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Section 7. Living The Faith...
The Biblical Command to Holiness and Perfection

 

   003white Index to   Living The Faith... The Biblical Christian       >        Holiness       >      What Is Holiness... Part III

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What Is Holiness?
Part III

Carol Brooks
Edited By Vicki Narlee

This life is the only opportunity we will ever have to choose where we will spend eternity. When we close our eyes for the last time, and step into what lies beyond, we will not take our money, fame, power, influence, looks, skills, achievements, eloquence, or intelligence with us. All we will take with us is whether or not we obeyed the commandments of God. Whether or not we lived a righteous life. Whether or not were true followers of Jesus Christ.

Index To All Three Sections

Part I ... God is The Standard of Holiness. Holiness Is Not Optional. An Unholy Person Cannot Approach a Holy God. The Instructions to Be Holy

 Part II ... Separation is a Timeless Spiritual Principle, Come Out From Among Them, A “Holy Nation" has its own Citizenship
Modern Day Pharisees and Practically Applying The Principles Of Separation

001orange Part III ... Moral Perfection, The Consequences Of Sin, Three Resources For a Three Sided Battle. The Flesh... Practical Steps to Win The Battle Between Persistent Sin and The Spirit. The World... Cultural Contamination of People and Entertainment. The Devil... Using The Armour of God In The Battle.
 

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Part III

Perfection
Completeness and Moral Perfection

Overcoming Sin
A Three Step Process
Three Resources For a Three Sided Battle

The Word
Prayer
The Holy Spirit

The World, The Flesh and The Devil
The Flesh
(a.k.a. the self)
Persistent Sin... The Battle Between The Flesh and The Spirit
Practical Steps
Writing it Down
Step I... Your Analysis of the Patterns.
Step II... Your Precise Plans to Break the Patterns

The World
Cultural Contamination of People, Places, Entertainment and Role Models

Three Additional Thoughts
Spend your Time On The Right Things.
Learn to Control Your Thoughts
Be Accountable

The Devil
Armour of God In The Book of Ephesians

Final Words of Caution
Do Not Think You, Have "Arrived"
Do Not Assume Someone Else is "Holy" Because Of What They Do, Or The Position They Hold
Do Not Look Back

 


Perfection
Another Hebrew word intrinsically linked with the concept of separation is Tâmîym (H8549). Used close to a hundred times in the Old Testament, it means entire or complete (literally, figuratively or morally); perfect, or without blemish.

Completeness: It is used in the context of completeness in the following verses

    And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave-offering; seven sabbaths shall there be complete (tâmîym): [Leviticus 23:15]

    And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, Until the nation had avenged themselves of their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jashar? And the sun stayed in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole (tâmîym) day. [Joshua 10:13]

Moral Perfection: However, in the following example, Israel was instructed to be "perfect".

    Thou (Israel) shalt be perfect (tâmîym) with the Lord thy God. [Deuteronomy 18:13]

This was said in the context of instructions to the people to refrain from the sin of child sacrifice, using divination/magic, or consulting a familiar spirit, a wizard, or necromancer. In other words "perfect" related to the principles of right and wrong. Similarly David defines "perfect" as keeping himself from iniquity

    I was also perfect (tâmîym) toward him; And I kept myself from mine iniquity.  [2 Samuel 22:24]

So when Abraham was instructed to "be perfect" and Noah was described as such, the Scriptures are speaking of moral uprightness, which the Scriptures equate with completeness.

    And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, Jehovah appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be thou perfect (tâmîym). [Genesis 17:1]

    These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, and perfect (tâmîym) in his generations: Noah walked with God.  [Genesis 6:9]

The Bible outlines the blessing given to those who walk uprightly, or are perfect/complete. 

    They that are perverse in heart are an abomination to God; But such as are perfect (tâmîym) in their way are his delight.  [Proverbs 11:20


From The Old Testament To The New...
Be Perfect: As God instructed Abraham to walk before Him and be perfect, Jesus also instructed His listeners to "be perfect". The Greek teleios also means complete, or fully mature.

    Ye therefore shall be perfect (teleios), as your heavenly Father is perfect (teleios). [Matthew 5:48]

To the church in Corinth, Paul wrote (Katartisis, and the verb katartizo, from which it is derived, means to thoroughly complete, or repair)

    For we rejoice, when we are weak, and ye are strong: this we also pray for, even your perfecting (Gk. katartisis). For this cause I write these things while absent, that I may not when present deal sharply, according to the authority which the Lord gave me for building up, and not for casting down. Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfected (Gk. katartizo); be comforted; be of the same mind; live in peace: and the God of love and peace shall be with you. [2 Corinthians 13:9-11]

When the author of Hebrews told his readers that they needed to "press on unto perfection", it is necessary to read the last few verses of the previous chapter in order to fully grasp what he was talking about. In context...[Emphasis Added]

    Of whom we have many things to say, and hard of interpretation, seeing ye are become dull of hearing. For when by reason of the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need again that some one teach you the rudiments of the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of solid food. For every one that partaketh of milk is without experience of the word of righteousness; for he is a babe. But solid food is for fullgrown men, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern good and evil. Wherefore leaving the doctrine of the first principles of Christ, let us press on unto perfection (Gk. teleiotes); not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the teaching of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.  [Hebrews 5:11-6:2 ]

He stresses that believers needed to progress beyond the basic foundations of the Christian faith or, as he put it, move from milk to meat. In other words the six doctrines listed are the basic ABCs that they should already have thoroughly grasped, and needed to progress beyond. The foundation was solid, but one doesn't continuously build a foundation which, instead, needs to be used as as a base for building the rest of the structure. He urges his readers to strive for full Christian completeness and maturity, often expressed in the Bible as perfection or completion.

In other words, all believers should know that grace, not the law, is the means by which we obtain salvation. However, we have to pay attention to the fact that Paul tells us that those who walk in the Spirit will fulfill the law.

In other words, while the law is not the source of righteousness, it is the standard of righteousness. Which, of course, involves avoiding or overcoming sin.


What Is Sin

But what exactly is sin?

For a huge number of people, the concept of "sin" seems rather quaint... residual traces of the days of simplistic religious beliefs. Many of those that do hold to the concept of a 'higher power', do not believe that there is an absolute moral law. And if there happens to be a God against whom we sin, He is too loving to actually hold our 'mistakes' against us, much less punish us for them.  If pressed, it is likely that the majority of people in the western world would place themselves in the 'not perfect' category, but a far cry from 'sinners', or really bad people, usually defined as the serial killers, rapists and child molesters of the world.

An almost universal 'Santa Claus' mentality holds to the idea of rewards for those who's good deeds outweigh the bad, and punishment for those for whom the opposite is true. The subjects of sin and salvation are the warp and weft of very the fabric the Bible is woven out of, yet, even when many Christians think of sin, they simply think of a violation of the Ten Commandments.

