Christians in Conflict

FFF 8:8 (Aug 1962)

Christians in Conflict

J. Boyd Nicholson

On different occasions three young people have approached me, each in a state of spiritual distress. Now as I look back I see in those three cases, something representative of the conflict of Christian, young or old.

One was a young married person, one a young person at work, and the other a high school student. The distress was the result of a threefold strategy of the enemy against the heart in one case; against the mind in another; against the soul in the third. This, too, is representative of the conflict in every Christian’s life. Each had one thing in common: the inability to discern where the attack was taking place.

If my little fellow were to complain of a sore throat, it would be ridiculous to put a bandage on his big toe. If he cut himself, to offer a gargle would be utter stupidity. First, I must locate the trouble and apply the appropriate corrective. We are all aware that spiritual distress is a more complex thing, and in many cases it is not the work of a moment to repair the damage caused by the enemy.

The Lord left on record, however, means to identify that strategy of the enemy, the appropriate means of defence.

A lawyer, trying to trick the Lord, asked Him what was the first and great commandment of the law. The Lord Jesus answered, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind …” In these words, the Lord reveals what is becoming a rather popular subject for modern writers, “the personality of man.”

Now, it is the objective of the devil to rob the Christian. Since it is impossible for him to rob the saint of eternal life in Christ, he is determined to rob him, or her, of peace, joy and usefulness.

The arch-enemy of saints is cruel and merciless. He will use any means within his power to obtain his objective. He will seek to defile the body, to derange the mind and degrade the character. He will endeavour to set on fire of hell the lusts and passions of the flesh until some unwary soul finds his testimony consumed on the flaming pyre of self-gratification. He will do his utmost to fill a saint with the form of religious living to the extent that his life will be darkened with the shadow of things, and well-nigh empty of the substance.

The basic tactics of this enemy have been stated in the Word of God, the “Manual for Warriors.”

To capture the vantage point of the heart, it is the strategy of the enemy to ATTRACT it’s affections by a place, the glitter, riches, and pleasures of the world. Paul lamented the loss of Demas who had forsaken him “having loved this present world.” There is no use pretending that this present world holds NO attractions. Granted, the beer-parlours, gaudy shows and suggestive literature is abhorrent to the believer in Christ. It have heard and read scathing words of condemnation about television, and the Lord knows it’s subtle influence is poisoning many minds and emptying many prayer meetings, but who will not admit it is ATTRACTIVE at some time or other? So, while one saint loves his TV, another (who condemns the “worldly TV”) loves his new car. The whole aim of the enemy is to divert AFFECTION from the Saviour. Whatever means he uses, is not the point, it is the PLACE with which it is associated… “this present world.”

Now, what is the defence? What has the Captain of Our Salvation provided to keep the vantage point of the heart from falling into enemy hands?

Place! yes, if the enemy would capture and trouble the heart with a place, the Lord would garrison the heart by attracting it to another PLACE. We read of it in John 14:1-3, “Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a PLACE for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” Again, in Colossions 3:1-2, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God. Set your Affection on things above, not on things on the earth.”

To be very practical, if I am finding that something associated with this world is stealing my heart, then I must recognize it for what it is, the tactics of the enemy to rob me of peace, joy, and usefulness, and to rob our Beloved Lord of the love and devotion that is rightfully His. It is time, indeed it is past time, for one to turn, by a definite act of the will, from the thing that troubles, and through the reading of the Word, contemplation and prayer to turn attention to the Place, where our Saviour is, to the things of eternal value, “heavenly things,” as the Lord called them. Then we will come to a more accurate appraisal of the true value of the things of the world and the relation they should have to our lives.

Some of the Lord’s people are not so troubled with this world as are others. Their difficulty may be quite different. It may be that the enemy is after the MIND. It would seem today that the enemy is certainly attacking the minds of God’s people as never before. Tensions, nervous breakdowns, ulcers, tempers are but the symptoms in many cases of deeper disorder, the Oppression of the enemy upon the Mind.

To capture the ATTENTION of the mind, the enemy uses a different approach. He engages his “secret service.” He has all but perfected sinister processes of subterfuge that can silently and swiftly invade the secret passages of the minds of men. It is not now a place but a POWER. A subtle, silent, hellish power. It distresses the babe in Christ and alarms the patriarch. It is a fearful power, a devastating power, the POWER of the FLESH.

To gain this stronghold, the thinking process of the Christian, his plan is to light long fuses of the flesh that enter the mind through the five entrances, the senses. Unless this power can be overcome and the fuses kept extinguished, it can cause an upheaval with devastating results in the life. The strange thing is that the flesh is not always obnoxious; it may be fair, it may be religious, and in many cases appealing. Whatever it is, the enemy seeks the same end result. To occupy the Attention of the Mind. It is a startling, solemn fact that this obsession can be even over scriptural principles or Christian practices, until the whole thinking process is coloured, and the main channel of thought diverted like a river which loses itself in the restless sea “whose waters cast up mire and dirt.”

What then is the defence against this fearful and subtle power, how can there be a victory, a deliverance from it’s insidious influence? The Lord has a Power. It is the Power of the Spirit. This is the only Power that can overcome the flesh, fair or foul. Natural courage or determination is not a match for the wiles of the enemy and the power he ignites to engulf the mind with the flames of the flesh, and suffocate the thoughts with the acrid fumes of his diabolic insinuations.

The power of the Spirit is available to every child of God. The Holy Spirit is indeed resident in every believer and is the avowed antagonist of the flesh. “For the flesh constantly has a strong desire to suppress the Spirit, and the Spirit constantly has a strong desire to suppress the flesh, and these are entrenched in an attitude of mutual opposition to one another so that you may not do the things that you desire to do” (tr. Wuest).

If I find myself thoughtfully engaged in any one direction to the exclusion of the Person and work of Christ, it would be well to ask if these thoughts are consummated in Christ or are they indeed a diversion of the devil to rob the mind of tranquility and the Lord of His rightful place on the throne of the thought-life.

The battle grows hotter! First, the heart’s affection; then, the mind’s attention, finally the enemy seeks to attack the citadel of the soul, the centre of the emotions. To so attack this bastion until it becomes weary and faints into helplessness and exhaustion is the master-stroke of the enemy. For this stronghold he calls upon his henchmen, evil spirits. This is the hand to hand fighting between the Christian and the powers of darkness and wicked spirits. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph. 6:12).

If he brings a Place to attract the affection of the heart, and a Power to attack the attentions of the mind, then for this key-point he throws evil, spiritual Personalities into the battle for the purpose of exhausting the energies of the soul. He can never rob the soul of it’s life in Christ, but he can and does weaken and weary the soul, robing it of vitality and the Lord of its service.

Who then can fight against such odds? Who among us can contend with him that is mighty? Thank God, there is a Person, a divine Person, the Conqueror of Calvary, the Lord Himself! He is the Victor, the One who has already judged the Prince of this world and all his henchmen, and the word to the weary soul today is this … “Consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds (Heb. 12:3).

The occupation of the soul with the Person of Christ, is the divine healer, the blessed balm, the refreshing draught that can revive and restore the soul … “He restoreth my soul,” says the Psalmist. This will be the eternal occupation of the soul for the countless aeons.

Weary soul ready to faint, embattled mind ready to fall, troubled heart about to flee … hang on! There is an answer ready to hand, provided by the Father who loves you, the Son who died for you and the Holy Spirit who is committed to land you safe on Heaven’s golden shore.