The Enemy(ies)

Written by: Jeremy White, Lead Pastor of StoneWater Church

Chapter 4: The Flesh and the World

Big Idea: The flesh, the world, and the devil all work in cahoots to thwart God’s plan for your life. 

Every week before my son’s football team goes into battle under the Friday night lights, his coaches work together to give the team a scouting report. The coaches these days are way more advanced than in my day. My son and his teammates receive a detailed description of their opponents’ plays, tendencies, players to watch, and even videos of their opponents running their key plays. Then, they get a game plan for that specific opponent. They may run specialized plays for certain opponents that no one has ever seen before. (Coach, sorry if I’m giving away trade secrets). The goal of the scouting report is to study their opponent and then form a game plan to win the game from the things they know about their adversary.

Think of the next three chapters as a scouting report on our enemy. As you read, my hope is that we as a church begin to form a game plan that will bring victory in our lives.

Our first enemy is known as The Flesh. The Flesh is the desire to sin that remains even after conversion to Jesus. 

 

Galatians 5:16-21 (ESV)

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 

19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Before Jesus is our King, the flesh dominates us. After Jesus is King in our lives, the dominion of the flesh is broken but is still a potent force. The flesh and the Spirit oppose each other. Your flesh is that part of you that still wants to sin.

Have you ever wanted to do something that you knew was wrong? The voice that screams for rebellion inside of you is your flesh.

In the passage above, Paul not only helps us identify the flesh but also gives us insight in how to conquer the flesh. Look back at Galatians 5:16, But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.

The answer to not giving in to the flesh is walking by the Spirit. At the moment of salvation, the Spirit of God lives inside of us. Walking by the Spirit simply means to be in step or in tune with God. Walking in the Spirit requires us to stay connected with God through disciplines like prayer, reading his Word, worship, engaging in community with other believers, confessing our sins, enjoying sabbath, and having a humble heart. Those are all plays that we run to slow down, connect to Jesus, and walk by the Spirit. 

Walking in the Spirit is like mowing your grass—it must be done over and over, and if not, a jungle develops. 

As loud as your flesh screams, the Spirit cheers for peace and humility. The indicator in your life that you are walking in the Spirit is that spiritual fruit begins to grow and ripen in your life. Gal. 5:22 reveals this fruit.

Galatians 5:22-23, NLT

22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

A second enemy that we face in this war is the world.

The world is the persuasive system of ideas, beliefs, values, goals, standards, role models, methods, rewards, and lifestyle that is presumed to be “normal” and appeals to the flesh in us all.

The world is being directed by the devil. He sets the agenda of the world. He often works through governments, the influential upper class, media, and other influences that are living apart from Jesus to influence the world in a way that reflects darkness.

Paul describes the world and its relationship with the devil and all of us.

Ephesians 2:1-3 (NLT)

2 Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.

The world is the current of culture that pulls us to do what everyone else is doing. The world tugs on our flesh to rationalize what we are doing by saying, “Everyone else is doing it so it must be okay.” The truth is that it is not okay with our King Jesus and actually angers Him.

Look around society and you can start picking out messages of the World. The messages of the world always encourage us to slide away from God. The world tugs on the deceitfulness in our hearts towards selfishness, pride, and hurtfulness. The world confuses our identity, pollutes our sexuality, neuters men’s masculinity, and lessens women’s femininity. The world is always attacking our minds with messages of lies.

Knowing this, provides us with the secret to counter the world’s attacks. The way that we war with the world is by allowing God to transform our minds. In other words, we have to think biblically. 

Romans 12:2 (ESV)

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Scripture is truth. We read Scripture and our minds become saturated with truth. As our minds become saturated in truth, it becomes easier to recognize the lies and deception of the world.  

The big idea of this section reads:

The flesh, the world, and the devil all work in cahoots to thwart God’s plan for your life. 

