Know your enemy
By Robert C. Crosby
Are we at peace or are we at war? What difference does it make?
The difference between sleeping and waking. When you know you are in
a war, your adrenaline flows. You are passionate. You willingly make
sacrifices. You dont expect or demand constant comfort, security,
enjoyment and entertainment. Each days tasks become a spy mission,
an assignment from our Commander.
The one thing life never is in battle is the very thing it is for
the modern world: boring. 1
There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can
fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The
other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest
in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors, and hail
a materialist or a magician with the same delight.
The Screwtape Letters
The warning was clear, but overlooked. The Opana Radar Station of the
United States 55th Signal Aircraft Warning Service near Hawaiis
Kahuku Point detected a large mass of incoming aircraft at 136 miles.
The airmen on duty, however, were advised by higher-ups at Information
Center not to be concerned. "Its nothing worth worrying about.
Theyre probably just U.S. supply planes due from the mainland,"
the leaders said. At this point in history, radar was a new technology
and wasnt entirely trusted.
The day was December 7, 1941, and the approaching aircraft turned out
to be the vanguard of Japans "wild eagles" 353 carrier-based
warplanes that were about to sink and heavily damage 18 U.S. warships
in Pearl Harbor and kill 2,403 men.
Somewhere up the chain of command in Hawaii an individual leader made
a hasty decision. A speck of uncertainty appeared on a fuzzy radar screen.
Instead of sending pilots to check the aircraft out and identify them,
he assumed that it was "nothing worth worrying about." That little "speck"
of snow on a screen in truth revealed a group of planes that was poised
to wreak havoc on lives and scorch the soul of a nation. The warning
was right under their noses, but they chose to ignore it.
I wonder how often Christians do the same?
We overlook the work of the enemy of our souls harboring bitterness,
putting off prayer, neglecting Bible study, missing church, gossiping,
holding grudges, lusting after the worlds enticements, denying
feelings of conviction and clinging to modern-day idols. Satan and our
own sin natures have a way of helping us "justify" those sins and, as
we do, the enemys hold on our lives increases. How easy it becomes
to overlook the "blip" of conviction on our radar screens, to discount
or deny it.
When we become Christians, God begins a work in our lives calculated
to conform us to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29). You
might say He starts to "bring the glory out" in us, to create a change
in our person and character by the work of His Holy Spirit. At the same
time, however, the enemy of our souls begins a work of repeated attacks
calculated to slow down and hinder this process of growth in Christ.
Immediately, our former peaceful coexistence with the forces of evil
ends and we enter the arena of spiritual conflict.
Actually, the Bible tells us we have three enemies the world,
the flesh and the devil. R.C. Sproul says the world can be described
as the fallen "planet," the flesh as fallen "man," and the devil as
the fallen "angel."
The enemy the Bible refers to as the "world" is not referring to mankind,
per se. We know that God loves lost humanity. Rather, it refers to the
fallen culture around us that pulls us like a magnet away from Gods
will and standards. The world system calls us to worship the creation
and not the Creator. The "world" in this sense is not the world of the
creation, but the world of the fall.
The "flesh" in this context is not speaking of the body or skin. It
is, rather, the falleness of our souls. Peter Kreeft writes: "The flesh
is not the body as such but the addictive, selfish, bodily desires of
fallen man; not sex, but lust; not money, but greed; not self, but selfishness."
(Making Choices). 2
And, the "devil" is not some red man with horns and a pitchfork. He
is the fallen angel, the spirit force hard at work with a passion to
subvert the work of God wherever he can and in whatever life he can.
Wise is the Christian who knows enough about this enemy to avoid his
traps and resist his attacks.
Jesus informed His disciples of the enemys mission: "The thief
comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may
have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10, NIV). Jesus made it
clear that His aims and the thiefs are antithetical, completely
at odds with one another. In short: Jesus gives life; Satan is out to
Clearly, one of Satans most effective ploys is to convince us
that he doesnt exist or that he poses no threat to us. Dr. Richard
Halverson, former U.S. Senate chaplain once said: "Satan is the first
to promote a mans disbelief. He deliberately arranges the evidence
to prove his nonexistence. This is his tactical masterpiece. He convinces
people that he isnt. How better to put man off guard than to persuade
him that belief in a personal devil is an infantile concept?"
However, his existence is real. He is alive and active. On one occasion
Jesus warned Peter that Satan desired to "sift you as wheat" (Luke 22:31).
Many years later, and after several "siftings," Peter wisely warns others,
"Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like
a roaring lion looking for someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8).
But, where did Satan come from? The Old Testament informs us that he,
at one time, was one of the most attractive, powerful and wise of all
the angels. Compelled by his pride, he sinned against God and was removed
from his position of authority (Isaiah 14:12-14 and Ezekiel 28:14-19).
