A Lion on the Prowl: Our Battle Against Sin and Satan
BY ANNA MAITLIN HUGHES
A lion is a great many things. He is a powerful creature, ferocious hunter, and can even be stuffed into a small toy for children to coddle. Above all, the lion is a predator – biologically wired to pursue prey. He considers not the heart of his victim; he hunts to feed, seeking to destroy. As Christians, we have a lion on our tails at all times. He is cunning, lying in wild grasses, waiting to pounce like a fiery dart: “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
Satan is on the prowl. So, how do we respond? How can we prepare? How do we fight back? Is there anything that can be done to combat a lion set to destroy all we hold dear? Surely there is hope for us in this spiritual battlefield.
1. Sin is deep-rooted and must be mortified
If we look at New Testament theology, there is no debating that sin creates an eternal divide between God and humanity (Romans 3:23). As descendants of Adam, we are biologically wired to be sinful. We do not need to be taught how to sin; it’s in our DNA to love it and chase it. This disease is deep-rooted, and (for the most part) the church has no problem recognizing it. However, one issue the Western church avoids talking about is the mortifying of sin in believers. Mortification is the process of saint killing sin. J.I. Packer describes it as such:
I never get to the end of mortifying sin because sin in my heart is still marauding, even though it is not dominant. Sin is constantly expressing itself in new disorderly desires, as bindweed is constantly expressing itself in fresh shoots and fresh blooms. Once bindweed has established itself in your garden or hedge it is very difficult to get out because it is always extending itself under the surface of the soil. And sin in the heart is rather like that. But as blooms of sin break surface and I recognize them, I am called to — indeed deep down in my heart I want to — go into action with this prayer procedure for draining the life out of them. And I think this is a discipline every Christian has to wake up to right at the beginning of the Christian life and continue with as long as we are in this world.
Those professing saving faith in Christ are not merely called into faith to live however we please (Romans 6:1-2). Instead, we are called to live in the light of Christ, dying daily to past desires of flesh, putting off the old nature and renewing our minds (Galatians 5:16-17, Ephesians 4:22-24, Romans 12:1-2). In short: we kill sin and seek life in things of the Spirit. In the words of the Puritan theologian John Owen, “Do you mortify? Do you make it your daily work? Be always at it whilst you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you.”
Difficult questions may arise: “How can I kill something intangible? I struggle with lustful thoughts;” or perhaps, “How do I kill something so deeply-rooted? I have struggled with greed and the love of money since I was in college.” The answer is found in Romans 8:13: you put flesh to death and you choose to live by the Spirit instead. You choose the Lord and his promises instead of lustful thoughts about your co-worker of the same sex. Every single day, through prayer and by the Spirit, you battle against the flesh. Are you doubtful that the Lord could find you in the wilderness of sin you call home? Psalm 139:12 promises that even the darkest of nights is light to God. He will find you, friend, and deliver you, for great is his steadfast love (Psalm 86). Lean on the Spirit and pour yourself out in prayer as you fight to mortify sin; he who calls you is faithful.
2. Satan must be battled with the supernatural
When the topic of the supernatural comes up, people, including Christians, can get uneasy, because it’s so separate from our “natural” world. Regardless of how we feel though, scripture calls Satan supernatural, so that’s exactly how we should think of him:
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. – Ephesians 6:12-13.
Henceforth, we must battle supernatural with supernatural; the war must be waged on this prowling lion with spiritual weapons. These weapons are found in scripture and should be utilized through prayer and repetition on a daily basis, as we make war on the flesh. Press into the living, active Word of God and fight.
3. We have been called into a great hope
Because of the work of Christ, we can lift our gaze toward heaven and have hope. If indeed we have been called into the family of God, then he’ll be faithful to finish the good work started in us (Philippians 1:6). He will carry us to the finish line where we receive the eternal prize of union with a holy king. This glorious inheritance is worth every penny. Though we face trials and are assured days of struggles here in our earthly wasteland, God has given so much to those he has adopted. As we walk step-by-step with the Spirit, we are promised growth and sanctification (Romans 8:30). The fight to mortify sin and fend off the lion of the world is not in vain.
In the words of John Piper, “Are you living in the fullest enjoyment of God’s YES to you in Christ Jesus?” Have you said yes to all of his beautiful promises? There are so many promises in scripture to cling to and use as weapons against Satan’s advances, but how often do we say yes to all of them? The Lord your God is fighting for you; you need not wage war alone against the prowling lion’s schemes.
So take heart dear brother or sister! As you fight to kill sin, there are promises to hold onto. The God who called you is faithful; the Spirit is present and active to intercede on your behalf; the scripture is a living sword ready to slay; and you have an inheritance “that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:4). Today, say yes to the Lord’s promises, kill the sin no matter how deep, and slay the lion.
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