In order to help explain how the flesh, the world, and the devil work together, I need you to picture a guitar. A guitar player plays the instrument which is made up of a guitar body and strings. The body represents the flesh, the strings represent the world, and the player is the devil (for all you Charlie Daniels fans, this illustration may have happened in Georgia). The devil picks the strings of the world. The strings of the world resonate with the body of the flesh, and BAM, we begin to hear the music.

For example, Satan desires to war against marriages that honor God. He uses pornography and strums it into media, magazines, billboards, phone screens, internet ads, and anywhere that he can influence in the world. The pornography resonates with the flesh of men and also women. Before you know it, a spouse is hooked and beginning to compromise the integrity of their marriage. Doors begin to open to other things that are darker and that defile the marriage bed. Within a matter of time, the marriage, if not fought for by one or both spouses, heads towards destruction and the Kingdom of Darkness claims a victory. 

You can play that tune with any temptation you find in this world. 

Galatians 5

19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.

The devil strums the strings of the world that make our flesh want to respond by sinning. We will get into more of the devil’s game plan in the next two chapters.

Big Idea: The flesh, the world, and the devil all work in cahoots to thwart God’s plan for your life.  

Questions for Reflection:

1. Re-read Galatians 5:16-21 and jot down two or three works of the flesh that you fight against.

2. Describe a time in your life when you felt as if you were truly walking by the Spirit.

3. What are three messages of the world that you can identify that are harmful to your family?

4. Pray and ask God for his truth to quickly spot messages of the world. 

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  • Part I: The War

    Read Chapters 1- 3
  • Part II: The Enemy(ies)

    Read Chapters 4- 6
  • Part III: Angels and Demons

    Read Chapters 7- 9
  • Part IV: The Armor of God

    Read Chapters 10- 12
  • Part V: The Weapon of Prayer

    Read Chapters 13- 15
  • Part VI: Bonus Weapons

    Read Chapters 16- 18

Chapter 5: The Devil

Big Idea: The flesh, the world, and the devil all work in cahoots to thwart God’s plan for your life. 

The devil, also known as Satan, is a spirit being and serves as the head over the demonic world.

It’s easy to make two mistakes when thinking about the devil. One mistake is to discount or overlook his power and influence. The second is to make him out to be more than he is. In other words, to make too little of him or to make too much of him.

1 Peter 5:8-9 (ESV)

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.

Make no mistake, he is to be respected as you would respect a lion or animal that acts as a fierce predator.

The comfort that we hold on to as followers of King Jesus is that our King is greater than and more powerful than the hell-raising prince known as the Devil.

1 John 4:4 (NLT)

But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world. 

To give you a better picture of the devil, here are some things that he is not:

The Devil is Not: 

  • All powerful, but he does have great power. He is not a cartoon with a pitchfork and pointed tail. He is real and he is powerful.
  • All knowing, but he has great knowledge. He is part of a demonic network of information.
  • Present everywhere. He is a localized being with a huge demonic following allowing him to affect matters all over the world through his agents. Think of his demonic agents as being a highly organized network of workers with thousands of years of experience and information.

Here are some things that he most certainly is:

The Devil is:

  • Powerful, 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10
  • Extremely shrewd, Ezekiel 28:12,17
  • Ruthless, Luke 11:4   
  • A Liar, deceiver, Father of Lies, John 8:44
  • A Murderer, John 8:44
  • A Sinner from the beginning, 1 John 3:8
  • A Thief, John 10:10

Here are some titles of the devil found in the Bible:

Titles of the Devil:

  • The Prince of Demons, meaning he is the ruler of the fallen angels. Demons are subject to him.
  • The Ruler of this world, referring to the fact that he is directing the world and setting its agenda. He does this within the boundaries set by God. Martin Luther said, “He is the devil, but he is God’s devil.” Remember, even the devil is subject to God.
  • God of this Age, meaning he is the one worshiped as people seek anyone other than the one true God through Jesus. As he blinds people and they worship gods other than Jesus, and it is in fact the devil who receives that worship.
  • Accuser of the Brothers, meaning he goes before God making accusations about followers of King Jesus. 

