Search the blogs and bookstores, google the names of preachers today, and you will find conversations and dissertations on many Biblical subjects. The authority of Scripture, the deity of Christ, the resurrection, the victorious life, and many other doctrinal issues are prevalent in the Christian media. You will find volumes today on practical “how to” subjects like how to be positive, how to be successful, how to get wealth, and a library of man centered articles and books. You will find resources in systematic theology and great preachers of the past and church history and denominational perspectives. At your disposal are references that teach on how to avoid evil, and why certain movements are veering away from Scripture, and why certain men are false teachers.
But you and I will be hard pressed to find a discussion about the enemy lurking within each and every believer. Our enemies are often identified as the devil, or Rick Warren, or Brian MacLaren, or some other popular movement that can be seen. But the church is in desperate need of an uncomfortable and vulnerable discussion about a very real and influential enemy, the enemy that lives and speaks and motivates us from within. The enemy is us. We have been so guilty of not only ignoring this fallen enemy, but so often we have incorporated him into our Christian walks and crowned him as boldness or discernment or spiritual courage. This enemy has seduced us through vain words and hidden agendas and impure motives, and blinded us into moving forward without a chronic pattern of self examination.
The self examination we need is many times not about any subject or issue, but it is about who we are and with what spirit we are being controlled. Do not assume that crucifying the flesh within is an easy and painless process, just recognizing the need for such inventory is a deep and excruciating spiritual truth, much less surrendering to the Spirit’s unabridged death ministry to our flesh. And there are protected doors within our flesh that will subtly offer other compartments of sin in deceptive gambits designed to protect our most treasured elements of practiced self. Simply put, without a time of complete self examination we will continue to live with the accumulation of self deceived issues. And this pattern can live and breath within the life of even the most Biblically astute believers among us. In fact, Biblical knowledge is sometimes used creatively by our flesh to keep us from recognizing our own flesh that dishonors Christ while drawing near to Him with our lips.
The weapon that will defeat our flesh is humility, and Christ-like humility can only come through the fellowship of His sufferings which is…the cross. Paul tells us the example of our Glorious Savior, the Creator of everything, provided the light of His own incarnate life as our example.
Phil.2:7-8 - But made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
Those words, when read and understood in the context of who He was, must cut our hearts before us. Our God, our Christ, came as one of us. That in and of itself is beyond us, but when the Spirit lifts the veil and gives a sacred glimpse into the Incarnate God man, and reveals the depth of His humility that allowed, yea embraced, death…even death by crucifixion, we are undone. It must be understood fully that this truth cannot be understood fully even while being an exhortation for us to follow. Crucifixion was humiliating for the worst of sinners, but for the sinless Lamb of God the humiliation is infinite. And yet we are directed to emulate the essence of that humility and thereby deny the flesh the spoils of sin it so desperately desires. Let us examine even the fringes of such an undertaking.
If we are not willing to endure pain and rejection and humiliation in our own lives, then this journey is not for us. If we are going to pick and choose our path so as to avoid the deepest roots of our fleshly entrenchments, then we can retire to the comfort of what we call our Christian lives as we now experience them. But if we can admit to ourselves in distressful honesty that we are in need of the cross inside our very hearts, then we must prepare ourselves for the crushing weight of the Spirit’s convicting light and His loving but uncomfortably powerful ministry of correction and crucifixion through genuine, open, and unfettered repentance. And this repentance must touch the little foxes that hide within the camouflaged recesses of our religiously wicked hearts. And if there are no surprises, no sufferings, no battles, no embarrassments, and no attempts as justifying or minimizing, then we have only touched the surface.
Have we even asked the question as to how we can show strength like our Master while forgiving the very ones who are crucifying us? Is there a divine power that speaks through humility in the utmost of authority and does not need the verbiage that comes from our flesh? Can grace and correction ride within the same words? Can boldness and humility coalesce? And can the Spirit of Christ be revealed through a conduit who has an ongoing penchant for duplicity? And in the face of these and other questions, does it appear that while we are concerned with watered down theology we are content with watered down humility that in actuality gives place to the enemy of God, our flesh? The lack of concern over how the Lord would have us speak and behave in these days of accessible communication is astounding.
We need a revival of seeking God as to how to behave in the Spirit of Christ. Just saying “I am nothing” is not any show of obedience, a computer can mimic those words that all of us know are required to be said. This is where the Apostle James’ perspective is necessary to glorify our Master. Words without deeds are useless, and saying we are followers of Christ without at least a sacrificial effort to become like Him is just as useless. Speaking the gospel without living it has led us to the general stalemate we now find ourselves in these last days. And being doctrinally orthodox does not reveal the life of Jesus Christ within a professing believer, and in fact it seems that being a “self aware” orthodox believer continues to lead many into fleshly hubris instead of humble grace.
We do not need a new definition of the gospel, we need a new demonstration of it. Many of us have strong convictions about someone like Mother Theresa not sharing Christ with dying Hindus and Buddhists, however are we not brought to shame and conviction from her humility? The consuming arguing that pretends itself to be defending the faith is not only unproductive, it can be counterproductive. This kind of interaction comes from the enemy that dwells within us and yet has camouflaged itself as a spiritual warrior. It basks in its own measurement of Christ and His followers, it assumes an exaggerated view of its own knowledge of truth, and it engages others from a tangible aroma of self righteousness that constructs a deluded and imaginary battle for the truth in which unchristian behavior can be justified. In essence this enemy convinces us of the rightness of the cause and then proceeds to blind us to our own state of spiritual need by keeping us distracted by an inflated view of our own value as a divine spokesman.
But the enemy within all of us, the fallen brother of Adam, has so often been allowed to act out even within the body of Christ. We seem to rely on him to facilitate spiritual victory while using the other side of our mouths to tout God’s power and sovereignty. And part of this so called victory includes diminishing and laying waste to those saints and sinners with whom we take issue. This enemy is not content to gently and graciously present our point of view, he must take no prisoners and keep record of the scalps. He minimizes and justifies his own shortcomings while illuminating and magnifying those of his targets. He sees no truth in the attacks that come to him, and many times will leverage those people from whom the attacks emanate to cease and desist. But he presents his attacks as both warranted and motivated by God Himself and must not be silenced.
It is past time for all of us to expose this enemy that dwells within as the scoundrel he is, and unmask his false claims of spirituality. Truth is interconnected and must be taught and presented and even confronted within the context of other truths that are just as valid. Truth is not a weapon to destroy but in the gospel context it is a vehicle of redemption which should never be served on a cold plate of self righteousness. In fact, truth should be shared upon the wings of humility that should define an unworthy recipient of God’s grace. And sometimes the revelation of God’s truth is most exposed and glorified in what appears to be defeat, and boldness in some circumstances works against the gospel and its message. All of us seek to be John the Baptist, but not many seek to be the Lamb silent before His shearers.
Standing on the platform of complete grace we should, as Paul suggested, count everyone else as more important than ourselves. We have severely overestimated our own worth and divine calling, and we have limited and redefined the admonition of “defending the faith” by giving that assignment to this vile enemy within us all.