Know Your Adversary

Why did Paul tell Timothy, “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ”? (2 Timothy 2:3). Paul understood fully that the Christian life is very much like being in a physical war. In war, good soldiers fight to stay alive. In the Christian war, the stakes are much higher.

At baptism, the true Christian enters a life and death struggle with eternal consequences. All of us are in a battle to attain eternal life. How goes your war? Are you gaining ground every day—or are you in disastrous retreat? Are you battle weary? Do you want to give up? Lately, I have noticed that the war has intensified for the members of the Philadelphia Church of God. Some are fighting valiantly, winning strategic offensives. Some are exhibiting battle fatigue. Some few are giving up. Unfortunately, there have also been several casualties—several have recently left God’s Philadelphia Church. It is always a great tragedy when someone decides to leave the pcg. Why does this happen?

Generally, nations’ military leaders lose a war because they miscalculate their enemies. All great military strategists recognize that wars are won when a nation, soldier or individual comes to fully understand the enemy. A battle-winning general knows the enemy so well he can anticipate the enemy’s next move. How well do you know your enemy? Do you even know who your enemy is? The Bible reveals a lot on this particular subject.

Your Adversary

How well do you know your enemy? Who are we fighting against? Peter wrote, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Peter names our enemy without reservation. He says very clearly, “… your adversary the devil.” Jesus Christ is our personal savior; Satan is our personal adversary. The Greek word for “adversary” here is antidikos. Strong’s Concordance states that this name means “an opponent (in a lawsuit); [specifically] (Satan as the arch-enemy); adversary.” Strong’s shows us that Peter chose a very powerful word here. Satan is not just an adversary; he is our archenemy.

There are two extreme, modern views concerning Satan. Many in today’s world do not believe that Satan even exists. Our modern educational system does not recognize that a spiritual reality exists, when in fact the spirit world is more real than our own (Colossians 1:15-16). This is the view that Satan likes the most.

Another view represents Satan as the being that creates irritating problems around every corner. If the dishwasher springs a leak—>Satan did it! If the air conditioning breaks down—Satan did it! Flat tire—Satan did it! Now it is true that Satan can do these things. Satan and his demons can affect physical objects. He certainly tries to frustrate God’s ministry physically. Paul told the Thessalonians, “Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us” (1 Thessalonians 2:18). Satan hindered Paul. God allowed him to greatly afflict Job (Job 1 and 2). Satan can and sometimes does hinder us physically. But most of the time he has much more serious plans for each one of us.

We must be careful not to get out of balance in our view of Satan; however, we must recognize that he is very real and he has definite plans to attack each and every one of us. He is out to win! He is vicious, full of wrath, and wants nothing more than to cause your eternal death! Jesus Christ warned Peter, “… Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat” (Luke 22:31). We must also take warning.

On the Spiritual Attack

We must not be uninformed about how Satan attacks us. Paul wrote the Corinthians, “Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices” (2 Corinthians 2:11). Are we ignorant of Satan’s devices? How well do we understand that Satan wages war against us most of the time? He fights against us spiritually. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12). We must understand that Satan is waging a spiritual battle against us. If we are on the lookout for gremlins, we could be missing the big picture and lose the war.

Satan is a great military strategist. “And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born. … And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. … Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time. … And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 12:3-4, 7-8, 12, 17).

Satan has been waging great battles for a long time. He is full of great wrath. His primary target is the Church. For our immediate present, God the Father reveals to us that Satan knows he has a short time. How well do you know Satan? Do you understand what strategy he is using against you?

Satan Broadcasts

Satan’s primary way of getting to us is through attitudes, moods and impulses. “Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others” (Ephesians 2:2-3). Paul recognized that Satan is a great broadcaster. He injects hostile attitudes in human minds. He inspires attitudes of selfishness, rebellion and disobedience. Until Jesus Christ returns and puts Satan away, the air is surcharged with Satan’s attitudes. Because of the human spirit inside all of us, every human is automatically tuned in to Satan’s wavelength.

Mr. Armstrong wrote in Mystery of the Ages, “In Ephesians 2:2, Satan is called the prince of the power of the air, working in—inside the minds of—people. I could never have understood this until: 1) I had understood how radio and television sounds and pictures are transmitted through the air; and 2) I had learned the truth about the human spirit in the human brain. If your radio is set on the proper radio wavelength, or television set is tuned to the proper channel, the broadcaster’s message comes through clearly. Satan as prince of the power of the air broadcasts—not in words, sounds or pictures, but in attitudes, moods, impulses.

