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Peace with God, by Billy Graham, Chapter 14

Peace with God, Chapter 14: Enemies of the Christian
by Billy Graham

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. {Ephesians 6:12}
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NOW that you have made your decision — now that you have been born again — now that you have been converted — now that you have been justified — now that you are a child of God — what next? Is that all there is to it? Just one moment of decision and then it is all over? “Do I have any more responsibilities?” you ask.

    Ah, yes, you have just begun the Christian life. You have just been born into a new world — the spiritual world. Everything is brand new. You are actually a spiritual baby. You need tenderness, love, care, nurture. You need to be fed. You need protection. That is one of the reasons why Christ established the church. It is nearly impossible to live the Christian life alone. Most of us need help and fellowship.

    The newborn Christian is like a newborn baby in his need for love. While revising this book my wife and I took an island vacation with our oldest daughter, her husband, and their seventh child, little three-month-old Anthony — our sixteenth grandchild. In the week we were together he cried only twice. Why? He was surrounded by tenderness, love, care nurture. All he did was eat, sleep, and smile. Ideally, at the outset of their spiritual

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experience, “baby” Christians need this kind of nurture, but unfortunately our world is not geared to that kind of beginning for the Christian life. The church is the place where that beginning takes place, in the plan and purpose of God.

    Possibly you have already found that you have enemies. These are dangerous, vicious enemies who will use any method to defeat you in your Christian life. Within minutes after you made your decision you found these enemies already at work: either you were tempted to commit some sin, or you had a moment of depression and discouragement. To be sure, everything is exciting and thrilling just after you have made your decision for Christ! But it is also natural to have doubts, problems, questions, temptations, discouragements, and even difficulties.

    The Bible teaches that you have three enemies which will be warring against you as long as you live. You must be prepared. They must be warded off.

    First, let’s look at these enemies whom we must face. Let’s unmask them and see what they are, and who they are, and how they operate.

The Devil  

    First — the devil. We have already seen that the devil is a mighty being who opposes God and tempts God’s people. We have found that even though he was beaten at the cross by Christ he still has power to influence men for evil. The Bible calls him “the wicked one,” “the devil,” “a murderer,” “a liar, and the father of lies,” “an adversary” who seeks to devour, “that old serpent and “accuser of our brethren” (Matthew 13:19; Luke 4:33; John 8:44; 1 Peter 5:8; Revelation 12:9-10).

    The moment you made your decision for Christ Satan suffered a tremendous defeat. He is angry now. From now on he is going to tempt you and try to lead you into sin. Don’t be alarmed. He cannot rob you of your salvation, and he need not rob you of your assurance and victory. He will do everything in his power to sow seeds of doubt in your mind as to whether your conversion is a reality or not. You cannot argue with him for he is the greatest debater of all time.

    The moment of test has come with the first temptation. Remember to refuse any reliance upon your feelings; they will change

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like a weather vane in a whirlwind. His next approach probably will be to make you feel proud and important — to make you confident of your own powers, ambitions, desires, and aims. On another occasion he will put hatred in your heart. He will tempt you to say unkind and ungenerous things about others. He will put envy, discontent, and malice in your heart. Then on another occasion he will tempt you to lie, and you could easily find yourself being a hypocrite. Lying is one of the worst of all sins and can be committed by a thought, word, or deed. Anything that is intended to deceive another person is lying. The devil will do his best to make a liar of you. He also will try to get you to work for him to tempt others to sin — to try to lead other Christian friends astray. If you are not careful you will find yourself actually in the employ of the devil. He is powerful, slick, crafty, wily, and subtle. He is called the “god of this world,” “the prince of this world,” “the prince and power of the air” (2 Corinthians 4:4; John 12:31; Ephesians 2:2).

    The devil will try to discourage you, to divert you; he will seek to dilute your testimony; he will attempt anything to destroy your relationship to Christ and your influence upon others.

    You ask “How can I overcome him? What can I do? Which way can I turn? Is there any escape?”

    “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way of escape so that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

    Years ago I heard my friend J. Edwin Orr compare the Christian attacked by Satan to a mouse being attacked by a housewife wielding a broom. The mouse does not sit there contemplating the housewife or the broom, he is busy looking for a hole — a way to escape. So we Christians under satanic attack should look for our “way of escape.”

    God says in this verse that He has made a way of escape. Now remember this: temptation of the devil is not a sign that your life is not right with God. It is actually a sign that you are right with God. Temptation is not sin. Also remember that God never tempts His own children. He never causes His children to doubt. All doubts and temptations come from the devil. Remember also that Satan can only tempt. He can never compel

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you to yield to the temptation. Remember also that Satan has already been conquered by Christ. His power is made inoperative in the life of a fully trusting and yielded Christian who is completely dependent upon God.