None of these views come anywhere near agreeing with the Biblical definition of sin, judgment, or even heaven and hell. This is simply because few know, or understand how the Bible defines sin. People usually judge themselves by the standards of other people, whereas, the "mark" or target that the Scriptures are referring to is an absolute standard of good... the perfection of God Himself. Anything short of that standard is 'missing the mark'. We might be satisfied with "goodness", but God is not. He demands "perfection".  [For Details See Sin]

Perhaps the first step towards seriously waging war against sin is to realistically weigh the benefits of holiness, or choosing not to sin, against the consequences of sin.


The Consequences of Holiness
While the pleasures of sin are usually very temporary, if you are a disciple of Christ, the benefits of holiness are eternal.

Living a righteous lifestyle, means eventually hearing the coveted words.. "well done good and faithful servant", which means you will never not be judged worthy of death, but will live in His kingdom for all eternity.


The Consequences Of Sin
All Sin is Sin Against God...
Most people are probably under the impression that the majority of moral do's and don'ts are the precepts of man, but it is God Himself who commands us to live holy lives. In his first letter to the Thessalonians Paul assured them that, though communicated to them by man, the command to avoid sexual immorality, was really the command of God.

    Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 4:8).

Something that king David already knew centuries earlier.

When he became enamored of Uriah's wife Bath-sheba, then sent for her and took her to his bed, she became pregnant.  David then arranged to have her husband killed so that he could marry Bath-sheba. Later, the prophet Nathan confronted David, and God punished him [2 Samuel 12:1-19]. When David wrote about this incident, he said this... [All Emphasis Added]

    when Nathan the prophet came unto him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba. Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: According to the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions; And my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, And done that which is evil in thy sight; That thou mayest be justified when thou speakest, And be clear when thou judgest. [Psalms 51:1-4]

...Therefore, Has Eternal Consequences:
There is no doubt that one of the biggest obstacles we face in the battle against temptation is that sin usually seems, at first glance, to be fun. So, when tempted to sin, instead of allowing emotions to overrule intelligence and common sense, we have to learn to discipline ourselves to take the time to realistically consider the consequences of our actions... to ourselves, our spiritual health, and to our family and loved ones. This can help us to make the right choices.

The reason I say realistically, is because, as said before, the price for wrong doing is often higher than people originally thought, or cared to admit. The pleasures of sin are usually fleeting, but guilt can be a very long lasting, miserable trip, and the consequences to family, and ones own soul, terribly painful, and permanent. It is perhaps far more common than we realize for people to be carried away by temptation, thinking at the time, that they did not care where that sin took them. More often than not, when later faced with the consequences, they realize that they do care after all.

Just as the consequences of holiness are eternal, the consequences of unholiness are also eternal.

This life is the only opportunity we will ever have to choose where we will spend eternity. When we close our eyes for the last time, and step into what lies beyond, we will take nothing with us. Not our money, fame, power, influence, looks, skills, achievements, eloquence, or intelligence. All we will take with us is whether or not we obeyed the commandments of God. Whether or not we lived a righteous life. Whether or not were true followers of Jesus Christ.

Let us take the words of the ancient prophets, who spoke for God Himself, very seriously

    “But if a man is righteous and practices justice and righteousness,and does not eat at the mountain shrines or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, or defile his neighbor’s wife or approach a woman during her menstrual period—if a man does not oppress anyone, but restores to the debtor his pledge, does not commit robbery, but gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with clothing, if he does not lend money on interest or take increase, if he keeps his hand from iniquity and executes true justice between man and man, if he walks in My statutes and My ordinances so as to deal faithfully—he is righteous and will surely live,” declares the Lord GOD. [Ezekiel 18:5-9 NASB]

    “Then he may have a violent son who sheds blood and who does any of these things to a brother (though he himself did not do any of these things), that is, he even eats at the mountain shrines, and defiles his neighbor’s wife, oppresses the poor and needy, commits robbery, does not restore a pledge, but lifts up his eyes to the idols and commits abomination, he lends money on interest and takes increase; will he live? He will not live! He has committed all these abominations, he will surely be put to death; his blood will be on his own head.  [Ezekiel 18:10-13 NASB]

    And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you; yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well; seek justice, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: but if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword; for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. [Isaiah 1:15-20]

 As Paul succinctly said

    For the wages of sin is death; but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. [Romans 6:23]

    Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life (Galatians 6:7-8).

Also note that not only does God punish the person who commits sin, but also those that lead others into temptation

    But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea (Matthew 18:6).

Additionally...

Sin Shipwrecks Faith and Harms Your Witness For Christ.
 
Sin not only puts a wedge between you and God, but gives Satan a foothold which, obviously, can shipwreck your faith. There is no such thing as a 'small sin', and it is very unlikely that a person can commit 'just one sin'. It was not without reason that Paul warned the church in Ephesus against giving satan even the slightest advantage.

    neither give place to the devil. [Ephesians 4:27]

The book of Proverbs said the same thing in a much more graphic way

    Can a man take fire in his bosom, And his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk upon hot coals, And his feet not be scorched? [Proverbs 6:27-28]

Sin will discredit anything, and everything, you have told people about Jesus and salvation, and cause untold damage to any ministry you may be associated with... something that God does not take lightly.

    giving no occasion of stumbling in anything, that our ministration be not blamed; [2 Corinthians 6:3]

The Polluting Quality of Sin
One of the biggest problems is that sin, at least in the beginning, seems to be fun, pleasurable, or beneficial in some way. All too many people, including Christians, do not seem to take a serious enough approach to sin, failing to realize that sin traps, then drags us down.

    His own iniquities shall take the wicked, And he shall be holden with the cords of his sin. [Proverbs 5:22]

    being darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardening of their heart; who being past feeling gave themselves up to lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. [Ephesians 4:18-19]

Sin and/or false doctrine was often symbolized by leaven even a little of which, as both Jesus and Paul pointed out, was a very dangerous thing.

    And Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees. [Matthew 16:6; Luke 12:1]

    And he charged them, saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod. [Mark 8:15]

    Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? [1Corinthians 5:6]

    Ye were running well; who hindered you that ye should not obey the truth? This persuasion came not of him that calleth you. A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. [Galatians 5:7-9]

The question of why leaven was used as a symbol is probably best answered by the character and process of leavening, which is based on fermentation. Given time, the yeast reproduces, spreading throughout the dough or batter, biologically changing the chemistry of the dough as it works. It is easy to put leaven into the dough, but impossible to get it out again.

