Personal spiritual warfare involves combatting the world system, our own soulish nature (the flesh), and the devil.
Temptations from the world come through our senses, particularly our eyes and ears. You may be familiar with 1 John 2:15-16: “Do not love the world, neither the things which are in the world. If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.”
Furthermore, James 4:4 tells us, “Whoever, therefore, will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” We keep our battles with worldly temptations to a minimum by guarding our senses and restraining our actions.
But, what about evil thoughts? How do we know if they are coming from our own soulish nature or from an evil spirit? While we might not always be sure, the more we are able to discern their source, the more effectively we can war against them. Thoughts from within ourselves can be dealt with by simply refusing to think them, repenting if we have indulged them, and then deliberately turning our mind onto a different track. Thoughts which have been injected by evil spirits, however, not only need to be rejected, but rebuked. We do that by commanding the evil spirit to be silent and telling it to be gone, in the name of Jesus.
If you are thinking in one direction, and suddenly an evil thought or a fear appears out of the blue, that’s a good indicator that it is coming from outside yourself. I wish I had been taught about enemy-injected thoughts years ago.
While still in my teen years, I experienced a mental attack which horrified me — because I thought I was the originator of what was happening in my head. Every time I was in church, profane words and blasphemies flooded my mind. I immediately asked God to forgive me, but it kept happening. I thought I must be a terrible person! Those words were not part of my normal vocabulary, I didn’t want to be thinking them, and I didn’t know why I was! They totally shut down my ability to hear the sermon. I spent my entire church time repenting, and repenting again. I felt so awfully condemned by my “sin.”
I pleaded with the Lord to help me stop this terrible behavior, and praying about it did help. God is merciful and comes to our assistance, even when we, through ignorance or immaturity, don’t address situations exactly right. But I still felt like an awful person — UNTIL I learned that these were not my thoughts in the first place, and I could deal with them by resisting the enemy in the name of Jesus. Once I learned where those thoughts were coming from and how to address them, the problem faded away.
Here are some other examples:
- Perhaps you see someone, and the thought goes through your head, “I hate that person.” In reality, you know you have no reason to hate him or her. That is an injected thought, not one of your own.
- You are shopping, and you have a sudden urge to shoplift something, even though you have always been an honest person.
- You have been happy at your job or your church. Nobody has said or done anything significant to change that, but you find yourself thinking, “They don’t appreciate me here. I am not valued. Maybe I should move on.”
Injected thoughts can range from the extreme (which are usually easy to recognize) to very subtle shifts in our thinking (not so easy to recognize). We must be vigilant to uncover them and deal with them. If we do not, we will start to agree with them, thereby feeding them until the problem has become huge.
It’s not only our thoughts. Our emotions can be manipulated by evil spirits as well. Sometimes we’ve given them an opening through a weakness we have, or through indulging in fleshly thoughts such as self-pity. However, that is not always the case.
I remember feeling extraordinarily blue one morning. There was nothing going badly in my life at the time, but the heaviness persisted, and it mystified me. Finally I asked the Lord, “Why am I feeling so down? I have no reason to feel this way.”
He quickly responded, “You are being oppressed by an evil spirit.”
I was relieved, because by this time I knew what to do. I took authority over the spirit which was harassing me, commanding it to let go and be gone in Jesus’ name. Immediately, the heaviness lifted, I felt joyful, and I began to praise the Lord.
When my emotions are not in a good place, I often ask the Holy Spirit to take control of them and reorder them for me. That has been an effective tool for me. My feelings usually take on a happier tone within a few minutes, even if I felt justified in being upset or sad. This is an especially helpful tactic when emotions have gotten out of whack due to our own soulish thinking and speech.
While often it is a fairly simple job to silence the thoughts coming from the enemy, that is not always the case. Next time, we will talk about how to handle long-term attacks upon our thoughts.
The Intercessor Manual, by Lee Ann Rubsam