Our first parents enjoyed a mental terrain untouched by darkness, a pristine garden landscape, no sin nature to war against, no dysfunctional childhood to heal from. Only three humans have ever experienced such a phenomenon, the third of course being the God-Man, Christ Jesus, yet none were exempt from the barrage of mental warfare that we all face. The arena for Christ was a barren wilderness with zero creature comforts, after having fasted for forty days, while Adam and Eve were living in the lap of luxury, even taking walks with God, undoubtedly engaged in pure, rich conversation. I can’t imagine them being dissatisfied with their life in God’s garden, mental warfare an unknown experience, but isn’t it true that dark allurements often defy rational thought and logic? Hence the oft stated refrain of the prodigal after returning home, “What in the world was I thinking”?
Simply stated, the field of play when it comes to mental warfare is often this: demon inspired – humanly stewarded. Thoughts are continually brought to the entryway of our minds and we are each tasked to manage (steward) these thoughts. Christian or not, we all face mental warfare, the devil and his minions seeking to draw as many as possible away from God and to infringe upon the growth and transformation of believers. The venues may include: social media (movies, TV, interactive social networks), oppressive people in your current or past life (family, classmates, co-workers) , and the encyclopedia of opinion that’s been archived over the years – a massive reference work at the core of one’s being, a running commentary, laced with inaccuracy, from which we derive our identity. New thoughts at the front door of “today” are often chorused by the many voices of “yesteryear.”
Here is a great summation of two divergent inspirations. “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” Eph. 2:1-6
We are swayed by the influence of an oppressive culture (the ways of this world), our sin nature (cravings of our flesh), and behind the scenes, a diabolical system in operation for centuries, unseen to the natural eye, directed by the devil himself. Thankfully, a higher inspiration is acquired when one is made alive with Christ. The contested planet on which we dwell, mandates that we be armed for battle. “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Eph. 6:11-12
Here is another great summation, of two kinds of wisdom. “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” Jas. 3:13-17
Earthly, unspiritual, and demonic, have a way of being dissolved together in an alliance of sorts, a grim band of influencers capable of producing a confusing mental traffic jam. The irony is, that Adam and Eve thought they were somehow making a “wise” choice, based on the serpent’s line of reasoning. Christian counselors work long hours trying to assist people in unraveling life’s issues due to the success of “the devil’s schemes.” Let’s be careful though, to not be “storm chasers” or “ghostbusters!” We are called to be disciples, not detectives. I’m not focused on evicting darkness as much as I am on securing more light for my inner man. I picture God’s Word as a light filter for my thought life. (more on the light filter next week)
“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Eph. 4:22-24 It is not a matter of refurbishing our former nature (old self), but a matter of being made entirely new; old mental strongholds dismantled and new ones constructed. Dark thoughts require a dark place to thrive in, thus the entrance of light is the death knell to darkness. There’s a line from an old Western movie, “This town ain’t big enough for the both of us.” Am I called out into the street for a gunfight with darkness, every single day? To one degree or another, yes. It’s just life on the planet, for now. The good news is, we all have access to the light that triumphs over darkness, and the badge of authority to marshal the forces of darkness out of our lives.