 

Revelation 12:10 (ESV)

10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.

Can you picture him standing before the courts of God just like he did in the book of Job, saying things like, “These people are not worth it. Did you see what they did? They claim to be yours but look how they bow to other idols.”

We learn in Romans 8:34 that our King Jesus is interceding for us. He sits beside the Father in Heaven deflecting the accusations by pointing to the cross. Every accusation that Satan, the Accuser, makes is nullified by the cross for everyone who calls Jesus King.

Questions for Reflection:

1. Do you tend to make too little of the devil or make too much of the devil? Why do you think you lean that direction?

2. What is a characteristic of the devil that you have not thought much about before reading today?

3. Describe what it means to you that Jesus is constantly interceding on your behalf.

Chapter 6: Game Planning for the War

Big Idea: The flesh, the world, and the devil all work in cahoots to thwart God’s plan for your life. 

It’s time that we begin to game plan for the war against our enemy. Let’s look at 4 ways that we are to fight.

4 Ways to Fight:

1. Be aware of Satan’s Tactics.

1 Peter 5:8-9 (ESV)

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.

We have to keep our eyes wide open and peeled for anything that moves because there is a lion on the loose. Below is a summary of the war tactics that he employs. A tactic is a play that the devil runs in order to take us off course from our King Jesus or to bring woundedness in our lives.

Tactics of Satan:

  • Persecution (Rev. 2:10; John 16:1-4). He works to apply pressure to conform to the world’s values and thinking. He will use your family, your job, friends, media, threats, worldly logic, appeals to your need to belong, threat of being excluded, or even suffering and tribulation.

Revelation 2:10(ESV) 10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.

  • False Teachers (Matt. 13:24-40; 1 Tim. 4:1-3). Read Matthew 13 and you will see how the devil plants false brothers and sisters in the church. Behind the curtain of every false teacher, you’ll find the devil pulling their strings. Here are a couple of examples.
    • Legalism is an example that showed itself in the early church and also today as a false teaching. Legalism is the gospel plus something. 
    • Syncretism is another example. Syncretism is combining the gospel with another belief. In the New Testament, they were mystics or Gnostics, believing that there was this special secretive mystical knowledge that only few understood. Today, it would look like someone claiming that Jesus is the way to God and Buddha is also a way to God. Muhammed and Confucius are yet other examples. 
  • Temptation (1 Cor 7:5). Good old-fashioned temptation to sin is a very common strategy of Satan. 

1 Corinthians 7:5 (ESV)

Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

  • Removing the Word from the Mind of Seekers. 

Luke 8:12 (ESV)

12 The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.

  • Rationalizing a sinful lifestyle (Romans 6:1-2; Corinthians). Another strategy the devil uses is rationalizing a sinful lifestyle. If you ever start a sentence with, “Well, that’s not what the Bible really says,” you may be guilty of rationalizing. 
  • Divisions in the church (James 3:14-4:4). The devil loves to take us off mission and out of the war by causing division and drama among ourselves. Church splits over silly things like the color of carpet, the style of music, the preacher’s style of teaching, and petty arguments between church members jockeying for power and position. 

James 3:14-16 (ESV)

14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.

  • False religious (supernatural) experiences (1 John 4:1-3; Col. 2). Satan is a manipulator and a showman. He has the ability to stage some pretty incredible religious experiences. Whether it be in the deep jungle of Africa, the swamps of Louisiana, or the screen of television, it is important that we as believers test what we experience with the Bible. If we can’t find evidence of what we are experiencing in the Bible, we are walking down a slippery slope.

1 John 4:1-3 (ESV)

4 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.