Sin, like leaven, has a polluting quality. It doesn't stay small or contained for very long, but quickly spreads, eventually affecting our entire being. How sin and heresy imitate leaven is best described by the word "insidious", which means 'working or spreading harmfully in a subtle or stealthy manner'.

    Note: On the feast of Unleavened bread, which began on the 15th of Nisan (the day following Passover), and continued for seven days until the 21st of Nisan, God commanded the Israelites to avoid eating any leavened foods (food that contained any fermenting product such as yeast or baking powder) during this period. Even modern day Jews who observe the traditional feasts go through a comprehensive, and exhausting, search of their houses for any form of leavened food (chametz), every last crumb of which is then removed from the house. The symbolism of the feast of Unleavened Bread is that God's people can not continue in the same old patterns, but have to search out and remove every speck of sin in their lives... only possible after putting faith in the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. [See The Feasts of Israel]

However the question has to be asked whether or not it is possible to overcome persistent sin.


Overcoming Sin

Is a three step process.

First we need to to dispense with some common myths, such as

     Small sins are really not that bad. After all how can a couple of small sins hurt?

     You can sin once or twice, walk away from it, and not sin again.

Secondly we have to wisely use the resources that God has given us.

Thirdly we need to take practical steps toward conquering sin.


Three Resources For a Three Sided Battle.
This is a battle that has to be fought on three fronts... often called The World, The Flesh, and The Devil (with considerable amount of, often indistinguishable, overlap between the world and the devil). While this exact term is not found in the Bible, but first gained popularity through it's inclusion in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, the sense of the expression is a very apt one, perfectly in line with what the New Testament says. For example

    For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the vain glory of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. [1 John 2:16]

God has given us three major weapons to fight this three sided battle... The Word, Prayer, and the Holy Spirit.


The Word
For the word of God is living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart. [Hebrews 4:12]

In Psalms 119:11, the Psalmist said that he had hidden God's Word in his heart so that he would not sin against God. He later added that the Bible was written as a lamp to our feet, and a light to our paths [Psalm 119:105]. Joshua was told that the key to military success in overcoming his enemies was to meditate on the book of the law day and night, and conduct himself according to all that was written [Joshua 1:7-8]. Paul told Timothy that these sacred writings, inspired of God, were able to make him (and us) wise unto salvation, and that they were profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.  They are able to make the man of God complete, and thoroughly equipped for every good work. [2 Timothy 3:15-17]. Colossians 3:16 says..

    Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts unto God.

There is nothing, but God's Word, that can guide us into salvation, teach us what we need to know in order to be spiritually healthy, and to be pleasing to God. The Scriptures teach, correct and reprove us. In other words, there is no other sure guide by which we can light our path down some very dark and treacherous roads.

God's Word does not do this by catering to our perceived needs but, on the contrary, informs us that we have far more important spiritual needs that we may not have even been aware of, and which can only be met by God. In fact the Scriptures often call for us to evaluate, and often renounce our fleshly needs, take up our crosses, and follow our Saviour.

Sadly, in today's day and age, few people, even among those who name the name of Christ, seem to take the Bible seriously. So, considering that without the Scriptures to guide us, you, me, and everyone else, will be damned to hell, are you guilty of any of the following?


Not Reading the Word:
According to a survey conducted by the Barna research group, four out of ten born again Christians do not read the Bible in a typical week. While we pay token service to it by carrying it to church once a week,   the typical Christian today tends to survive on a diet of Christian quotes, inspirational messages, daily doses of wisdom from Proverbs, and uplifting (and probably out of context) Bible verses conveniently delivered by e-mail. Add to this a 15-20 minute sermon every Sunday, and the modern Christian is suffused with a warm glow of "spirituality". He basks in the fact that he has done what God expects of him.

He is wrong, and could very well be dead wrong.

Not Taking The Word Seriously: Then, on the other hand, one has to wonder whether those that claim to read the Scriptures with some regularity actually absorb the words they are reading, or does the reading resemble putting on a comfortable old sweater, which one scarcely notices the rest of the day. Have the words become so familiar that they are no longer taken literally, or even seriously?

Not Applying The Word To Our Lives: God's Word is an essential part of the armor given us to fight our spiritual battles with the dark forces that are constantly seeking to bring us down (Ephesians 6:12-18), yet while we  seem to alight on the Word often, in reality, we take in just enough to keep us spiritually alive, but not enough to keep us healthy and thriving. In other words, we fail to meditate on God's Word, much less apply it to our lives (unless it comes to the idea that God wants to make us rich. See The Prosperity Gospel). We do not confess and repent of the sins the Bible reveals, and we do not use it as the standard by which to conduct our lives.

Reading Selectively: When you read the Bible, are you guilty of reading it selectively? In other words, are you looking for what you want to hear, and ignoring the rest.


Prayer:

A second crucial resource in our battle against sin is prayer. How important prayer is to overcoming sin in our lives is well illustrated by Jesus' words to Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane. Peter fell asleep while Jesus was praying, but was awakened by the Saviour who said.. "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak" [Matthew 26:41]. Peter, who's heart was in the right place, always wanted to do the right thing, but, like many of us, had weaknesses. Prayer was not a magic formula that he could repeat in order to do the right thing, but a turning to God's inexhaustible power and strength.

It seems to be certain that Peter and the other disciples took Jesus' words to heart, because the Bible tells us that after Jesus' ascension, they "... with one accord continued steadfastly in prayer, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren" [Acts 1:14]. However, Peter's transformation was complete only after the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, when Peter spoke the word of God "with boldness" to the Jews gathered in Jerusalem that day.

Tragically, prayer is a huge resource, that Christians often only pay lip service to. They often seem to draw on an abundant supply of old, time worn platitudes which, I suspect, the pray-ers could rattle off in their sleep. Considering that God knows us better than we know ourselves, I am not sure why we are hiding behind pious sounding phrases, instead of being honest with Him, speaking our minds, and talking to Him about our innermost thoughts, feelings, and needs.

Problems of a magnitude that humankind has never seen before are threatening to engulf us. Not only are the majority of believers completely unaware of what the outside world is up to on an occult level, but most of the church is rocking itself to sleep on the porch. This is evident by the fact that much of the prayer that takes place during prayer meetings bears a striking resemblance to the “now I lay me down to sleep” variety, dashed off to "whom it may concern".

