“If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed.
If you look within, you’ll be depressed.
But if you look at Christ, you’ll be at rest.” —Corrie ten Boom—
I have found all these three statements to be true. I can turn on the news to become distressed with the world’s worrisome and wearisome ways. I can become depressed when I look within my own fallible and flawed understanding. I can (thankfully) experience true peace and rest when I look to the risen Christ (Col. 3:1-3, Phil. 4:6-7).
So why do I still find myself tempted to look at the other two less satisfying options?
THERE ARE OTHER SPIRITS THAT DESIRE TO CONTROL US
The Bible tells us that there are ‘other spirits’ that desire to control us (2 Cor. 11:4, 1 Jn. 4:2-3, 2 Jn. 7).
These other spirits are at work for our deception and misdirection— “seducing spirits—doctrines of devils” (1 Tim. 4:1).
These other spirits are principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness of this age, and spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places (Eph. 6:12).
These other spirits are some serious, heavy-duty evil entities. So much so that in order for the believer to stand against them, God had to provide protective spiritual armor (Eph. 6:11-17, Rom. 13:12-14).
One is foolish to think that they can mess with or do battle with these evil spiritual beings on their own (Eph. 6:10-11). The method, strategies, or wiles that these other spirits use come directly from the evil teaching of the ruler of the power of the air —the devil himself (Eph. 2:2, 4:14).
The sphere that they haunt is in the area of the flesh.
“…the whole world lies in the wicked one” (1 John 5:19, John 14:30, 2 Cor. 4:4).
“…beguiling unstable souls…they allure through the lusts of the flesh…servants of corruption…” (2 Pet. 2:14-19).
The flesh is one of the names of the old (fallen) nature that each of us is born with (as an offspring of Adam) (Rom. 3:23, 5:12). This nature’s understanding is darkened because it’s alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that’s in it (Rom. 6:6, Eph. 4:22). The nature of its heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9, Matt. 15:19). Its nature is corrupt according to the desires of the deceiver and in it dwells ‘no good thing’ (Eph. 4:22, 6:12, 1 John 3:8, Rom. 7:5, 18, John 6:63). It can’t be improved or justified in the sight of God as it’s antagonistic to Him (Isa. 64:6, Rom. 3:20, 8:7-8, Gal. 2:16, 5:17). The wicked one’s strategy is to attack the flesh and stir up emotional responses to incite “sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like” (Gal. 5:19-21, 1 John 2:16). These spirits entice in subtle, often unrecognized ways, often masquerading as ‘ministers of righteousness’ (2 Cor. 11:13-15).
The only antidote to this nature is to be reborn with a new nature “not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” through belief in the sinless One (John 1:12-13, 2 Cor. 5:17, 21, Eph. 2:1-10, 4:22-24, Col. 3:10, 1 Jn. 3:5). This new nature is Divine and cannot be changed with the believer’s eternal salvation being sealed (John 3:6, Eph. 1:13). As the new nature is implanted, the presence of the old nature is revealed and conflict arises (Gal. 5:17). The apostle Paul wrote of this in Romans chapter seven expressing that this new nature (the mind of the inward man) delights in God’s law while at the same time the old nature (the flesh) delights in obeying its own law. Thus this clashing duality of natures is in a constant war against each other. “For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do…it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells;… For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice…” (vs. 15-20). Paul ends the chapter with thanks to God through Jesus Christ his Lord who is able to deliver him from this struggle. He now had the choice to serve the law of God through his mind (the new nature) even though the law of sin (the old nature) was still present in his body.
So although this conflict will persist until our death and resurrection (1 Cor. 15:54-57), God has equipped His saints with powerful spiritual weapons. “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God…” (2 Cor. 10:3-5; Eph. 6:12-17). We may not have much control over many things in our world today, but we do have control over what we focus our minds and time on. Paul warned the Colossians of directing their attention on the rudiments of this world where man’s philosophies, vain deceit and tradition dictate their lives instead of Christ in Whom the Godhead bodily dwells. We are complete (lacking nothing) in Christ, Who is head of all principality and power (Col. 2:8-10).
So why would we choose to fix our minds on man’s words (or even great thoughts) that are useless in the spiritual realm?
Our aim and agenda should be properly placed on reading and knowing God’s Word. This is the nourishment that the new nature thrives on and the old nature is weakened by, so it’s important to keep up with “daily doses” (Rom. 13:14). As we do we’ll be able to discern truth from lies (Eph. 6:17, 2 Tim. 3:16-17, Heb. 4:12). When we feast on God’s rich, living words of truth (feeding on it for ourselves, not as a by-product from another) we’ll be equipped for any (and every) emergency, difficulty, temptation, or trial that comes our way (Rom. 11:33, 1 Cor. 1:30, Col. 2:3, 2 Tim. 3:16-17, Matt. 4:1-11, Prov. 2).
“Folly is joy to him who is destitute of discernment, but a man of understanding walks uprightly” (Prov. 15:21).
Those who reject the gift of this new nature from God are hostile to Christ Jesus and the godly teaching of the Bible. They’re blind (in the dark) and destitute of discernment allowing an open door policy for the ’other spirits’ influence (John 3:19-21, Rom. 1:28, Eph. 4:17). Because they’re starved of the truth, their flesh feeds on the lies that these ‘other’ spirits infect them with, “tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (Eph. 4:14). On the contrary, as the word of God abides in those with the new nature, this same sin is impenetrable as they are resistant and able to overcome it (1 Jn. 2:14, 4:4, 5:4, Eph. 6:10-11).
The apostle Paul encouraged the Corinthian believers to trust “by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left” (2 Cor. 6:7). Your old nature (the flesh) will remain powerless in you as you choose to live and walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16, 24-25).
Living a godly life in Christ Jesus will not prevent you from experiencing suffering and persecution (rather count on it) (2 Tim. 3:12, 1 John 3:1, 13). Don’t allow the ever-changing events and experiences of the present conflict to steer you off course. As long as you keep your focus off the world, off yourself and on the ‘things above’ you’ll remain living and walking in the spirit and thus in the will of God (Rom. 12:2, Col. 3:1-3).
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (and the time we can say ‘good riddance’ to our old nature for good!) (Titus 2:11-13).