  • Direct Attacks (Ephesians 6:10-18; 2 Corinthians 12:7). Direct attacks by the demonic physically, mentally, and spiritually are very possible in the lives of believers. Sometimes, these attacks are very evident but most of the time if you are not alert, it is easy to ignore or explain away the truth of direct attacks. Paul described a thorn in his flesh as a messenger of Satan. Christians are not exempt from attacks of the devil. Illness that shows up when you are about to do something for God, a loss of something material when you are trying to live for the Lord, and criticism from those outside the faith are all examples of common attacks that we see everyday. 

2. Arm yourself for battle.

Ephesians 6:14-18 (ESV)

14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,

Ephesians 6:14-18, describes the Armor of God. We will look at this in more depth in the days to come but let’s begin to get acquainted with our armor. 

1. Belt of truth is Scripture. We arm ourselves by tightening up on our Bible obedience. 

2. Breastplate of righteousness means that we build righteous patterns in our lives.

3. Shoes of peace looks like forgiving and living at peace with people as we are ready to share the gospel.

4. Shield of faith declares that God is faithful to you and believing that you can trust Him. 

5. Helmet of salvation means that you are confident that you are actually saved. 

6. Sword of the Spirit is being able to verbally answer the enemy hit for hit with Scripture. 

7. Pray in the Spirit means that we are continually in an attitude of prayer, listening for God’s guidance.

3. Walk in the Spirit by submitting to God.

Walking in the Spirit is being in total submission to God.

James 4:7 (ESV)

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

To submit means that you willingly place yourself under someone. To submit to King Jesus means that we willingly place ourselves under his authority. Walking in the Spirit is walking in the will of our King. 

Ephesians 5:18 (NLT)

18 Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, 

A drunk is under the influence of alcohol. Alcohol controls his behavior. Walking in the Spirit means that we are completely under the influence of the Spirit of God. Our behavior is controlled by our King. This is one more way to fight the enemy.

4. Destroy any of the devil’s strongholds in your life.

2 Corinthians 10:3-4 (ESV)

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,

Almost every one of us has strongholds in our lives. A stronghold is an area of our life where we have allowed the devil to set up shop and bring havoc.

 I love to watch old school classic western movies. In many western movies the scene will be a fort in the middle of nowhere. The fort is the base of operation for horse soldiers who are there to expand their footprint. A stronghold is similar to a strong fort that the devil has in our lives with the goal of expanding his influence. 

The way the stronghold develops is by continued and repeated sin over time. For the Christian who has an un-surrendered area of their life to Jesus, there is almost always a stronghold taken by the devil. Strongholds may be a result of continued sexual sin, pride, selfishness, bitterness, anger, greed, or any other idol in the life of a believer.

When Satan is allowed to have a stronghold in our lives, it reveals that Jesus is not truly ruling as king in that portion of our lives. The way that we destroy strongholds is through confession, repentance, rebuking of the devil to leave, and placing Jesus as King of that area in your life.

In that prayerful process, the stronghold is destroyed and Jesus becomes King of that area again.

The verse above says that we have divine power to destroy strongholds. In the future chapters, we will be looking at weapons that our King gives us to fight the battles before us and destroy strongholds. King Jesus is a great King. He desires for us to live in freedom, and he gives us the power to do it!

Questions for Reflection:

1. What was one of Satan’s tactics that you feel that you have faced in life?

2. What does “walking in the Spirit” look like in your life?

3. What is an area of your life where a stronghold may exist?

Group Questions (GQs)

1. Start off group time by sharing one spiritual “win” from this past week.

2. Between the three enemies: the flesh, the world, and the devil, which do you tend to think about least? Most?

3. Using the guitar illustration from chapter 5, describe how the devil, the world, and the flesh are in cahoots using real-life examples.

4. What is one of Satan’s tactics that you have faced in your life? Explain.

5. What do you believe are the top three strongholds’ in the lives of believers today?

6. Read aloud, James 4:7, Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. What are some practical ways that you submit to the Lord? What are some practical ways that you resist the devil? 

7. How can this group help each other live out James 4:7?