    The poet put it this way:

The devil trembles when he sees
  the weakest saint upon his knees.

To say that Satan will be defeated when we read or quote Scripture and will run like a scalded dog when we resist him is an oversimplification. But we can depend upon the blood of Christ when we are under attack. There are times when we simply must hide behind the Person of Christ and ask Him to handle our problems. Jude says, “Yet Michael the archangel, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, The Lord rebuke you” (v. 9). That’s what we need to do — call upon God.

    Now the Bible says that we are to “resist the devil and he will flee” from us (James 4:7). But before that, God says “Submit yourselves. . . to God.” If you have fully submitted, one hundred percent yielded and surrendered yourself to Christ, then you can “resist the devil,” and the Bible promises he will flee from you. The devil will tremble when you pray. He will be defeated when you quote or read a passage of Scripture to him, and will leave you when you resist him.

The World    

    Your second enemy is the world. The world means the cosmos, this world system. The world has a tendency to lead us into sin — evil companions, pleasures, fashions, opinions, and aims.

    You will find in your born-again experience that your pleasures have been lifted into an entirely new and glorious realm. Many non-Christians have accused the Christian life as being a set of rules, taboos, vetos, and prohibitions. This is another lie of the devil. It is not a series of “don’ts,” but a series of “dos.” You become so busy in the work of Christ and so completely satisfied with the things of Christ that you do not have time for the things of the world.

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    Suppose someone should offer me a hamburger after I had eaten a T-bone steak. I would say, “No, thank you, I am already satisfied.”

    Young Christian, that is the secret. You are so filled with the things of Christ, so enamored of the things of God, that you do not have time or taste for sinful pleasures of this world. The Bible says, “the full soul loaths a honeycomb; but to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet” (Proverbs 27:7).

    Worldliness, however, has been vastly misunderstood on the part of thousands of Christians. It needs a little clarification. It is probably one of the greatest difficulties that meets a young and inexperienced Christian.

    Dr. W. H. Griffith Thomas has said. “There are certain elements of daily life which are not sinful in themselves, but which have a tendency to lead to sin if they are abused. Abuse literally means extreme use, and in many instances overuse of things lawful becomes sin. Pleasure is lawful in use but unlawful in its overuse. Ambition is an essential part of true character, but it must be fixed on lawful objects and exercised in proper proportion. Our daily occupation, reading, dress, friendships and other similar phases of life are all legitimate and necessary, but can easily become illegitimate, unnecessary and harmful. Thought about the necessities of life is absolutely essential, but this can easily degenerate into anxiety, and then as Christ reminds us in the parable, the cares of this life choke the spiritual seed in the heart. Making of money is necessary for daily living, but money-making is apt to degenerate into money-loving and then the deceitfulness of riches enters into and spoils our spiritual life. Worldliness is thus not confined to any particular rank, walk, or circumstance of life so that we cannot separate this class from that and call one worldly and the other unworldly . . . one spiritual and the other unspiritual. Worldliness is a spirit, an atmosphere, an influence permeating the whole of life and human society, and it needs to be guarded against constantly and strenuously.”

    The Bible says, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world” (1 John 2:15). The Bible also warns that the world and the “lust thereof” shall pass away, “but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:17).

    However, under certain conditions these can become perplexing problems in our modern-day living. Many young people come

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to me and ask, “Is this wrong?” or “Is that wrong?” “Is this sinful?” or “Is that sinful?” One simple question, earnestly and prayerfully asked, will settle about ninety percent of your problems along this line. Just ask this question to yourself every time, “What would Christ have me to do?” Another question you can ask is, “Can I ask His blessing upon this particular thing for me?” “What would Christ think about my amusements, recreation, books, companions, and television programs?” “Could I ask Christ to go along with me to this particular event?” Being omnipotent, He’ll be there anyway. The point is, should you?

    It does not mean that in society we are snobs or have a superiority complex. Lest we be in danger of spiritual pride — which would be far worse than any worldliness. But today there are so many professing Christians who are walking hand in hand with the world that you cannot tell the difference between the Christian and the unbeliever. This should never be.

    The Christian should stand out like a sparkling diamond against a rough background. He should be more wholesome than anyone else. He should be poised, cultured, courteous, gracious, but firm in the things that he does and does not do. He should laugh and be radiant, but he should refuse to allow the world to pull him down to its level.

    The Bible says that “whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Romans 14:23), and the Bible again says that he who doubts is condemned if he does it. In other words, we are never to do anything of which we are not perfectly clear and certain. If you have a doubt about that particular thing that is bothering you, as to whether it is worldly or not, the best policy is “don’t do it.”

