the enemy on his ground and proved the victor.
Christian, be bold and courageous. We are not cowards who slink away at the sight of danger. We are well aware of the Devil’s schemes. We are also well aware of the countless self proclaimed saints who have fallen by the way side deceived by Vanity Fair. As we walk the narrow road, their carcasses line the streets and remind us of the danger of one-foot-in one-foot-out Christianity. The narrow path is danger. It is filled with mines and unseen enemies. But take courage, Christ your victor has gone before you. He has won the battle. He has secured the path. Your feet will not falter. Though you cannot see the road ahead, the Lord can. So march on. Christ will guard your steps No matter how wicked the days, no matter how fierce the temptation, Christ goes before you. William Gurnall reminds us,
“Say not thou hast royal blood running in thy veins, and art begotten of God, except thou canst prove thy pedigree by this heroic spirit, to dare to be holy in spite of men and devils.”William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armor
Take courage, and do not waver. You are not only a soldier, but you are a prince, adopted into the King’s family. Your cause is good and just and right and true. Your King is alive and well. Your captain beckons you to follow him.
Refuse to Grumble
Second, refuse to grumble or complain. Look at Christ. He fasted for forty days until he was skin and bones. The Spirit led him into that demonic wilderness to be attacked for forty days. At his weakest and most vulnerable moment, the Devil released his greatest onslaught of temptation. Christ never complained. He faced it with a resolute dependence on God.
O Christian, we are all prone to grumbling and murmuring about our predicaments, our challenges, our temptations. Our pains, worries, and fears are real. But consider the words of Hebrews 12:3-4,
Hebrews 12:3–4 ESV Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.
You are a soldier in the Lord’s army. Do not complain that you have to sleep in the barracks, that you have to eat a soldiers rations, and that there are often long and weary nights. Such is the life of a soldier. The war will not last forever. Peace time is on the horizon. But now we must fight.
Know Your Enemy
Third, know your enemy. The number one rule in any kind of warfare is to know your enemy. Jesus was prepared and not caught off guard in his temptations. He knew the Devil used the same schemes on Adam and Eve: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.
If the Devil used them on Adam, and he used them on Jesus, we ought not be surprised when he uses them on us. The Devil is going to attack you. He is going to tempt you. And he is going to play on every vice that dwells in your heart. Know his schemes. Study how he has caused you to fall in the past, and refuse to give him access to cause you to stumble that way again. Ask yourself what environments cause you to stumble, and for the glory of Christ, avoid them. Does the Devil use alcohol to blur your decision making, then get the alcohol out of your house. Does the Devil use your laptop to tempt you to lust, then don’t keep your laptop at home.
Matthew 5:30 ESV And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.
There are a number of key times we can expect increased temptation.
When You Are Weak: First, when you are weak, when you are tired, when you are sick, when you are mourning. This is precisely when he attacked Jesus with his most ferocious temptations. He waited until Jesus’ body was beginning to fail, and then he pounced. Are you sick. Be ready.
Success in Ministry: Second, the Devil will often attack during seasons of spiritual success. Consider Ezra and Nehemiah. It was when the wall was being built, when the people were in tune with their calling, that the Devil raised the surrounding nations to protest their work. Are you in a season of great spiritual or ministry success, have your eyes to the hills, the enemy is coming.
Habits of Sin: Third, have you fallen pray to temptations of the flesh? Do you have inlets of sin in your life that are left unrepentant. These inlets will be your downfall, because the enemy will use them as footholds whereby he will establish strongholds in your life. Root out the sin for the glory of God.
Fourth, be watchful. We don’t know the exact details of all the ways the Devil tempted Jesus over those forty days, but we can guess that he came at him in hundreds of different techniques and approaches.
1 Peter 5:8 ESV Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
If you were a soldier sleeping in a jungle and you knew the enemy roamed freely and sought to come at you while you were unprepared, you would not sleep securely. And if you must sleep you would have another stand guard in protection. Your eyes would ever be to the trees looking for movement. Your weapons would always be readily available should the moment be needed. O how lamentable it is that Christians are so sleepy in the midst of such hostilities. There is so little watching taking place, so little preparation for the battle. We must have our eyes to the trees. Our enemy is coming, and if he catches us sleeping, if he catches us distant from God’s Word, lacking in prayer, lacking in holiness, we will be overwhelmed by his strength.
Take No Prisoners
Fifth, take no prisoners. Jesus dominated the Devil in this account. This was not passive Jesus just eaking it out in the wilderness. Jesus marched into enemy territory, defeated the ancient enemy on his ground, and then marched out as victor. He didn’t coddle the enemy. He didn’t go easy on the enemy. He certainly did not entertain the enemy’s offer.
We live in a day that is reminiscent of Isaiah 5,
Isaiah 5:20 ESV Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!
The Devil has so infiltrated our culture with deception, that to be a person who stands for what is right and true and just and good, is to be labeled a bigot. To stand for life, is to be cruel. To love Dog’s design of the family is to be intolerant. The Devil has used this to tempt Christians to fold under the pressure, to adopts sinful ideology for the sake of keeping the peace. But Christian, there can be no peace. The Devil is not after peace. He is seeking to devour you, to take you prisoner. Our enemy has showed up for war, and most of the time Christians speak and behave in a way that communicates that they’ve shown up for a kid’s game. No wonder we’re losing the culture. Take no prisoners. Stand firm on the Word of God as the sole authority of truth and righteousness and justice.
Go Forth in the Name of Your Conquering King
Sixth, and finally, go forth in the name of your conquering king. Jesus would not be swayed from his true allegiance. The Devil tried his best, and failed miserably. Jesus has won. Jesus is still winning. Jesus has guaranteed your salvation with the seal of His Holy Spirit. There will come a day when every knee will bow in reverence to Christ. Whats more, Christ has granted you power and authority over this present darkness. Yours is not a story of continual falling. to every temptation. In Christ, you too have victory over sin and temptation. John Owen once wrote,
“Mortification from a self-strength, carried on by ways of self-invention, unto the end of a self-righteousness, is the soul and substance of all false religion in the world.”John Owen
If you try to overcome temptation by your own strength you will fail. But we have a champion who has already the won the victory and who has secured our safe passage home. Cling to Jesus. This is done by studying His every word, by meditating on his word, and loving His word, and thus learning to depend on the Spirit in all circumstances. We do not pave our own way, we follow Jesus wherever he takes us.