Our reason, enlightened by the Holy Spirit through the Word of God, stands in the way of sin gaining mastery over us through our desires.
It is hypocritical to pray for victory over our sins yet be careless in our intake of the Word of God.
God has defeated Satan through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Through this overwhelming victory, God has also empowered you to overcome any temptation to sin and has provided sufficient resources for you to respond biblically to any problem of life. By relying on God’s power and being obedient to His Word, you can be an overcomer in any situation.
When you willingly or unknowingly are under the control of any power other than God’s Holy Spirit (e.g., drugs, alcohol, sex, another person, your peer group, a false religion, a self-centered habit such as gossip or laziness, or a self-oriented desire for power, food, or wealth), you are in bondage to sin. However, God has broken the power of sin through the Lord Jesus Christ, and you can overcome sinful habits by depending on His strength and being obedient to His Word.
It is the sword of the Spirit that pierces [Satan] and conquers him. It is that great and strong sword with which God punishes Leviathan, that crooked serpent. It is that sharp sword that proceeds out of the mouth of Him who sat on the horse, with which He smites his enemies. Every text is a dart to torment the old serpent. He has felt the stinging smart thousands of times. Therefore, he is engaged against the Bible and hates every word of it.
In opposition…to all the suggestions of the devil, the sole, simple, and sufficient answer is the word of God. This puts to flight all the powers of darkness. The Christian finds this to be true in his individual experience. It dissipates his doubts; it drives away his fears; it delivers him from the power of Satan.
The notion that spiritual warfare involves direct confrontation with demons is foreign to Scripture. Christians who verbally confront demons waste energy and demonstrate ignorance of the real war. We are not called to convert demons, but sinners. The battle is rather with the false ideologies men and demons propagate so that the world believes them. Doomed souls are inside their fortresses of ideas, which become their prisons and eventually their tombs – unless they are delivered from them by belief in the truth.
Spiritual warfare is an ideological conflict, fought in the mind by assaulting the proud fortresses of ideas that sinners erect against the truth.
The sword of the Spirit is first of all a defensive weapon, capable of deflecting the blows of an opponent. It is the believer’s supreme weapon of defense against the onslaughts of Satan. Unlike the shield, however, which gives broad and general protection, the sword can deflect an attack only if it is handled precisely and skillfully. It must parry the enemy weapon exactly where the thrust is made. When Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, His defense for each temptation was a passage of Scripture that precisely contradicted the devil’s word (Matt. 4:4, 7, 10). The Christian who does not know God’s Word well cannot use it well. Satan will invariably find out where we are ignorant or confused and attack us there. Scripture is not a broadsword (rhomphaia) to be waved indiscriminately, but a dagger to be used with great precision.
As soon as [Eve] did not completely, wholeheartedly, and unreservedly trust the word of God as absolutely true and the source of her highest joy, greatest good, deepest satisfaction, broadest pleasure, and most consonant fulfillment – at that moment the sin of mistrust corrupted her heart.
The preservation of our joy in God takes work. It is a fight. Our adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, and he has an insatiable appetite to destroy one thing: the joy of faith. But the Holy Spirit has given us a sword called the Word of God for the defense of our joy. Or, to change the image, when Satan huffs and puffs and tries to blow out the flame of your joy, you have an endless supply of kindling in the Word of God.
Satan’s number-one objective is to destroy our joy of faith. We have one offensive weapon: the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God (Eph. 6:17). But what many Christians fail to realize is that we can’t draw the sword from someone else’s scabbard. If we don’t wear it, we can’t wield it. If the Word of God does not abide in us (Jn. 15:7), we will reach for it in vain when the enemy strikes. But if we do wear it, if it lives within us, what mighty warriors we can be!
If my thirst for joy and meaning and passion are satisfied by the presence of the promises of Christ, the power of sin is broken. We do not yield to the offer of sandwich meat when we can see the sizzling steak on the grill… At first lust tricks me into feeling that I would really miss out on some great satisfaction if I followed the path of purity. But then I take up the sword of the Spirit and begin to fight… And as I pray for my faith to be satisfied with God’s life and peace, the sword of the Spirit carves the sugar coating off the poison of lust… And by the grace of God, (lust’s) alluring power is broken.
As sin lures the body into sinful action, we call to mind a Christ-revealing word of Scripture and slay the temptation with the superior worth and beauty of Christ over what sin offers.
Deliverance from Satan’s oppressing, darkening, and deceiving work in the life of the Christian comes most often by the power of truth, and only rarely by exorcism.
