Chapter 6 – The Beginning of Spiritual Warfare – Knowledge of Good and Evil

 

            There are but two prevailing powers of influence.  One is God; God is Light, God is Truth, and God is the source of all that is good.  The other power is that of evil, of darkness and deception, the antithesis of all aspects of goodness.  Reality is actively living in accordance with the Truth of God; all other thoughts are fantasies or deceptions designed to rob God of what is rightfully His, that being the portion of our worship that acknowledges God as Lord of all.  Anything that cannot be identified as emanating from God is contrary to God (Mt.12:30).

 

The world is full of deceptions that possess the power to lead us astray.  One example of this is to fail to acknowledge the existence of evil.  This leads to questioning both the existence and goodness of God.  This often occurs when evil possesses a soul into committing heinous acts that horrify and stun the masses.  However, the truth is that God makes all things work to the good for those who love Him (Rom.8:28).  Rather than being deceived by demonic schemes that defame God, we are to remain faithful and ever remember that His goodness will ultimately prevail over all manifestations of evil (Ps.110:1, Is.42:13, Jer.5:22, 1Jn.5:4, Rev.17:14).

 

Some other common deceptions include:

1)      giving credence to luck, fortune, serendipity, charms, chance and superstitions (as opposed to His blessings and providential care)

2)      astrology, voodoo, horoscopes, tarot cards, “crystal balls”, witchcraft, paganism, nature worship, and cultic religions,  (the pursuit of powers and knowledge that are not from God, or any belief system that denies the deity of Christ Jesus)

3)      beliefs based on ghosts or non-angelic spirits (cavorting with demons masquerading as deceased human souls)

4)      the occult (actively taking sides with Satan to one’s own eternal demise).

 

Participation or belief in any of these deceptions listed above is cause for repentance, but this list is not all-inclusive nor does it address our internal issues (obsessive, compulsive traits or addictions).  We should practice identifying any power that we allow to influence us and determine its source.  Then, if the power is not from God, stop believing in it and cease seeking or submitting to its influence and power.

 

Any Christian previously unaware of the information in the preceding paragraph is likely to have cause for repentance at this time.  The bulleted items below are designed to assist us with proper repentance.  Since repentance requires that we acknowledge our mistakes, misgivings and faults, those unaccustomed to self searching and introspection are also likely to experience a painful blow to their self-image (a “bruised ego”) or feel insulted, or possibly even dejected, rejected, fearful, depressed, unworthy, ugly, repulsive or foul.  None is the proper response to the conviction the Holy Spirit communicates to us (refer to Chapter 1 item 1 of spiritual growth list).  An offense taken at the suggestion of sinfulness is indicative of narcissism and pride.  Pride (when used as a measure of self worth) is never a virtue.  It is contrary to the virtue of humility.  Pride can lead to suicidal thoughts when a soul would rather die than acknowledge its behavior as being sinful.  Choosing pride over virtue prevents one from admitting to erroneous beliefs or ungodly behaviors, effectively blocking all paths to forgiveness and restoration with God or our fellows.  It also causes a soul to go into denial rather than allow its love of self to be compromised.  When our beliefs are firmly based on the foundation of Christ, we know that our acceptance before God is not based upon our individual deeds or talents, but rather on the completed work of Christ on the cross.  Our worth as His creations as being precious unto Him is likewise verified by Christ’s humbling and willing sacrifice on our behalf, we need not attempt to ascribe any greater worth to ourselves than this.  To believe we are somehow diminished if we acknowledge our shortcomings, is to deny Christ, for in Him we are righteous (acceptable) and justified (not under the condemnation of sin) (Rom.3:19-28, Rom.5:1-11, 1Cor.6:9-11, Gal.2:11-21, Titus 3:3-11).  It also requires a great deal of denial to think we have nothing to confess, and such denial is contrary to Truth and moves us further down the stages of sin, effectively stymieing our progress towards virtue.

 

Spiritual growth means learning to recognize our shortcomings and having the resolve to grow up and out of them.  This can’t be done if a soul is unwilling to claim them, preferring to avoid the growing pains by skipping the spiritual exercise of acknowledging convictions, confessing sins, repenting and performing restitution.  An analogy often told that might help us to separate our being from our behavior is to consider little children and the messes that they make.  Do we love them any less because of their mishaps and mistakes?  Absolutely not!  Such are the means to grow and learn, and the messes are expected because of their lack of years, knowledge and experience.  God sees us similarly.  He does not love us any less because of our failures, we are to learn and grow from them, and then leave them behind as we grow closer to God.

