Phyllis Beveridge Nissila
If you know the enemy and you know yourself, your victory will not stand in doubt; if you know Heaven and you know Earth, you may make your victory complete. (Sun Tzu)
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can make your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this world’s darkness, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.…(Ephesians 6:11-12, Berean Study Bible)
We tend to wait until the big guns come out before we declare a battle existential, that is to say, a threat to our very existence.
But knowing our real enemy, the evil entity who seeds destruction first by thought, then by word, and ultimately by deed, whatever he can get away with–when we agree to be his “mortal hosts” through which to work (the devil being spirit)–then every level of evil is potentially existential.
Because if you think about it, the seeds of all evil, when allowed to root, begin as suggestions in the hidden places in the heart and mind.
At first, they seem small and weak, easily mocked and ignored. But if not seriously tended at the root, those seeds would choke off all else in their quest for domination of the turf. The metaphor of the garden reveals this truth.
The first and worst of the bad seeds was and remains pride rooted in envy. It was the sin of the most beautiful, brilliant, and powerful angel God created; the devil of a thousand names and known in every culture who just wasn’t satisfied with being the best of God’s angelic creations.
He wanted to be God.
And so he fell…and took a third of the angels, willing accomplices, with him.
He fell with a loud, crashing, piercing, resonant boom that echoes through time and hearts, minds, and deeds, increasing in intensity and devastation the closer we–and he–get to his ultimate reckoning and our ultimate redemption.*
So that’s our real enemy.
But misery loves company, and the devil, aka Satan, is especially miserable because he lacks God’s creative power, which is rooted not in pride and rebellion but in love. Outside of love, without love, all that appears to be so is ultimately going to fail. St. Paul put it this way:
1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a ringing gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have absolute faith so as to move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.…(1 Corinthians 13:1-2, BSB)
Conversely, our ally, God, is that love of whom it is written,
Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. (James 1:17, NASB)
He CAN create, including through us in the natural sense. He IS substance.
God is the contrasting “something” to the devil’s “nothing”.
And an aspect of how we are “formed in the image of God” is our freedom to choose: To love or hate; to create or destroy; to listen to God or to the devil…
And here is the nugget of truth about free will. It represents the kind of love God desires of us which is exactly what we desire: others or another who desires to be with us, who is not forced or formed with no other options. Because how would that be love?
But what about people who, like humanitys’ arch nemesis, aka Satan, can “appear as an angel of light”? We were warned about this:
13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. 15 It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their actions.… (2 Corinthians 11:13-15, BSB)
So the next vital question is how can we know the difference?
Jesus put the answer this way,
15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.” (Matthew 7:15-17, NIV)
From God’s Spirit:
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control… (Galatians 5:22-23)
From Satan’s spirit:
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. (John 10:10)
But how is knowing the difference accomplished?
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind… (Romans 12:2)
For this renewal we have God’s Word, the Bible, that old anthology of history and His story, poetry and pattern, that prove far more powerful than any destruction the devil perpetrates. It’s just that it may take time for the truth to be revealed.
And to the third theme of this post, knowing ourselves, one more question begs an answer of each: What is our own fruit?…
As for an “immunity booster,” consider:
A heart at peace gives life to the body… (Proverbs 14:30)
…the mind, the psyche, and the emotions, as well.
Powered by the Spirit of God**, victory, in due time, is complete.
Read the entire “immunities” series here.