Armed for the Fight Against Wicked Spirits
“We have a wrestling . . . against the wicked spirit forces in the heavenly places.”—EPHESIANS 6:12.
1. What fight do Christians have, and for how long must it continue?
AS LONG as the wicked spirits and the world under their control exist, we must fight to keep from coming under their influence. The apostle Paul wrote: “Put on the complete suit of armor from God that you may be able to stand firm against the [crafty acts] of the Devil; because we have a wrestling, not against blood and flesh, but against the governments, against the authorities, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the wicked spirit forces in the heavenly places.”—Ephesians 6:11, 12.
2. (a) As a result of the Devil’s original efforts, what additional fight do we have? (b) How does the Bible show that the situation is so serious that we really need to be armed for the fight?
2 Yet it is not only these outside attacks of wicked spirits with which we must contend; what makes our fight particularly hard is our inherited imperfection that resulted from the failure of Adam and Eve to resist the Devil’s original efforts. Thus, as the Bible says: “The inclination of the heart of man is bad from his youth up.” (Genesis 8:21; Romans 5:12) Even the apostle Paul had to fight to do what was right. “When I wish to do what is right,” he explained, “what is bad is present with me.” (Romans 7:21-23) “The heart is more treacherous than anything else and is desperate,” the Bible states. (Jeremiah 17:9) How clear it is that we need to be armed for the fight against the efforts of the wicked spirits to get us to do what is bad!
Fight Against Materialistic Desires
3. (a) What can we learn from the Devil’s original approach to Eve? (b) How might a person seeking material things rationalize?
3 We can be sure that the wicked spirits will try to cultivate in us materialistic inclinations. They will see to it that we are tempted by things that are ‘desirable to the eyes.’ (1 John 2:16) Recall Satan’s original approach to Eve, how he drew attention to the innocent-looking tree with its forbidden fruit. Having had her interest in the tree and its fruit aroused, Eve began to notice “that it was something to be longed for to the eyes, yes, the tree was desirable to look upon.” So what happened? “She began taking of its fruit and eating it.” (Genesis 3:6) Wicked spirits will use similar tactics, playing on our natural desire for nice-looking things. They are no doubt responsible for the rationalizing that is sometimes heard: ‘Well, if I have to work for a living I might as well make a lot of money and get many things. That way I can share them with others.’
4. (a) What sharing is commendable, yet what kind of gift giving is wrong? (b) Servants of God in the past fell into what trap that we must avoid?
4 Surely it is commendable for present-day witnesses of Jehovah with more in a material way to share with those having less, as did early Christians at their love feasts. (Jude 12) Yet, what if a person has an ulterior motive, perhaps giving a gift to an individual because he knows that one is in a position to give him in return some privilege within the Christian congregation? That would indeed be wrong! And it would also be wrong for the one accepting such a gift to repay it with that kind of favor. If one did such a thing, it could be compared to the taking of a bribe. Wisely a Christian would guard against falling into such a trap, a trap that certain past servants of God fell into when entrusted with positions of responsibility.—1 Samuel 8:1-3; 2 Chronicles 19:6, 7.
5. What danger is there when material things become of undue importance in one’s life?
5 When material things become especially prominent or important in a person’s life, regardless of the professed reason, that person is in a very dangerous situation. What can happen? Spirituality can, and often is, slowly choked. In one of his illustrations Jesus described some who had learned God’s truth, saying: “But, by being carried away by anxieties and riches and pleasures of this life, they are completely choked and bring nothing to perfection.” (Luke 8:14) Yet even if the spirituality of the Christian that puts undue emphasis on material things is not choked, does it mean that the subtle advances by wicked spirits have not been successful?
6. What effect can a Christian’s materialistic course have on fellow believers?
6 No, for consider how that person’s materialistic course can affect others in the congregation. For example, when younger, impressionable members of the congregation see another Christian exerting himself to make a lot of money and get nice things, are they thereby encouraged to seek first God’s Kingdom? What have you observed? Is it not true that, upon observing the apparent advantages of having material things, newer ones in the way of the truth are inclined also to pursue materialistic goals, perhaps to their own spiritual disaster?
7. (a) Why is the example of a Christian elder in Germany a good one? (b) How does the world measure success, and how should Christians view such attitudes? (c) Should we criticize those having fine material possessions?
