My own recent Friday Fiction contribution ‘Don’t Panic’ has me thinking a lot about spiritual warfare in general. Although the fictional account certainly has some truth in it, it presents a picture of our adversary as being a less formidable foe than I think is reality. While the overly-humanized, almost comical antics of the demons Zipter and Ruebal are entertaining, they don’t present a very accurate picture of true spiritual warfare. I say that because I believe our foe is an organized, cohesive front with real goals and methods, not a troupe of quarrelsome rebels operating in slapdash chaos. Jesus said that a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand.
24 But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, "This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons."
25 And knowing their thoughts Jesus said to them, "Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand.
26 "If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand?
If the kingdom of darkness has clear goals, what might they be? For one thing, perhaps the main thing, the plan of the rule of darkness is to impede and obstruct God’s interests, even the very will of God. A scriptural example of this is when Jesus said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan!”
21 From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.
22 Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, "God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You."
23 But He turned and said to Peter, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's."
It’s interesting that Satan didn’t try to discourage Jesus from fulfilling the plan and will of God directly. Instead, he chose Peter, and worked through the natural tendencies of human nature. Suffering? Even death? God forbid! These things shall never happen… But of course, Jesus chose the will of His Father, and told Satan to shut up.
I’m sure if you are reading this you are probably one who wants to know he is being used for the right kingdom – so how can we know if we are being duped by the enemy, or if our efforts are truthfully working for the good of the kingdom of God? For a good start, look back at Matthew 16:23 – “…for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” Often what may seem to us like the good or right thing is not what God has planned. Peter must have been confused by Jesus’ reaction to his extremely well-intentioned words, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You!” If the words of Jesus in this passage don’t sit well with you, you really won’t like the things He said next. He made suffering not only about Himself, but for all who would follow Him.
24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.
25 "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.
26 "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
The cross we are to take up is not the cross in the sense of being salvation for mankind; only Jesus could do that. But for us as for Him, the cross is the daily choice to die to self interests and live for God’s interests, even though that may mean a wide range of difficulties to endure. Paul said, “I die daily.” (1 Corinthians 15:31 I affirm, brethren, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.) He didn’t mean that he literally died every day of course, he meant that he died daily to the natural desires of the flesh and lived daily for the will and plan of God. He set his mind on the things of God. What an amazing thing! We have few such excellent examples of how to live for the kingdom of God!
God has a plan for His kingdom, and that plan includes me – and you. Our response to His placing us on Planet Earth needs to be like that of Jesus in John 4, verse 34: Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.” He also said, (John 5:30) "I can do nothing on My own initiative As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me."
Truly, our only alternative to living for God is to do our own will, and doing so as believers will find us living in compromise and regret, because we’ve been serving the wrong kingdom. Such a choice would grieve our Lord as well. God has specific plans for each of us as individuals, and that shows up so well in the various talents and gifts He has placed in us through His Holy Spirit. His desire is that we die to SELF and live to Him, using our gifts and talents to serve Him. In so doing, we find our own life as well, because, to repeat from above, “…whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”
One of the practical applications in my own life of dying to self and living to Him starts with organization. I start out with quiet time in the morning, thanking Him for the free gift of life through the death of Jesus. I give Him back “my” life each and every day. And I pray for inspiration, because for me “dying to self” includes spending time writing. I need inspiration from Him because only He knows what is valuable and needed from me for the Kingdom.
This is not to preach condemnation – we all struggle through the same things in different ways. But I really don’t want to live my few short years of life on Earth for the kingdom of darkness, do you? This is my prayer, “Lord, help me to succeed in furthering your kingdom here on Earth by laying down my selfish life and interests to set my mind and heart on Your interests and Your will. Forgive me on the days I don’t get anything done for You, forgive me on the days I do – because I never get it all done, nor do I ever get it all right. Thank you for Your forgiveness, and, Lord Jesus, for the blood You shed on the cross so that I can be forgiven! Thank You, Father, for adopting me and making me Your child and a part of Your Kingdom forever! In Jesus name, amen!
Job 42:1-2 Then Job answered the LORD and said, "I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.
[ALL SCRIPTURES NASB]