The World, the Flesh, and the Devil

INTRODUCTION: Life Is War

Fight the good fight of the faith. ~1 Timothy 6:12

Life is war. If you’ve been a follower of Jesus for any length of time, that’s probably a lesson you have learned. The struggle to trust and obey, the fight against temptation, and any experience you’ve had in spiritual warfare all combine to teach this lesson: life is war. Any growth in godliness you’ve experienced has been hard-earned, and you’ve discovered how great a struggle it is to trust God through the ups and downs of life. You may have thought that following Jesus would make everything easy, but it doesn’t take too long to realize that becoming a Christian often doesn’t make life easier; in fact, trusting in Jesus ignites a lifelong conflict between competing desires in your heart, and often puts you at odds with the world around you. Furthermore, we’re told that “your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8), so add that to your list of problems. We’re surrounded by conflict—“fighting without and fear within”, as Paul put it in 2 Corinthians 7:5.

So the great irony for most of us is that there isn’t actually that much warfare in our lives. The New Testament describes the Christian life in explicitly warlike terms: “fight the good fight of faith;” “put on the full armor of God;” “put to death the deeds of the flesh.” The way the biblical authors talk about sanctification (the process of becoming more like Jesus) makes it clear that sanctification is war—war on worldliness, war on the spiritual forces of darkness, and war on my own sinful heart.

But are those the words we would use to describe our Christian lives—a good fight, putting on armor, putting to death? Is that the kind of effort we’re putting into our sanctification? Or is our “good fight” more like a half-hearted shrug? Are we coasting, our Christian lives on autopilot? Sure, you’ve taken care of some of the big, obvious whopper sins in your life, but now you’ve settled into a comfortable spirituality that is content to sit back in the pews on Sunday morning and sit back in the couch Sunday night. There’s not much ongoing struggle for purity, fight against temptation, or the kind of fervent, watchful prayer that Scripture calls us to.

As I write these words, I am absolutely preaching to myself here. My Christian life has gone through seasons of ups and downs, but more often than not, I’ve lately found myself coasting at a comfortable level of holiness. I read my Bible, take notes during the sermon, and try to avoid temptation, but the warfare in my life has sunk to low-level skirmishes with my sinful nature and a comfortable cease-fire with some of the deeper rooted areas of pride, lust, and laziness in my life. And as for spiritual warfare and conflict with the demonic… well, that’s pretty much off my radar entirely, which is well-evidenced by my weak prayer life.

So this is a book written first and foremost for myself. I want to mine the depths of God’s Word and linger on them so that my life will get back to a wartime footing. And my hope is that these truths will equip you to fight the good fight of the faith by expanding and solidifying your understanding of the enemies you face in that fight. And most of all, I want us to see how the cross—the centerpiece of history and the apex of God’s glory—is also the centerpiece of this war and our primary weapon in the fight for holiness.

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