The Flesh

    The third enemy that you will face immediately is the lust of the flesh. The flesh is that evil tendency of your inward self. Even after you are converted, sometimes your old, sinful cravings will return. You become startled and wonder where they come from. The Bible teaches that the old nature, with all its corruption, is still there and that these evil temptations come from nowhere else. In other words, “a traitor is living within.” “That wretched bent toward sin is ever present to drag you down.” War has

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been declared! You now have two natures in conflict, and each one is striving for dominance.

    The Bible teaches “the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh” (Galatians 5:17). It is the battle of the self-life and the Christ-life. This old nature cannot please God. It cannot be converted, or even patched up. Thank God, when Jesus died He took you with Him, and the old nature can be made inoperative and you can “consider yourselves to be dead unto sin” (Romans 6:11). This is done by faith.

    However, you must distinguish very carefully again between use and abuse — between that which is lawful and that which is unlawful. Some of these things that will be cropping up may be sinful lusts, or they may not be.

    As Dr. W. H. Griffith Thomas says, “The original meaning of the word lust is ‘strong desire’ and not necessarily a sinful desire, since there are certain desires of our physical nature — such as hunger and thirst — which we have in common with the animal world and which, in themselves, are natural and not sinful. It is only their abuse that is evil. Hunger is natural lust. Gluttony is a sinful lust. Thirst is a natural lust. Intemperance is a sinful lust. Sloth should not be confused with exhaustion or illness. Marriage is according to the will of God and the dictates of human nature, physical, mental and social. Adultery is a sin and is opposed to the will of God and to all that is pure in body, mind and heart. But there are other lusts of the flesh which are sensually and inherently sinful. Such as, for instance, the desire to gratify at all cost our hatred and revenge. We must, therefore, distinguish carefully between the lust which is simply a strong desire, and the same lust as a sinful desire. Sins of the flesh are in some respects the most terrible of all because they represent the yearnings of the nature to do evil. Neither the devil nor the world, nor even our own evil heart can compel us to sin. It must be by our consent and will and it is at this point that our evil nature comes in with its awful power and possibility of evil.”

    Paul said he had no confidence in the flesh. On another occasion he said, “I make no provision for the flesh” (Romans 13:14). On another occasion he said, “I pummel my body and subdue it” (1 Corinthians 9:27).

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We are so to re-yield and re-surrender ourselves to God that we can, by faith, reckon the old nature dead indeed unto sin.

Fighting Our Foes

    These then, are our three foes: the devil, the world, and the flesh. Our attitude toward them as Christians can be summed up in one word — renounce. There can be no bargaining, compromise, or hesitation. Abiding in Christ, as taught in John 15, is the only possible course for the Christian who has to be “in” the world but does not want to be “of” it. Someone has said that the apostle Paul was dealing with this dilemma when he wrote to the Ephesians, “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ . . . to the saints . . . at Ephesus and to the faithful in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 1:1). Ephesus was their business address, but “in Christ” was their home address! In relation to the devil, we resist him only as we submit ourselves to God. In relation to the world, the Bible says, “This is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4). In relation to the flesh, the Bible says, “Walk in the Spirit, and you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).

    Here is glorious news to you who have already been fighting these battles and temptations. You are not asked to fight the battle alone. The Bible says in Romans 8:13 that you, by the Spirit, shall put to death the deeds of the body. Remember, Jesus promised that He would never leave us, or forsake us. Remember Jesus promised us that after He left the earth He would send Another — the Third Person of the Trinity — the Holy Spirit, who is called a Comforter (which actually means “one who comes alongside to help”) that He may abide with us forever (John 14:16). Jesus said, “I am not going to leave you alone. I will come to you in the person of the Holy Spirit.” Jesus is the vine and believers are the branches is the way Jesus put it (see John 15).

    The Holy Spirit is the most powerful Being in the world today. The time of the Old Testament was an age of God the Father. During the time that Jesus was on earth it was an age of God the Son. Now we are living, since Pentecost, in the age of God the Holy Spirit. The Bible says, “Be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18)

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which reads literally, “Be being filled . . . .” It’s a continuous and ongoing process. Just as Christ came to make God visible and redeem mankind, so the Holy Spirit came to make Christ visible in the life of the believer and enable the individual Christian to offer Christ’s redemption to a lost and dying world.

    The Bible says that the moment you accepted Christ as Savior the Holy Spirit took up residence in your heart. Your body is now “the temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you” (1 Corinthians 6:19). Paul even warned that if any man has not the Spirit of Christ he is none of His.

    You say, “But I don’t feel anything down in my heart. I don’t feel the Spirit of God in me.”

