Recognizing the Enemy
We are all familiar with the old adage ‘I can’t see the forest for the trees’; in this case it may be ‘I can’t see the water for the sea’. By our hardness, due to our walk in the flesh, we do not see the extent of the wickedness around us. Most of us haveread of the Israelites in the Old Testament and wondered how they were so ignorant. It was not mere ignorance, but spiritual blindness, which is the same thing that occurs today.
It is not surprising that we do not see what is occurring around us; we cannot see that we are in the sea. Jesus addressed the lack of spiritual vision of the scribes and Pharisees;
Matthew 23:23, 24 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.
Jesus further said they had cleaned the outside of the cup, but within was extortion, excess, uncleanness, hypocrisy and iniquity. Isaiah also wrote of this distorting of good and evil;
Isaiah 5:20 - 23 Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink: Which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him!
Today the world has a demand for political correctness, yet cannot see the evil and murder of abortion, since it has been declared ‘legal’. The world demands diversity and tolerance, but has no tolerance for calling homosexuality the sin that it is.
Because we do not see the warfare, the church today does not recognize the enemy. How did we reach a time when denominations are condoning and ordaining homosexuals? How can we have well known ministers state that they will not preach sin to their congregation? As with the Israelites, how did we reach a time when the doors of the House of God are shut (on Sunday night or mid-week services)? By eliminating the standard of holiness the churches are being pulled deeper and deeper into the sea of flesh. God’s standards have not moved! We are not on a sliding scale;
II Corinthians 10:12, 13 For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. But we will not boast of things without our measure, but according to the measure of the rule which God hath distributed to us, a measure to reach even unto you.
The enemy, Satan, has used our fleshly nature to attempt to change the standard or rule which God has given us. Even if we recognize the standard, we cannot obey the “letter” of the law. We are in a spiritual battle that we attribute to the physical, and to those around us, not realizing that individuals are only serving their master.
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.
It is not your spouse, your parent, your child, a friend, or any others that we battle against or that we think are trying to hurt us when conflict arises. The enemy uses these individuals as part of the spiritual warfare that has continued through the ages. Satan will place hate in our heart if we let him; but victory in this spiritual battle is only the next repentance and salvation away. Our call in the battle is to love the individual, pray, and obey. Do we recognize the battle of the ages? It is this spiritual battle that is present in the world that John speaks of in I John 4;
I John 4:2, 3 Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.
This spirit of antichrist that is even now in the world is the reason the world hates Jesus; it is from satan, and it is evidence of the spiritual warfare that continues. It should be easy for us to recognize, if we will come out of the sea;
I John 4:5, 6 They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them. We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.
Recognize the battle within, realize the spirit is willing, but the flesh weak, and choose the spirit.
King David yielded to temptation and failed in the matter of Bathsheba. He then compounded it to the point of having Uriah the Hittite killed (II Samuel 11). His iniquity and sin affected the whole nation by its consequences, but when David repents he does not acknowledge this;
Psalms 51:4 Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.
Many times I read this verse and could not understand how David could say “against thee only have I sinned”. What about Uriah? What about David’s family, etc.? We see through physical eyes, while David in his repentance is acknowledging the spiritual battle. “Us and them” never matters, only us and Him. We are each only a speck in the aspect of time and the battle, how much less so in the eternal? And yet we (our souls) are the point of the spiritual battle to God. Do we want to serve the demons of Satan’s army, or the King of Kings and Lord of Lords?
God created man as a living soul; when Adam and Eve disobeyed, they died spiritually. Your soul is eternal and is the purpose for Spiritual warfare. Many attribute our spirit as part of our eternal being, but the following two scriptures establish that our soul will spend eternity in heaven or hell, but our spirit returns to God;
Matthew 10:28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
Ecclesiastes 12:7 Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.
