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Fighting the Good Fight of Faith

by David A. DePra

Fight the good fight of faith. (I Tim. 6:12)

     When we speak of spiritual warfare, we often get the idea that

the stakes are whether we will sin or not sin -- sin being defined as

some "act" which violates God's law. We picture Satan, or one of

his demons, trying to tempt us to do this or that. Our battle, we often

feel, is to resist that temptation and refuse to sin.

     Sometimes the "sin" which we feel is involved in spiritual warfare

is not so much an act of sin as it is an attitude. We believe we are

tempted to be unforgiving, or perhaps tempted to get depressed.

And the spiritual warfare must certainly involve whether we yield or


     Well, there certainly is an element of Truth in these issues. We

are going to be tempted to sin, in thought, word, and deed. And if

we yield there are going to be spiritual and physical consequences

for sin. Some of them may be terrible. But there is forgiveness for

sin. And God can redeem even the damage done by it. Spiritually,

we are fully restored and healed if we repent of our sin. Physically,

God may allow some physical consequences to linger. But even

then, it is only because He knows we need it for a greater purpose

which He has for us.

     So why does the Devil seek to tempt us to sin if he knows that

God has already forgiven us?

     Well, the Devil likes to damage God's purpose. And he likes to

kill, steal, and destroy. So the Devil likes sin. So even though

Satan knows God has forgiven us for sin, it doesn't matter to him.

He is a wicked being.

     There is, however, an even greater reason why Satan wants us

to sin. He knows God has forgiven us for it. But he is just as aware

that many of US don't believe it. Nothing pleases him more than to

first, get us to sin, and then second, get us to live in condemnation

over it.

     Now what we see here is important to grasp: The Devil wants

us to sin. But that is not his ultimate goal. What he really wants is

this: He wants us, through unbelief, to take our sin and put it

between ourselves and God.

     This is the scene of all spiritual warfare. Not IF I sin. But what I

will do WHEN I sin.

     All spiritual warfare, despite the side-issues of this or that sin,

boils down to one central battle: Faith. Do I believe that I stand in

Christ -- not because of my works -- but solely because of HIS? Do I

believe that "It is finished," even if my performance and works seem

to contradict the fact?

     The victory Jesus Christ won through the Redemption never had

anything to do with our works. It is an eternal victory which came to

be, and now exists, completely independent of our works, of our

faith, or of anything about us. God has then given it to us free of

charge, fully by His grace. But in order to experience it, we MUST

believe. Therefore, we see where the "rubber meets the road." Our

faith. THAT is the place of Satan's attacks.


     Here is where the deception of Satan comes in. If the work of

Jesus Christ for our redemption IS finished, then it must follow that

there is nothing Satan can do about it. It is DONE. In fact, the Bible

tells us that Satan no longer has any power at all. John wrote:

For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might

destroy the works of the devil. (I John 3:8)

     Now, if that is the case, then why is there a spiritual warfare?

Why are we told to "resist the Devil?" Why all these warnings to

beware of Satan?

     Simple. The Devil has NO power. Except ONE. The Devil has

the power to DECEIVE. In effect, Satan may have no power, but he

has been given freedom to try to convince us he DOES.

     The wonderful Truth is, IT IS FINISHED. The victory is won.

Jesus won it all, and it has been given to us free of charge. But the

Devil is going to do everything he can to convince us that it is NOT

finished. He is going to do everything he can to try to convince us

that nothing is free of charge.

     Now ask: What would be the best tool he could use for such a

deception? Clearly, OUR failings. OUR sin. Afterall, our sin is

what we can see. It is what WE do. The finished victory of Christ

is not something we can see. That we must believe. So the Devil

continually says to us, "Your sin proves it is not finished. You have

no right to consider your sin forgiven. It is between you and God."

     So, if we listen to this lie, we will take our sin and put it between

ourselves and God -- and convince ourselves that this is the right

thing to do. Afterall, if we don't put our sin between us and God,

are we not talking sin lightly? Are we not praticing license?

