The World, the Flesh & the Devil
by Dr. Billy Graham
We live in a world of unending conflict. As long as sin exists, conflict will continue to rage. Lawlessness is in conflict with the lawful. Intrigue and dishonesty are in conflict with truth and honesty. Intolerance is at odds with tolerance and human understanding. Lust and pleasure and human understanding. Lust and pleasure are in conflict with propriety and purity. Godlessness is at odds with righteousness. Disorder is at war with decency and order. The Bible specifically mentions three enemies: the world, the flesh and the devil. They are combined to form a powerful foe to defeat and frustrate God’s plan and purpose in the lives of God’s people.
First, the Bible teaches that the world is at war with the spiritually minded Christian. Worldliness is a mood, a tempo and an attitude of the soul which peers out horizontally upon life. Its head is never lifted upward in recognition of God. Its gaze is manward – never Godward. It is that materialistic, sensual view of life which centers its attention on the gratification of the lower appetites and desires, completely blind to the things of the Spirit. In this kind of world God is not just denied, he is forgotten.
The Bible warns that we are to “love not the world, neither the things that are in the world” (I John 2:15). The Bible again warns that “the friendship of the world is enmity with God” (James 4:4). Thus the Christian finds himself in daily conflict with the world around him; but he is not to yield an inch.
Second, the flesh is at war with the Christian. The word “flesh” is the Biblical word for our old nature, the nature of sin.
The Apostle Peter, who knew a great deal about the struggle with the flesh, said, “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul” (I Peter 2:11). The flesh is the enemy within, the spiritual infiltrator. Thus the Christian finds that his greatest conflict is often within himself.
In spite of the fact that we have come to Christ, the wretched bent toward sin is ever-present to drag us down. War has been declared. We have two natures in conflict, and each one is striving for the victory. The Bible teaches, “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh” (Galatians 5:17). It is the battle between the self-life and the Christ-life.
The old nature cannot please God (Romans 8:8). It cannot be patched up. However, Scripture does give great hope in this conflict because, when Christ died, he took us with him to the cross. The old nature can be made, inoperative, and we can by faith “reckon (ourselves) to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God” (Romans 6:11). Victory can be obtained.
Paul said that he had “no confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:3); he had no confidence in the old nature. On another occasion he stated, “I make no provision for the flesh” (Romans 13:14). On yet another occasion he said, “I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection” (I Corinthians 9:27). We are to yield to God so that we can by faith reckon the old nature “dead indeed unto sin” (Romans 6:11).
The third enemy that the Christian has, of course, is the devil himself. The devil is out to defeat the Christian. He well knows that the child of God is a dangerous enemy to his cause. He made every effort to tempt and made every effort to tempt and defeat Christ (Luke 4:1-13), and today the devil concentrates on Christ’s followers. He is the commander-in-chief of the powers of evil, and his main attack is launched against those who have taken sides with Christ and righteousness.
The devil harasses, accuses, tempts, deceives and lies in his dealings with Christians (Acts 5:16). He works through his allies, the world and the flesh. The devil uses the world and the flesh. The devil uses the world and the flesh to wreak havoc among God’s people, to hinder the progress of righteousness, to discourage and distress the Christians, to stop the Gospel from being proclaimed and to weaken the Christian offensive in advancing the Kingdom of God.
The Bible says, “For we wrestle not against the flesh and blood, but against principalities, against power, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12). The devil is a powerful foe who is called “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4), the prince of this world” (John 14:30), “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2). Don’t ever underestimate the power of the devil.
While the Scripture teaches that we are not to love the world and that we are to make no provision for the flesh, Scriptures teaches that if we stand up and resist the devil, he will flee from us. We are not to give place to the devil. The Bible says, “Submit yourselves … to God.” (James 4:7). The Bible promises that if we have fully submitted ourselves to Jesus Christ, then we can “resist the devil, and he will flee from (us)” (James 4:7). The devil will tremble when we pray, He will be defeated when we quote or read a passage of Scripture to him.
We can resist the devil only when we submit ourselves to God. In relation to the world the Bible says, “This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith” (I John 5:4) In relation to the flesh the Bible says, “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).
There is glorious news to those of us who are fighting these battles and temptations. We are not asked to fight the battle alone. Remember, Christ promised that he would never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). Jesus promised that after he left the earth, the Father would send Another, the Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, who is called the Comforter (which actually means, “One who helps”), that he may abide with us and live in us forever (John 14:16).
It is the Holy Spirit living within us who produces the peace of God in our hearts in the midst of the struggles of life (Galatians 5:22). This is a peace that the world cannot know. It is known only to the child of God. This peace that God gives is based upon our faith in him.
As Christians we do not pretend to believe, we do not half believe, we do not half believe, we do not believe today and doubt tomorrow. We believe now and forever. We believe that the hairs of our heads are numbered. We believe that not even a sparrow falls to the ground but that the Father knows (Matthew 10:29-30). We believe that the universe is in the keeping of infinite Wisdom and infinite Love.
Thus, when we look at the conflicts and wars around us and look at the wars around us and look at the wars within ourselves, we have peace because we have faith in the Prince of Peace. Do you know today this peace that comes from God? You can make your peace with God today by surrendering your life to Jesus Christ as Savior. He shed his blood and rose from the dead that you might have forgiveness of sin. You will find peace with God only at the cross of Jesus Christ.
Therefore I call upon you today to repent of your sins and receive Christ as your Lord and Savior. If you do, you can have the peace that God has promised to all who are members of the Body of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
© 1983 Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. All rights reserved.