God the Father sent Jesus to reconcile us to him. Jesus walked a sinless life, suffered persecution unto the death of the cross, and was resurrected for us. Our soul is invaluable to God, but we must come to saving faith in Jesus to receive; our choices determine where we are with God. We must now walk the Master’s Walk, fully anticipating his soon return. Consider some of the examples in scripture of those walking in faith and expecting Jesus coming; Eve knew from the promises and was expecting a man from the Lord (Genesis 4:1); Lamech knew andwas expecting a man to deliver them from the curse when Noah was born (Genesis 5:29); Abraham knew and it was imputed unto him for righteousness (Romans 4:18 – 22); the Simeon of the New Testament knew and embraced his own death after seeing Jesus (Luke 2:25 – 32).
Do you live for the moment? A total walk in the flesh will result in living for the moment, with no faith, no consideration of consequences, and no ability to see the spiritual battle. Perhaps you are living for an upcoming event you desire to participate in, or maybe you have enough vision that you are preparing for retirement. God wants us to have a vision for the ages. Faith sees the spiritual consequences, and prepares for eternity;
Ecclesiastes 12: 13, 14 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.
This scripture establishes the whole duty of man. We have already seen from Proverbs 8:13 and 9:10 that the fear of God is to hate evil, and that the fear of God is also the beginning of wisdom. Truly fearing God will result in an increase in our faith, and a desire to keep his commandments. It is our duty to walk in faith;
Luke 17:5 – 10 And the Apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith. And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you. But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat? And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken and afterward thou shalt eat and drink? Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not. So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.
Here is further confirmation that faith is our duty, and not for us to be exalted in. Despite this, when Jesus speaks of the unjust judge he finishes with this statement;
Luke 18:8 … Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?
If you get a vision for faith you will see it in the walk of many minor individuals in the Bible. Let us consider Tamar, the daughter-in-law of Judah (Genesis 38:1 – 30). Judah had three sons from a Canaanite woman he had married. Tamar was chosen by Judah to be wife to his eldest son, and to carry on the lineage of a tribe of Israel. The eldest son was wicked, and the Lord slew him; Judah then gave Tamar to his second son, who refused to carry on his brother’s seed, and the Lord slew him also. Tamar, at the request of Judah, was then faithful in her father’s house waiting for the third son to grow up. Judah feared that the third son would die also. Tamar, by an elaborate ruse, becomes the mother of Judah’s children and at the same time removes the wicked Canaanite blood from the lineage of Jesus! She was not a harlot, as many would suppose; in verse 26 Judah acknowledges she had been more righteous than he. Can you see her faith to fulfill her call?
Hebrews 11 is full of individuals who walked in faith although they may not have seen the promises fulfilled. We must have faith in God, and it will result in a desire to please God if we understand the spiritual consequences;
Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
The flesh is against the spirit, and cannot receive these things; neither will the flesh be diligent in faith. Faith and obedience must be active, and will result in your faith growing;
II Peter 1:5 - 7 And besides this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
These things will equip us for spiritual warfare. We do not provide or secure any of these good things to our faith of ourselves, but we can allow them in the spirit. Our flesh will always oppose our growth in these things. We must come out of the sea of flesh.
When we respond in the flesh during conflict, we also can become a tool of the enemy. God gives us an answer for these times;
James 4:7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
Many of us have been taught to use Jesus rebuke in the wilderness “… get thee behind me Satan ..." when confronted by the devil in our personal walk, but we still do not recognize him in most of our spiritual warfare. That is why we are exhorted to watch;
I Peter 5:8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:
In our review of the sea of flesh, perhaps this metaphor would be a shark, swimming about, seeking whom he may devour. Satan understands being a fisher of men, and is constantly trying to pull or keep us in his realm, the sea of flesh;
Habakkuk 1:13 – 15 … wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously, and holdest thy tongue when the wicked devoureth the man that is more righteous than he? And makest men as the fishes of the sea, as the creeping things, that have no ruler over them? They take up all of them with the angle, they catch them in their net, and gather them in their drag: therefore they rejoice and are glad. Therefore they sacrifice unto their net, and burn incense unto their drag; because by them their portion is fat, and their meat plenteous. Shall they therefore empty their net, and not spare continually to slay the nations?