Consider how our Lord Himself resisted Satan when He was tempted in the wilderness (see Matthew 4 and Luke 4.) Jesus did not "bind" Satan. In all three instances of Satan’s temptations, our Lord quoted Scripture, and the devil was repelled ("he left Him for a season.") We should follow our Lord’s example when attacked or tempted. And let’s not forget that if we are going to quote Scripture, we must know Scripture! Our Lord quoted three times from the book of Deuteronomy. How many of us can quote three verses from the book of Deuteronomy? Knowledge of the Word of God is important for repelling Satan, and is crucial for Christian growth and living as well. As He was growing up, the Lord Jesus must have spent a lot of time memorizing the Word of God (see Luke 2:52). What an example for us to follow!
The chief weapon we ought to use in resisting Satan is the Bible. Three times the great enemy offered temptations to our Lord. Three times his offer was refused, with a text of Scripture as the reason, “it is written” (Mt. 3:4, 7, 10).
It is the forces of darkness using the human agents of this world. People have been fed and are entrapped in a stronghold of lies. Christians are called to break down these spiritual strongholds with a spiritual arsenal. Our battleground is the mind. The Bible, which is all about Christ (Lk. 24:27, 44), is our primary “divinely powerful” (2 Cor. 10:4) weapon to bring people to “captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5) to be “rescued…from the domain of darkness, and transferred…to the kingdom of [light] (Col. 1:13).
We need something not of this world for spiritual combat, but something according to 2 Corinthians 10:4 that is “divinely powerful.” It’s the final piece of spiritual armor from Ephesians 6. It’s the only offensive weapon in the listing. It’s “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17). Since Satan is the “father of lies” (Jn. 8:44) we combat his deception with truth. What is truth? As Jesus said, “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth” (Jn. 17:17). Let me be very clear, following the example of Jesus when He confronted Satan in the wilderness (Mt. 4:1-11), our primary weapon in spiritual warfare is the Bible.
Spiritual battles are fought on the turf of the human mind. It is not about identifying territorial demons or binding demons or rebuking demons. So are we battling the forces of darkness? Yes, because our ultimate battle is “not against flesh and blood” (Eph. 6:12), but no, because we are not called in Scripture to go toe-to-toe engaging in hand-to-hand combat with demonic forces. The war is over the control of human minds. Our aim is to liberate people from demonic strongholds. We are to free the prisoners of war. Our call is to convert not demons, but people. The arena therefore is not mystical, but intellectual. Therefore, according to 2 Corinthians 10:5, we “destroy [intellectual things] raised up against the knowledge of God.” How? We do it with the Word of God. We combat the error that has already been sown in people’s minds with truth. We, verse 5, “are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” This shows that the primary problem is that people have a wrong understanding of Christ.
This weapon is good at all points, good for defense and for attack, to guard our whole person or to strike through the joints and marrow of the foe. Like the seraph’s sword at Eden’s gate, it turns every way. You cannot be in a condition that the Word of God has not provided. The Word has as many faces and eyes as providence itself. You will find it unfailing in all periods of your life, in all circumstances, in all companies, in all trials, and under all difficulties. Were it fallible, it would be useless in emergencies, but its unerring truth renders it precious beyond all price to the soldiers of the cross.
Now, if our Lord and Master selected this true Jerusalem blade of the Word of God, let us not hesitate for a moment but grasp and hold fast this one true weapon of the saints in all times. Cast away the wooden sword of carnal reasoning. Trust not in human eloquence but arm yourselves with the solemn declaration of God, who cannot lie, and you need not fear Satan and all his hosts. Jesus selected the best weapon. What was best for Him is best for you.
“It is written.” Stand upon it, and if the devil were fifty devils in one, he could not overcome you. On the other hand, if you leave “It is written,” Satan knows more about reasoning than you do. He is far older, has studied mankind very thoroughly, and knows all our weak points. Therefore, the contest will be an unequal one. Do not argue with him but wave in his face the banner of God’s Word. Satan cannot endure the infallible truth, for it is death to the falsehood of which he is the father.
There is no new ministry or means of spiritual warfare. We are called to keep on with what Christians have always been called on to do – believe, proclaim, pray and live the gospel.
Fly from all occasions of temptation, and if still tempted, fly further still. If there is no escape possible, then have done with running away and show a bold face and take the two-edged sword of the Spirit. Some temptations must be taken by the throat as David killed the lion; others must be stifled as David hugged the bear to death. Some you had better keep to yourselves and not give air. Shut them up as a scorpion in a bottle. Scorpions in such confinement die soon, but if allowed out for a crawl and then put back into the bottle and corked down, they will live a long while and give you trouble. Keep the cork on your temptations, and they will die of themselves.
With such adversaries, growing in the fear of the Lord will not be a smooth process. Instead, it will be the path of warfare. We must hate the evil and ungodly assumptions of the world, we must hate our own sinful nature, and we must hate Satan. To accomplish these tasks demands the most powerful resources we have: The Word, the Spirit, and the body of Christ.