Week 2, Day 5 of Lord, Is It Warfare? opens up a huge and somewhat muddy theological answer that has been debated and argued for a long time perhaps even centuries. The looming question is ‘did God create evil?’ Did he create the devil purposely to trip us up? Did the devil have a free-will as man did? Those types of questions can fit into the place that Paul told Timothy to avoid. He told him that there are questions that simply create and “gender strifes” (2 Tim. 2:23) and he told him to avoid those kinds of things. It has been my experience that oftentimes some of the foolishness in the name of “academics” that goes on in seminary classrooms do not strengthen faith in the Word or confidence in God. So this is one of those sorts of questions. I am aware of one thing in this matter; I have been filled with the Spirit. . . It empowers me. . . but I have an enemy who wants to destroy me! That is the fact and there will be a struggle between good and evil until God intervenes.
From the Scriptural passages the devotional brings out, it is noted in John 1:1-3, Nehemiah 9:5-6, and Colossians 1:15-16 that all things were created by God. I made a connection by reading a little further over in John 3 that men choose darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil. Therefore I would come to a conclusion that at some point apparently the devil possessed a will that moved him toward the trap of pride and he attempted to exalt himself against God.
The lesson that I need to take away from this would be the fact that I must live out Romans 6 and fight against the tendency for pride to consume me. The only way to effectively live above and beyond this is for my life to have a complete dependence on the Spirit and walk out Romans 8 so that my mind is Spirit-filled and Spirit-led. Pride in the heart of the devil is what led to him being expelled from heaven. Remember that Jesus said it is not what is on the outside that soils a man’s life but rather the things that are stored in his heart (Mark 7:20-23).
This is where the whole concept of temptation comes into play. The devil does not read our minds but he will use a myriad of temptations in an effort to cause failure and sin. Be sober, be vigilant says Peter in his epistle.
On this matter of temptation, I will never forget something I heard J. T. Pugh say more than 20 years ago. He said, “There are no permanent spiritual victories this side of the rapture.” That is not to say we are not Spirit-filled, it just means we came in through a battle and we will go out through a battle. The old Puritan writers expressed it in a different way when they were constantly writing about the matter of ‘indwelling’ sin. They believed it so much so that there are a multitude of sermons all through their writings that addressed this thought. We Pentecostals don’t like to face this idea too much. We have a tendency to believe that the Holy Ghost is a magic bullet that will extract us from any and every calamity along the way. Romans 7 seems to betray that idea and the longer I live and more Word I am taking in, the more that I see that I am going to need the absolute greatest measure of the grace of God to be saved. There will always be tension between flesh and Spirit. Just about the time that you think you have mastered it and maybe even consider you are home-free something pops up. Generally for those who have a substantial length of service in their lives, it is not so much the actions that give them grief but some sort of attitude that is far from what the Lord desires.
Back to Romans 7 for a moment. . . Paul said, O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death? This was the cry of a man who was moving toward a place of holiness. You might say, “How do you know that?” I know that because I have never heard a sinner even remotely concerned about their actions. I have heard great boastings and braggings from people I worked with, went to school with, and had some social relationship with who exulted in all of the things they did. That tells me that their conscience had little concern over what God thought of them. It is only after we have been transformed, born-again that our heart/conscience will convict us.
We have to keep a guard about our heart! Spiritual disciplines are greatly helpful to us in this! You can never minimize the importance of prayer, daily interaction with the Word, corporate worship on a regular basis, and some kind of commitment to a local church that needs you to be there on-time, active, and helping someone else to move forward!
Concerning the matter of temptation, I remembered a story that I read years ago. There was an old desert monk who was very devout in his life. The devil one day assigned some of his demons to go out and attempt to get this man to fall to some great sin. So they went and plied every fleshly temptation that appealed to his baser nature. None of them worked, it was as if the old monk was immune to them. The devil watched the antics for several days and finally walked out to his minions and told them that they had not studied human nature enough to get him to fail. He walked out and whispered something in the monk’s ear and suddenly his whole demeanor changed. It flushed, got beet-red, and he jumped to his feet and began to yell epithets and it was obvious from what he was saying the jealousy and envy had gotten him to act this way. The demons were dumbfounded at the fact that the devil could only whisper in the old guy’s ear and get such a reaction. With bated breath, they asked the devil, “What did you say to him?” The devil paused a minute and finally told them. He said, “I told him that his brother had just been promoted as a bishop in Egypt.” For those of us with long service, we better take that kind of thing to heart. It is not the big-ticket sins and temptations that often attempt to morph us into much less than God has in mind for us but rather it is the little foxes that destroy the vine.
See you next week. . .
Thanks for reading. . .