Resisting the tide
Have you ever been caught in a tidal rip in the ocean? We live about five minutes walk from Fitzroy beach, New Plymouth. I have felt its pull on some of the rare occasions I have swum at the beach. The rip tries to drag the swimmer out to sea. The longer the resistance the weaker one gets, and the more likely one is to give up. It must be a horrible and hopeless feeling to be dragged out to sea. You see the incredibly grateful expressions from people rescued on television’s “Piha Rescue” to know that they have come very close to death, but are now so relieved at their rescue.
There is in this life a constant drag on the weary and unsuspecting Christian, specifically designed to pull you under. It is not a random experience but cleverly designed and perpetrated by Satan, God’s enemy. This constant drag comes in the form of opposition to the Christian life; from the world, the sinful nature and Satan himself.
The world, or “kosmos”, the most common Greek word used in the Bible for this term, refers to the fallen world system we currently live in. Man has set this system up independent of God’s rule. In fact, Satan himself rules over this system. It is a system that promotes the basic principles of this world (1) and is under God’s condemnation (2). This world system presents a real challenge to the Christian. It attempts to squeeze the Christian into its mould, in order that it might shape us into its own image (3). This present world system is a real enemy of the believer.
In terms of our response to the world, we need to continually remind ourselves that we have been forever delivered from the world by virtue of our union with Christ. Once we were dead in our sins, but now we have been made alive with Christ (4). In light of this wonderful truth we must therefore daily deny the influence of the world in our lives (5). In doing so we have a firm foundation for our feet to resist the pull of the tide.
The Sinful Nature
Every person has a sinful nature. It is something we have inherited from Adam and Eve’s fall in the Garden of Eden. Every unbeliever is continually dominated by the sinful nature. His governing disposition is always sinful. His life is characterised by worldly-mindedness, a self-seeking heart, and an absence of any love for God. Every believer still has a sinful nature. There is still the potential to live a sinful lifestyle. In fact, the Christian will find that the sinful nature still desires to dominate his life and express its evil works.
So how do we respond to our sinful nature? The sinful nature was overcome in the past when we first believed (6). Our old self, or former person, was crucified in order that our sinful nature might be rendered powerless. No longer do we need to be dominated by sin! The sinful nature is also overcome in the present by walking in the Spirit (7). If we live by the Spirit we will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. The sinful nature is overcome by the power of God’s Spirit, and not by human effort. That same power at work in you is the same power that raised Jesus from the dead (8). Therefore we have a responsibility to overcome the sinful nature by putting to death the deeds of the body (9). We are to resist the sinful nature, to be hostile towards it. We must put to death the evil deeds of this body that are prompted by the sinful nature at work in us.
Satan has incredible inherent power and ability to rule over his kingdom. However, he is limited by the will of God. A few years ago we were visiting Phyllis Treasure at Rehoboth, in India, and one of the people I was introduced to was an Indian evangelist who had come from the north-east region of India, Rajasthan. He told his story of a time when he and his wife, after praying and fasting for a week, visited a home that was full of idols. They gathered up all these idols and placed them in a sack. An evil spirit entered the woman who lived at that home and said to the evangelist and his wife, “What are you doing? I will harm your children.” The evangelist had four daughters. He and his wife replied that their children were safe in the arms of God. A moment went by and the evil spirit said, “You are right in saying that. They are sitting in the garden and beside each child is an angel with a drawn sword.” The evangelist then said, “It is in the name of that God that I command you to leave this woman and home.” The evil spirit left.
We need to be aware of the methods of Satan’s opposition, for they are many and various. The devil uses strategies against believers (10), with shrewd schemes and his cunning abilities, he desires to fool us and keep us off guard. He has a definite plan set against you. Paul says that we should not be ignorant of his ways. The devil lays traps for the unsuspecting believer (11). Paul says that we are to escape the trap if caught, but it is even better to walk sensibly and avoid it altogether! The devil lies to us. He is the father of lies (12). It is his nature to lie to us. We must recognise this about him, refuse to accept his word, and trust only in what God has revealed to be true in his word. The devil uses deception (13). He fools or tricks by the use of clever disguise, acting or giving the appearance of something. This is probably his most effective tool. Even the believer is subject to being deceived at times, and it is the truth of God’s word alone that will uncover the deception.
Just as well that Christ has triumphed over Satan at the cross (14). His time of opposition will soon come to an end. The Christian in the meantime is to be alert and resist him, standing firm in the faith (15). But perhaps the pull of the tide and the strength of the rip are wearying you down to despair. The opposition is winning and you feel as if you are being swept away by the tide of the enemy. Unbelief, guilt and fear are undermining your Christian faith. To those plagued with unbelief, perhaps today you need a fresh revelation of God’s grace; the One who is great in love, rich in mercy, and who has saved you by grace (16). To those burdened with guilt, you are no longer under condemnation because you are in Christ – you have been set free (17)! To those paralysed by fear, there is no now need to be afraid, for perfect love casts out all fear (18). You might not feel it at present; circumstances may deny it, but God’s Word says it, and that is the eternal truth! Set your feet firmly on this rock, and you will be able to withstand the tidal rip of opposition to the Christian faith.
- Ephesians 2:1-3; Colossians 2:8,20
- 1 Corinthians 11:32
- Romans 12:2
- Ephesians 2:1-5
- Titus 2:11-12
- Romans 6:6
- Galatians 5:16-18
- Ephesians 1:18-21
- Romans 8:12-13
- 2 Corinthians 2:11
- 2 Timothy 2:26
- John 8:44
- 2 Corinthians 11:3-4
- 1 John 3:8; Colossians 2:15
- 1 Peter 5:8-9
- Ephesians 2:4-5
- Romans 8:1
- 1 John 4:18