Our Three Enemies
The Christian life is a warfare. Those who have not found this to be a fact, thereby show that they have no Christian life. The Bible is a military book. Not only did God’s people have to fight with enemies under the old dispensation, but they have spiritual enemies to contend with today — “not against flesh and blood,” says Paul, “but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
“Consequently there is a military ring about the utterances of the Bible. It speaks of being “a good soldier of Jesus Christ,” of “contending earnestly for the faith,” of “fighting the good fight of faith” and of “putting on the whole armor of God.” This is no imaginary thing. Greater victories and defeats are experienced here, more important than Waterloo or Gettysburg.
Here is decided not the brief history of nations, but the eternal destiny of human souls. We ought then to know who our enemies are and how to vanquish them. These enemies are a trinity. Just as there is a Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, so there is an unholy trinity — the world, the flesh and the devil. These are just as real as any foes that ever attacked our nation.
1) The World. By this is not meant the literal world of earth and sky, of forest, mountain and stream. This was made by God and is for our good. By the term world, the Bible means the unconverted part of humanity, with its spirit, customs, maxims and laws. The spirit of this mass of society is hostile to godliness. We must meet it every day and there must be in us sufficient of the spirit of the heavenly world to overcome it or we shall be overcome by it.
The Bible is constantly throwing out warnings against it, as an enemy that will surely work destruction to us unless we overcome it. “If any man love the world,” says St. John, “the love of the Father is not in him.” If we love the fashion, frivolity and fun of the world; if we seek happiness in the things of the world it shows that we have not the love of God. For that is sufficient for all the desires of the soul. He who has the love of God in his soul does not need to go to the world for satisfaction. Nor has he any desire to do so. St. John says truly, “All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” Here we learn more particularly what constitutes the spirit of the world, viz: “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye and the pride of life.”
A genuine conversion puts all this under our feet and gives victory, so that we get our satisfaction not out of the things of the world, but from God. “This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith,” says St. John. Young converts, the world will seek to have you compromise and go its way, but if you refuse to hear because of your faith in God, and refuse to compromise or allow our spirit to be entangled with the spirit of the world, you will win a greater victory than Alexander or Caesar ever did. Faith in the heavenly world to which you are hastening will conquer the spirit of this “present evil world.” The question will soon be settled whether you are to be a victor or a backslider. For as a rule, the way a convert takes hold of religion at the beginning will determine how he will go on.
2) The Flesh. By this term is meant not the physical man — the body with its appetites and passions — but that evil disposition of heart, which we are all possessed of by nature, which makes it easy to do wrong and hard to be right. This is called by different names in the word of God. It is not only called the “flesh,” but “our old man,” “sin that dwelleth in me,” “lust,” “the carnal mind,” etc. It is called depravity, “original sin,” etc., by the theologians. Chas. Wesley calls it the “bent to sinning.” Every church that has spoken on the subject in its creed has declared that it still exists in a converted man and is a great hindrance in our efforts to serve God and to grow in grace. This is what Paul meant when he said, “The Spirit lusteth against the flesh and the flesh against the Spirit, so that ye can not (may not, Rev. Ver.) do the things that he would.”
This is what discourages so many good people, who fancy that they have peculiar dispositions, and that other people do not have the same difficulty as themselves and that it is easy for other folks to be good, but not for them. Right at this point more people backslide than from any other cause. A man carrying a huge magnet will find it difficult to go by a pile of steel rails. Every converted person sooner or later finds the magnet in his breast, pulling him back towards the world. This enemy manifests himself in a thousand forms — not alike in the same persons. In Cain, it was a quick temper; in Jacob it was covetousness; in Saul it was obstinacy; in David it was lust; in Thomas it was unbelief; in Peter it was cowardice; in everyone of us it exists in some form, before the grace of God removes it. The author of Hebrews calls it “the sin that doth so easily best you.” It is the “besetting sin,” or as the colored man called it, “the upsetting sin,” for it is that disposition that upsets so many people who are trying to serve God. It is that which we call our weakness and which causes us to apologize so often, or if we do not our friends do for us. It is this that has given rise to the lines in the hymn:
“Prone to wander Lord, I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love.”
Here is the crucial point of the young convert’s experience. Here is to be determined whether he will be a strong or a weak Christian. Here is to be determined whether he will make healthy growth in grace or live an up and down life of little spiritual power.
This enemy is not only to be conquered but destroyed. This is a different contest from that with the other two. We can not destroy the world. It will still exist to allure and tempt. We can not destroy the devil. The scripture nowhere tells us to destroy these, but to resist the one and conquer the other. But it tells us to have the flesh destroyed. Notice, therefore, while it speaks of victory over the world it declares that our “old man is crucified,” “mortified.” We are not to get victory over him but “put him off and out,” for so the Greek word means in Col.. 2:11 and 3:9. Nothing is ever said in the word of God about making the old man a prisoner. It says, “That the body of sin might be destroyed.” To have the “old man” suppressed and held down would not be a right state of heart. Nothing is right until it is all right. To have this sinful nature in us is a wrong state of heart.
But the objection is often raised that if the old man is destroyed it would be impossible for him to come to life again. In other words if the sinful nature was destroyed how could it return? Our reply is that a sinful nature may be implanted in a man who is holy, just as it was implanted in the holy Adam, for Adam was holy when created. When we can see how Adam, created in the image of God, could become unholy, we can see how a holy man of today can become unholy. Because a man has been cured of sickness it does not follow that he can not be sick again, if he violates the laws of health. And a holy man can be unholy if he so chooses, as did Adam.
The Bible most surely declares that we may be delivered from this inward enemy. It says, “the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin.” O young convert, seek by prayer and entire consecration this great deliverance! This experience is what is called Entire Sanctification. A term that frightens many people away from this experience, when at the same time they feel their need of it very much.
3) The Devil. He is a person, not an influence. Many passages that speak of him, also speak of God. To deny the existence of the one is to deny the existence of the other. Take a single passage, “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.” It will be seen at a glance that if one exists the other exists also. One is as real as the other. He is an enemy to be dreaded and resisted. We ought never to speak of him lightly or in jest, when we realize that he is our awful enemy, seeking our destruction.
He has ruined thousands, who once had a bright and happy experience. He knows our weak points. He can come like a roaring lion, or transform himself into an angel of light, or crawl as a cunning serpent. He is mighty but our God is Almighty and He gives us the power to resist him. We are told two things:
(1) “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” He never stops to parley with a determined soul.
(2) “We shall not be tempted above that which we are able.” God will not allow him to overcome us if we rely on God. He can never overcome us by force. Only when we yield can he accomplish anything. Young convert, you are called to victory. God has made all the arrangements so that you never need to be defeated.
Having overcome the world in your conversion, and having got rid of the carnal mind by entire sanctification, you have only the devil now to fight.
Much prayer and strict obedience will make you a strong and growing Christian. Are you resolved to be such a Christian? Again we say, it depends upon you. God has made all the arrangements, now take the victory. Be a conqueror.