July 17, 2014 Broadcast

The World, the Flesh, & the Devil

A Message by Voddie Baucham

Christians face a war on three fronts. Our battle is not against the physical army but against the world, the flesh and the devil. Thursday on Renewing Your Mind, Dr. Voddie Baucham explains that we should expect the fight to be hard but we need not be afraid. Hear this encouraging lesson, Thursday, on Renewing Your Mind.

From the series: Overcoming the World: 2014 National Conference

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Further Study On This Topic

  1. article

    Thy Kingdom Come

  2. article

    Kingdoms in Conflict

  3. devotional

    The World, the Flesh, and the Devil

Thy Kingdom Come

Archie Parrish

Henry was an ornery agnostic. His wife, Eunice, was a devout Christian. They lived in a farming community, where a yearlong drought was devastating the local economy. At the request of many of the farmers, the pastor of a local church called the community together to pray for rain. As Eunice was leaving to go to the church, Henry challenged, “Do you really believe that it will rain if you ask for it?”

Eunice opened her Bible and read to Henry: “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit” (James 5:16–18). Eunice continued: “Praying for the drought to end is a big prayer, but I believe there is nothing too hard for God. If I didn’t believe that God can answer our prayer and break the drought, I would not go to this prayer meeting.”

Henry mocked, “If you really believe that God will answer this ‘big prayer’ and give rain, where is your umbrella?”

Eunice picked up her umbrella and went to the prayer meeting. She returned home without having to use the umbrella, but that night it rained and the drought was broken.

What makes a “big” prayer? A multitude of words doesn’t do it. Only prayers that are consistent with God’s character and focus on advancing God’s kingdom can truly be called “big.”

The Bible provides many examples of such prayers. In response to big prayers, God delivered His people from the dreaded Assyrians (2 Kings 19:14–37). The restoration of the people of God from the Babylonian captivity was an answer to big prayers (see Jer. 29:10–14; 50:4–5; Dan. 9; Ezra 8:21; Neh. 1:4–11; 4:4–5; 9:1–38). Samson, in his weakness, received strength to pull down Dagon’s temple through big prayer (Judg. 16:28–30). In answer to big prayers, God gave the greatest outpouring of the Spirit on the church in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost (Acts 1:14).

Jesus prayed big prayers. Some would say that our Lord’s High Priestly Prayer in John 17 was His biggest prayer. In this prayer, He asked that His people would be kept from the evil one (v. 15), that they might become one (v. 21), and that they might be with Him and behold His glory (v. 24). As the hour drew near when He would die, Jesus prayed that the work of redemption would be accomplished, even at the cost of His life (Matt. 26:39, 42). Now at the right hand of the Father, He lives forever to pray big prayers of intercession, pleading the power of His sacrifice to counter the accusations of the adversary against His people (Heb. 7:25).

God is the high priority in the model prayer given by our Lord. The best Greek manuscripts omit the closing sentence: “ ‘For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen’ ” (Matt. 6:13). There is abundant evidence, however, that these words were used almost universally in the worship of the early church. Some believe congregations recited these words in unison after each petition. If they did, then focus on the kingdom of God is underscored. I infer from this that all prayer should focus on God’s kingdom. What is kingdom-focused prayer? It is not mere instinctive prayer, but it is Spirit-enabled. It is not man-centered, but God-centered. It is not self-serving or sentimental, but Scriptural—in both principle and content. It is not timid, but bold! It is not passive resignation, but proactive cooperation. It is both solo and concerted. In summary, kingdom-focused prayer is the Spirit-enabled cry of God’s adopted children seeking their Father’s glory by persistently asking Him for the nations, their promised inheritance.

The Reformers prayed big prayers. The Protestant Reformation was initiated, achieved, and maintained by big prayers. Among the enemies of the Reformation were the Muslims, the emperor, and the papists. Martin Luther believed in praying big prayers. He taught, “The Lord is great and high, and therefore He wants great things to be sought from Him and is willing to bestow them so that His almighty power might be shown forth.” Thus, Luther prayed: “Dear Lord, I know that You have still more, You have much more than You can ever bestow; in You I shall never want, for if there were need, the heavens would rain guilders [dollars]. Be my treasury, my cellar, my storehouse; in You have I all riches; if I have You, I have enough.”