As we see in the New Testament, prayer was neither intermittent, nor shallow, but under-girded everything the early apostles did. [All Emphasis Added]

    But we will continue stedfastly in prayer, and in the ministry of the word. [Acts 6:4]

    Now on the morrow, as they were on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour: [Acts 10:9]

    with all prayer and supplication praying at all seasons in the Spirit, and watching thereunto in all perseverance and supplication for all the saints, [Ephesians 6:18]

    In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus. [Philippians 4:6-7]

    For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray and make request for you, that ye may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, [Colossians 1:9]

    Continue stedfastly in prayer, watching therein with thanksgiving; [Colossians 4:2]

    pray without ceasing; [1 Thessalonians 5:17]

    To which end we also pray always for you, that our God may count you worthy of your calling, and fulfil every desire of goodness and every work of faith, with power; [2 Thessalonians 1:11]

    I desire therefore that the men pray in every place, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and disputing. [1 Timothy 2:8]

    Confess therefore your sins one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The supplication of a righteous man availeth much in its working. [James 5:16]

Constant persevering prayer in every temptation and spiritual conflict is necessary, because, in the struggle between light and dark, God alone can give the victory.


The Holy Spirit
   
Galatians 5 and Ephesians 6 describe two different type of warfare that every believer is engaged in.

In Ephesians 6 Paul outlines the weapons we will need against external spiritual forces. The rulers of the kingdom we used to belong to, are not going to allow us to relinquish our citizenship without a fight, and will use any and all means at their disposal to ensure that we do not do so. Galatians 5, on the other hand, describes the battle that takes place, to one extent or another, within the soul of every believer. A huge part of the plight we often find ourselves in, cannot be laid at satan's feet, but is caused by our old nature which never seems to completely go away, but wages war against the new one.

While many, if not most, evangelical Christians have a sense of the warfare described in Ephesians 6, I have to wonder to what extent these verses are used as a cop-out. It is much easier to say "the devil made me do it", than to own up to the fact that 'I am the problem'.

However, the problem is, that even though the armour verses in Ephesians gives us a number of weapons to be used in the fight against external forces, and the 6th chapter of Romans tells us why it is necessary to be spiritual, and on what basis we can be so, the only thing we are told in the entire New Testament is simply that we should

"Walk by the Spirit"

    But I say, walk by the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. [Galatians 5:16]

Romans 8:5-6 echoes the thought

    For they that are after the flesh mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For the mind of the flesh is death; but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace

But what does it mean to walk by the Spirit?

In answer to this it is worth noticing that there is no formula given by which one can live a spiritual life. This actually makes perfect sense, since procedures and techniques are actually in diametrical opposition to "walking by the Spirit", which is living in total dependence on, and communication with, God. This is an intensely personal situation, unique to every believer, and therefore does not fit into a generic instruction book. However, it has to be noted that the standard of morality, set by the Scriptures, remains the same in all cases.  

We often use the old adage...  "Where there's a will, there's a way". However, the problem may be that we are looking for the way, without defining what the will is or, in other words, where it is that we wish to go. Perhaps a look at one of the most distinguishing traits of some of the most spiritual people in the Bible, will give us a clue as to what our will should be...

Devotion to God:
Perhaps the most outstanding characteristic displayed by some of the giants of the Old Testament was a 'heart for God'. In spite of his shortcomings and failures, God called David "a man after My heart, who shall do all My will" [Acts 13:22]. Why? Perhaps this is best answered in David's own words, which show that God was everything to him.

David did not rationalize, nor make excuses for his actions even when he sinned, but responded to correction. Many of his Psalms are dotted with the same heartfelt thoughts and desires...

     O God, thou art my God; earnestly will I seek thee: My soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee, In a dry and weary land, where no water is. [Psalms 63:1]

    Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God; For I shall yet praise him, Who is the help of my countenance, and my God. [Psalms 43:5]

    My soul, wait thou in silence for God only; For my expectation is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation: He is my high tower; I shall not be moved. With God is my salvation and my glory: The rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God. [Psalms 62:5-7]

    Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee. My flesh and my heart faileth; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever. [Psalms 73:25-26]

Abraham was willing to give up his only child for the Lord, while Daniel was called a man "greatly beloved" because he set his heart to understand, and humbled himself before God.

    And he said unto me, O Daniel, thou man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak unto thee, and stand upright; for unto thee am I now sent. And when he had spoken this word unto me, I stood trembling. Then said he unto me, Fear not, Daniel; for fom the first day that thou didst set thy heart to understand, and to humble thyself before thy God, thy words were heard: and I am come for thy words' sake. [Daniel 10:11-12]

Paul reflected his heart for God when he said

    Yea verily, and I count all things to be loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but refuse, that I may gain Christ, [Philippians 3:8]

So perhaps the underlying cause of our problems is a distinct lack of devotion. Yes, we are often very concerned about Biblical orthodoxy, and will therefore spend endless hours arguing our religious convictions. However, as often seems to be the case, if it is done from a purely academic standpoint, our relationship with God does not progress beyond the very shallow, because our devotion to Him is almost non-existent. Can we honestly repeat the words of the Psalmist, without crossing our fingers behind our backs?

    As the hart panteth after the water brooks, So panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: When shall I come and appear before God? [Psalms 42:1-2]

Perhaps our prayer should be (Emphasis Added)

    Create in me a clean heart, O God; And renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; And take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; And uphold me with a willing spirit. [Psalms 51:10-12]

All born again believers receive the Holy Spirit when they first believe. However, unless we have a heart for God or as the Psalmist said" a right spirit", it is impossible for us to consistently follow the Holy Spirit's prompting, rather than our own desires. If you expect to have any victory over sin, one of the most important things you need to realize is that it is futile to try and resist the devil if you are not willing to give your whole self to God, without holding anything back. You can only live by the spirit when you surrender your whole self to God.

    Submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you.” [James 4:7-8]

Only when we are totally devoted to God and have a right spirit in us. Only after we submit ourselves wholly to Him can we successfully do battle with ....
 

The World, The Flesh and The Devil

The Flesh (a.k.a. the self)
Persistent Sin... The Battle Between The Flesh and The Spirit
There is no question that many Christians fall for the same temptation over and over again, in spite of the fact that they want to walk with the Lord and grow as His children. Paul expressed both extreme frustration and disappointment in the book of Romans, when he said

    For that which I do I know not: for not what I would, that do I practise; but what I hate, that I do.  But if what I would not, that I do, I consent unto the law that it is good. So now it is no more I that do it, but sin which dwelleth in me. For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me, but to do that which is good is not. [Romans 7:15-18]

    For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are contrary the one to the other; that ye may not do the things that ye would. [Galatians 5:17]

In simpler words, even if we have the desire to do what is right, we fail all too often because every Christian has within themselves two natures that are in completely opposition to one another. The old nature (or "old man" as Paul expressed it in Roman 6:6), is the person we used to be before coming to faith in Christ, and before being born again. This old nature conflicts with the Christian who is now a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Jesus and James, respectively, put it this way

    "Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Matthew 26:41).

    but each man is tempted, when he is drawn away by his own lust, and enticed. Then the lust, when it hath conceived, beareth sin: and the sin, when it is fullgrown, bringeth forth death. [James 1:14-15]

The magnitude of the problem is summed up in Paul's words in Romans 7:24

    Wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me out of the body of this death?

