Tactic #4: Anticipate the Battle


Read our other “Tactic” articles below!
Tactics: Waging Wise Warfare for Your Sexual Purity – A New Series
Tactic #1: Fight From Your Justification, Not For It
Tactic #2: Recognize that Your Soul is at Stake
Tactic #3: Don’t Despise God’s Good Gift

The New Testament depicts the Christian life in a variety of metaphors. For example, Christians should view their spiritual growth in agricultural terms. The walk of faith includes planting, watering, and fruit-bearing (Matt 13:18-23; Gal 5:22-23). The Christian life is also likened to a race in which we strive after the grand prize by applying severe discipline to our training regimen and shedding any sin and unnecessary accoutrements that weigh us down (1 Cor 9:22-24; Heb 12:1-2).

But the Christian life is also portrayed in military terms. We are to daily outfit ourselves with battle-ready equipment which Paul calls, “the whole armor of God” (Eph 6:10-18). We are to fight the fight of faith (1 Tim 6:12) and wage the good warfare (1 Tim 1:18), not with physical weapons, but with divinely sanctioned spiritual weapons (2 Cor 10:4). This military metaphor is crucial because we face a real enemy who is intent on destroying us. Lust, as Peter warns us, “wages war against the soul” (1 Pet 2:12). In a real sense, when we became Christians, we were enlisted in a cosmic battle against an enemy who, though defeated in an ultimate sense, has no plans to yield his ground or sign any peace treaties.

In a real sense, when we became Christians, we were enlisted in a cosmic battle against an enemy who, though defeated in an ultimate sense, has no plans to yield his ground or sign any peace treaties.

At salvation, God changes people at the deepest level of who they are. We become a “new creation” (2 Cor 5:17), a “new self” (Eph 4:24) who has been raised to “newness of life” (Rom 6:4). The enemy we once befriended and entertained, we’ve now turned on and seek its destruction. Prior to our conversion, we wouldn’t have likely admitted it, but we were under the sway of and slavery to sin (John 8:34). Now, in Christ, we’ve been freed from the dominating power of sin and equipped with precision weaponry to wage effective warfare against this brutal enemy (Rom 6:11, 14).

Our relationship to sin is like a nation whose military is making their final sweep through an enemy stronghold after the war has officially ended. The opposing nation as a whole no longer has the power over the other victorious nation that it once did—it has signed a peace agreement to end the war and is in the process of deescalating military hot points. But there may still be enemy battalions who have yet to learn of their nation’s surrender and are therefore still holding their ground just as furiously as ever.

Sin, though it no longer has dominion over us that it once did, is still just as potent as it was prior to our conversion. Sin hasn’t changed, but we have. We now have the ability to put sin to death and enjoy victory over sins that used to waylay us. Yet, although our enemy faces ultimate defeat, we can’t just waltz through the countryside—there are soldiers still entrenched in position, ready to take us out. We must take their presence seriously, and ready ourselves for battle.

If you we are going to make any progress against lust, we must anticipate a battle, or our plans for purity will be easily overthrown. Say, for example, you’ve been encouraged by this series to take up a renewed effort to fight against sexual sin. You confess your sin to God and others, you make the necessary provisions to remove temptations out of your life, and you start to find some victory in your thought life, your media viewing habits, and the realm of self-gratification. A week goes by, then another week. Things are going well.  “I’ve done it. Finally. The fight is over,” you might conclude. But you would be wrong. Dead wrong.

Likely, after a couple weeks of success, the sexual temptations will regroup and launch another offensive. This time, because you are exercising some resistance, the temptations will likely feel stronger, and your flesh—having been deprived of pleasure it once enjoyed—will cry out for satisfaction. And the tug for fulfillment may be so intense that you may wonder if it would just be easier to give in and start afresh the next day. But this is precisely where genuine progress in holiness is either gained or lost. Stand firm, Scripture tells us (1 Cor 16:13; Eph 6:13; cf. Ex 14:13). At some point, the enemy will retreat (see James 4:7), but you must maintain a sturdy defense and launch some bombardments of your own. (We will talk specifically about these “bombardments” in later articles.)

One of the biggest mistakes we can make in our plans for sexual purity is assuming that we won’t meet difficulty once we’ve set our hearts to grow in holiness. But it’s precisely because we’ve committed to purity that we will meet resistance and trouble. As Paul reminds us, “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do” (Gal 5:17, emphasis added). Furthermore, it would be foolish to think that once we’ve gained some ground over a particular sin we won’t see trouble from that sin anymore in this life. This is faulty intel. We might do much to push back a particular temptation or sinful practice, but this doesn’t mean that we are any less susceptible to that sin after a few victories. If we draw this conclusion, we set ourselves up for serious failure: “If anyone thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor 10:12).

The point of this discussion is to remind us that we should be ever-ready for the relentless subterfuge and subtle tactics of our enemy whose only intent is to destroy us. Genuine growth doesn’t happen as we “Let go and let God,” nor will our pursuit of holiness go unchallenged. Indwelling sin will not yield quietly. When it comes to seeking sexual purity, we must anticipate a battle or we will be quickly discouraged when we find that our enemy is ready to fight for lost territory. Thankfully, God has given us everything we need to make progress against our enemy, as we will learn in the next article in this series.

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