 

            Spiritual warfare is a daily, ongoing battle between good and evil in the theater of our human will.  The decisions we make are either in accord with the Truth and the will of God, or they are not.  Therefore, every decision is important and every decision has implications.  We are either moving toward God or toward darkness.  We are either in His will and in a position to receive His blessings, or we are outside His will and at risk of incurring the consequences of sin.  In addition, this warfare is not only personal, but has implications beyond our ability to comprehend in entirety.  An analogy (not meant for extrapolation) to illustrate the unknown future impact of our decisions:  consider each decision as a domino in a line of standing dominoes with divergent paths representing either the will of God or the way of darkness.  Choosing to be in the will of God either continues a blest line, or starts a new and blessed one while ending a pathway of evil.  Likewise, choosing ways contrary to God either continues an evil path, or ends a blest line while beginning a pathway of sin.  The oft-quoted phrase used to rationalize sin, “I’m not hurting anyone”, is totally bogus, there are always further implications and repercussions and it denies the damaging effects of sin upon themselves.

 

A greater appreciation for the magnitude of personal decisions should not paralyze a soul into inactivity.  In Christ, we have the righteousness of God.  As we abide in Him, we walk in Truth, and we trust Him to keep our paths enlightened.  Our part is to be attentive and follow where He leads.  As we tend to our daily activities, the Holy Spirit may prompt us to action or avoidance.  Should we act contrary to His will, He will convict us of sin.  In between His promptings, we are to trust in the righteousness of Christ within us and walk assuredly as His children.  The righteousness of our behavior is ongoing and not compromised by daily activities born of personal preference (as long as none is sinful).  Consider the analogy of life as a game of soccer.  The coach teaches the players the rules of the game and its strategies, conditions and trains the players for all aspects of the game.  Then he fields the players in the best positions to use their talents and abilities in achieving victory.  Once the game begins, if there is need for further instruction, the coach will convey the message while the game proceeds.  An infraction against the rules draws a whistle that stops play while the issue is addressed.  God is our coach who has prepared us for living the life of Christ “on Earth as in Heaven”.  We are the players who are supposed to use our knowledge and talents to the best of our abilities to His glory.  Should there be further instruction or an infraction, we are to trust the Holy Spirit to inform us so that we may learn and improve.  Our part is to be attentive and be ever willing to obey His instruction.

 

We should also be aware of the fact that spiritual warfare expends our energy.  Though our spirit is empowered by the infinite energies of the Holy Spirit, our body and soul will experience fatigue after confrontations with demonic influence.  Being tired can lead to greater vulnerability if we fail to stay on guard, so we need to be prepared.  Many may already be aware of this experience if after any prolonged stressful situation when every moment a new thought arises that tempts us away from the peace of our Lord, then later we find ourselves tired, listless, and in need of rest despite the lack of physical exertion.  Another aspect of spiritual warfare to prepare for is the demon’s tendency to use the people around us as their spokesperson.   When we are confronted with decisions with moral implications, it isn’t unusual for us to hear words encouraging us to compromise our virtue.  Whether they come from a known detractor taunting us, or someone we hold dear who has been deceived into offering ungodly advice, we must remain on guard against all notions contrary to Truth.  We do so by taking every thought captive and comparing it to the Truth of the Gospel (2Cor.10:5).

 

The following list outlines the components of spiritual growth.

 

1)      Know who you are, a Christian’s identity is in Christ

  • we are children of God; identity is determined by our spiritual rebirth in Christ
  • man is a 3 part whole; a spirit that has a soul and contained within a body
  • life as defined in the Bible is of God and therefore eternal, and God meets all our needs (what is required to sustain life); what we require for living  is a sense of significance and security

 

2)      Understand a Christian’s righteousness in Christ

  • based on completed work of Christ on the cross, not performance, behavior or ability
  • we are wholly acceptable and loved by God just as we are, nothing we do makes us any more, or any less acceptable to God
  • we never need to feel unsuccessful, unworthy, unloved or unlovable, defeated, insecure, inadequate, unforgivable, fearful, condemned, or depressed in our relationship with God

 

3)    Know the role of repentance in the life of the Christian

  • understand what it means, and appreciate its implications (joy, peace in Christ vs. not)
  • know how to repent:  simply turn from self to the ways of God, be willing to do so whenever convicted of sin; if unable to do so, be willing to seek counsel, pray for and accept help and continue seeking Him
  •  know when to repent:  when the Holy Spirit points out an ungodly thought or deed
  • maintain attitude of willingness to repent of anything at anytime

