Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States

The Battlefield of the Spiritual Warfare

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Spiritual warfare, like any other warfare requires a battleground on which to take place. The mind is the battle ground where Satan settles down and proceeds there from to other places. Once he gets hold of the mind and thoughts, he is sure to proceed and control the heart and mouth. Any sin must be accepted by the mind first and foremost before being implemented.

The Mind: The mind is the factory where thoughts generate. St. Paul distinguishes between a carnal and a spiritual mind. "For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be" (Romans 8:6-7). Repentance also starts in the mind "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God" (Romans 12:12).

The Mouth: The mouth reveals what is in the heart. "Those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart...for out of the heart proceeds evil thoughts..." (Matthew 15:18-19).

The Heart: The heart is the residency of one's identity and defines and determines behavior. "For as he thinks in his heart, so is he" (Proverbs 23:7). It is the seat of love with which we love God and each other. "Jesus said to him, " 'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.'" (Matthew 22:37).

Some of Satan's Weapons

  1. Questioning the existence and authority of God
    In Genesis 3, the existence and authority of God was being questioned when the serpent tempted man and he fell. Satan caused such questions to enter into the thoughts of Eve: "Did God really say that?" "Did God really say not to eat from the apple?" "Does God really exist?"

  2. Deception and seduction
    Satan, in his cunning way, deceived Eve into thinking that they will become like God; " will be like God, knowing good and evil" (Genesis 3:5). Today many cults, for example the Mormons, believe so and many are deceived into believing that there are more ways to heaven than just Christ. "...some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons" (1 Timothy 4:1). Satan is capable of blinding our eyes so the light of the gospel would not shine upon us (2 Corinthians 4:4). In addition, Satan attacks the mind with thoughts of sexual impurity followed by attacks of guilt, depression and hopelessness.

  3. Depression
    Feelings of hopelessness and discouragement can lead to lack of interest in life and even suicidal ideas or attempts. Major prophets were attacked with such negative feelings. Examples are David, Elijah, and Jonah. In 2 Corinthians 7, St. Paul classifies two types of depressive, sorrowful feelings:
    • Godly sorrow from the Holy Spirit that leads to repentance and salvation as in the case of St. Peter.
    • Worldly sorrow from Satan which leads to death as in the case of Judas Iscariot. Also, Satan takes advantage of sad circumstances, losses, or unfulfilled desires to sadden the heart.
    Depression can be contagious. When there is depression in the surrounding, it can spread to affect other people. "Our brethren have discouraged our hearts" (Deuteronomy 1:28). "If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small" (Proverbs 24:10). David the Psalmist felt discouraged, but his solution was to go back to God and that is why all his psalms that started on a sad note ended on a joyful, hope charged one. Similarly St. Paul's verses of 2 Corinthians 1:8-10, show despair leading to thoughts of death but followed by trust in God "who delivered us from so great a death" (2 Corinthians 1:10), are good encouragement in time of affliction. Despair in this verse brings about the sentence of death, but in verse 9 he says that trust in God raises the dead, then in verse 10 he guarantees that God delivers us.

  4. Withdrawal and isolation
    Elijah and Jonah experienced this psychological pressure. Satan attacks with thoughts of withdrawal and isolation especially after abusive situations whereby he first attempts to isolate the person in order to be able to control them by
    • Casting doubt in the heart towards the church calling them hypocrites, instigating false suggestions that one can do without the church.
    • Isolating the person from their spiritual father, then family, then friends until the person is totally isolated and in his isolation Satan will launch his torture.
  5. Improper motives
    We must examine our own motives at all times. Appearances can be deceptive and people can show what in reality they are not. But God knows the heart and understands motives. In John 2:24-25, the Lord Jesus Christ did not need any testimony from man for He knew what was in man's heart. Motives can be directed by negative feelings such as envy, jealousy, negative interpretations, lack of forgiveness, distrust, anger, hatred, intolerance, competition, judgment, covetousness, selfishness. These are Satan's tools to taint our motives (wrong attitudes lead to wrong motives). David was moved by Satan to number the people trusting in his numbers more than in God (1 Chronicles 21:1). Jonah is another example of someone moved with the wrong attitude of vengeance. In Isaiah 14:12-14, we find the 5 rebellious, presumptuous statements beginning with "I will..." pronounced by Lucifer when wanting to go against "God's will" and which led him to fall from heaven.

  6. Worry and torment
    Satan uses thoughts of worry to agonize and torment people, especially those who are prone to harboring anxiety thus bonding them with fear most of their time. "and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage" (Hebrews 2:15). Fear is referred to as the thorns that choke the word of God in the parable of the sewer and the seed.

  7. Compromise
    God's law and Satan's are incompatible. We cannot reconcile the will of God with the will of Satan. The latter wants us to compromise and try to balance good with evil. These two poles are in opposition and can never be reconciled. People work on the minimum requirements to enter heaven, but the road to heaven is not paved with minimum requirement nor by focusing on earthly things only. "If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:1-3).

How to Win the Battle

  1. Let the Holy Spirit search your heart and mind. Let God search you and uncover your evil thoughts and lead you to life everlasting. David provided two key verses that open the doors to victory, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Psalm 139:23-24).

  2. Put on the helmet of Salvation to protect your mind (Ephesians 6:10-20). You must have on the WHOLE armor of God ALL the time; once taken off you will be exposed. You must have the WHOLE armor and not just parts of it, all the six pieces, so stand against the wiles (fiery darts) of the devil with which he attacks us all of the time.

  3. Claim a sound mind (John 14). Have the mind of Christ and train your mind to think only about "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things" (Philippians 4:8). "...bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5), instructs us to examine our thoughts against the truth of the scripture to ensure its validity and truthfulness. Romans 12:2 says, "... renewing of your mind..." - this is the literal meaning of the word Greek word "metanoia" meaning repentance (meta=change, noia=mind) which we do in the church.

  4. Control the senses. They are the gates of the mind. Once the mind is defiled, all the body will be defiled. Screen everything before allowing them into your mind. In order to enter an important place like the White House, for example, you must go through security first for screening. Likewise, we must think of the mind as an important place where the King of Kings resides and only sin-free things can pass through.

The battleground that Satan fights us on is our mind from which he proceeds to control the mouth, and the heart. However, victory will always be ours if we know the strategies and the weapons Satan uses. If God is with us, no one can be against us. We need to be able to differentiate between the voice of God and that of the world and Satan. Our God is not a God of confusion but of wisdom and sound mind. The Holy Spirit is always specific in His convictions bringing about repentance and forgiveness. Isaiah 26:3 says, "You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You." Satan, on the other hand, is vague in his convictions leading to despair and hopelessness. The only way out is through repentance and trust in the Lord. "...he who doubts is like a wave of the sea...he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways" (James 1:6-8 ).The divided mind of instability is from Satan. St. Paul in Philippians 4:6-7 advises us to "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." " those things which are above, where Christ is..." (Colossians 3:1). God keeps us in perfect peace if we trust in Him.

Bishop Youssef
Bishop, Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States

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