The believer often finds himself in what literally amounts to a life and death struggle, torn between two opposing choices. The temptation to sin on the one hand, and the desire to do good on the other. Because of this many may wonder how they can possibly handle a lifetime of temptation. Others with a history of failure may despair of ever breaking habits that have dominated them, perhaps for years.

What may help is to take some...

Practical Steps
Many Christians may tackle their problems by resolving to "try harder", but while this may work for some people, it does not always not do so for those that struggle with particular sins. As the old saying goes.. "The road to hell is paved with good intentions". So if you find yourself in the position of falling over and over again, it is time to go beyond good intentions, and employ a more concrete strategy to defeat whatever it is that is tempting you. This strategy involves...

    Analyze your sin
    Make a precise and practical plan to deal with it.

But, it is very important to begin the entire process with a pen and paper..

Writing it Down
It is an extremely good idea to put both your analysis of your repeated sin, and your plan for tackling it (or them), down of a sheet of paper. Then, on another, keep a journal that shows the date and circumstances of both successes and failures. If, by any chance, you are dealing with more than one, or even multiple temptations you want to defeat, it may be best to work on them one or two at a time, to avoid overwhelming yourself.

Why should all this be committed to paper? While nothing can take the place of prayer, the work of the Holy Spirit, or Bible study, there are a number of reasons that simply make good sense...Written goals, and the strategy you intend to employ to achieve them, can be very important because.

    The act of writing brings clarity, focus, and a sense of direction. Writing things down almost always helps you to think more clearly, and it often happens that seeing something in black and white brings you to a realization of the problem far more strongly than if you had just thought about it..

    Sometimes, merely thinking about how to resolve something can stress you out as your thoughts will often go around in circles of guilt and resolve, with no concrete results. The very act of writing will help you to process emotions and, often, see the problem in a different light. Having both the problem and the solution written down will give you a good overview, and enable you to emotionally distance yourself from the problem, at least enough to see it more objectively, then work towards a solution.

    Writing something down also makes it much harder to lie to yourself.

    As we all know the familiar instruction to "get it in writing" is indispensable in the business world, simply because it is a hundred times easier to weasel out of something you have said, or verbally agreed to. However writing down a promise or a plan, makes it far more likely that you will honour it.

    When working on a goal that requires daily action, keeping a written record can make a huge difference to your motivation and self-discipline levels, and help you track your achievements. Besides which, re-writing some of these over time also helps not only to reaffirm your goals, but time can also bring new insights as to what the problems may be, and new ideas as to how to tackle them.

So what is it is you need to commit to the written word?


Step I... Your Analysis of the Patterns.
It is more likely than not, that particular circumstances, or people, will pave the way, to a particular sin. If you think about it objectively, all the while asking God to grant you the ability to see clearly, you may very well be able to identify patterns that should help you understand why you sin, and what leads up to that sin.  For example, does a fight with your spouse lead you to reach for the alcohol, or does peer pressure cause you to live beyond your means.

Some of the questions you could ask yourself are

    What are the circumstances that lead up to the sin?

    What thought processes and/or first steps occur before I sin?

    Are there any particular people in who's company I am tempted to sin?

    Are there any particular places in which I am usually tempted?

Write your answers down in each category. Answering these questions truthfully, and realistically, should bring to light any discernible patterns that lead to temptation. Writing them down crystallizes thoughts, and makes it easy to refer to later.

Step II... Your Precise Plans to Break the Patterns
Once you can identify what the patterns are, you can take the necessary steps to defeat them.

Therefore, step two is writing down what you have to do to distance yourself from temptation. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says

    There hath no temptation taken you but such as man can bear: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation make also the way of escape, that ye may be able to endure it.

You need to diligently look for the way of escape, and not be one of those people who repeatedly call on God for the strength to resist temptation, when they have allowed themselves to be surrounded by it. The answer is not to keep asking for strength, but to be obedient to what God has already said, and physically get yourself away from the temptation. For example, if there are particular places or people that tempt you to sin, you need to avoid both at all cost. If your problem is pornography on the internet, you must subscribe to a Christian internet provider, which filters out all porn.

You need to do it today.

The good thing is that every time you resist sin, you build resistance, which makes it easier to say "no" the next time temptation comes your way. You become an example and an encouragement to others who may be facing the same, or similar, problems and temptations you are. Many, of these problems stem from the world around us...


The World
Cultural Contamination
In the Old Testament, the Israelites were warned to stay away from the culture, and practices, of the nations around them.

    And Jehovah spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, I am Jehovah your God. After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do: and after the doings of the land of Canaan, whither I bring you, shall ye not do; neither shall ye walk in their statutes. Mine ordinances shall ye do, and my statutes shall ye keep, to walk therein: I am Jehovah your God. Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and mine ordinances; which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am Jehovah. [Leviticus 18:1-5]

    When thou art come into the land which Jehovah thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations. [Deuteronomy 18:9]

The New Testament authors echoed the thought

    And be not fashioned according to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, and ye may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God. [Romans 12:2]

    Pure religion and undefiled before our God and Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. [James 1:27]

    Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. [1 John 2:15]

Yet, the church has had far less influence on the culture, than the culture has had on the church. As pastor Chuck Baldwin said in a 2005 article ,

    Christianity of old quenched the flames of oppression, lit the fires of freedom, and led two continents out of the darkness of paganism. Today's Christianity is known for bingo games, softball leagues, and milquetoast preachers. Christianity of old toppled the Roman Empire. Today's Christianity cannot even rid the nation of legal abortion. [Details]

People: Today's popular culture promotes the idea that happiness lies in having a wide circle of friends with whom one enjoys the pleasures of life. However, this can only be a positive influence if the people with whom we associate are spiritually minded. It is a well known fact that those we spend the most time with have the most influence on our character, behavior, and decisions. The Scriptures are strewn with warnings about avoiding evil company and associating with those that would lead us into temptation.

    Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the wicked, Nor standeth in the way of sinners, Nor sitteth in the seat of scoffers: But his delight is in the law of Jehovah; And on his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the streams of water, That bringeth forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also doth not wither; And whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. [Psalms 1:1-3]

    Incline not my heart to any evil thing, To practise deeds of wickedness With men that work iniquity: And let me not eat of their dainties. [Psalms 141:4]

    Enter not into the path of the wicked, And walk not in the way of evil men. Avoid it, pass not by it; Turn from it, and pass on. [Proverbs 4:14-15]

    Iron sharpeneth iron; So a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend. [Proverbs 27:17]

    Ye adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore would be a friend of the world maketh himself an enemy of God. [James 4:4]

    Be not deceived: Evil companionships corrupt good morals. [1 Corinthians 15:33]

The instructions are clear... do not even flirt with anything the world has to offer, or even those people who live for it's pleasures.

