Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Devil is a Sly Old Fox

The Devil is a Sly Old Fox

Paul taught an astounding truth regarding human nature. He said that we are constantly battling the flesh. In fact, our whole lives are pretty much a struggle between spirit and flesh. Paul exposed his own struggle, “for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.” (Romans 7:15b) He, along with countless other Christians have discovered that fighting the flesh is a losing battle, it is a war we cannot win without the help of the Holy Spirit of God dwelling in us. The power to overcome the flesh is not something we can conjure up within ourselves. “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you” (Acts 1:8)

When I was a child my mother used to teach this concept to me by telling me that there were two powers vying for my soul. She said that the devil sat on one shoulder telling me to do wrong while and angel of God sat on the other telling me to do right. If I followed the advice of the angel I could overcome fleshly desires and put a smile on the face of God. If I listened to the imp on the other shoulder I would lose my battle against the flesh and displease God my Father. It may sound like an oversimplified theology but I don’t think my mother was far off the mark.

My father taught me a song when I was a young child. It goes something like this:

The Devil is a sly old fox,
If I could catch him
I would throw him in a box
I'd lock the door and throw away the key
For all the tricks he's played on me.
I'm glad I've got salvation.
I'm glad I've got salvation.
I'm glad I've got salvation.
I'm trusting in the Lord.

My father was trying to teach me that Satan never, never gives up trying to get us to succumb to our fleshly nature. I’ve learned he was right. It is a lifelong battle. Now I’m older than he was when he taught me that song. I’ve taught my own son, who is only four years old, the concept of the angel and the imp sitting on each of his shoulders and he sings the Devil is a Sly Old Fox beautifully.

I am attempting to teach my son what my father taught me: That our adversary is not to be underestimated. He is subtle, crafty and much smarter than we are in every way. I often warn my apologetics students to never attempt to argue with Satan. He has thousands of years of experience and he is much better at debating than any of us could ever hope to be. If we underestimate him we do so at our own peril, Paul said as much.

“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)

An American Native grandson was talking to his grandfather. He asked the old man how he felt and this was his reply, “I feel as if I have two wolves fighting in my heart. One wolf is the vengeful, angry, violent one. The other wolf is the loving, compassionate one.” The grandson was intrigued by these words and asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win the fight in your heart?” The grandfather answered, “The one I feed.”

We can’t win the battle over our fleshly nature if we insist on feeding our fleshly desires day after day. The television, computers, I-pods, and various forms of other media make it very tempting and very easy to do that. We grow in the Spirit by feeding our spiritual nature. Wasn’t that what Paul was talking about when he said, “whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8)

One day God will evaluate the fight we’ve fought. If we use the tools the Holy Spirit makes available to us we can fight a good fight and overcome the flesh. We will be able to say with Paul, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7)

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