Engaging the Enemy

I recently saw a picture of something that some of you may possess. I do not have one, but I was impressed by it.  Diane’s cousin by marriage recently lost portions of both of his legs in an IED attack in Afghanistan. On a family website chronicling his recovery they showed a picture of his Purple Heart Medal.  The Purple Heart is the oldest military medal still awarded today. (since 1917). It is awarded to military service personnel in the name of the President to those who have been wounded or killed while serving in the military.

  1. If there was such a medal in the spiritual war, would you have one?  I suppose we would all be so honored. We have all been injured by the enemy. Some have even died. Although it is certainly an honor to fight for the cause of Christ (more than any human cause), there are no medals for being wounded by the enemy.  It is our common lot.  Rom 3:10 – “As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one;…”

I.  The Constant Threat of Sin: Just as the active soldier is constantly in danger for his life, so the spiritual soldier is constantly vulnerable to the threat of death-producing sin. The Calvinist notwithstanding, there is no single moment of faith on our part which secures our salvation forever.  We must live by faith (Heb. 10:38), and be faithful unto death (Rev. 2:10) in order to be saved.

A.   Mark 14:32-3832 Then they came to a place which was named Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, “Sit here while I pray.”  33 And He took Peter, James, and John with Him, and He began to be troubled and deeply distressed. 34 Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch.” 35 He went a little farther, and fell on the ground, and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him. 36 And He said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.” 37 Then He came and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “Simon, are you sleeping? Could you not watch one hour?  38 Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Jesus was afraid for Peter, James and John. He understood the danger they would be in during the coming hours. Satan was going to attack them, no physically, but spiritually. They were going to be tempted. What does that mean?

II.   What is Temptation?

A.   The word has a sinister connotation today. But originally the word was morally neutral. To “tempt” simply meant to “put to the test or prove”.  [peirazo (pi-rad’-zo) signifies (1) “to try, attempt, assay”… (2) “to test, try, prove,” (from Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words)]

1.   So this word is also used to denote the various trials of life, imposed even by God, that are to be counted as a joyful blessing. James 1:2-32 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials [peirasmoís], 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. Abraham was “tempted” to offer up Isaac (Gen.22:1). It was a test of faith. It can be a source of joy because when it is endured, a holier character emerges and faith is vindicated.

2.  But the word also denotes “an enticement or invitation to sin, with the implied promise of greater good to be derived from following the way of disobedience” (from Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary).  It is a moral test, administered with the evil intentions of causing sin, and then death. James 1 gives us the most comprehensive definition of temptation: James 1:13-15Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. It is this “temptation” that concerned Jesus as He prayed in the garden. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.  Although James clearly indicts my fleshly desires in the process of temptation, Satan is called the tempter. He is the instigator.

3.  Satan is dialing your number. What always happens when you sit down to eat dinner? Many times we get a telephone solicitation call. Someone who wants to sell me something has my number. I wish they didn’t but they do. Will you answer? Some folks can’t stand to let the phone ring. They may even know who is calling (I love caller ID), and they still are moved to pick up.  In a sense, temptation is Satan dialing your number. He wants you to pick up, buy his lies and follow him into sin. That is what he did to Eve (and Adam distributively through Eve). He tempted them through deception.

a.   Who gave Satan my number?  God did. God created us as humans with physical desires. He gave us the ability to make choices (moral agents). He also gave Satan the power to engage us in the context of human desires.

III.  How are we Tempted? In some sense we have already answered this question. James tells us that we are drawn away (enticed) by our own lusts (desires). Hence, our response to sin is a constant battle against the flesh through the words and power of God’s Spirit.

A.  The scriptures identify three avenues of temptation. In collaboration with James’ description of temptation John states in 1 John 2:15-1715 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.

1.   Again we recognize that although the word “lust” (or desire) is used in a good sense in scripture, here it is not. The lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the pride of life are of the world, and not of the Father.  John’s point is that these basic sensual appetites are “the things of the world”.. What John describes here is more than just material things These are motivations and goals of the world. More accurately they are things that are intrinsically attached to the deceptive lies of Satan. These are the door through which sin enters our lives.

B. Lust of the Flesh – the phrase here may be a reference to “the desire for sensual pleasure, especially sexual desire.” Any of our natural instincts may be perverted through abuse,  as men attempt to satisfy it by means that lie outside the revealed will of God.  (stealing, adultery).

1.  What is the attached lie to the desires of the body? –  It’s nobody else’s body and nobody else’s business! Satan would have us claim sovereignty over our body.

2.   But the Christian is able to meet this lie with truth. We have been purchased to God by the blood of Jesus Christ. Our bodies belong to Him. 1 Cor 6:13Now the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body” (1 Cor. 6:19-20). We must honor God with the use of our bodies.

3.    The will of God with regard to human sexual behavior is nowhere stated more succinctly than in this single verse from the New Testament: “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral”. (Heb. 13:4) Sexuality  is not recreation or a rite of passage. God defines it as the exclusive communication of love and commitment within marriage.