Faith Is a Fact     

    Disregard feelings. You’re not saved by feeling, and you may or may not feel the Spirit. Accept Him by faith as a fact. He lives within you right now to help you live the Christian life. He is living in you in order to magnify, glorify, and exalt Christ in you so that you can live a happy, victorious, radiant, Christ-honoring life.

    The Bible commands, “Be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). If you are filled with the Spirit, then you are going to produce the fruit of the Spirit, which is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). To be filled with the Spirit is not optional. It is a command to be obeyed — a duty to be done.

    How do you know that you are filled? And how can you be filled? Is it some emotional experience through which you must pass? Not necessarily. When you give all you know of yourself to all that you know of Him, then you can accept by faith that you are filled with the Spirit of God. That means that He can have all of you. Commitment actually is surrender — total, absolute, unconditional, irreversible surrender. “I urge you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1).

    It is only the consecrated, Spirit-filled Christian who can have victory over the world, the flesh, and the devil.

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The Holy Spirit is the One who will do the fighting for you. “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness” (Ephesians 6:12). This is a spiritual warfare. You cannot fight against these three enemies with normal weapons. Only as we become channels and let the Holy Spirit do the fighting through us are we going to get complete victory. Don’t hold back anything from Christ, let Him be completely the Lord and Master of your life. He said, “You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am” (John 13:13).

    I believe unself-consciousness is characteristic of the fruit of the Holy Spirit. The person who says, “I am Spirit-filled” sets himself up for some pretty uncomfortable scrutiny. Did any apostle or disciple say of himself, “I am filled with the Holy Spirit”? But of many it was said, “They were filled with the Holy Spirit.” The person who is self-consciously loving, self-consciously joyful, self-consciously peaceful, has about him the odor of self. And as one Christian sanely observed, “Self is spiritual B.O.”

    A little child playing one day with a very valuable vase put his hand into it and could not withdraw it. His father, too, tried his best, but all in vain. They were thinking of breaking the vase when the father said, “Now, my son, make one more try. Open your hand and hold your fingers out straight as you see me doing, and then pull.”

    To their astonishment the little fellow said, “O no, father. I couldn’t put my fingers out like that, because if I did I would drop my penny.”

    Smile, if you will — but thousands of us are like that little boy, so busy holding on to the world’s worthless penny that we cannot accept liberation. I beg you to drop that trifle in your heart. Surrender! Let go, and let God have His way in your life.

    Now, after you have given yourself completely to Christ in consecration, remember that God has accepted what you have presented. “Whoever comes to Me, I will not cast out” (John 6:37). You have come to Him; now He has received you. And He will in no wise cast you out!

The Fruit of the Spirit

    Not only will you have boldness, but you will produce the fruit of the Spirit. Keep in mind that these fruits of the Spirit

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are of the Spirit. One does not produce them himself. They are supernatural in origin. The first is, according to Galatians 5, love, and from this root will grow all the others. Jesus said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you. . . . If you keep my commandments you shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love” (John 15:12, 10). We must differentiate between the gifts of the Spirit and the fruit of the Spirit. Gifts are given — fruits are grown. To grow something there must be a close, intimate, personal relationship between the vine and the branch. A person must be rooted and grounded in Christ.

    As we pointed out earlier, one of the characteristics of the Holy Spirit is unself-consciousness. Whenever a person is self-conscious of spiritual fruit there goes up the odor of self.

    Another fruit of the Spirit is joy. One of the characteristics of the Christian is an inward joy that does not depend upon circumstances. Nehemiah says, “for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (8:12). S.D. Gordon, the well-known devotional writer of a past generation, said of joy: “Joy is distinctly a Christian word and a Christian thing. It is the reverse of happiness. Happiness is the result of what happens of an agreeable sort. Joy has its springs deep down inside. And that spring never runs dry, no matter what happens. Only Jesus gives that joy. He had joy, singing its music within, even under the shadow of the cross. It is an unknown word and thing except as He has sway within.”

    “Real joy comes not from ease or riches or . . . the praise of men, but from doing something worthwhile,” said the missionary, Sir Wilfred Grenfell. And Alexander MacLaren said, “To pursue joy is to lose it. The only way to get it is to follow steadily the path of duty, without thinking of joy, and then, like sheep, it comes most surely, unsought, and we ‘being in the way’ the angel of God, fair-haired joy, is sure to meet us.”

    There will be peace. Paul said, “Troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9). We could go through all the rest of the supernatural list — patience, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, and self-control and see how all of this fruit flourishes in the lives of those who are truly yielded and Spirit-filled.

    The victory is yours. Claim it! It is your birthright. Browning said,

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“The best is yet to be.” This doesn’t mean the Christian can never suffer defeat or experience low periods in life. But it does mean that the Savior goes with you no matter the problem. The peace comes in the midst of problems and in spite of them.

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