When we think of spiritual warfare, the normal routines, habits, and relationships in our day-to-day life are not what immediately comes to mind. Our last post noted the need to fight the adversary and to put on an awareness and alertness to the work of the enemy and his minions. A more common and often more destructive enemy is our own self. More specifically, our desires default to the world and away from God and his kingdom.
Even though we are saved by Jesus, we must exercise our spiritual muscles constantly or they will atrophy. We cannot just “be in the truth.” We must “walk in the truth” (3 John 3) and “imitate good” (3 John 11). 1 John 2:15-17 reminds us that you cannot love the world and love God:
“15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. ”
I want to briefly mention a few dangerous desires that will quickly pull us from the Lord. Then, I will mention a few ways to fight the world and its desires.
1. Comfort and Entertainment
This is perhaps the most subtle pull away from God. As many students are heading home from camp, many have a full month or more ahead of them before they head back to school. Summer brings the opportunity to hang out, go to movies, play sports, travel, garner Instagram likes, and much more. These are all good things and gifts from God. But, they must be pursued in moderation and in good conscience. Needed rest and relaxation can soon turn into an idol. We can get to a point that our only purpose and desire in life is to sit back and relax. This can then turn into spiritual apathy and a neglect of our responsibilities. Paul warned the Thessalonians against this kind of idleness:
“10 For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. 11 For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. 12 Now, such persons, we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.”
2. Material Possessions
We live in a material world and we live in the most materialistic society mankind has ever seen. The sheer number of things to which we have access to is incredible. When I was a young kid, a Wal-mart opened down the street. I remember being awed by the largeness of the building and the sheer number of things available. Today, Amazon and other companies allow you to order anything that you want and have it arrive in your house in a short time. The ease of clicking a button paired with the convenience of cheap and quick shipping makes it easy to accumulate possessions.
What things do you want? Worse, what things do you need? The things that we actually need are few: food, lodging, clothes. Consider the story of the rich young ruler, who claimed to perfectly obey the law, yet could not follow Jesus because he could not give up his many things (Mark 10:17-27).
3. Financial Security
In close connection with material possessions, is financial security. Frankly, we often use the term “financial security” as a euphemism for greed. While the Bible encourages us to save, steward our resources, and even to leave an inheritance for our children, it also condemns greed. If you are not at peace unless your bank account is full, you need to be careful. Jesus made abundantly clear, “You cannot love God and money” (Matthew 6:24).
4. The Praise of Man
Many of our readers are young. Money is not an issue, nor is financial security or material possessions. All of us love commendation. There are few things that will make my day go great then when my boss says, “Good work!” If we aren’t careful, we can come to long for this more than we long for the commendation of God. We seek praise from teachers, coaches, parents, friends, bosses, and many others. What motivates you to excel in your job, at school, in your hobby or sports? Is it to please God or is it to please man? Paul told the Galatians that you cannot seek the praise of God and man at the same time:
“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10).
5 Ways to Change What You Desire
There are many things in the world that will pull us from God. Many more than the representative list above. How do you fight? How do you engage in spiritual warfare against the world? God’s means of grace remains the same, whatever the battle. Here is a short but proven list that is sure to grow your desire for the Lord and reduce your desire for the world.
- Read and memorize your Bible.
- Sit under the preaching of the Word of God every single week.
- Serve others.
- Confess your sins and struggles to a friend or accountability partner.
- Read Christian biographies and Christian Theology.