C.   The Lust of the Eyes – Though capable of broader and narrow interpretations, “more probably the basic thought is of greed and desire for things aroused by seeing them.” (Marshall, Epistles of John)

1.   Our eyes are gifts from God.  I bemoan the loss of clarity in my vision as I grow older. Eyes enable us to appreciate the creation and works of God. But they are also open windows for temptation to enter; thus sin perverts the use of the eyes.  Our eyes can gender dissatisfaction, covetousness, and idolatry.  Proverbs 27:2020 Hell and Destruction are never full: So the eyes of man are never satisfied.

2. Lot’s wife misused her eyes, and she died as a result.  Achan plundered the forbidden goods he saw, which also led to his death. David eyes led him to commit adultery with Bathsheba, and he paid severely for his sin the remainder of his life.

3.   Jesus said, “…if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.” (Matthew 6:23) He was not speaking about those who needed glasses to see. The “bad eye” refers to the materialistic heart. MacArthur says..  “The eye that is bad is the heart that is selfishly indulgent. The person who is materialistic and greedy is spiritually blind.”

4.  There is a natural need for money and sustenance. What is the lie attached?  “More money means more happiness.” “I could solve my problems if I had more money.” Money brings success.  “Money brings security.”

a.   Again we can face any temptation that would enter through this door with the truth that God has revealed.  Luke 12:15Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” Luke 12:31 But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you. Heb. 13:5“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have”. 1 Timothy 6:9-10 – 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. Matt. 19:23 – “It is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven”

b.  Would you rather win a $250 million Powerball jackpot or go to heaven? Did you have to think about it? The world of money and the things it can buy is good when received as a gift from God, consecrated to his glory, and held with a light grip. Held tightly, that world becomes the “deceitfulness of wealth” and chokes out the power of the Word of God from a human heart.

D. Pride of life – The third avenue for temptation is what one translation calls “the boasting of what a person has or does or is.” .  Pride is the motivation and attitude of Satan himself.  As such pride is the arrogance that motivates all other sin.  Proverbs 16:18-1918 Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall.  19 Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, Than to divide the spoil with the proud.

1.   What is the lie?You have the right to seek your own way. You can direct your own steps in life. You are smart and importantAbove all look out for yourself. Man is the measure of all things.”

2.   The pride of life is the spirit of the world that calls on us to defend our rights before others. To seek revenge when we are injured; to manipulate others to get them to see things our way.  It is the desire to exercise power over others and to seek our own wants first.

3.   Satan wants us to define ourselves by what others think of us, and how well we are accepted by others. It is what caused Peter to curse and say , “I do not know the man”. It is what drove the Jews to reject their Messiah and nail Him to a cross. It may be what keeps you and I from confessing our sins to each other and truly repenting of our sins.

4.  Paul referenced the power of this humanistic spirit in his description of the lost world of the 1st century.   Romans 1:22-2522 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man — and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

5.  What is the Truth: Jer 10:23O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps.

Conclusion: Satan has your number. He is going to call.  Knowing how he will do it is helpful to the cause of resisting him.  The more time and energy I spend with the cares and concerns of my body and the physical world it lives in, the more temptation I will face.

  • Parents understand the implications here.  I am saddened and provoked by parents who neglect the spiritual work of the church, spend the majority of their time pursuing the things of the world through their careers and recreation. Never address their own sin through repentance, refuse to suffer for the cause of Christ, dress act, and speak  just like their worldly neighbors, and then when their children turn away from God and are ravaged by the temptations of Satan, they complain that the church needs a better “youth program” or a youth minister, or more opportunities for young people to socialize!
  • Parents, we are the first line of defense for our children against the lion that seeks to destroy them. Instead of defending them from him, we may be sending them into the jungle where he lives.
  • I read an interesting thing about Purple Hearts. During World War II, nearly 500,000 Purple Heart medals were manufactured in anticipation of the estimated casualties resulting from the planned Allied invasion of Japan. To the present date, total combined American military casualties of the many years following the end of World War II — including the Korean and Vietnam Wars — have not exceeded that number. In 2003, there were still 120,000 of these Purple Heart medals in stock. There are so many in surplus that combat units in Iraq and Afghanistan are able to keep Purple Hearts on-hand for immediate award to wounded soldiers in the field.
  • God does not hand out medals. His solution to the causalities of the spiritual war is much more profound and effective. He anticipated ahead of time that there would be more casualties after Genesis 3. He even knew about me. So He made provision. He determined to send Jesus at just the right time to confront sin and Satan on his own grounds.
  • Jesus faced off against the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. He never sinned. And beyond that he conquered that same tempter by dying on the cross and paying the price that my sin demanded. “He was wounded for my transgression.” He redeemed me through His blood.

If you are casualty of the enemy, Jesus is your only hope.  Obey Him today.