Places: If there are particular places that tempt you to commit a particular sin, you may be well advised to, as far as possible, avoid these places. Nightclubs, bars, and 'adult' theaters and bookshops, are a common source of temptation. Try not to even drive by these places. However, if your temptation happens at work, or at home, you have to use other methods of avoiding the particular situation that tempts you. Write down how you will resist when tempted.

Entertainment: While it is not necessary to watch, read, or listen to, only things that are overtly Christian, in a society that is increasingly being driven by sex and violence, we need to avoid the pitfall of blindly following the standards of the culture we live in. Just because 'everyone else' is watching questionable movies, reading questionable books, and listening to questionable music, does not make it okay for the Christian to do the same. As a Christian, you have to learn to critically evaluate everything you see, read, or hear, following one guideline which is... whether or not it is pleasing to God.

While it is true, to some extent, that we can filter out the less than desirable parts, whether we realize it or not, repetitive exposure affects us adversely.  For example, in the 21st century, sex is commonly portrayed as nothing but a biological drive. All too often, premarital sex is shown as romantic and wonderful, while the sin of adultery is downplayed. Constant exposure to these messages is very likely to have a detrimental effect, as your thoughts about sex becomes less and less like God's, and more and more like the world. The danger is that it will eventually culminate in one form or another of sexual sin... sexual fantasies, or a real life partner.

Role models. Regardless of the fact that, all too often, famous athletes, Hollywood stars, television personalities, and rock stars, are sad examples of morality and ethics, they are commonly both envied and emulated. Seriously? [See Section on Rock Music]

Unless you too do not care that God has called you to a particular lifestyle... Unless you are unconcerned about compromising both your testimony, and your eternal life, you need to critically evaluate what, and who, influences your way of thinking, how you dress, and how you relate to the world.

Take out a pen and paper and write down some ways in which culture has influenced you more than the Bible has, and who the people are that you may be hero worshipping, and why you should stop. Also write down how exactly how you plan to declare your independence from the world's way of thinking and behaving, as well as the names of people who's example you would like to follow, and why you think you should.

After doing this read your own words. Do they line up with what the Scriptures teach? Would God be pleased with your choices?

While I am sure that much more could be said, and many more examples given, I am sure you get the idea. It is up to you to elaborate on the basic formula on this page, all of which will give you far more control over sin, than vague ideas of 'doing better'.

Also be sure not to forget that transformation comes only with God's help, so pray without stopping throughout the process.


Three Additional Thoughts

Spend your Time On The Right Things.
As asked before, do you fill every moment with endless television shows? Do you have to see almost every movie that comes out? Do the shenanigans of Hollywood stars, and various other celebrities, fascinate you to the point that you cannot wait for the next issue of People Magazine, or to turn on the television to shows like Extra, that do nothing but showcase the trite, the trivial and the superficial.. to say nothing of a usually ungodly, sinful, way of life.

Spending too many hours on entertainment can be very detrimental, both to our physical and spiritual lives.

Some of the potential dangers from secular entertainment are that we can begin to accept a secular picture of the world, accepting the world's values of sex, violence and money. Secular entertainment can affect us to an extreme degree, often to the point of becoming cynical about God and religion. The situations we see in popular media rarely apply to real life, and could result in our becoming dissatisfied with our own lives, possibly including our homes, the cars we drive, our inability to take luxurious vacations, and even our spouses. It is believed by some experts that violence often has its genesis in movies, and video games. See Why Kids Shoot

We were never meant to be spectators, blindly absorbing everything that comes to us from the outside, but were meant to active participants in life. Choosing to do things that are healthy, and beneficial, can be a lot of fun. Therefore, stop watching the endless, and usually inane, so called "Christian television", which all too often has no connection with anything the Bible teaches. Instead, start a serious Bible study program. Stop watching so many sports programming on television and take one up yourself (your body will thank you). Get in shape.. take long walks and join a gym. Learn to play a musical instrument, or take up a hobby. Start your own garden. Do yourself, and your family, a favor and learn (or re-learn) how to cook, avoiding all processed food which is the probably the primary cause of modern society's health problems.

What about donating some of those endless hours spent in front of the television to a worthy cause in your area. Mentor a child, help out at a shelter... Better yet, ask God what He would like you to do. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).

    Also See

    Don’t Waste Your Life It is a tragedy of immense proportions that our culture surpasses itself in magnifying the trivial. Life is not about how many 'friends' you have on Facebook, or whether you have seen Hollywood's latest blockbuster. Oh, that young and old would turn off the television, take a long walk, and dream about feats of courage for a cause ten thousand times more important than American democracy - as precious as that is...

    Do You Believe in Anything Worth Contending For: It's popular today to live a trivial life and to have a trivial worldview. If you want to maintain a trivial worldview, avoid difficulties, and entertain yourself, you can. You can turn on a sitcom. You can play a video game. You can go to an arts and crafts fair. You don't have to take life seriously. If you avoid trying to expose false belief systems for what they are, it's now called "tolerance" and "respect". Taking the path of least resistance has never been so popular.


Learn to Control Your Thoughts
Do not allow yourself to fantasize about sin, or daydream about situations that are sinful. As the Bible says

    Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honorable, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. [Philippians 4:8]

It is a likely that many, if not most, people regard a wanton imagination, and/or sinful thoughts, as being of little consequence, and not forbidden. However, our Savior turned that idea on it's head, telling us that God's laws were just as broken by secret thoughts and desires, as they were by actually committing the sin.

    Ye have heard that it was said, Thou shalt not commit adultery: but I say unto you, that every one that looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. [Matthew 5:27-28]

Linked to this is the problem of masturbation which, in itself, has never been specifically pointed to as a sin, nor explicitly forbidden in the Scriptures. However, if you masturbate, you probably entertain sexual fantasies at the same time. Although masturbation is not a sin, the thoughts that usually accompany it are.

Also, sin doesn't just happen, but begins the process of germination in your mind and emotions.

    Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life (Proverbs 4:23).

    Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup and of the platter, that the outside thereof may become clean also. [Matthew 23:26]

    And he said, That which proceedeth out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, evil thoughts proceed, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, covetings, wickednesses, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, railing, pride, foolishness: all these evil things proceed from within, and defile the man. [Mark 7:20-23]

    but each man is tempted, when he is drawn away by his own lust, and enticed. Then the lust, when it hath conceived, beareth sin: and the sin, when it is fullgrown, bringeth forth death. [James 1:14-15]

    Whence come wars and whence come fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your pleasures that war in your members? [James 4:1]

Again, you need to analyze what is tempting you, and in what circumstances it happens. Also, be aware that it is possible to entertain impure thoughts without even realizing it. As king David once did, ask God to search your heart.

