How We Wage Battle against Sin, Satan and Ourselves
The Lord Jesus said in Matthew 10:36, “And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.” We know that the context of these words speaks of the offense the gospel sometimes brings within our own home. Yet we cannot help but be reminded that a man’s enemies are also in self, our corrupt nature, our own depraved inclinations and passions, along with the world’s temptation, and the assaults of the devil. Aren’t these the most dangerous enemies we encounter? And they deceive us under a thousand disguises. If we are not on our guard, they are liable to render our very devotion open to a thousand illusions. In one sense, we have it in our power to keep out of the way of some of the enemies of our souls. By conscious vigilance, we can run from the devil and shun the outward and immediate occasions and incentives of sin. But we cannot run from the inward enemies as easily. Why? Because we carry them with us wherever we go. It’s necessary then to be prepared to wage a protracted war against them all, and to be armed with Christian weapons against every irregular symptom of an approaching temptation in the day of battle.
To deny the necessity of self-denial (mortification), both inward and outward, spiritual and material, would be to deny the whole system of Christian piety, which is the foundation of all godly virtue. We would lay aside the biblical injunction of denying our will in whatever we crave contrary to the will of God. This is the first thing that Christ sets forth as necessary to enter into His kingdom and becoming His disciples. It’s the great design of all His commands, of all His counsels, of all His sayings and directions. It is for this reason He declares in the gospel that he who hates his soul in this world preserves it, and that no one can be His disciple who does not deny himself, who does not die to himself.
The doctrine the Lord uses to illustrate this is of a grain of wheat, which must enter the ground and die before it can bring forth fruit. The picture teaches us that self-love, with all its irregular lusts, corrupt tendencies, and depraved appetites, must be crucified and die, before we can bring forth ripe fruit of the Spirit. Nothing can be more decisive in this point than the Word of God, which assures us, that if we live according to the flesh, we shall die according to the flesh. But, if by the Spirit we mortify the deeds of the flesh, we shall live. The kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and it’s with a holy violence to our nature that we must contend, to enter in by the narrow gate. In other words, in waging a war against all forms of sin (the world, the devil, and self), we must take up our cross every day and follow Christ. This is exactly what Paul preached to the early Christians, when he proclaimed the gospel and counseled them by word and example to buffet their bodies and to bear always in themselves a resemblance of the mortification of Jesus Christ.
So how can we battle against sin, Satan, and ourselves?
By prayerfully asking that the Lord would show us our own sin.
By prayerfully asking for a look at the resplendent Savior, Jesus Christ.
By prayerfully laying violence to the sin that dwells in us still.
By prayerfully resisting all inward and outward temptation.
By prayerfully trusting that the Spirit will fight alongside us, if we would but be dependent on Him.
You say, “Is it that easy?” No. It is that hard. What final weapon did Christian use against the mighty Apollyon in Pilgrim’s Progress? It was All-prayer.
“Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication...” Ephesians 6:18