Spiritual Warfare: Faith vs. Sin

Note: The following is article #26 in a series reflecting on chapters in John Piper’s book Future Grace. More information on the book from Amazon.com is available here. A list of all the articles in this series so far is available here.

Spiritual Warfare. The words conjure up many different images to different people, whether of fierce looking supernatural creatures locked in combat or demons vying to control or destroy unwary mortals.

But what does spiritual warfare mean to you & me, in our day to day lives? Does a supernaturally evil Satan really expend any effort against “ordinary” Christians, and if so what does he do, and how do we respond?

The Bible is very clear that Satan indeed does try to destroy the lives of the people of God, that he “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)

But what is he doing? What should we be on our guard for? How can we fight back? In Chapter 26 of Future Grace Dr. Piper says that it is all about faith:

The number one aim of Satan is the destruction of faith (Romans 14:23)…[and] the way to thwart the devil is to strengthen the very thing he is trying most to destroy.

Whether it is a discouraging situation, a tempting thought, or any other kind of battle, the real target of Satan is always our faith. Since without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6), the destruction of our faith in God has been Satan’s plan since the Garden of Eden. Piper explains:

All the sinful states of our hearts are owing to unbelief in God’s super-abounding future grace. All our sin comes from failing to be satisfied with all that God is for us in Jesus. Misplaced shame, anxiety, despondency, covetousness, lust, bitterness, impatience, pride— these are all sprouts from the root of unbelief in the promises of God.

Whenever we turn from faith (total trust and reliance) in God and turn toward anything else, we open the door to sin in our lives. Piper uses Paul’s teaching about the love of money in 1 Timothy 6:10 to illustrate this battle in our hearts between faith and sin:

Money stands for what you can get from man instead of God… So the heart that loves money is a heart that pins its hopes, and pursues its pleasures, and puts its trust in what human resources can offer. So the love of money is virtually the same as faith in money (trust, confidence, assurance) that money will meet your needs and make you happy. … You can’t trust in God and in money at the same time. Belief in one is unbelief in the other.

All of Satan’s attacks against us hinge on him saying (pardon the reference to 70′s TV), “Who loves ya, baby?” Satan does all that he can to make us doubt God’s goodness, God’s power, and God’s love for us. Our faith is the pillar by which we stand or fall. Piper exhorts:

Where faith in God fails, sin follows. Faith stands or falls on the truth that the future with God is more satisfying than the one promised by sin. Where this truth is embraced and God is cherished above all, the power of sin is broken.

Do you feel embattled? Does your faith seem small? Know that it is both your lifeline and that which the Enemy most wishes to destroy, and know that you can boldly go to your loving Father and receive the grace and mercy and faith that you need to win every battle in your life.

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