 

4)    Determine to grow and to follow Christ in total submission

  • to begin, a decision must be made to follow Him without any reservations or qualifications
  • take every thought captive, weigh all thoughts and attitudes against the Word of God
  • be prepared to do battle with demons and self, know our defenses (Truth, righteousness, knowledge, faith) and our weaponry (the Word of God) as revealed in Eph.6:10-17
  • Trust in God, not self; abide in Him and learn the ways of brokenness
  • the object of our pursuit is the love of God and our goal is Christ-likeness

 

The following diagram is a simple illustration to demonstrate the importance of believing the Truth of God and being free of delusions.  In our daily lives, we are confronted with a variety of situations requiring us to make decisions and respond.  Making choices is the activity of our will.  The input we use in making these decisions is based on our belief system.  Processing our beliefs isn’t always done consciously, so those new to spiritual growth must learn to hear their own thoughts and understand the importance of acting in accord with Truth.  For those accustomed to making decisions based on feelings or gut reactions, it will take some practice to filter through all the noise and static and only process beliefs based solely on Truth.  Once we learn to apply Truth to our mental activities, our thoughts should become able to discern good from evil.  We then base our decisions on choosing the ways of God and steering clear of evil influences.  The results are godly behaviors that produce feelings and emotions that reflect the goodness of God, choosing the joy and peace of abiding in the Holy Spirit as opposed to the ugly and chaotic consequences of sin.

 

 

 

Beliefs – How they Affect our Actions and Feelings

 

Situation that requires making a decision

                                           +————————————————-+

↓                                                         ↓

                                Truth of GOD                                         False Beliefs

↓                                                         ↓

Godly Thoughts                                  Ungodly Thoughts

↓                                                        ↓

Godly Behavior                               Ungodly Behavior

↓                                                         ↓

Godly Feelings/Emotions              Ungodly Feelings/Emotions

Scriptural References:

 

On our Christian identity:

Jn.1:10-13, to become a child of God, receive Christ

Jn.3:16, believe in Christ to have eternal life

Jn.17:3, eternal life is to know God

Jn.20:31, believers have life in Christ

Rom.6:4, believers have newness of life in Christ

Rom.6:23, eternal life is a free gift of God in Christ Jesus

Rom.8:9-11, we belong to Christ and our spirit is alive because of His righteousness

Gal.2:20, it is no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us

Col.3:3-4, Christ is our life

1Thes.5:23, we are sanctified and preserved entirely, spirit, soul, and body

 

On our Righteousness in Christ:

Rom.3:22, righteousness of God through faith in Christ

Rom.5:17, receive the gift of righteousness through Christ

Rom.5:21, grace reigns through righteousness to eternal life through Christ

Rom.8:31-35, Christ paid the penalty for our sins; no need to fear condemnation

Rom.10:4, in Christ, righteousness no longer based on keeping the law

1Cor.1:30, in Christ we have righteousness

2Cor.5:21, righteousness of God from being in Christ

Gal.2:21, if righteousness is based on keeping the law, then Christ died needlessly

Phil.1:9-11, through Christ we are filled with the fruit of righteousness

 

On Repentance:

Mt.4:17, Jesus teaches us to repent of our ungodliness

Mk.6:7-12, apostles teach repentance and freedom from demons

Ac.2:38, St. Peter preaches repentance in order to receive the Holy Spirit

Ac.8:22-23, St. Peter instructs repentance to be free of bitterness and bondage to iniquity

Rom.2:1-10, rewards of repentance opposed to the tribulations and wrath of evil deeds

2Cor.7:8-10, godly sorrow leads to repentance and preservation of His blessings

2Tim.2:22-26, repentance as coming to one’s senses and escaping demonic deception

 

On Spiritual growth and submission to God:

Mt.4:19, Jesus calls us to follow him

Mt.5:48, Jesus teaches us to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect

Mt.16:24-26, Jesus teaches it is necessary to put our ways aside in order to follow him

Mt.19:21, Jesus teaches that practicing virtue is to gather treasures in Heaven

Lk.14:27, we must tend to our spiritual responsibilities in order to follow him

Lk.14:31-33, Jesus teaches to have victory in him, we are to surrender all that is ours

Jn.10:27-28, Jesus says we will hear His call and never be snatched away from Him