“For example, we read in Ezra 1:1, when King Cyrus of Persia issued a proclamation to send a colony of Jews back to Jerusalem to build the second temple, he was moved to do so because God stirred up his human spirit—in other words, put the suggestion and impulse in his mind, and the king acted on it. In the same manner, Satan moves on the human spirit within people to move them in attitudes of envy, jealousy, resentment, impatience, anger, bitterness and strife. People have no realization of the tremendous power of Satan. The human spirit within each human is automatically tuned to Satan’s wavelength. It seems as if Satan has surcharged the air over the entire Earth with his attitude of self-centeredness and vanity.”

Beware Self-righteousness

So we know that Satan broadcasts to us in moods, attitudes and impulses. Our daily battle with Satan takes place within our minds. We must maintain a careful watch over our moods, attitudes and impulses. When Satan broadcasts to us, we must recognize he is broadcasting his character to us. Can we recognize a satanic attitude, mood or impulse? If we truly recognize how Satan thinks and acts, then we can prevent these same attitudes from growing inside of our minds. Coming to know Satan’s attitudes is one of our best defenses.

Satan is a very self-righteous individual. Study into the history of some of his intensely evil sins. He rebelled against God, his creator (Isaiah 4:13-14). He convinced one third of the angels to join him (Revelation 12:4). He lied to Adam and Eve about God and actually brought about their death (John 8:44). Through Herod’s anger, he tried to destroy Jesus Christ when He was an infant (Matthew 2:16; Revelation 12:4). He also tried to destroy Christ spiritually (Matthew 4:1-11). Yet in all of this, Satan still sees himself as righteous. Paul states, “And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14).

All of us must be on guard against an attitude of self-righteousness. This is the most dangerous of attitudes. Here is why.

If we allow ourselves to slip into a self-righteous attitude, we cut ourselves off from correction. Paul shows us in the book of Hebrews that we cannot be in God’s Family unless we are willing to be corrected (Hebrews 12:5-11). Generally, this also means that we cut ourselves off from the ministry and God’s people. All of us desperately need God’s correction. In these perilous times, we need to be close to the ministry and other Church members. All of us need counsel, correction and assistance from others.

Jeremiah prayed, “O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps. O Lord, correct me, but with judgment; not in thine anger, lest thou bring me to nothing” (Jeremiah 10:23-24). Jeremiah was obviously a wise and humble man. He recognized that he needed instruction and correction to lead the right kind of spiritual life. This is an attitude God can work with.

Seek God’s Correction

We should honestly seek God’s correction daily. When we pray for correction, we should not be surprised to see a minister come to us. We should not be surprised to have another member possibly point something out to us or even somebody in the world. We should never allow ourselves to slip into the attitude that we are better than anyone else. All of us have sinned in the past (Romans 3:23), and all of us will continue to sin until we are made spirit beings. If we deny this, the Bible says we are deceiving ourselves. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).

Self-righteous people often sit in stern judgment of others. This attitude can be a root cause for division within God’s Church. “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:1-5).

Satan desires most of all to separate the Church. Broadcasting attitudes of self-righteousness is certainly an effective tool to divide a member and a minister, and a member from another member. One of the most dangerous attitudes that we could develop is one of thinking that the ministry cannot help us or that we know more than the minister.

The way we win the battle against self-righteousness is to be sure that we are focusing on our own sins and shortcomings. All of us must remain in a constant state of repentance. By this I do not mean that we should wallow in our sins. We should not keep beating ourselves over the head for the mistakes of the past. But we must recognize our human weakness. Jeremiah wrote, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Satan cannot work through a humble attitude.

All of us need to be praying and studying daily. “For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16). A large portion of our daily Bible study should be focused in the area of Christian growth, which means that our Bible study must include a fair amount of correction. What is the goal of true Christians? Paul tells us in several places that we must become just like Jesus Christ (Romans 13:14; Ephesians 4:13). All of us fall short of this goal. Striving and studying to be like Christ will keep us in the right attitude.

Beware of Vanity in Knowledge

Satan the devil is a vain individual. In fact, vanity was his first sin. “Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee. By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned: therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness …” (Ezekiel 28:14-17).

