Philippians 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
Proverbs 23:7 says, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” A shortened, yet accurate, translation can read, “As a man thinks, so he is.”
The human mind is the battlefield of the soul. Scripture tells us that Satan is the prince and the power of the air. (Ephesians 2:2) Before we came to Christ, we were bound under his influence. In our fallen, sinful state, Satan owned us and used deception to control of our hearts and minds. However, the moment we were born again, we were delivered from the domain of darkness, set free! Of course, that didn’t stop the devil; he uses everything in his power to draw us back under his control.
We are living in a time of war whether we realize it or not. Satan has come to steal, kill, and destroy from whoever he can. How? Primarily, by attacking our minds. It’s a fact that how we think will determine who we are and how we live. If we entertain the thoughts of the world, we will, in fact, live like the world. If on the other hand, we think the thoughts of God, we will live as new creations in Christ Jesus.
Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” Here, the heart refers to the very core of our being – our will, thoughts, and emotions that prompt our speech, and actions. The exhortation in this verse is to guard it with all diligence. The word ‘diligence’ gives us a picture of a military soldier on duty to preserve and protect.
As I was thinking about this, I thought of the soldiers that guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Arlington National Cemetery. To be chosen for that duty is one of the highest honors in military service, and they have served 24/7 – since April 6,1948. Their regiment consist of walking 21 steps in each direction, pausing in front of the tomb 21 seconds, moving the rifle to the other shoulder, pausing another 21 seconds, and then returning to a vigilant march in front of the tomb. This goes on around the clock, every day, and in every kind of weather. Over the past seventy-one years, their footsteps have worn a visible path in the surface in front of the tomb. Now that’s a picture of diligence! It’s a picture of what we are called to do in guarding our heart, for out of it springs the issues of life.
As I mentioned, the mind is the battle ground of the soul. Satan is constantly attacking us with all kinds of thoughts through visual images, music, movies, TV, the internet, social media, etc. Often, those thoughts can stir up lust, anger, hatred, unforgiveness, resentment, bitterness, accusations, suspicion, fear, unbelief, discouragement, and unresolved issues. If we accept those thoughts, they will take us where we don’t want to go…
If the devil showed up at our doorstep and said, “I have some ugly, lustful and deceptive thoughts,” we would tell him where to go – but it doesn’t happen that way. He is subtle and will often disguise his thoughts to appeal to our natural man. I Peter 5:8 says, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” Satan is always looking for someone to attack. He’s vigilant and relentless, looking for an opportunity to attack us, we are most vulnerable. That’s why we must guard our hearts with all diligence.
Satan knows our weaknesses. He watches us to determine where we are most vulnerable. For example, if someone is drawn toward pornography, a very common sin in the culture today, the devil will attack that person in that area. Over time, if the person allows those thoughts to flood his or her mind, a stronghold will be created in the soul. They are then addicted to pornography. Once that happens, it takes little effort on the part of Satan to keep that person bound in the sin that so easily ensnares them.
I recently heard a pastor say that he had to avoid going to the beach for years, because a girl in a bathing suit would trigger his lust. He came out of a lifestyle where porn was a normal part of life, where it had built a stronghold in his heart. Even thought he was radically changed when he was born again, he had to maintain a sentry at the door of his heart to tear down that stronghold. Satan knows where we are weak and will attack that area of our life.
Over the years, I’ve discovered that when I would leave home, I would no longer battle the same temptations. I soon realized that I left behind my personal demons. Demons are territorial, they are assigned to a specific area of work. You have probably heard the phrase, familiar spirits. Those are demons that are familiar with a person, maybe working in that family for generations. They learn our weakness by observing our behavior and know where to attack.
Another example of demonic temptation is in the area of depression. I know because I struggled with SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder, over the years. If you are prone to depression, Satan will attack repeatedly in that area. Why? Because he knows that depression is often triggered by our thoughts. As a person thinks, so he is.
In many ways, depression is a choice. There may be other contributing factors, but what we allow into our thought life will determine how we think and live. Satan knows depression will rob us of faith, cause us to become discouraged, and render us powerless in our walk with God. So, by observing our behavior, demons discover access points in our life. Once they learn our weakness – that’s where they attack. But here’s the thing, it all begins in the mind. The mind is the gateway to the soul. The moment we buy into demonic, depressive thoughts, we will be carried down a road we really don’t want to go.
Scientific studies have proved that it only takes thirty seconds for a thought to take root in our mind. We have thirty seconds to shut the door, thirty seconds before a negatively inspired thought can take us captive. In thirty seconds, we can become a “prisoner of war.” Demonically inspired thoughts are powerful and can even lead to suicide.
In Genesis 4, Cain and Abel brought an offering to the Lord. Abel was a keeper of sheep; Cain was a tiller of the ground. Abel brought the firstborn of his flock, and God was pleased. But Cain’s offering was not acceptable, so he became angry and depressed. God asked him why and then told him this: “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. Any it’s desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” (Genesis 4:7) Sin lies at our door, too! It doesn’t matter how righteous you may think you are – sin is waiting for you to open the door. Sometimes, a thought or two is all it takes to start the process, to lead us down the wrong road.
Ephesians 6:12 says, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Whether we realize it or not, we wrestle every day against the powers of darkness. We don’t see them, and most often we are not aware of their presence, but they are there. Satan is relentless in his warfare against the saints, especially those in hot pursuit of the Kingdom of God, but here’s the thing: “Greater is He (the Holy Spirit) that is in you, than he who is in the world.” (I John 4:4) “We have been given power to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you.” (Luke 10:19)
II Corinthians 10:4-5 also states, “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,” God has given us spiritual weapons for this spiritual war! We have the power to cast down arguments and bring every thought captive to Christ, through Him, in prayer. This is where the battle is most often won. We have been given power over our thought life – but we must use it.
Let me close with this admonition. James 4:7 says, “Therefore submit to God (step one), resist the devil (step two), and he will flee from you.” Not maybe, or sometimes, if he feels like it. NO! We have been given all power over the enemy; we just need to learn to use it. We need to stand on God’s Word and enforce the victory He won for us on Calvary; that’s how we fight!
So, when we sense, feel, recognize that Satan is attacking – often with thoughts, sometime with feelings – we must stop, put ourselves under God’s authority, and tell the devil where to go. He’ll probably come back a half-hour later but persist! Again, submit to God and tell the enemy where to go – even if he comes back again, and again, and again. If we submit to God, asking Him to work in our lives, and resist the enemy enough times, he’ll give up. It may take days, weeks, months, especially if we are dealing with a stronghold.
Using the enemy’s attacks as an opportunity for growth, by submitting to God and resisting him, will make us stronger. If we fill up on His Word and mix it with faith, it will transform our heart and mind and we will live completely free. “Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31-32)
We may need others to pray with us, to fight for us; that’s normal and helpful. We should never be ashamed to solicit the help of our brothers and sisters, because we really do need one another! That’s why God created us to be part of a family – His family. Like Joshua of old, we must choose this day, this moment, this hour, whom we will serve. “…As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!” (Joshua 24:15)