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Are You Free?
Jesus Christ died and rose from death to set us free from sin, free from ourselves, and free from every oppression. He came "to set free those who are downtrodden" (). But many of us don't experience that freedom. Instead, we are oppressed. We are crippled by fear, depression, unbelief, or some uncontrollable sin. When this happens we blame ourselves and think, "If I just try a little bit harder, I can overcome this problem." Or sometimes we become discouraged and think "I just need to learn to endure this. It won't ever go away." Too often we fail to see the real problem: we are under spiritual attack. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places" ( ).
The Bible identifies Satan as the source of all evil. The Bible also clearly describes our means of spiritual warfare and victory.
What is spiritual warfare?
Spiritual warfare is taking a stand. The Apostle Paul writes, "Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm" ().
We usually picture warfare as troops advancing against each other, a heated battle, and the emergence of a defeated foe and a victorious conqueror. So why, then, in spiritual warfare do we just stand? We stand because the war is over! The enemy has been defeated! Jesus won the battle over sin and death two thousand years ago. When we surrender our lives to Jesus, we stand in His complete victory over sin, death, and Satan. That's why the apostle Paul says that Christians "overwhelmingly conquer" ().
What is wrong when my life seems less than victorious?
The Bible describes three sources of trouble for the Christian: the world, the flesh, and the devil. Jesus won the victory for us over these three areas of conflict, and one day they will each be destroyed. Meanwhile, the Christian must learn to hold his ground against these forces. Let's take a moment to examine all three. Then you may discern which one is your source of trouble, and begin to find your victory.
The world. The apostle John warns us about the world, which represents mankind's rebellion against God, when he writes: "Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. And the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever" ().
Jesus warned us not to love the world when he said: "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" ().
If we are enticed by the world or the world's riches, and we begin to think more about power, possessions, or position than about Jesus and His goodness to us, then we need to repent and turn back to Jesus. Jesus has overcome the world. When we yield to Him, He will forgive us for our sin, and empower us to live in His victory.
The flesh. The second source of conflict for the Christian is the flesh, which is also called our "earthly nature" or our "old self." In his letter to the Colossian Christians, Paul writes: "Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is on account of these things that the wrath of God will come, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him" ().
We are under almost constant attack from the world around us and the flesh within. Although evil desires and temptations bombard us, we must hold our ground and refuse to give in. Jesus was tempted and never sinned. So it follows that temptation itself is not sin. But yielding to the temptation in our minds or actions is sin. Therefore, if we refuse to yield to every temptation and deliberately yield to Jesus instead, we can live a life of victory over our old natures!
The Devil. There are several references in the Bible to holding our ground against the devil. Let's take a close look at three of them:
"Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world" ().
"Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you" ().
"Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. With this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints" (b).
Principles of spiritual warfare:
These Scriptures teach us several principles about spiritual warfare: When we are attacked by the devil, we should:
Submit to God. We can place ourselves under God's protection by coming to Him, casting our cares on Him, and recognizing that he cares for us. Both Peter and James tell us to humble ourselves before God, because "God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble" ().
Be sober-minded. Spiritual warfare must be approached with a sober awareness of its importance. James said, "Let your laughter be turned into mourning." Peter said, "Be of sober spirit."
Be alert. We must be extra careful when we are physically run down, when we have been out of touch with other Christians, or when we have neglected study of the Word of God. Satan will try to trick us, looking for the moment when our defenses are down. Peter says the devil is always looking for someone to devour.
Sin will also dull our senses and open the door for attack. Paul warns us not to "give the devil an opportunity" by slipping back into sin (). James admonishes us to flee from sin when he writes, "Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded" ( ).
Resist the devil. The Apostles tell us to resist and stand firm. This may often take the form of a verbal rebuke as we use the Name and authority of Jesus to command Satan to back off from some situation. He has no right to trespass on property belonging to Jesus Christ. Satan does not respond to the wishes of people, but he must respond to the Name and authority of Jesus. In addition, God has given us the Word of God as a powerful weapon to drive the enemy back. Study how Jesus used the Scriptures to resist the devil in the fourth chapter of Matthew.
Victory over the devil
When Christians who are suffering attack from Satan apply these principles, two things will happen:
The devil will flee! Satan is a defeated enemy and he will turn and run when challenged by a Christian who is submitted to God, purified in heart, and armed with the spiritual armor that God provides for our protection.
God will lift you up! There is always exhilaration when we taste the victory Christ won for us on the cross. As the Holy Spirit lifts our spirits in joy, that is our opportunity to return praise and thanks to God for His victory. He is our Defender and our Deliverer!
When you are free
Pray for others! After describing our spiritual armor, Paul writes, "With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, and pray on my behalf, thatI may speak boldly, as I ought to speak" ().
Prayer keeps the channels of communication open so that when an attack comes, we are in touch with our Defender. Prayer helps strengthen other believers against attack. Prayer is a vital part of our spiritual warfare.
Finding true freedom
Have you identified your problem as the world, the flesh, or the devil? Don't blame the devil for sins that you have committed. Contrary to the popular quip, the devil did not make you do it. The devil may have tempted you, but each of us is responsible before God for our own sin. Have you asked for and received forgiveness for your sin? If so, stand firm in your faith! God is love! He has forgiven you, cleansed you, and given you a fresh start.
When Satan attacks
Perhaps you feel you have given the devil a foothold, and that you (or your loved ones) are being harassed by Satan's lies. If you can't seem to win the struggle against sin, depression, evil thoughts, immoral behavior, and other forms of demonic bondage, then do what Scripture teaches! Submit to God, resist the devil, and he will flee from you! If this is your need, you may want to pray a prayer like this from your heart:
"Father God, Thank You for sending Jesus to die for me. Thank You for forgiving me from all my sins. I humbly ask that You will set me totally free. I want to serve You. I want to be free to love You more. So in the Name, and by the authority of Jesus Christ, I resist the devil.
"Satan, you are a defeated enemy. Jesus Christ has won the battle for me. I am covered by the blood of His forgiveness. I belong to Jesus. And in the Name of Jesus, I command you to go, to leave me alone, and never come back! May the Lord Jesus rebuke you!
"Father, I Thank You for Your victory. Thank You for cleansing me and setting me free! Fill me now with Your Holy Spirit. Thank You, Lord! In Jesus' Name I AM FREE! Amen!"
Don't give up!
If you have carefully studied these Scriptures and prayed this prayer from your heart, but you still find yourself in bondage to evil, or harassed by Satan, don't give up! Call your pastor, or call someone you know who loves the Lord Jesus, studies the Bible, and prays with authority. Don't be embarrassed to seek help. God loves you and He will set you free!
Scripture references are taken from the New American Standard translation of the Bible.
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