     The reason Satan is so successful at getting us to believe these

lies is that they fit perfectly into the fearful nature we have acquired

through Adam. After Adam sinned God found him hiding in the

garden, afraid. God found him trying to cover his nakedness; trying

to fix sin. We have been following suit ever since, and the Devil

always provides us with lies which fit our disposition and weakness.

     So things are really not all that complicated. God says that all

sin has been eternally dealt with and taken out of the way in Jesus

Christ. Satan tempts us to put our sin back between us and God,

and tries to convince us that this is the just thing to do. The

spiritual warfare with which we are faced centers on which we will

do -- not once -- not twice -- but continually as a life choice. Will we

believe God, or believe the lie of the enemy?


     Satan wants us to sin. But the sin he wants is not so much some

act of sin. He likes that too, but the sin he REALLY wants is the sin

of unbelief.

     Unbelief is a spiritual condition. It is not the inability to believe.

No. An inability to believe is more a matter of ignorance. Unbelief

is the refusal to believe.

     Never get the notion that faith and unbelief are emotional issues.

I cannot FEEL faith. Or unbelief. Faith and unbelief are MORAL

issues. Any emotions involved are by-products. They are

responses to faith or unbelief -- not the essence of them.

     Don't picture someone who is in unbelief as a person standing

with his fist clenched against God -- someone who sort of arbitrarily

and without pressure decides to refuse the Redemption. No. That

is never the case. If I am walking in unbelief I have REASONS.

There is always a trade-off. Indeed, if I refuse to believe the Truth, it

is always because I am believing something else instead --

something which appeals to me in one way or another.

     The way in which a lie can appeal to me is either positive or

negative. The positive appeal creates those who are

self-righteous. Instead of resting in the finished work of Christ, they

rest in their obedience -- or so-called. But the negative appeal

creates those who are defeated. Instead of resting in the finished

work of Christ they try to rest in their own works -- but are consumed

by the reality of their failure. So instead of a false rest in their works,

they have no rest at all.

     We must get it settled. Either IT IS FINISHED or it is not. And if

we believe it is finished, then we need to start acting like it. There

is simply no other way to take what we believe and make it a part

of our lives.

Not Merely a Doctrine

     Many Christians think that the finished work of Christ is merely a

doctrine to believe in. So we get our scriptures all lined up and are

able to prove that we are forgiven, redeemed, and secure in Christ.

But then we turn right around and live totally defeated lives. We do

not know what to do with our continual sin and failure. We live under

fear, condemnation, and defeat.

     Let's ask an honest question: What good does our doctrine do

us at that point? Well, it's good that we at least have the correct

doctrine. We certainly need that. But if it is merely something "on

paper," rather than a living reality, what good does it do me?

     Despite the fact the Christian doctrine is essential and proper,

and despite the fact that each of us need to know it, our doctrine

must never substitute for the reality behind it. Doctrine is not reality.

It is an explanation, or a proclamation, of reality.

     Christianity is not a list of doctrines in which I must believe. In 

fact, Christianity did not emerge from doctrine. In fact, exactly the

opposite happened: Doctrine emerged from Christianity. The

original disciples had walked and talked with Jesus Christ. Later,

the Holy Spirit had come upon them. These experiences brought

them into contact with God Himself. They were drastically changed.

It was real. The doctrine which later followed was the church's way

of taking all of that and putting in down on paper in the form of

creeds and doctrines.

     This was wonderful and necessary. We MUST be able to state

what we believe and why we believe it -- from the Bible. But when

we begin to put our faith IN the doctrine -- or IN the fact that we

believe the "right" doctrine -- we are deceived. We must have and

preserve our doctrine. But our faith must be in a Person, Jesus

Christ. He isn't a doctrine. He is alive. Our doctrines simply tell us

about Him.

