Mrs. Meyer is a wife and mother in Hope Protestant Reformed Church of Walker, Michigan.
Of all the spiritual foes we must encounter, the closest and therefore most insidious enemy we have to face is our own sin. The battle line of the antithesis lies not only between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, but also in our hearts between the new man in Christ and the corrupt, old man of sin. That old man surrounds our new man, who indeed is but a seed within the old. The apostle Paul attests to the grueling combat in Romans 7:23, 24: “But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind…. O wretched man that I am!” The old man knows the chinks, the cracks, the weak spots of our armor. He raises his head in mocking triumph after every success in seducing the child of God to bow to pride and self-righteousness. But note that head—it is bruised. Crushed. The new man has the victory. Not just will have, but has. The outcome is certain. Yes, the new man is but a seed—but the old man is only chaff! We need to be reminded of that, and we need to remind our children of that as well.
You were unkind to your classmate? You hurt your brother or sister in Christ? You believe you can do as you please, and you need not listen to those whom God has placed in authority over you? That is your old man of sin. Fight him! You have every right to fight him, for he is doomed! He cannot win. God has given you a new man, a new, living heart to replace that old heart of stone. He lives in you! You live! In that new man you cannot lose. You cannot sin! So fight, and be encouraged—the victory is yours. “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sins; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God” (I John 3:9).
This is an amazing victory that we already possess. But how do we live in it? How exactly do we fight? Even if we could flee from the world, we cannot flee from our own flesh. The chaff still clings to us and defiles every perfect work we would do. Every single one! Yet, there are things we can learn. David, as both psalmist and a man of war, was able to expound in great eloquence the battle we are in and how it is fought. Indeed, it is part of the infallible instruction of the Spirit, given to us in order to “teach our hands to war” (Ps. 144:1). As stated above, one of the worst enemies we encounter on this earth is our own sinful flesh. David understood this well, and so must we. But not only is this a most treacherous enemy—it is also the first one we have to face.
Even the Heidelberg Catechism echoes the pattern, or strategy, that we see established in the psalms for the militant church on this earth. There must be, first of all, knowledge of sin. My sin and misery. I must know that first. I must know that in order to “live and die happily” (Lord’s Day 1, Q. and A. 2). In order to sing the versification of Psalm 144: “O happy land, whose sons in youth, in sturdy strength and noble truth, like plants in vigor spring…,” I must also confess with David verse 3 of that Psalm: “Lord, what is man, that thou takest knowledge of him!” We are vanity! We are but a shadow! The state of man in his own sinful nature is the first thing David proclaims after introducing the war and the Victor. “Blessed be the Lord my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight: My goodness and my fortress; my high tower…” (Ps. 144:1, 2). Yes, blessed is He! By verse 3 He is already teaching us vital information about how our enemies will be subdued.
Psalm 139 expands on this even more. The enemy must be sought and exposed in order to be eliminated. That is the theme of Psalm 139. It opens with praise to the Lord for: “thou hast searched me,” and it closes with: “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
Watching for our own sin. Looking for our own sin. Being sorry for it. Repudiating it. Turning from it. This is what we must point out to our children. This is how we begin to wage the battle. And this is the biggest part of the war.
The fight with our other enemies will naturally follow. If the antithesis is in the heart, the antithesis will be lived. Psalm 139puts these two things back-to-back. First: “Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate thee? … I count them mine enemies? (vv. 21, 22). Then: “Search me, O God…” (v. 23). To fight the enemy within, that enemy may not be allowed to be aided by the foes that are without. There will be—there must be—separation: “depart from me therefore, ye bloody men” (v. 19). There will be no fellowship with those who would lead us into temptation. There will be no fellowship with those who would lead us to compromise our walk or our doctrine. This expression is repeated twice in Psalm 144; “Rid me, and deliver me from the hand of strange children, whose mouth speaketh vanity, and their right hand is a right hand of falsehood” (v. 11; also vv. 7, 8). Vanity and falsehood. An apt description of the ungodly world and apostasy that abounds all around us today. It is scriptural to pray to be delivered from them!
