Last week we opened the spiritual warfare series and talked about our temptation to ignore God and muscle through our day on our own strength. We said that is very naïve because we live in a spiritual battle.
Be strong with the Lord’s mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies and tricks of the Devil. 12 For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms. NLT Ephesians 6:10-12
We can’t bring our physical strength into a spiritual war. It’s like bringing a knife to a gun fight. If you like Marvel Comics and movies, it’s like trying to defeat Iron Man with a water gun.
Scripture tells us how to live, live in faith. We aren’t supposed to muscle our way through the day.
4 Every God-begotten person conquers the world’s ways. The power that brings the world to its knees is our faith. 5 The person who wins out over the world’s ways is simply the one who believes Jesus is the Son of God. MSG 1 John 5:4-5
6 It’s impossible to please God apart from faith. And why? Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that he exists and that he cares enough to respond to those who seek him. MSG Hebrews 11:6
Faith means, I know God is alive and every time I pursue Him, I know He will respond because He cares about me.
Today, I want to ask you, if I could share with you one health principle that would take care of 90% of all your health issues, would you be interested in hearing it? Just to be clear, I’m not a doctor and this is very unscientific but I don’t think too many people would argue it. Here it is: when you eat, eat what is most ‘fresh’ and eat in ‘moderation.’ Follow that principle and it will, maybe, take care of 90% of future health issues. In all the complexities of nutrition, eating, weight, blood sugar levels, heart issues, all it can be helped by following that simple principle. If we put that principle on a bumper sticker, it might say, ‘Eat Your Vegetables.’
Now, if I could give you one spiritual principle that would take care of 90% of all your spiritual warfare issues, would you be interested in hearing it? We get this right out of scripture, I will read it for you soon. Here it is: change your attitude and thoughts for the better, all the time. Follow that principle and it will take care of 90% of the future spiritual warfare issues you will bump into. It’s as simple as eat your vegetables. In all the complexities of following Christ, discipleship, spiritual warfare, all of it will be so much easier if you follow that one principle. Change your attitude and thoughts for the better, all the time.
Where do we find this principle? Paul told us this in Ephesians 4:23.
17 Let me say this, then, speaking for the Lord: Live no longer as the unsaved do, for they are blinded and confused. Their closed hearts are full of darkness; they are far away from the life of God because they have shut their minds against him, and they cannot understand his ways. 19 They don’t care anymore about right and wrong and have given themselves over to impure ways. They stop at nothing, being driven by their evil minds and reckless lusts.
20 But that isn’t the way Christ taught you! 21 If you have really heard his voice and learned from him the truths concerning himself, 22 then throw off your old evil nature-the old you that was a partner in your evil ways-rotten through and through, full of lust and sham.
23 Now your attitudes and thoughts must all be constantly changing for the better. 24 Yes, you must be a new and different person, holy and good. Clothe yourself with this new nature.
25 Stop lying to each other; tell the truth, for we are parts of each other and when we lie to each other we are hurting ourselves. 26 If you are angry, don’t sin by nursing your grudge. Don’t let the sun go down with you still angry-get over it quickly; 27 for when you are angry, you give a mighty foothold to the devil.
28 If anyone is stealing he must stop it and begin using those hands of his for honest work so he can give to others in need. 29 Don’t use bad language. Say only what is good and helpful to those you are talking to, and what will give them a blessing.
30 Don’t cause the Holy Spirit sorrow by the way you live. Remember, he is the one who marks you to be present on that day when salvation from sin will be complete.
31 Stop being mean, bad-tempered, and angry. Quarreling, harsh words, and dislike of others should have no place in your lives. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God has forgiven you because you belong to Christ. TLB Ephesians 4:17-32
Sounds simple and practical doesn’t? We are in a spiritual warfare series and I’m supposed to give you super spiritual, high level, very intense and new information for super Christian Elite people who want deeper teaching. What if it was as simple as, ‘Eat Your Vegetables’? Paul made it that simple when he wrote to the church in Ephesus.