Jn.12:26, as we serve and follow Jesus, we grow nearer to Him and are blest

2Cor.10:3, do not to engage in spiritual warfare in the flesh

2Cor.10:5, destroy all notions not from God

Eph.6:10-18, instructions on how to fight demonic deception and temptations

Col.2:8, do not let the ways of the modern world distract the teachings of Christ

Col.2:20-23, submit to Christ, not to the ways of man or to a religion of mere rules

1Tim.1:5, the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and faith in God

Heb.12:9, submit to the instruction and discipline of God our Father

Jas.4:7-10, instruction to yield to God and to fight evil

1Pet.2:9-11, St. Peter says we are primarily spiritual beings and at war with the flesh

Jude.1:16-21, instruction to remain faithful and examples of fleshly behaviors to avoid

 

Commentaries:

 

“To each virtue there is an opposing vice; hence the wicked take vices for virtues.”

St. Thalassios (6-7th C.); The Philokalia Vol. II, pg. 312 #89

“He who asks to receive his daily bread (cf. Mt. 6:11) does not automatically receive it in its fullness as it is in itself: he receives it according to his own capacity as recipient.  The Bread of Life (cf. Jn.6:35) gives Himself in His love to all who ask, but not in the same way to all; for He gives Himself more fully to those who have performed great acts of righteousness, and in smaller measure to those who have not achieved so much.  He gives Himself to each person according to that person’s spiritual ability to receive Him.”

St. Maximos the Confessor (6-7th C.); The Philokalia Vol. II, pg. 150-151 # 56

“The person who has surrendered himself entirely to sin indulges with enjoyment and pleasure in unnatural and shameful passions – licentiousness, unchastity, greed, hatred, guile and other forms of vice – as though they were natural.  The genuine and perfected Christian, on the other hand, with great enjoyment and spiritual pleasure participates effortlessly and without impediment in all the virtues and all the supranatural fruits of the Spirit – love, peace, patient endurance, faith, humility and the entire truly golden galaxy of virtue – as though they were natural.  He does not fight any longer against the passions of evil, for he has been totally set free of them by the Lord; while from the blessed Spirit he has received Christ’s perfect peace and joy in his heart.  Of such a man it may be said that he cleaves to the Lord and has become one spirit with Him (cf. 1Cor.6:17).”

St. Markarios of Egypt (5th C.); The Philokalia Vol. III, pg. 294 #23

“Many [Christians] are not aware how the demons deceive the intellect.  Being naïve and undeveloped, they tend to give all their attention to the practice of the virtues and do not bother about the intellect.  They move through life, I fear, without having tasted purity of heart, and are totally ignorant of the darkness of the passions within.  Such people, unaware of the battle about which Paul speaks (cf. Eph.6:12) and not imbued with personal experience of true goodness, regard as lapses only those sins which are actually put into effect.  They do not take into account the defeats and the victories that occur on the plane of thought, for these, being internal, cannot be seen by natural sight and are known only to God our judge, and to the conscience of the spiritual contestant.”

St. Philotheos of Sinai (10th C.?); The Philokalia Vol. III, pg. 30 #37

 

“Nothing is more foundational to your freedom from Satan’s bondage than understanding and affirming what God has done for you in Christ and who you are as a result.  We all live in accordance with our perceived identity.  In fact, no one can consistently behave in a way that is inconsistent with how he perceives himself.  Your attitudes, actions, responses, and reactions to life’s circumstances are determined by your conscious and subconscious self-perception.  If you see yourself as the helpless victim of Satan and his schemes, you will live like his victim and be in bondage to his lies.  But if you see yourself as the dearly loved and accepted child of God that you really are, you will live like a child of God.”

Neil T. Anderson “The Bondage Breaker” pg. 42,

© 1990, 1993 by Harvest House Publishers

“It is critical that Christians understand their vulnerability to demonic influence.  Those who say a demon cannot influence an area of a believer’s life have left us with only two possible culprits for the problems we face:  ourselves or God.  If we blame ourselves we feel hopeless because we can’t do anything to stop what we’re doing.  If we blame God our confidence in Him as our benevolent Father is shattered.  Either way, we have no chance to gain the victory which the Bible promises us.  In reality we are in a winnable war against principalities and powers from the defeated kingdom of darkness.  But their lies can gain a measure of control if we let them.”

ibid. pg. 174

Advertisements

One thought on “Chapter 6 – The Beginning of Spiritual Warfare – Knowledge of Good and Evil

  1. Pingback: A Primer on Virtue & Spiritual Growth Manual For Christians | A Primer on Virtue

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s