God indicates there is nothing too hard for Him (see Jer. 32:27), and so He challenges us to pray big prayers: “ ‘Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know’ ” (Jer. 33:3).

Praying big prayers requires childlike faith. Patrick Johnston tells a story about his wife, Jill. For a long time she was burdened to help children pray big prayers for world evangelization. She began to write a book to this end in 1990. She lived at the headquarters of the Dorothea Mission in London. As Jill completed each chapter, a group of praying children used the information to intercede for each country. Albania was one of the first countries in her project. It was a communist hermit state, which proudly claimed to be the first atheistic country in the world. All religious expression was illegal. The Gospel was banned and there were no known believers in the entire country. The children began praying for the needs of the children in Albania. They prayed for religious freedom to come to that land. A few months later, the communist government fell, and freedom for worship and witness came. Jill had to rewrite the Albania chapter in her book. When these children heard this, they were delighted. One of them shouted, “We have changed Albania!” Today there is a Gospel witness in virtually every Albanian town and city. May God give us the faith of these little children.

Evaluate your prayer life by answering the following questions. More than 40 percent of the earth’s surface is in a state of drought—are you praying for rain? Like Hezekiah, are you praying for deliverance from terrorists throughout the world? Have you thanked the Lord for His intercession for you? Like our Lord, are you praying “ ‘not as I will, but as You will,’ ” even if it costs your life? Are your prayers “kingdomfocused”? Are your prayers big enough to honor God? Are you praying for enemies of the cross to be converted? If they will not be converted, are you asking God to restrain them so they cannot disturb the growth of His church? Like the children who prayed for Albania, do you pray for God to change the world? Are your big prayers becoming bigger prayers?

Kingdoms in Conflict

R.C. Sproul Jr.

It is the special gift of the serpent that he is not only able to construct his own diabolical versions of the things of God but that he is able in turn to disguise what he is doing. He creates a fake, and then turns around and disguises it as something safe

and innocuous. That is, he is not only the false prince of a false kingdom, but those who are citizens of his realm have no idea that that is where they live. Because, for instance, the separation of church and state is an enshrined principle of these United States, precious few recognize that the statism we have embraced as a culture isn’t merely bad politics, it is bad theology. That is, the problem with statism isn’t ultimately the intrusiveness of the state, but the presumption of the state. The problem isn’t that they control our lives, but that they think they are God. The affront isn’t to our liberties, but to God’s prerogatives. Would that we were more zealous to protect His authority than to protect our petty liberties. 

Consider the Lord’s prayer through the eyes of the average American. While the federal government is writing checks to “artists” whose work consists of crucifixes floating in jars of urine, or images of the virgin Mary covered in elephant dung, it is at the same time seeking to make it a crime to “desecrate” the flag. How many of us understand what desecration is? It means to make unholy, or to treat that which is holy as unholy. Our fathers in Washington insist that their flag must be hallowed, it must be treated as holy.

When the citizen of heaven prays, he asks God that we on earth might come to obey and rejoice in our Lord as those who have entered their reward already do. We want to be as obedient as those who are in glory. When the citizen of these United States prays, he asks the state to impose our will on other nations, as it is imposed here. He asks that this kingdom would, even with carnal weapons, bring our vision of paradise to bear on every corner of the globe. We call it exporting democracy.

When the citizen of heaven prays, he asks God for his daily bread. When the citizen of these United States prays, he asks his god to provide his daily bread, his college loan, his mortgage insurance, his health care, his prescription drugs. He asks his god to make sure the stock market keeps climbing. He asks his god to provide jobs and a chicken in every pot. He even is brazen enough to ask for miracles. A hundred years ago a great epidemic passed over this land. Thousands died of influenza, and the nation responded in prayer, to the living God. Twenty years ago, a new epidemic began to spread in America. Once again Americans prayed. The difference this time is they bowed toward Washington, asking the state to cure AIDS.

