In the Old testament, we read that the Israelites’ appropriation and enjoyment of the promised land necessarily required the defeat of the giants that lived there. We read that they entered the land, drove out most of the inhabitants and occupied the land. However, there were some inhabitants that they could not defeat or drive out and lived with them in an unhappy co-existence. Those that remained were “barbs in the eyes” and “thorns in the sides” of the Israelites, were snares and traps and caused trouble just as God had said (Numbers 33:55; Joshua 23:13). In the book of Joshua, the Bible says that the Israelites both “could not” drive them out and also “did not” drive them out. Well this was certainly not because God was limited, it was because the Israelites were content with what they had gained and refused to work with God to take full possession of the land.
As Christians we know that we have been saved through our appropriation of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. We have now entered into our promised land, a land flowing with milk and honey, the Christian life. Our enjoyment of the land however, is contingent upon victory in two areas – victory in our spiritual battles against the hosts of evil that are bent on our destruction and victory over the works of the flesh.
We have this tendency to see the devil as our chief foe and to ascribe everything that goes wrong to him and his hordes of evil spirits. Some of us take this to the comical extreme and blame him for everything that goes wrong, from a broken washing machine to a bruised thumb and an altercation with the wife.
While some of us may experience determined satanic attack–especially those on the front lines of the ministry, I have observed that some of the strongest giants we will battle in our Christian life are those of our own creation with whom we have peacefully co-existed for years. They rise up from time to time, defeat us and render us totally ineffective in our witness. I am speaking of the giants addressed as “the works of the flesh” in the Bible. Although we have been freed from the dominion of sin, we see that our human nature, having been heavily influenced by sin before we came to Christ is unChristlike. The Word speaks of the deeds of the flesh as adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like. Manifesting the “works of the flesh” is not a sign that you are under spiritual attack; it is a sign that you are defeated and haven’t gained possession of the land yet.
We end up being exactly like Israel of old in that we either don’t want to (did not) or are unable to (could not) take full possession of the land. Many do try, but fail repeatedly and are content to live with these giants, who as if on cue rear their ugly heads from time to time sending us into a cycle of failure and repentance. Repeated failure convinces us that there is nothing better to expect and we settle down to expecting defeat as the norm in the Christian life. To cap it all, while this cycle repeats, we are occupied in doing the ministry and the “work of God”.
Are you in the did-nots or the could-nots ?
While we will do well to recognize that evil spirits may reinforce these works of the flesh even to the extent of causing compulsive behaviour (example – compulsive lust and uncontrolled anger), we cannot deny that their hiding place is what we have created for them through our indulgence of the flesh. We have built them a cozy home and they don’t want to leave. The Word speaks of the strongholds of the mind, a house built with thoughts which we have come to realize could be a dwelling for unclean spirits. Scripture teaches us to wield the weapons of our warfare and demolish these strongholds so that godly strongholds of Christ’s nature can be built in our lives.
These “works of the flesh” are the giants that cannot be brought down with sling and stone. Nor can they be evicted by encircling them and praising the Lord or by commanding them to leave. These can only be brought down by “putting to death” the works of the flesh by the enabling of the Spirit of God and through sincere, heartfelt repentance. Unclean spirits, if present will require eviction and Christ must be permitted to build his nature in us. There is no other way.
Hebrews says that Jesus is able to “save to the uttermost” and I take it to mean that He is totally committed to enabling us to experience His salvation in fullness. He is committed to producing His nature within so that we can enjoy the wonders of the Christian life while we are on this earth.
So, saint of God, don’t settle for mediocrity. Peter says that we are called to show forth the excellencies of God; the excellencies of God must be seen in and through us. He who called us is faithful and will save every one of us to the uttermost. Paul says in Galatians – “They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires”. Note two terms here – “are Christ’s” and “have crucified”. Christ must be granted full access, full possession, He must apprehend, fill with his fullness, possess the entire being. In this process, something else happens, it seems like the natural outcome – the flesh is crucified. The greater the measure of Christ possessing us, the greater the crucifixion of the flesh with its passions and desires. His nature will be formed in us and we will walk in permanent victory.