2500 years ago an ancient Chinese military leader named Sun Zhu wrote a classic textbook called “The Art of War.” Gen. Douglas MacArthur, when he was Commandant of the U.S. Military Academy, said it was essential reading for all cadets. Many other famous generals and admirals in history have attested to this book’s influence in developing military strategy.
Sun Zhu lists in his book several important keys to victory in any war. He first says you must know your enemy. In the first installment in this series we identified our enemies as Satan (the devil) and his surrogates (demons) (Ephesians 6:12). Another vital principle Sun Zhu states is that you must survey the resources and weapons available to conduct the battle. The second installment delineated the Scriptural weapons of spiritual warfare as related by the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 6: 13-17. He describes the Belt of Truth, the Breastplate of Righteousness, the Shoes of the Gospel, the Shield of Faith, the Helmet of Salvation, and the Sword of the Spirit – the Word of God.
Sun Zhu then explained that after you have accomplished these two tasks you must then develop an appropriate strategy for victory. This is a true principle also for living the Christian life. In this installment we examine the strategic elements necessary for living the successful Christian life.
In order to be successful in spiritual warfare we must have a coordinated strategy consisting of five critical elements.
1. We must Consider Ourselves Dead to Sin but Controlled by the Holy Spirit
In Galatians 2: 20-21, the Apostle Paul declares that he has determined to consider himself “dead” to sin.
20 I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”
Paul says he had been crucified with Christ. That is to say he had so emptied himself of his own ego and personal concerns that he was, in a sense, “dead.” He then declares that, practically, he no longer lives, but Christ lives him.
Paul’s point is that if we are to live victoriously against sin and Satan, then we must essentially give up our lives and let Jesus live His life through us in the person and power of the Holy Spirit. The more we try to engage our enemies in our own power we will fail. We must yield our total self to God’s control.
2. We must Flee Temptation
Paul wrote to his young apprentice pastor friend Timothy. In his letter he warned Timothy emphatically to “flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Tim. 2:22). Paul was making sure we recognize that temptation is nothing to fool around with. Paul knew that Timothy would be subject, as are we all, to the daily temptations that fall in our way. They are often Satan’s most power ways of harming our life and witness.
Sometime people will think, “That just couldn’t happen to me.” That is a foolish attitude for any believer to develop. None of us are immune from the vulnerability of sin. And, as we discussed in the first installment, Satan loves to make sneak attacks when we are least ready to defend ourselves. In those cases we should follow Paul’s advice and run!
3. We Must Confess Our Sins
One of my favorite old TV shows was Perry Mason. If you are old enough to remember the series (or have seen it in reruns) you may recall that Perry was a big time defense lawyer who always got the toughest cases. The amazing thing was that in nearly every episode Perry was able to drag out a confession on the witness stand from the guilty party (something most lawyers will go their whole careers and never get).
In any case, confession means that someone agrees with the fact that they are guilty of violating the law. As Christians we must agree with God we are often guilty of sin. As hard as we may try and as much as we may want to, we cannot completely stop doing things in this life that are displeasing to God.
But the Apostle John tells us that we must not despair. He says, “If we confess our sins (agree with God that we have sinned), He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). We should never deceive ourselves into thinking we have somehow arrived at perfection and have no need to battle sin anymore. In order to have a victorious Christian walk, we must acknowledge our weaknesses and be open with God about them. As we do so, He will give us greater strength through the Holy Spirit to have increasing victory over sin.
4. We Must Study God’s Word
Do you remember in the first installment of this series when studied Jesus’ temptations? Do you recall how He defended Himself? Jesus, of course, fended off the attacks of Satan by accurately quoting God’s Word from Scripture. Likewise, our strongest defense against temptation is to know and correctly understand the Bible. Satan has no recourse against God’s Word as he can never defeat the truth.
Nonetheless, we must be careful because Satan will try to distort Scripture in order to deceive God’s people, just as he tried to do with Jesus. As the Apostle Peter warns:
15 and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, 16 as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. 17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness (1 Peter 3: 15-17).
We must be ever alert to those who would misuse and twist the Scriptures. Most of the cults claim to believe and follow the Bible, but inevitably they mistranslate it, misinterpret it, or pull verses out of context to buttress their false doctrines.
One example is The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (NWT), which is the official English translation of the Bible published by the Jehovah’s Witnesses. In that translation’s rendering of Colossians 1:15-17 they have this:
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16 because by means of him all [other] things were created in the heavens and upon the earth, the things visible and the things invisible, no matter whether they are thrones or lordships or governments or authorities. All [other] things have been created through him and for him. 17 Also, he is before all [other] things and by means of him all [other] things were made to exist…
Notice that the translators have inserted in the text the bracketed word “[other]” in four different places. The brackets indicate that the word does not appear in the original Greek text, but the translators have decided it should be there anyway.
All other translations of those verses translate it as does the New American Standard Bible:
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together…
So why the difference? Why did the NWT translators add the word “[other]” when it does not appear in the original text? The answer is that the Jehovah’s Witnesses are dogmatically opposed to the doctrines of the deity of Christ and The Trinity. If they had left the text as it was, it would (and does) give evidence to the correctness of those most essential tenets of historic Christianity.
It’s sad to say, but the devil has thus deceived millions of people around the world by distorting God’s Word in the NWT or other cultic versions and interpretations.
As God’s people we must study the Bible using sound principles of translation and interpretation. It is also incumbent on us to memorize key passages so they will always be accessible to our minds. “Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You” (Psalm 119:11).
5. We Must Worship God Regularly
Have you ever asked yourself, maybe early on a Sunday morning, after staying up late on the night before, “Why do I need to go to church today anyway? Do I really need all that singing and worship to be a good Christian?” The answer to those questions, simply put, is that you cannot succeed in the Christian life alone. As someone once said, “There are no Lone Rangers in the Christian faith!”
Just think about it, what if Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower had decided, in June of 1944, to invade Europe on D-Day all by himself? How successful do you think he would have been one man against thousands of German soldiers? Of course it is ridiculous even to consider. But just think how foolish it is for Christians to think they can defeat the armies of hell all by themselves.
We are involved in a Spiritual D-Day every day of our lives. We constantly have to storm the beaches of Satan’s strongholds. To do so we need to spend quality time in prayer to God and rely on the close support of fellow believers who will stand and pray with us in the difficult times. Otherwise we are doomed to fail.
Centuries ago, Martin Luther, the founder of the Protestant Reformation wrote these words. They are as applicable now as when he penned them, as we fight the Great War.
A mighty fortress is our God,
A bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe
Doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and pow’r are great,
And, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.
Did we in our own strength confide
Our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side,
The Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth (the armies of heaven), His name,
From age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.
© 2013 Tal Davis