At one time, Satan was perfect in his living. Then he sinned. What was the sin or the cause of the sin? His heart became “lifted up.” He became filled with vanity because of all of the incredible talents God had created in him. His vanity corrupted his wisdom. In fact, Satan became so vain in his thinking that he believed he could run the universe better than God. Satan led an angelic coup to kick God off His throne. “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High” (Isaiah 14:12-14).

Satan has been on the attack by motivating people to become vain in their Bible knowledge. It seems that Satan can sway a few this way each year. Here is how the scenario develops. Some individual becomes excited about a new truth he has discovered. Often this individual will spend hours studying this one subject. He enjoys telling others about it. The excitement builds. An extensive letter arrives at headquarters explaining how God has revealed this new truth to this individual. He becomes bitterly disappointed when the ministry does not agree with him. Some become so upset they begin to accuse the ministry of being false, or Laodicean. Eventually, if their thinking is not corrected, these individuals leave God’s Church in a bitter attitude. An attempt is always made to take others with them.

Paul warned the Corinthians, “Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth. And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know. But if any man love God, the same is known of him” (1 Corinthians 8:1-3). God has given His Church incredible knowledge. Mr. Armstrong often warned that it was dangerous knowledge. Some in Corinth were letting their knowledge go to their heads and it was causing them spiritual problems. If we are not careful, knowledge can make us vain. This kind of vanity can lead to our own spiritual demise.

Present Truth

Since the Philadelphia Church began, God has used different members to help Mr. Gerald Flurry see an aspect of new truth. However, we must recognize that the individual member did not show an entire new truth. God has consistently revealed every major prophesy or truth to Mr. Flurry. God always works through His own government. We all must learn that God always uses the office of an apostle or prophet to establish doctrines, new truths or understandings in the Church. “How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit” (Ephesians 3:3-5).

If you come across what appears to be new truth, please follow government concerning its unveiling. In others words, have it checked out by your minister before you become overly excited or talk about it with others. What if he does not agree with your understanding? Build your faith on Christ working through His ministry. Jesus Christ does guide and correct His Church. If your understanding is true, then in time everyone will come to see that it is true. In addition, focus your study to prove right what God has revealed through Mr. Flurry. All of us must take warning from Peter concerning prophetic new truth, “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy [Spirit]” (2 Peter 1:20-21). All of those who have left us over a “new truth” have actually been caught up in private interpretation.

How do we win against Satan’s attack through “knowledge” vanity? The best thing we can do is to keep our Bible study focused on Mr. Armstrong’s writings and on the literature coming out of headquarters. Jesus Christ used Mr. Armstrong to restore all things (Matthew 17:10-11). We understand this to mean the major doctrines established in the Worldwide Church of God while Mr. Armstrong was alive. These major doctrines have been encapsulated in the 18 Restored Truths. If we work diligently to fully understand these restored truths, along with the Trumpet, Royal Vision and all of the pcg booklets, there will not be much time for a lot of other study.

The pcg literature is Christ’s literature. Surely we all should have proven that by now. “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen” (2 Peter 3:18). We must recognize the pcg literature represents Christ’s perspective and focus for our time. If we are not properly focused in the pcg literature then we will not be in step spiritually.

We should ask ourselves how well grounded we are in the pcg literature. “Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth” (2 Peter 1:12). The pcg literature represents the present truth for our time. Satan can never get to us if we are established in these truths. Mr. Armstrong’s writings and Mr. Flurry’s represent “trunk of the tree” knowledge. However, if we are pursuing twiggy issues, we could fall spiritually and lose out on eternal life.

Beware Rebellion

Satan now lives to rebel against God, His government and laws. “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit” (Isaiah 14:12-15). Satan had been highly trained in God’s government. He was given rule over this entire planet. He rebelled against God, His government and laws. He moved to exalt his throne above God’s. This was a grave sin.

Satan works overtime to inspire a spirit of rebellion in God’s people. We should fear to develop a spirit of rebellion most of all. We must come to understand that God’s government is one of the greatest gifts He has given to man. “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-13). God’s government today is expressed through the ministry. The ministry’s job is to edify the Church—they rule in love for the spiritual good of the members. The ministry and the members must respond positively to each other.