     Search me, O God, and know my heart: Try me, and know my thoughts; And see if there be any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting. [Psalms 139:23-24]

Disciplining your mind may be one of the hardest things you have ever had to do and, I suspect, it will be an uphill slog, but, with God's help you can succeed.

    Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honorable, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. [Philippians 4:8]


Be Accountable
Do not underestimate the usefulness of accountability, which can be a huge help in overcoming stubborn sins. Another Christian, or a small group of believers, who will both listen and talk to you, encourage or rebuke you, and pray with you, is perhaps one of the most valuable resources in our war to conquer sin. Like-minded believers can greatly help, encourage and motivate one another, which was probably one of the reasons Jesus did not send the disciples out by themselves, but in pairs.

    And he calleth unto him the twelve, and began to send them forth by two and two; and he gave them authority over the unclean spirits [Mark 6:7]

The book of Ecclesiastes says there is strength in numbers (4:11-12), and Proverbs 27:17 tells us that one mind can sharpen the other.

    Iron sharpeneth iron; So a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

which the author of Hebrews elaborates on ...

    and let us consider one another to provoke unto love and good works; not forsaking our own assembling together, as the custom of some is, but exhorting one another; and so much the more, as ye see the day drawing nigh. [Hebrews 10:24-25]

Sometimes victory over sin comes quickly, sometimes it takes a little longer. The first few weeks are the hardest, but, believe it or not, it gradually gets easier. Perhaps the situation can be likened to those who have quit smoking, many of whom report that the urge to light up comes every so often, even years after they quit. But it is not as strong an urge, and can be overcome.

Perseverance, and ample use of the resources He has given us are both essential.


The Devil
Armour of God
Paul's words in the book of Ephesians are, doubtless, very familiar to most Christians.

    Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Wherefore take up the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and, having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; withal taking up the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: with all prayer and supplication praying at all seasons in the Spirit, and watching thereunto in all perseverance and supplication for all the saints, [Ephesians 6:10-18]

While these verses have probably given children in Sunday School much to do, cutting up bits of cardboard to make suits of armour, they are meant to be taken very seriously. However, the interpretation of, and reaction to, these verses seem to be at opposite ends of the spectrum.

On the one hand, although most believers will give intellectual assent to the fact that there is a war going on, most seem not to have actually grasped the idea that it is being fought in our very midst. Perhaps because they do not hear the trumpeters call to battle, the clang of steel against steel, or the sound of horses hooves (or, if you prefer, the whine of fighter jets overhead). Perhaps because they have not seen the ground turn red, as fatally wounded bodies fall, or heard men gasping their last, they do not realize that the battle we are in is far more deadly, in part, because it is being conducted with silent, ruthless, efficiency. And, although the stakes are higher, the number of casualties too numerous to be counted, and the blood flowing just the same, many who may give intellectual assent to being 'in the battle', do not understand how it is being fought, how Satan works, the strategies he uses, or the weapons God has provided for our defense.

Then, on the other hand, Paul's words have also given rise to the concept of aggressive 'spiritual warfare', in which Christians are seen as an offensive army, marching across the land, slaying demons left, right, and center, with "the sword of the spirit".

However, in order for us to understand what exactly Paul meant by the various parts of the armour of God he was exhorting his readers to don, we have to remember that these words, like all other Biblical verses, do not stand-alone, but were written as part of a message... in this case, a letter to an early church. And, the fact that these verses occurred near the end of the letter, does not mean that they were tagged on as an afterthought, but were the culmination of that particular message. In short, we have to look at how these verses fit into the rest of Ephesians, which will also give us a more clear picture of the battle we are presently engaged in. [As usual Context Is Crucial [DETAILS]


The Book of Ephesians
is not a very long book, consisting of just six chapters, apparently not written to solve problems, deal with personal issues, or even teach. Unlike Romans, where the 'case for Christianity' is gradually developed, Paul, in Ephesians, does not expand on any of the terms he uses, nor does he defend any theological concepts. In other words, Ephesians was a very general letter, written to a church that, obviously, already had a good understanding of faith and salvation.

Ephesians can be roughly divided down the middle. The first three chapters of the book are doctrinal, devoted to a gradual unfolding of God's plan. In them, Paul outlined the basic facts of the gospel, telling them that believing Jews and Gentiles now had redemption and the forgiveness of sins, and had obtained a new life and inheritance in Christ. However, that new life brought responsibility. Paul, in the next three chapters, exhorted believers to walk worthy of their vocation, touching on various areas to which the Gospel was to be applied, such as marriage, the relationship between children and parents, and between slave and master.

It is only after all this, that Paul comes to the 'armour verses', winding up the letter by telling the Ephesians that because they lived in a hostile environment, surrounded by numerous scheming, and powerful, foes they should be strong in the Lord, and be aware of the weapons they had been given to stand against these spiritual forces of evil. In his words they needed to...

    Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. [Ephesians 6:11-12]                                                  

However, a good understanding of why believers are so opposed by the forces of evil, comes from a close reading of chapter two. In a study of the spiritual warfare in Ephesians 6:10-20, Bob Deffinbaugh says this

    Chapter 2 provides a significant reason for the spiritual war. As unbelievers, we were under the power and control of Satan, even though we did not know it. But when we came to faith in Christ by His grace, we were delivered from his "kingdom of darkness" and made citizens in the "kingdom of light." Our salvation caused us no longer to be the enemies of God, but at the same time resulted in us becoming the enemies of Satan. No wonder he so aggressively attacks Christians. They were once his subjects. [12]

The rulers of the kingdom we used to belong to are not going to allow us to relinquish our citizenship without a fight, and they will use any, and all, means at their disposal to ensure that we do not do so.

Many people see the parts of armour as some kind of coded checklist, we have to refer to before battle. However, it is extremely unlikely that we were meant to decipher and analyse every detail, especially since some of what Paul says was paraphrased from the book of Isaiah, which speaks of the Redeemer as being a figure clad in armour [Isaiah 59:17] ...

    And he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore his own arm brought salvation unto him; and his righteousness, it upheld him. And he put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation upon his head; and he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a mantle. [Isaiah 59:16-17]

In the verses above, there seems to be absolutely no particular reason why Isaiah should refer to salvation as a helmet, or righteousness as a breastplate. We gain absolutely nothing by trying to spiritualize, or even explain them. Therefore, it is more than likely that Paul was simply highlighting the weapons we will need to survive deadly spiritual battles. He first emphasizes that in battling the world, the flesh, and the devil, we need God's strength. Verse 10 says: “be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power”. Then he urges us, that in order to withstand in the evil day, we have to take up the whole armor of God.