7 The experience of a Christian elder in Germany, who also happens to be wealthy, is noteworthy. A Christian brother, knowing something about his financial status, asked him why he drove a Volkswagen (a less expensive car) and lived in a modest apartment. Becoming very serious, he answered: ‘Because if I drove a Mercedes Benz (a luxury car) and lived in an ostentatious manner, it could have a damaging effect on the spirituality of my Christian brothers and sisters.’ How different that attitude is from the world’s! To make a “showy display of one’s means of life” is the way of the world. (1 John 2:16) According to the world, the measure of success is the amount of money and material possessions a person has. But may that never be so in the Christian organization! We need to be armed so that none of this type of satanic thinking infiltrates our own thinking and that of the Christian congregation. At the same time our own godly devotion along with contentment will result in our not being critical of those who may seem to be overlavish in their way of life.—1 Timothy 6:6-8.
8. (a) What example did Jesus Christ set for us? (b) What questions can we appropriately ask ourselves?
8 We need always to keep in mind the attitude and example of our Master, Jesus Christ. Although Christ could have possessed great glory and wealth, and could have lived in luxury, he did not seek these things. At times he did not even have what many people consider life’s essentials. (Matthew 4:8, 9; 8:20) Why was he so self-sacrificing? Because he had his priorities in proper order. He realized that the doing of God’s will should come before everything else. (John 4:34) Are we looking to his example, endeavoring to copy it in the way we live? For what are we really living—having an easy, comfortable life now or the gaining of everlasting life in God’s new system?—Hebrews 12:2, 3; 1 Peter 2:21-24; 3:14.
9. What spiritual armor do we need in order to combat materialistic inclinations, and how can this armor protect us?
9 In our fight to keep wicked spirits from cultivating in us materialistic inclinations, we need armor, spiritual armor. We need to have on “the breastplate of RIGHTEOUSNESS,” which means we must do what is right in God’s sight. (Ephesians 6:13, 14) And the right thing for us to do now is ‘to disown ourselves and follow Christ’s example,’ because as Jesus went on to say: “What benefit will it be to a man if he gains the whole world but forfeits his soul?” (Matthew 16:24-27; compare Matthew 6:33.) Another very important piece of armor is “the large shield of FAITH.” (Ephesians 6:16) We must genuinely believe in God’s coming new system and not be looking to this old system to satisfy our desires. Never forget that soon it will end, along with all its riches.—1 John 2:17; Ezekiel 7:19.
10. What piece of armor is especially important in combating materialistic inclinations, and why?
10 But to fight against subtle forms of materialism, we especially need the next-mentioned piece of armor, namely, “the helmet of SALVATION.” Another apostolic letter says we must have on “as a helmet the HOPE OF SALVATION.” (Ephesians 6:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:8) Having the “hope of salvation” means looking forward to the payment of the reward by God and not looking for the reward of a life of ease in this system of things.
11. How did Moses show that he had on “as a helmet the hope of salvation”?
11 Moses had on this helmet, “the hope of salvation.” Even though he was raised as the son of the daughter of Pharaoh, he refused to choose “the temporary enjoyment of sin” in the royal household or to pursue “the treasures of Egypt.” Why? “For he looked intently toward the payment of the reward.” Moses meditated, or thought deeply, about the things that Jehovah had promised. It was not simply that Moses had heard or read about Jehovah. The Bible says that “he continued steadfast as seeing the One who is invisible.” (Hebrews 11:24-27) Jehovah was real to Moses and so were His promises of everlasting life. If we are to resist Satan’s attacks successfully, our hope of living forever must be just as real to us.
Fight Against Sexual Immorality
12. What have wicked spirits created in order to mount a successful attack against many Christians?
12 As noted in the previous article, one of the main ways wicked spirits inflict battle casualties is by getting Christians to engage in sexual immorality. They seek to corrupt our God-given sexual desire—meant to be satisfied only within marriage. Practically everywhere today the wicked spirits have succeeded in creating an environment, as well as situations, wherein Christians are tempted into having sexual relations outside the marriage arrangement. What armor will help us fight this attack of wicked spirits?
13. How did Joseph show that he had on “the breastplate of righteousness”?
13 Having on “the breastplate of righteousness” is vital. We need to be determined at all times to do what Jehovah says is right. (1 Corinthians 6:18) Joseph had on this armor. When the sex-mad wife of Potiphar kept begging him day after day, “Lie down with me,” Joseph said: “How could I commit this great badness and actually sin against God?” (Genesis 39:7-12) As did Joseph, we also need to think of the consequences of engaging in the immoral conduct that our ‘treacherous heart’ may desire.—Jeremiah 17:9.
14. What should we consider that will help us to avoid becoming involved in sexual immorality?
14 First, we should consider how God is affected if we break his law. Satan has taunted Jehovah, claiming that under test humans will not be faithful to Him. So Jehovah urges: “Be wise, my son, and make my heart rejoice, that I may make a reply to him that is taunting me.” (Proverbs 27:11) Think about it: Will you break God’s law and make Satan glad and God sad? (Psalm 78:38-41) If you really love Jehovah, how could you do such a thing? Consider, too, what is the wise thing to do. Only Jehovah can give you everlasting life. So is it not wise to do his will?—1 John 5:3; Romans 6:23.