Satan is always about devouring the righteous and stealing your soul; yet we do not see him or recognize our failures, due to our flesh justifying itself. How are we being sober and vigilant? And if we fail to recognize him in his open, aggressive actions, how can we expect to recognize his subtlety in the spirit;
II Corinthians 11: 13, 14 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.
Our Pastor frequently recounts how his mother would call him Lucifer when he was sinning, and notes the depth of rebuke it was to him. However, she did it not just to reprimand him, but she recognized the enemy who was controlling him! The gift of discernment is also lacking in the church today due to our walk in the flesh. We must begin to recognize the external spiritual battle, but the greater battle is within.
The Enemy Within
The prophet Jeremiah prophesied extensively about the failure and punishment of the chosen people, the children of Israel. He was not speaking of the heathen in Jeremiah 11:8, which says in part; “Yet they obeyed not, nor inclined their ear, but walked in the imagination of their evil heart: …” The spiritual parallel for us is that choices remain after salvation, and we must find the faith and ability to hear God and obey him or we will fail in the flesh. Chapter 12, verse 12 says in part “… no flesh shall have peace.” In Chapter 17 he speaks of the condition of all of our hearts;
Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it.
That wicked heart is in each of us, and it is not within us to change it. Isaiah, through the spirit, says it well;
Isaiah 64:6 But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
Our worst enemy is within; and we have no strength against that enemy.
Judges 21:25 In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.
This scripture described the rule in Israel before the time of kings; and it spiritually describes mans walk in the flesh, doing that which is right in our own eyes. John describes these things;
I John 2:16, 17 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.
When we were in our sin and the depths of the sea of flesh, the things of the world were in us, and were all we knew. By grace we have now been reconciled to God. And now that we have subjected ourselves to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords we must come out of that walk, hear his word, and do it. Only God is able to provide the strength we need against the enemy within;
II Corinthians 3:4-6 And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward: Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God, Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.
We must learn to trust in God to be our strength and sufficiency. It is only through the Spirit that we can come out of the sea of flesh. He will make us able ministers if we will walk in the Spirit, hearing his commands and obeying them. There is no place to be uplifted with pride, when it is God who has been our sufficiency;
Luke 10:17 – 20 And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject to us through thy name. And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.
When the seventy rejoice that the devils are subject to them, Jesus reminds them that that power and protection had been given to them; they should rather rejoice that they had yielded to God, and their names were written in heaven.
Have you ever tried to hear under water? The water deadens the sound and makes it difficult to hear. Similarly, if you are constantly around a high decibel environment it can cause physical deafness. The spiritual parallel is that being in the sea of flesh will dull spiritual hearing and seeing.
Spiritual Seeing and Hearing
There are numerous scriptures that note having eyes but not seeing, and having ears but not hearing (just a few; Isaiah 6:10, Jeremiah 5:21, Ezekiel 12:2, Mark 8:18). The flesh cannot receive spiritual things;
I Corinthians 2:14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
We cannot receive spiritual sight and hearing in the flesh; we must walk in the Spirit, and humbly ask God to open our eyes and ears.
II Corinthians 10:4 is a well known scripture emphasizing spiritual weaponry to Christians for hope in times of difficulty, to increase our faith. However, the full context of the scripture is seldom discussed;
II Corinthians 10:3 - 6 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh, (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) 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; And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.
These scriptures describe the spiritual war within. We cannot cast down someone else’s imaginations, control someone else’s flesh or pride that exalts itself against God, or bring their thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ. This battle within is ours, and must be won through God and his weapons. In a physical body the arms and legs do not have their own mind; they obey the brain, or head. That is the significance of the Word saying Jesus is the head; as members of the body we cannot have our own mind or imagination and be obedient. The fleshly desires must be subdued;
Romans 6:6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.
This scripture does not merely say that our old man is crucified; we have no power to fight that battle, but our old man is crucified “… with him …”, and he will provide the spiritual strength and power if we let him. He walked victorious in this life, and will enable us if we obey him;
Hebrews 5:7 – 10 Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec.