Read Ephesians 6:14-18 again, noting that, according to Vincent's Word Studies, the Greek word translated preparation, was sometimes used in the sense of a firm foundation, which certainly makes sense... [Emphasis Added]

    [14] Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, [15] and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; [16] withal taking up the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery 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] with all prayer and supplication praying at all seasons in the Spirit, and watching thereunto in all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.

In other words, we must have

     Truth,
     Righteousness,
     A Firm Foundation In The Gospel,
     Faith,
     Salvation,
     The Word,
     Prayer

Every section of the armour is connected with the gospel, and the lifestyle demanded by the Gospel. We do not need to have a string of letters after our names, have amazing spiritual experiences, or witness extraordinary signs and wonders. We have to be well grounded in the Word of God, have faith in what it says, and live a righteous lifestyle.

It's as simple as that.

However, there is one last point to be noted, which is, virtually all the weapons mentioned are defensive weapons. In fact, Paul emphasizes that we put on the full armour of God so that we [Emphasis Added]

    may be able to withstand in the evil day, and, having done all, to stand. [Ephesians 6:13]

Why is this largely a defensive war? Why does Paul tell us to stand? the answer is because we already occupy the high ground, which was won for us on a hill outside Jerusalem some 2000 years ago. The victory is ours, through our Lord Jesus Christ, but we are not home free. We have to hold on to what He has given us. Unless we are well grounded in the Word of God, have faith in what it says, and obey it by living a righteous lifestyle, the enemy will accomplish what he has always endeavored to do... undermine the ground under our very feet.

In short, unless we know, and live, the Gospel, we do not stand a chance of survival.

Finally, verse 18 says [Emphasis Added]

    with all prayer and supplication praying at all seasons in the Spirit, and watching thereunto in all perseverance and supplication for all the saints, [Ephesians 6:18]

Prayer was not strictly included in the armour verses, but all the armour in the world would be ineffective without the help of Him who can keep us. Therefore constant persevering prayer in all situations is necessary. As Bible commentator, Alfred Barnes, once said..

     No matter how complete the armor; no matter how skilled we may be in the science of war; no matter how courageous we may be, we may be certain that without prayer we shall be defeated. God alone can give the victory; and when the Christian soldier goes forth armed completely for the spiritual conflict, if he looks to God by prayer, he may be sure of a triumph. This prayer is not to be intermittent. It is to be always. In every temptation and spiritual conflict we are to pray;


Three Words of Caution
Do Not Think You, Have "Arrived"

Human beings seem to have this tendency to let swing the pendulum too far in one direction or the other, with both extremes the realm of dangerous, if not fatal traps.

On the one side is the liberal Christian who believes that he is saved regardless of his lifestyle and behavior, and, on the opposite end, is the doctrine of sinless perfection that the normal human being can never hope to achieve, strive as they might. Some even believe that unless a Christian is free from all sin, he is no Christian at all.

This inability to meet an impossibly high (and artificial) standard, can, and has, led to people doubting their very salvation. They go through so many episodes of self condemnation, that their assurance and faith in the finished work of Christ on the Cross, is terribly shaken. What is most important is that the Word of God disagrees...

    If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. [1 John 1:8-10]

What is also forgotten is that in one of Jesus' parables He made the point that the publican who realized he was a sinner, and humbly asked for mercy, was justified. But the Pharisee who claimed perfection was not.

    And he spake also this parable unto certain who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and set all others at nought: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as the rest of men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week; I give tithes of all that I get. But the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote his breast, saying, God, be thou merciful to me a sinner. I say unto you, This man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be humbled; but he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. [Luke 18:9-14]

Anyone who thinks he is a good candidate for a halo, should pay close heed to Paul's words in the following verse, in which he asserts that he did not regard himself as a perfect man. He had not reached the state of being free from sin, but, he was pressing on towards the goal. [Also See Romans 7:14-25]

    Not that I have already obtained, or am already made perfect (teleioo): but I press on, if so be that I may lay hold on that for which also I was laid hold on by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself yet to have laid hold: but one thing I do, forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before, I press on toward the goal unto the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as are perfect (teleios), be thus minded: and if in anything ye are otherwise minded, this also shall God reveal unto you: [Philippians 3:12-15]

If Paul, author of two thirds of the New Testament did not consider himself complete or perfect, then how can we?

Like Paul, the apostle John, did not pretend to a degree of holiness he did not possess. Although he must have been quite old when he penned this letter, he used the word "we" in his epistle to Christians, not excluding himself from the ranks of those that were not quite there yet.

    If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. [1 John 1:8-10]

In other words, while none of us can say that we are not guilty of feelings, thoughts, words, or deeds, which fall short of the standards of God's perfection, we have to realize that perfection is not instantaneously granted to believers on conversion, but is a goal which Christians are expected to strive towards. They do not willfully continue in any known form of sin, but confess it, then turn away from it, trusting the grace of God for help and power to overcome. [See Repentance] Also there are plenty of other believers who face the same struggles we do.


Do Not Assume Someone is Holy Because Of What They Do, Or The Position They Hold:
To quote pastor Bob Deffinbaugh once more...

    Positional holiness is that holiness which is supposed to accompany a certain office or position. For example, the Jews of Jesus’ day would have assumed that a priest (and especially the high priest) was holy. Today, some people assume that because a person is an elder, or a preacher, or a priest, he is holy. This is not necessarily the case at all. In fact, we should be reminded that such positions are strategic targets for Satan's agents:

      But what I am doing, I will continue to do, that I may cut off opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the matter about which they are boasting. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their deeds (2 Cor. 11:12-15; cf. also 2 Pet. 2).

     Holiness has nothing to do with one's occupation (unless, of course, it is intrinsically an immoral task), but rather with one's obedience to the commands of God in daily living. [13]

Just as the scribes and Pharisees did not even recognize the "Holy One of Israel”, and made a hash of interpreting the Old Testament laws, we cannot assume that anyone is holy, correct in how they interpret the Scriptures, and or even know what they are talking about. This regardless of what position they hold, what degrees they have, where they attended seminary, the size of their church/following, how many books they have written, or how many Tv shows they have appeared on.

Also See The First Most Dangerous Mistake Any Christian Can Make ...Believe that WE Or OUR Pastor or Denomination Cannot be Fooled

Do Not Look Back

    "It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace" [Hebrews 6:4-6]

    If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud” [2 Peter 2:20-22].

     

End Notes

[12] Bob Deffinbaugh. Spiritual Warfare (Ephesians 6:10-20) http://bible.org/seriespage/spiritual-warfare-ephesians-610-20

[13] Bob Deffinbaugh. How to Spell 'Holy' (Leviticus 19:1-37) http://bible.org/seriespage/how-spell-holy-leviticus-191-37

 

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