When the citizen of heaven prays, he asks God that his debts might be forgiven, as he forgives the debts of others. When the citizen of these United States prays, he asks the state to create more debts, to cover his own debts. He asks the bankrupt state to borrow still more money from the future, so that he too can continue to borrow more money from the future, and pay off those debts in inflated dollars.

When the citizen of heaven prays, he asks God to lead him not into temptation, but to deliver him from evil. When the citizen of these United States prays, he asks his god to keep him away from evil, to tax his vices, to sue the vice providers, to buy airtime to cajole us all to eat better, and buckle our seat belts, and if all that fails, to pay the doctors to undo our mistakes.

When the citizen of heaven prays, he affirms that the kingdom, the power, and the glory all belong to our Father. When the citizen of these United States prays, he affirms that the kingdom, the power, and the glory belong to the party with which he is affiliated.

God tells us not to put our hope in princes and horses, and we, fools that we are, think that because our world is ruled by presidents and nuclear missiles, that we have outgrown this danger. We would be wise to remember this simple historical truth: not a single Christian was martyred in the first century because he believed Jesus was the Messiah, because he believed Jesus was raised from the dead. Every Christian martyr to fall at the hands of the Romans fell for one simple reason — he refused to take the pledge of allegiance. The Roman pledge was rather shorter than ours — Caesar ho kurios — Caesar is lord. Tens of thousands of Christians went to their death because they confessed the first creed of the church — Christos ho Kurios — Christ is Lord. They knew where their citizenship lay. If His kingdom is to come in greater fullness in our day, if His will is to be done in these United States as it is in heaven, then the church of Jesus Christ must learn where they are citizens. For His is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory. Amen.

The World, the Flesh, and the Devil

Dwelling on past sins in order to wallow in guilt or to revel in nostalgia is never a good idea, but Paul intends neither of these things when reminding readers of their condition before knowing Jesus (Eph. 2:1). Instead, the apostle wants to draw a contrast between life apart from Christ and life in Christ so as to magnify the power and grace of God in salvation. Laying the foundation for this contrast, the apostle continues describing life outside of Jesus in Ephesians 2:2–3, painting the bleakest of pictures for unredeemed sinners.

We were dead apart from Christ indeed (v. 1), but it was a state of spiritual death that did not render us incapable of action. We were all too capable of transgressing that which is holy, “following the course of this world . . . the prince of the power of the air . . . the passions of our flesh” (vv. 2–3). Here Paul reveals the three great powers that enslaved us completely before we knew Jesus and which we must continually rebel against in the course of our growth in holiness — the world, the flesh, and the Devil.

“The course of this world” (v. 2) refers to the ways of culture and society that oppose the Lord. There are ungodly trends in the world — materialism, naturalism, desire for instant gratification, and more — that once ruled all of our passions but are now defeated in Christ (John 16:33; 1 John 5:5). No longer our ruler, the world still appeals to our remaining sin, so we must maintain our guard lest we fall back into bondage.

In ancient times, the term air often referred to the spiritual realm of angels and demons; thus, “the prince of the power of the air” is Satan (Eph. 2:2). This leader of all that opposes God stirs up trouble all over the world, and he even endeavors to infiltrate and disturb the church (4:26–27). The Devil is fierce but easily put to flight when we resist him by the Spirit, as Jesus has triumphed over him (James 4:7; Col. 2:15).

Finally, “the passions of our flesh” and “desires of the body” (Eph. 2:3) refer not to our physical bodies, as if our corporeal form is in itself wicked. After all, God created all things good, including our bodies (Gen. 1:31). The apostle is speaking of our fallen nature, which Christ has subdued. It is a resilient foe, however, that remains until our glorification. We must therefore seek daily to mortify it and deny the sins that seem the most appealing to us (Rom. 6:12–14).

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