     Such is the case with the finished work of Christ. Many of us

can give all the scriptures which aptly describe salvation. We all

know that "we are saved by grace through faith." But when it comes

right down to it, what difference does knowing the doctrine make?

Do we actually practice the Truth? Or can we never seem to take

the Truth we have on paper, and make it part of our daily walk?

Spiritual Warfare

     Now, all of that relates to spiritual warfare. How? Well, Satan

is going to continually try to deceive us according to whatever

weakness we have. If we are prone to self-righteousness, then he

will try to get us to put our obedience between us and God. And if

we are prone to defeatism, then he will try to get us to put our sin

between us and God. Either way, we will not freely accept what God

has given: Righteousness apart from works. Forgiveness despite

our sin.

     But we MUST freely accept what God has given. We MUST take

what Truth we have on paper and put it into action. But how?

     The answer is very simple. When God tells us to "fear not," we

must "fear not." When He says, "There is no condemnation for

those in Christ," then we must refuse to listen to condemnation, no

matter how real it seems. When the Devil tells us that God has not

forgiven us for all of our sin, we have to treat it for what it is: A lie. In

short, we must speak the Truth in our hearts and refuse to be moved

by these lies.

     If you had a bunch of people coming up to you each day telling

you obvious lies, how would you handle that? You would not argue

with them. If you could not shut them up, you would begin to ignore

them. You would KNOW they were lying. It is just like this with

spiritual warfare. God isn't going to shut up the enemy. But we have

a choice. We will either believe him, or believe God.

     The trouble with the lies of the enemy is that they aren't just

words.  They come with entangled emotions and strike at the heart

of what makes us tick. But we must learn to treat those lies

as we would any lie: Refuse to be moved by them. That is faith.

And somewhere along the line we are going to have to start

practicing it. We have got to start putting it into action.

The Work of Faith

     The crowds once asked Jesus "What shall we do, that we might

work the works of God?" A pretty simple question. WE might say,

"Keep the commandments." Or, "Serve at church." But that is not

what Jesus answered. Instead, He said:

This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.

(John 6:29)

     Now, some of us can read that answer a million times, and when

we are done, we will say to ourselves, "Yes, but He really didn't

mean that. He is just being poetic. Believing cannot be the work of


     It doesn't even seem to help if we turn to two other places in the

Bible which pretty much say the same thing:

Remembering without ceasing your work of faith. (I Thes. 1:3)

That our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the

good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power.

(II Thes. 1:11)

     Surely "faith" is not a "work." How could it be?

     Faith is a WORK because you have to choose to "do it."  Faith

doesn't grab hold of you and carry you off. YOU must choose to

believe. That makes faith a work.

     The reason faith doesn't seem like a work is that we can't see it

happening. That is true. But actually, we do see it as a motivation.

All of our works, if they are God's will, are done "in faith." That is,

faith is behind them. Faith is the reason we do them.

     With regards to spiritual warfare, we have to "put on faith." We

have to exercise it. When the lies of fear and condemnation come,

we must refuse to believe them. When the lies of self-righteousness

come, we must refuse to put them on. And when the suggestions

come that God is not really there for us, we must nevertheless stand

by faith in the Truth that He will never forsake us.

     This is something God will not do for us. We must do it; we must

believe. But if we will stand in faith against all that seems to contrary

to it, we will find that, in the end, every word God has spoken is the


The Victory Is Won

     There is no victory for a Christian to win. Even "overcoming" is

not a victory won. Overcoming is a wrestling to hold the ground

which the enemy would try to take away, by trying to get us to give

away our faith.

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against

principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of

this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore

take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to

withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand

therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the

breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the

preparation of the gospel of peace. Above all, taking the shield

of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the

wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the

which is the word of God. (Eph. 6:12-17)

     The good news is that the battle is won. We need only stand,

withstand, and having done all, stand -- in His finished victory. That

will not be easy. It will cost us our flesh. But in the end we will reign

and rule with Jesus Christ.

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