You don’t have to be a Christian for a long time to know that the devil is at war with us. He feels the loss of us turning our backs on him to follow the Lord Jesus Christ, and he will do whatever it takes to win us back. Apart from working in our circumstances to distract and discourage us, he also attacks our minds. He knows that our minds are shaped by this world and that we have trouble with our thoughts, and that is where most of his attacks are aimed. The Bible explains it us:
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ… 2 Corinthians 10:3-5
It is clear that the war for our souls is an attack on the mind. Wrong thinking leads to wrong believing, then wrong doing, and eventually defeat. The verses above tell us that strongholds exist in the form of arguments and “every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God.” The knowledge of God is truth, and the devil will try to exalt his lies against the truth by showing us adverse circumstances. He knows the carnal man believes what he sees and feels, just like Thomas when he refused to believe that Jesus was raised from the dead. He said he would only believe if he saw the nail prints in His hands.
The devil tried the same tactic with Jesus at the beginning of His ministry. He tried to deceive Him by sowing thoughts and images into His mind, but Jesus did what we all should do, and that is to trust in God’s Word. “It is written,” He said every time, and then the devil left Him. He knows that he cannot deceive us when we know and believe the truth!
The apostle Paul has more to say about this war:
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints… Ephesians 6:10-18
From these verses it is clear that we have to do with various spiritual powers that war against us. However, it doesn’t say that we have to fight! The war against us was won at the cross and resurrection of our Lord; now we just have to stand in that victory. Some like to have “spiritual warfare” against the devil where they shout insults at him, but that is not what the Word teaches us.
Also note that the armour of God is not a ritual clothing session, as some think, but the lifestyle of the new creation being that we have become in Christ.
Paul says that we need to do all that we were taught, and then stand in those truths. In fact, he mentioned the word stand three times:
“…that you may be able to stand against the wiles (schemes) of the devil… (verse 11)
“…that you will be able to withstand in the evil day…” (verse 13)
“…and having done, to stand.” (verse 13)
The devil will try to push us from believing the truth, but we win by standing firm in it. The war against the devil is mainly in our minds, for that is where we make our decisions – what we choose to believe and how to respond to what we see around us. As mature believers we believe God’s Word more than what we see or feel, even though the struggle is very real. It is only when we abide in the Word that its truth can set us free.
The devil is called the god of this world in 1 Corinthians 4:4, and he blinds the minds of those who perish so that they will not see “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.” As the god of this world he works in the area of circumstances and the mind. The mind that is not renewed to the Word of God is vulnerable to deception and error, which is why every Christian should be a full-time student of the Word. As Christians we simply cannot afford to be ignorant about the truth. Christians that have only superficial knowledge of the Word quickly fall into the dead religion of average Christianity, and this is not what Jesus died for!
Now this I say lest anyone should deceive you with persuasive words. Colossians 2:4
One of the easiest ways to deceive a carnal Christian is by eloquent preaching. It is, of course, not the delivery that matters, but what is said. Everything we hear should be compared to the Word before we receive it as truth. Paul was not an eloquent speaker (1 Corinthians 2:1), but he brought us revelation upon revelation, even wrote two thirds of the New Testament.
Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. Colossians 2:8
Philosophy is basically logic reasoning, pointing to things that make sense to carnal minds. The Word doesn’t make sense because God’s thoughts are higher than ours. When we try to make sense of the Word we just rob it of its power; it is best approached with faith, not reasoning. Reasoning is to argue a matter in the mind, against which we have been warned in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5.
Tradition is the next powerful enemy of truth that deceives countless Christians everywhere. Traditional thinking easily forms strongholds in the minds of the person that doesn’t abide in the Word because it subtly influences the way he thinks. Jesus Himself warned against traditions that are not based on the Word.
And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ “For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men–the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.” He said to them, “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition. Mark 7:7-9
Read Mark 7:1-23 very attentively and see how tradition makes the Word of no effect, causing people to reject the commandments of God. Tradition is very dear to us, even sacred, but the Word must have a higher place in our lives if we want to live a victorious life. Religious tradition is often the hardest thing to break in a person’s life, but tradition cannot save us, cannot heal us, cannot set us free from anything – only the truth can!
Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:31-32
I have seen countless Christians through the years living a mediocre life simply because they fail to esteem the Word of God higher than their traditions. What a demonic bondage tradition can be! Family traditions, church traditions, cultural traditions, etc. must be brought in submission to the Word in order if to fully live the life that Jesus died to give us.