Spiritual War (part 1 of 4)

Can you imagine a raging battle—all around you—and being oblivious to the tumult? 

Picture the images you’ve seen of the D-Day landing, or the Battle of Gettysburg, or the hand-to-hand combat of Hannibal’s troops slaughtering the Romans at Cannae with swords. Now, stroll out into the midst of this fray and unfold your lawn chair. Sit down, open a magazine. Envision yourself reading. 

How realistic is this image? Right. It’s a fantasy if not sheer lunacy that you could sit clueless on the sands of Iwo Jima. 

Or is it? 

The Bible notes that the flesh wars against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, because these two combatants hate one another (cf. Gal. 5:17). If you deem this Scriptural perspective true, then a tremendous battle, of universal proportion, ebbs and flows around you constantly. 

And what is the field of battle? What is being fought over? What is at stake? 

Would you believe it is your soul? It’s true. 

Which begs the question: How are you stepping up to meet this offense against you? Are you engaged? In denial? Oblivious? A casual observer? Clueless, as though kicked back in your lawn chair? 

For any number of reasons, we are prone to envision the spiritual contention surrounding us as though we can drift through the surging battle unfazed, like smoke in the wind. And furthermore, when we suffer a wound, we are inclined to wonder what happened? How did this occur to me? Where was God? And rather than get serious about grasping what is at stake, we hunker down waiting, or irritated with God, as though in denial that our spiritual lives are real and the battle legitimate. 

One reason for our denial and inaction is mystery. What’s really happening? What is the strategy? What power is available to me? 

Over the next few posts, let me clear away some of the battle fog and mystery so you can see what you are facing, comprehend your resources, and understand how to take the offensive. There is no reason for you to be overwhelmed, no excuse for you to live in denial of what is surrounding you, and no point in adopting denial as your marching orders. 

First, let’s examine the flesh as a combatant. 

When the Bible speaks of flesh, it can draw upon 15-20 different uses of the term. The only definition we are interested in now is this one: Flesh is the habitual patterning that you have independently formed for how you think, feel, and behave.   

Habitual: Think about the habitual patterning you have formed to swing a golf club, or ride a bicycle, or play the piano. 

Independently: You have formed these fleshly patterns apart from God, of your own choosing, in a lifetime of effort to satisfy your most compelling needs, e.g. acceptance, a sense of belonging, personal worth as an individual, and competence as a human being among others. 

Think, feel, and behave: These are the core functions of your soul, or your personality. You think with your mind, feel with your emotions, and behave based upon willful choices you make. Mind, emotions, and will comprise your soul. 

Second, let’s examine the Holy Spirit as a combatant. The Spirit is the presence of God in your life. He resides within you to comfort you, protect you, and guide you into the truth about Himself and about you. His supreme desire is to help you live like the man or woman of God that you are as His follower.   

The bad news about the flesh is that it is powerful and pervasive, guiding—almost dictating—that you think, feel, and behave today the same way you thought, felt, and behaved yesterday. This implies that there is little hope that tomorrow can be different from today or yesterday. And, the mechanism promoted by the flesh is independent living. The motto of the flesh is, I am my own. 

The good news is that the flesh is habitual...and habits can be changed, reformed, or largely go into remission if not be outright forgotten. 

The challenge is that your spiritual enemy has influenced your construction of the flesh and is wholly invested in preserving it throughout your lifetime. However, the Holy Spirit who lives within you is wholly devoted to guiding your experiential transformation into the spiritual individual your Heavenly Father declares you to be. 

Flesh versus Spirit, fighting against one another within your soul. This isn’t a battle you want to deny is being waged. It is foolhardy to think you can chill in your lawn chair on the plains of Waterloo as Napoleon and Wellington charge.   

What’s at stake? 

Who are the players? 

How do you overcome and win the day? 

In short, you define your personal enemy, i.e. the flesh. This tells you what you are up against. Next, you select an appropriate weapon for the ensuing fight. Finally, you engage the battle with supremely powerful weapons that re-form in you new patterning for how you think, feel, and behave based upon what is true about you versus what was falsely constructed independent of God. 

I have four things available to assist you: 

  1. Tomorrow, I will provide an example of how to overcome the fleshly pattern formed from criticism. If criticism is not something you suffer from, you can generalize to what does trip you up. 
  2. Next, I have a study sheet that will help you identify your fleshly patterns.
  3. Then, I have a study sheet outlining the weapons available to you.
  4. Finally, at the bottom of each entry I will provide a tailored list of resources to help you sophisticate your ability to wage war in your soul. 

Now. Get ready. Charge! 



For a more complete examination of the "Flesh Inventory," see Lifetime Guarantee by Bill Gillham.

For an in-depth study of the battle between the flesh and the Spirit in literary novel form, see No Mercy and Battle for the Round Tower by Preston Gillham.