Unfortunately, some allow themselves to fall into a critical and judgmental attitude toward the ministry. No minister is perfect—all have persnoal problems, weaknesses and sins. Yet, they are still Christ’s ministers. They hold spiritual offices worthy of respect. The Bible warns about speaking evil of God’s ministers. “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished: But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, selfwilled, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities. Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord. But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption” (2 Peter 2:9-12). God is very clear here. He will punish the unjust who “despise” His government. God is not complimentary toward those who speak evil of His ministers. He states they are “presumptuous” and “self-willed.” He compares them to “brute beasts” who should be destroyed. He says they lack understanding, are corrupt and will perish in their corruption.

A similar scripture is found in Jude: “Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities. Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee. But these speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves” (Jude 8-10). The language here is equally strong. Those rebelling against God’s government are called “filthy dreamers.” The rebellion defiles their own flesh. One lesson should be clear—rebellion brings spiritual corruption and eternal death.

Remember Those Who Rule

The way we combat Satan’s attack in this area is to develop a healthy respect for government. We must study and faithfully live by God’s government. Paul wrote this to the Hebrews, “Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation” (Hebrews 13:7). We are to remember those who have the rule over us. The Greek word for “remember” is mnemoneuo.Strong’s says this word means “to exercise memory, i.e. recollect … to rehearse, make mention, be mindful, remember.” As true Christians, we are to actively focus our thinking on the work of the ministry.

Paul states that we are to reflect on these men who have spoken to us the Word of God. Then we are to follow examples of their faith. The Philadelphia ministry is the only ministry courageous enough to stand up for all of the truths of God. The work of the Philadelphia ministry has truly been one of faith. These verses show that we must have a deep respect for the Philadelphia men who are over us. We must learn to emulate their example. This verse also implies giving emotional support to the ministry as well. An encouraging word or a nice card can go a long way to uplift a minister.

In addition to respect for the ministry and government, there are two more important ingredients to combat Satan’s attitude of rebellion. Paul wrote, “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you” (Hebrews 13:17-18). In addition to remembering the ministry, Paul says that we should submit to their authority and obey them. Are we in an attitude of obedience and submission to those men over us?

Every Philadelphia minister’s workload causes him to be spread very thin. Obedience and submission contribute to peaceful, healthy and smooth operations in local church areas. The most frustrating thing for any minister is to have individuals in a local congregation who refuse to follow even the smallest directions. This can be very discouraging. Satan really goes to work in a situation like that. However, when the entire congregation follows the minister’s directions, great joy is produced in the minister’s life and in the congregation. Behind every effective minister is a loving, supportive and obedient congregation. There is no room for satanic attacks when obedience and submission are prevalent.

Stay in Fellowship

As a final thought, recognize that Satan also inspires an attitude of isolation. God’s Church is God’s Family in embryo. The Apostle John wrote, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full” (1 John 1:1-4).

John, probably more than all the other original disciples, understood the depth of God’s plan for man. The Church should be in the deepest family relationship. He states that our “fellowship is with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ.” God and Christ are Family—Father and Son. We are also just as much Family—Father and sons. We must maintain close ties with each other. Often when members get into spiritual trouble, they begin to isolate themselves—at first from the minister and then from the other brethren as well. Sabbath service and Bible study attendance usually drops off. Eventually, even social opportunities are passed up. This can lead to spiritual disaster.

As the more difficult times approach—and they are approaching very quickly—we will need each other’s love and support even more. Paul wrote, “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25). We need to be sure that we remain close to our brethren. We should take advantage of every opportunity to fellowship. Of course we must be sure that this does not get out of balance as well. Fellowship should not interfere with our jobs, family time, prayer, Bible study or fasting.

We become an easy target for Satan if we allow ourselves to drift into a loner attitude. Let’s repeat the verse with which we began this article. “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Peter uses the example of a roaring lion to describe Satan. Lions always prey on the isolated or sick animal. Satan desires to devour us spiritually. If he can maneuver us, separating us from the main body, then he can get us. So let’s be sure to remain close to each other.

We do not have to lose any battles to Satan the devil. He holds no power over us. “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). If we remain close to God and resist Satan, he is required to flee from us. If you do the things suggested in this article, you will be resisting Satan. Now that we know our enemy better, let’s all get out there and win the war.

The Philadelphia News, August 1996