Jesus did not want to face death, but fought that battle through his prayers in the garden. He came from the garden in total obedience and in spiritual strength we do not fully understand. Though he was the heir, the son of promise, the scriptures tell us he learned obedience, and was made perfect, and fulfilled his calling as a high priest. Revelation 1:6 and 5:10 tell us that God hath made us priests and kings; we must learn obedience to fulfill that calling. He will provide us that same strength to overcome if we obey him.
Galatians 5:24 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
In this verse the word “are” defines ownership; have you allowed Jesus to completely own you? It is a necessary fact, for if we are walking in the flesh, we will not be able to crucify the flesh. Over the years when I have considered the following verse it has seemed nearly impossible to accomplish;
Philippians 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
How can we possibly accomplish this?; after all, if you but watch the news it is not possible to abide in these things. If we are walking in the flesh it is impossible. But if we allow God to have the preeminence, the Spirit will not dwell on evil thoughts. We must come out of the sea of flesh, and in humbleness and yielding he will enable us and give us an easy walk! Due to our complacency we fail to reach this walk. Complacency will enter if we allow our flesh to prevent us from seeing the goal or reward.
Recognize and Respect the Reward
What is the motivation of warfare? Warfare is only entered into to keep or take something desired; there must be a reward or why fight? Eternal life and heaven are held up to us as the reward we fight for in spiritual warfare, but we do not grasp the value of them. The enemy has given us a fear of God taught by the precept of man (Isaiah 29:13, 14), and thus distorted our view of the reward, by lack of wisdom. We need to gain a true fear of God, and ask God to give us wisdom to see and respect the true reward.
Many Christians are complacent from not understanding or respecting the reward God has for us. For instance, the false doctrine of once saved, always saved has resulted in much complacency. If we believe the reward was somehow “earned” at salvation, why fight the battle? It is apparent however, from Exodus 32:32, 33, Deuteronomy 29:19, 20, and Revelation 3:5 that your name can be blotted out of the Book of Life. Hebrews 6:4 – 6 shows us that individuals who have attained to a much higher position than the church knows today can fall.
When we believe and repent we are cleansed, justified, and placed in right standing with God. Only through Jesus can we receive this promise. Romans 6:1 – 4 tells us then that we “… also should walk in newness of life.” We are not at a destination, but at a new beginning in Christ Jesus. We must come out of complacency, put on Jesus, and continue to walk that path of life;
Romans 13:11 – 14 And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.
If our salvation is nearer than when we believed, then it is a future destination, and not a past milestone. Paul also exhorts Christians to put off the works of darkness, and the lust of the flesh – we must come out of the sea of flesh. Another scripture that speaks of the promise and reward being before us is in Hebrews;
Hebrews 10:35 – 39 Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.
Moses chose to walk the path he did because he could see the greater reward;
Hebrews 11:24 – 26 By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.
We must have the faith to see the recompence of the reward spoken of in the scriptures above, but we must also understand the reward. Heaven could be expounded on by discussing some of the physical things noted in scripture; gates of pearl and the street being of gold (Revelation 21:21). We could talk of the many mansions (John 14:2). Or we could talk about eating of the hidden manna (Revelation 2:17). God has prepared all these good things in his love for us. Many want heaven because they fear the alternative, Hell.
The reward is not in what is in Heaven, but who is there. The reward is in the relationship, as seen in Jesus’ promise;
John 14:2, 3 In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
God’s love for us is beyond our comprehension (Ephesians 3:19), and he holds up his part of the relationship.
I Corinthians 2:9, 10 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them to us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.
Have you ever loved someone else (a spouse, your sibling, or your child) so much you cannot bear being separated from them? That you always want the best for them, and try to please them? If the object of our love is not external, then it will be in our flesh, or our self, and we are then constantly trying to please our flesh. Our part of the relationship is in the greatest two commandments;
Matthew 22:37 – 39 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
The greater our love for God, the greater our desire to please him will be. The “things” of the world will become less and less to us. So it is with heaven – the “things” are given to us, but the refreshing will come from his presence;
Acts 3:19 Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;
We need to pray and ask God to restore the full vision and respect of the reward to the church. As it is restored we will see people better motivated to come out of their fleshly walk. Do you truly love God? Let him open the promises to you, and lead you out of the sea of flesh.