15. What viewpoint do those who become involved in sexual wrongdoing fail to have in mind?
15 Christians who succumb to Satan’s attack really lose their spiritual vision. Their lack of spiritual sight can be compared to the situation of Elisha’s attendant. Recall how Elisha prayed for him: “O Jehovah, open his eyes, please, that he may see.” And the attendant saw, “and, look! the mountainous region was full of horses and war chariots of fire all around Elisha.” (2 Kings 6:15-17) Do you see who is watching us? Jehovah is, and so are Christ and the angels. (Psalm 11:4; 34:7; Hebrews 1:14; Matthew 18:10) We are on a theatrical stage, as it were. (Compare 1 Corinthians 4:9.) Having this Scriptural viewpoint, how could a person, knowing that his very actions are being watched from above, engage in sexual wrongdoing?
16. What further matters, if considered, will help us to avoid engaging in sexual immorality?
16 Also, if you were to pursue an immoral course, consider the reflection it would have on the Christian congregation. Outsiders may conclude that Jehovah’s Witnesses are not any different from the world, and, as a result, these observers may fail to respond to the life-giving message. (2 Peter 2:2) Think, too, of the grief such an immoral course could cause your family members. (Proverbs 10:1) And, if you are married, ask yourself: “How could I do such a cruel thing to my mate? What kind of person am I?” When we take everything into consideration, is not engaging in sexual immorality a completely selfish, short-sighted, foolish thing?
17, 18. (a) What lifelong battle did the apostle Paul have, and how was he able to win? (b) For us to be fully armed, what is vital, and how must we follow it up?
17 True, it is not always easy to avoid wrongdoing. The apostle Paul himself had a lifelong battle against the wrong desires to which he had once been a slave. He wrote: “I [beat] my body and lead it as a slave, that, after I have preached to others, I myself should not become disapproved somehow.” (1 Corinthians 9:27; Titus 3:3) Paul ‘got tough’ with himself. He would force himself to do what was right, even when his body desired to do wrong. You must do the same if you are to wage a successful fight.
18 In order to be fully armed you also need regularly to pray to God for help. (Ephesians 6:18) Yet you cannot pray for help and then read immoral literature, go to immoral movies or daydream about or flirt with one of the opposite sex. You must work for what you request in prayer!
Fight Against Independent Thinking
19. (a) How has Jehovah always guided his people? (b) How is independent thinking manifested by some persons?
19 As we study the Bible we learn that Jehovah has always guided his servants in an organized way. And just as in the first century there was only one true Christian organization, so today Jehovah is using only one organization. (Ephesians 4:4, 5; Matthew 24:45-47) Yet there are some who point out that the organization has had to make adjustments before, and so they argue: “This shows that we have to make up our own mind on what to believe.” This is independent thinking. Why is it so dangerous?
20. (a) Of what is independent thinking an evidence? (b) What will help us to avoid placing our own views ahead of the organization’s? (c) What first-century example is it well for us to follow?
20 Such thinking is an evidence of pride. And the Bible says: “Pride is before a crash, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.” (Proverbs 16:18) If we get to thinking that we know better than the organization, we should ask ourselves: “Where did we learn Bible truth in the first place? Would we know the way of the truth if it had not been for guidance from the organization? Really, can we get along without the direction of God’s organization?” No, we cannot!—Compare Acts 15:2, 28, 29; 16:4, 5.
21. (a) How only can we win in our fight? (b) What must we never forget, and so what kind of life do we now need to lead?
21 When we consider the mighty spirit forces who are fighting against us, we must acknowledge that on our own we could not possibly win. Yet with God’s backing, and with the help and support of his organization—our worldwide association of brothers—we cannot lose. (Psalm 118:6-12; 1 Peter 5:9) However, we must never forget that we are in a spiritual war, and that wartime is no time to be relaxing, enjoying only leisure and the pleasures of life. Rather, it is the time for vigorous training, alertness and self-sacrifice. The enemy has been able to get some from among us to relax their guard, and these have become battle casualties. May this never happen to us! It will not if we keep on “the complete suit of armor from God” and “stand firm against the [crafty acts] of the Devil.”—Ephesians 6:11, 12.
Can You Answer These Questions?
□ When material things become especially prominent in a Christian’s life, what problems can result for that person and for others in the congregation?
□ What will help us to combat materialistic inclinations?
□ What will help us to avoid succumbing to sexual immorality?
□ What is an evidence of independent thinking, and what can help us to avoid it?
[Picture on page 24]
If a Christian becomes boastful, making a showy display of his means of life, what effect can this have on other members of the congregation?