Recognizing that temptation originates from without rather than from within greatly strengthens our resolve to "fight the good fight of faith" (I Timothy 6:12).
Through the agencies of the world and the flesh (our own and that of other people), our spiritual enemies tempt us to disbelieve and disobey God.
"Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency... For this cause, when I could no longer forbear, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter have tempted you, and our labor be in vain." (I Corinthians 7:5; I Thessalonians 3:5).
"Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith" (I John 5:4).
"Every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed" (James 1:14).
The unholy trinity of the devil and his angels, the world, and the flesh seek to lead us away from faith and obedience to the holy trinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We must understand the nature of our foes if we are to successfully combat them. Many believers, however, perceive the battle as being waged entirely within themselves and against themselves despite Paul's teaching that "we wrestle not against flesh and blood" (Ephesians 6:12). This paralyzing error causes such condemnation and sense of alienation from God that the real battle to which we are called is rarely or ever engaged. Our enemies win by default, and too many Christians settle into a nominal experience of church attendance, infrequent reading of Scripture, prayerlessness, inconsistent witness, and an enshrouded experience of the Lord Jesus that is far from the dynamic spiritual vibrancy the Bible promises.
"The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly" (John 10:10).
When we realize there is a malevolent and marauding entity who operates through the world and the flesh "to steal, to kill, and to destroy," our eyes are enlightened and we get our spiritual dander up, as it were, for fighting our real enemy. Temptation begins with the devil and his demonic entities, who utilize the world in which we live to appeal to "the law of sin" that inhabits our fleshly members and faculties inherited from Adam (Romans 7:22). Our calling is to remember Whose we are and who we are in the spiritual essence of our personhood. Therein we are are united to the Spirit of the Lord Jesus, and therein we "delight in the law of God after the inward man" (I Corinthians 6:17; Romans 7:22). Such remembrance and affirmation of faith strengthens us to stand and fight not ourselves, or by ourselves, but rather to "stand against the wiles of the devil," and to "be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might" (Ephesians 6:11-12).
Several days ago, I was in a busy grocery store, attempting to check out. I pulled up to a "20 items or less" aisle, only to discover that a lady ahead of me had 50 items or more. My initial reaction was irritation and a strong sense of alienation and resentment directed toward the lady. The truths we consider, however, came to mind. I realized that the bitterness to which I was tempted originated with malevolent spiritual enemies who sought to entrap me in unbelief and disobedience to God. I recalled that I was not merely dealing with my human weakness, or in the initial sense, with the law of sin in my members. Instead, spiritual entities opposed to both God and myself sought to use the world and the flesh (mine and the lady's) to entice me to sin. This got my spiritual dander up in recognition of the true nature of this moment of conflict. As led and enabled by the indwelling Holy Spirit, I therefore prayed for the lady instead of resenting her, and moved on to another checkout aisle where I had a really pleasant conversation with a very nice employee of the store.
Realizing the actual battle prepared me to access the grace of God's truth. Through Christ, I avoided bitterness and was thereby blessed with a fellowship that would not have been possible had I descended into the devil's snare. God gets all the glory, of course, because by the power of His Word and His Spirit, I was enabled to walk in reality rather than Satan's illusory deception. We "fight the good fight of faith" from the victory of the Lord Jesus, and against enemies as defined by Scripture. Only thereby can we experience the abundance and triumph that are ours in Christ.
"Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
"This is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world."
(I John 4:3-4)