This call for deliverance, separation, and even judgment is not limited to a few passages of Scripture. There are hundreds of such expressions in the psalms alone, beginning with Psalm 1 and continuing through such striking examples as Psalm 58 and 109. But there are also all the judgments in the prophets, all the calls to holiness in the New Testament, and all the examples of godly, holy, saints throughout. Abraham sojourned as a pilgrim and stranger his whole life. Lot did not. Lot did not think that separation from the world was all that necessary. But with the taste of salt upon his lips and the smell of brimstone in his nostrils, he learned otherwise. “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people…. I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul” (I Pet. 2:9-11). How do we abstain from these lusts and how do we teach our children to abstain? As pilgrims and strangers we are to be separate. We will not be found where we know fleshly lusts will attack our eyes and ears, we will not allow this attack to come within our own house and domain, and our companions will not be those who would lead us into that barrage. In fact, not only will we be strangers—we will be strange: “Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot…” (I Pet. 4:4). Day after evil day, the passageway on which our tent is pitched becomes a more narrow and constricted road. Can you sense it? There’s hardly any place we can go anymore where our senses are not assaulted with lust in one form or another. Stranger, indeed.
Not, of course, that we have no contact with the world. We rub shoulders with them, speak with them, and work next to them day by day. Jesus prayed, “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil” (John 17:15). Our light must shine in this world of darkness. But that does not mean we are in friendship and fellowship with that darkness. Abraham had dealings with the Canaanites too, and they respected him. He needed land for Sarah’s burial and purchased it in honesty and integrity. Nevertheless, he was a stranger to them.
“Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (II Cor. 6:17, 18).
We must be a separate people, but even then, there are those things which may not be touched. “Touch not the unclean thing.” In the Old Testament, touching the unclean thing meant that you became unclean. That pictured the same reality we experience today. When we touch what we ought not touch, we cannot expect to experience the blessings of forgiveness, for we will experience being “unclean.” Nor can we expect to make clean the unclean thing that we touch, for the effect only works the other way around. What are these unclean things? We are very familiar with most things of this world that we ought not touch. Adultery, drunkenness, illicit drugs, dancing, drama … a fuller list is not necessary. Yet, some of these things are more subtle than others. It may be profitable to take a moment and consider a few that especially relate to younger children, for they are poisonous darts directed exactly at them.
Satan, that old serpent, hides himself in deceptively “innocent” places, and what can seem more innocent than games, toys, and children’s books? So many could be brought to our attention, but one particularly perilous example is the electronic game and related paraphernalia called “Pokemon.” Pokemon stands for “pocket monsters,” and if you’ve ever seen these little creatures and thought they looked like little demons, you would be correct. They train the player to have an ever-increasing appetite for power, power that comes from Pokemon. But according to Phil Arms, author of Pokemon & Harry Potter: A Fatal Attraction, it is a devilish power, and it is a precursor to other dangerous, occultic games for older children and young adults, one of which is called “Dungeons and Dragons.” Cartoons and books can be another direct source of Satan’s influence. Magic, wizards, witches, spells … so many children’s stories center on these themes. The very popular Harry Potter books are a prime example, leading young readers to increasingly deeper recesses of the dark arts. Again, the quest is always for “power.”* A very deceptive move by the masquerading angel of light: the more powerful an individual thinks he is, the more enslaved to Satan that individual actually becomes. Satan is deadly serious in his cunning and craft. These things are not to be taken lightly. How he would love to snatch one of our impressionable young ones away! He cannot, of course, for we are sealed. Nevertheless, we have a calling. The Christians in Ephesus gave us an example by what they did to their accumulated books of the “curious arts” (Acts 19:19). Their response was swift, sure, and irreversible. They burned them.
By so doing, they resisted Satan. “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). This is what we must teach our children in order to teach them spiritual warfare—resist. But resistance involves more than physical separation and putting away evil things. Even then, we are not yet out of the enemy’s range. Satan has an arsenal of fiery darts designed especially for destruction deep inside his targets. But it is in defense of this particularly sinister artillery that our sure and certain victory is brought to the foreground. Next time, D.V., we will look at that.
*This information and more can be obtained from Pokemon & Harry Potter: A Fatal Attraction, by Phil Arms, Hearthstone Publishing, P.O. Box 815, Oklahoma City, OK, 73101, copyright 2000