The principle: Change your attitude and thoughts for the better, all the time. Sounds simple and practical because that’s the point. The greatest spiritual victory you will ever have in your life is to dump all the old ways of sin and live in a new life in freedom from sin. That will be your greatest battle. And how you know if you are winning or losing that spiritual battle will show up in how you practically live out life. That’s why Paul’s letter was so simple and so practical. Let’s review quickly what Paul said and see the spiritual battle within ourselves.
Stop lying to each other; tell the truth.
If you are angry, don’t sin by nursing your grudge.
If anyone is stealing he must stop it.
Don’t use bad language.
Say only what is good and helpful.
Don’t cause the Holy Spirit sorrow by the way you live.
Stop being mean, bad-tempered, and angry.
Quarreling, harsh words, and dislike of others should have no place in your lives.
Be kind to each other, tenderhearted.
Forgiving one another, just as God has forgiven you because you belong to Christ.
Do you see the battle? Do you see how the spiritual battle shows up in our thoughts, attitudes and behaviors? We need to dump our old sinful ways like lying, being angry, stealing, bad language, etc. We need to change our attitude and thoughts for the better, all the time. We need to walk in the freedom God gave us. When you do this, it will take care of almost 90% of spiritual warfare issues in your life.
Notice something very important about this principle. The focus is on breaking our sinful, selfish, rebellious will to follow God. And, we take 100% responsibility for our choices, our thoughts and behaviors in life. I need to quickly point out, that sometimes when Churches talk about spiritual warfare, they can go to an unhealthy extreme.
One extreme is that there is no spiritual warfare. That’s completely contrary to scripture. The other extreme is; every thought, emotion or dream is spiritual. In this state of mind, it can lead people to focus on power, not surrendering our lives to God. It leads people to be concerned and fearful not joyful. It can lead people to blame spiritual warfare for their bad choices and not their bad character to do the right thing. It can also, unfortunately, lead some people to think they are the elite in a Christian community. All of it is a silly extreme that focuses on the wrong things.
90% of the spiritual warfare issues are resolved when you do what Paul said. Change your attitude and thoughts for the better, all the time. It’s as simple as Eating Your Vegetables.
If you ignore this principle, it will lead to struggle. It’s like ignoring your vegetables, slamming twinkies all day, and wondering why you feel tired, hungry and sick throughout the day. Because we aren’t surrendering our will, our hearts, to God, it makes it easier to fall for the strategies of the devil. What are they? We talk about them in the next four weeks.
Agreements. You make a mistake and you think, “I’m stupid.” If you agree with that, it can damage your life. Your enemy would love it if you agreed with that lie. Another popular agreement that is false is; “God’s love must be earned.”
Appetites. You believe that satisfying your physical appetite will fill your spiritual need. It’s taking something that God meant for good and having too much of it leading to abuse. So sexual attraction turns to pornography. Rest can become laziness. Communication can become gossip.
Culture. This world, ruled by the evil one, is demonically opposed to God and His kingdom. This world will offer you everything you need to fulfill every desire you have. And it’s all a distraction from the one thing that is most important: your relationship with God.
Community. Nothing is harder than walking in relationship with people. It’s common for us to feel like no one likes us leading us to do life alone. Who do you think the loins of the African plane go after? Yes, the gazelle that is all alone. The same thing happens in real life. Separate yourself from others and the support they give, you will be devoured.
All these strategies of the devil can be overcome when you follow Paul’s simple spiritual advice. Change your attitude and thoughts for the better, all the time.
I need to ask; are you dealing with your will? Are you changing your attitude, daily? Do you walk through the day and put your attitude against the God grid? You have all authority in Christ to change it. Are you changing your thoughts, daily? Do you put your thoughts against the God grid? You can change your thoughts. You don’t have to enter you day pulled and pushed by old evil attitudes and thougths.
You don’t want to be that person who five or ten years from now pops their head up and says, “Nothing has changed, nothing is different.” That’s why Paul wrote,
I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will. NIV Romans 12:1-2
Eat your vegetables.