Paul described him as one who appears as an "angel of light" (2 Corinthians
11:14). His strategies are often cloaked and subtle.
In a world that is often obsessed with curiosity over evil, be it the
occult or the latest horror movie, the question emerges: What is Satan
like? J.I. Packer, noted Bible scholar, says, "The Scriptures picture
Satan as the absolute opposite of God
Satan and his evil spirits
[demons] are unimaginably evil, more cruel, more malicious, more perverted,
more destructive, more disgustingly filthy, more despicable than anything
our minds can conceive."3
What does Satan want? If you look at what he wanted out of Jesus when
he tempted our Lord in the desert, you will find that it was ultimately
worship (Matthew 4:9). The devil also wants to keep people from understanding
and receiving the good news of forgiveness through Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians
4:3,4). He wants to attack and corrupt Gods people by tempting
them to compromise their lives and motives (Acts 5:1-11). Oswald Chambers
zeroed in on it when he said that Satan does not want to strike you;
he wants to strike at "the life of Christ within you."
Battle in the Garden
Consider the tactics employed by Satan as he tried to strike at
the life of God within Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:1-7) as he tempted them
in the Garden. There are a few lessons that emerge in that struggle
that can help us in ours:
Our enemy tries to loosen the roots of our faith (3:1). Satan second-guessed
God in his dialogue with Eve, challenging the true meaning of Gods
Word and His commands. On that day his question was, "Did God really
say, You must not eat from any tree in the garden? " Satan
wanted to loosen Eves focus on the Word and to fascinate her with
the world. He presumed to call into question the Word of God. He still
Satan works to attract us to something sinful (3:5). The enemy worked
to entice Eve to want something that was outside of Gods will
for her. Satan lured her in by saying, "God knows that when you eat
of [this fruit] your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God,
knowing good and evil." Satans strategy is to compel the flesh
within us by making pleasant to the eyes that which is poisonous to
The devil uses a half-truth (3:5). The statement that Eve would know
good and evil was true, but not the whole truth. The consequence was
that she would die spiritually but Satan, of course, did not
tell her that. With every temptation Satan brings a subtle promise.
He offers temporary fulfillment of the fleshs desires, but sin
leaves the casualties of emptiness, shame and guilt.
Defeating the three enemies
Now that we recognize the three enemies of our souls, the question
emerges: How do we defeat them? Defeating the three enemies requires
three different strategies. The Bible specifically prescribes each one.
We defeat the enemy called "the world" by "overcoming it" (1 John 5:4).
That does not require isolation from the world, but rather it calls
for consecration to God. In other words, even though our bodies are
in the world, our hearts are to be given to God. John said, "Do not
love the world or anything in the world" (1 John 2:15). James 4 says,
"Dont you realize that friendship with this world makes you an
enemy of God? I say it again, that if your aim is to enjoy this world,
you cant be a friend of God" (v.4, New Living Translation, emphasis
The Bible clearly tells us we must "master" our flesh. We must govern
it and not let it govern us. Like the taming of a wild stallion, discipline
is the key. When Cains heart was beating with a desire to murder
his brother, Abel, God warned him this way: "
sin is crouching
at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it"
(Genesis 4:7, NIV, emphasis mine). In Cains temptation the "radar
signal" was clear, though unheeded.
Finally, the devil himself must be dealt with differently. Only God
can "deliver us from evil." We need the Holy Spirits power, the
Word of God (Jesus weapon of choice in Matthew 4), our testimony
(the story of Gods work in our lives; Revelation 12:11) and the
power of Christs shed blood. And, James instructs us to "resist"
the devil steadfastly and promises that "he will flee from you" (4:7).
Too little, too late
Five hours after the Japanese had successfully launched a surprise
air strike on the U.S. bases in Hawaii in 1941, the U.S. Army and Navy
commanders there received a message sent through commercial channels.
It was from Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall, in Washington,
advising the island defense forces they should be on the alert.
The first radar warning came in time; unfortunately, our nations
response did not. The results were devastating.
How does the spiritual radar look in and around your life today? What
in the "world" is drawing you away from your devotion to Christ? What
temptation is pulling the most at your "flesh"? In what ways is the
"devil" trying to trip you up and strike at the "life of Christ" within
you? Most importantly, are you acknowledging the warning signals showing
up on your conscience or ignoring them? On a spiritual level, are you
alert or asleep? These are the arenas in which spiritual battles are
won or lost.
1 Peter Kreeft, The Good War (Christianity Today, August 20,
3 As quoted in Combat Strategy for Spiritual Warfare by Rod Sargent
(Discipleship Journal, Issue 002).
Robert C. Crosby is pastor of Mount Hope Christian
Center in Burlington, Mass., and author of several books including Living
Life From the Soul (Bethany House Publishers).