The Threefold Enemy
Now let us consider these great enemies which present their triple challenge and protest to the life of victory. They are threefold: the world (1 John 2:16), the flesh (Rom. 8:3), and the devil (1 Pet. 5:8).
1) The World
What is “the world” in this sense? It means “this present evil age (or world)” (Gal. 1:4) — the great system of evil round about us. It is animated by “the ruler of this world” (Jn. 14:30) and characterized by a tragic decree concerning the Man of Calvary — “We will not have this man to reign over us” (Lk. 19:14). It is the world system of rebellion against God.
Now, is it possible for the believer to live a truly separated Christian life in the midst of such antagonism? For example, is Christ’s victory such that there is a complete loss of appetite for worldly pleasures and pursuits, with all their alluring attractions and fascinating enticements today?Is it really possible for a present-day Christian to rejoice with the apostle Paul that he has been “crucified to the world” and the world unto him, even though he dwells in the midst of it (Gal. 6:14)? Or is it in the will of God that, having been saved from this present evil world, he should once again be captivated by its “beggarly elements” (Gal. 4:9)?
The Bible answer is clear and plain. Thank God, victory is possible, for the Lord Jesus Christ said, “I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33). Because He overcame, you also may overcome, for He is yours. Helen Lemmel embodies the secret in her beautiful chorus:
“Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in his wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of his glory and grace.”
It should be remembered also that such victory is not cruel and arduous. True victory is never a hardship to be endured. It is a life to be enjoyed and radiated.
The program of the world is not refused because of a sense of bondage under a torturing yoke. Never! The Lord Jesus said, “My yoke is easy”(Matt. 11:30), and so it ever proves to be. On the contrary, “The way of the unfaithful is hard” (Prov. 13:15). “His commandments are not burdensome” (1 Jn. 5:3). They lead to a joyous, willing, grateful liberation into the blessed will of God. Here is “joy inexpressible and full of glory” (1 Pet. 1:8). It is the “expulsive power of a new affection” (Chalmers) that keeps the world at bay. Such a blessedness robs the world’s farewell of any pain. Yes – ask those who know. Their unanimous verdict will be that, “his yoke is easy, and his burden is light”, and their eternal song:
“Now none but Christ can satisfy,
None other name for me;
There’s love, and life, and lasting joy,
Lord Jesus, found in Thee.”
2) The Flesh
Then, secondly, there is “the flesh”. The Apostle Paul says, “I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells” (Rom. 7:18). What is “the flesh” in this sense? The next chapter will go more fully into this important question, but suffice it to say here that “the flesh” is fallen human nature (Gen. 6:12). It is the corrupt principle of sin, which “the natural man” has inherited from his fallen parents. It is the Adamic nature. It is the birthplace of all those ugly sins and besetments which so easily mar the Christian’s joy and hinder his testimony (Gal. 5:19). Again, can it be the will of God that, having been lifted into the realm of spiritual life and justified from sin before him forever (Ro. 5:9), the people of God should continue to be victims of such ugly traits? The works of the flesh include:
• Temper – a failure to control the human spirit, when aroused.
• Irritability – the tendency to manifest impatience on little provocation.
• Moodiness – a capricious disposition and a yielding to temperamental weaknesses.
• Jealousy – the spirit of fear and revenge at the prospect of being displaced by a rival.
• Pride – the spirit of self-exaltation and glory.
• Selfishness – the “ME first” spirit, and the tendency to ‘minister’ to self.
• Unforgiveness – the refusal to forgive.
• Anxiety and fret – the tendency to worry when difficulties and dangers threaten.
• Complaining – a grumbling, unsatisfied spirit.
• Criticism – the inclination to backbite, gossip, and feast on the weaknesses of others, due to an uncontrolled tongue.
Need we enlarge such a repulsive catalog? These are not regarded as gross sins, but they are, nevertheless, outworkings of carnality. Is there victory over “the flesh”? Yes, thank God, this is promised unequivocally in the Word of God. As we shall see later, there is a great secret revealed to us in God’s Book whereby “the flesh” may be kept inoperative through the power of the Holy Spirit, by way of the Cross.
3) The Devil
We have thought of the world (that external enemy), and of the flesh (that internal enemy); now we must think of the third great foe – the devil, that infernal enemy! The devil is a person, the actual “prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2). He controls the affairs of “this evil world”, and his great objective is to thwart the divine will and program in the world, in the Church, and in the believer.
To this end he presents his challenge along many avenues, and seeks to usurp and dominate the property which, by creative and redemptive claim, rightly belongs to Christ. As a believer, you cannot evade his subtle devices (2 Cor. 2:11). He is your unceasing antagonist (1 Pet. 5:8). He must be met and overcome. Is this possible?
Yes, thank God, through the Savior’s victory on the Cross this mighty enemy has been fully and finally vanquished (Heb. 2:14) and one day the whole world shall see the full consummation of this. Meantime, the Evil One is busy in the world, but all his activities are within the permissive will of God. The child of God may have victory in Christ day by day, since the Victorious Christ is an indwelling reality. “Satan to Jesus must bow.” But of this, more later.
Do You Believe This?
Now, my reader, are you convinced that the Word promises full victory to every believer? Having known the healing touch of the Good Samaritan upon your sin-wounds, that wonderful Benefactor will never leave you to your own resources for the remainder of the journey.
Having been delivered from the horrible pit of sin, it never is God’s will that you should periodically wander back into its dark domain and stodgy atmosphere. The Savior is more than a guarantor of safety from Hell and sin’s penalty. He is sufficiently strong to keep you from sin’s dominion, day by day (Heb. 7:25). Yes, complete victory is possible all the time, or there must be a defect in the atoning work of Calvary. Since it is proved by abundant Scriptural evidence, as well as in the practical experience of saints of God down through the ages, it remains true to this day. Has Christ changed? Is He not yours? Then such a life is possible for you!
Part 3 of 3. This article is from chapter one of The New Life by Reginald Wallis (1932). It is available in print with discussion questions from Grace Fellowship International (2002).