The night I became a Christian I looked out the window of the Marine barracks, and there on a Naples, Italy, hill in the distance was a huge blue neon cross. It was lit up like the 4th of July! I took it as a sign from heaven. We had weekend liberty, so I said to the guys, “Hey, why don’t we camp out beneath that giant cross?”
Everyone agreed, so we rolled up some blankets, Bibles and guitars, and were on our way. Before we left the barracks, however, I opened a window and dumped out a pack of cigarettes. “I quit!” I said, proud of my accomplishment.
We trekked over several vineyards and fields and finally came to our destination. Beneath the neon cross was a World War 2 era pill box, which made an ideal weekend camp. We made a fire and sang songs, read the Bible by firelight, prayed and shared our testimonies of how wonderful Jesus was. I had never been so happy or full of joy.
It was truly a “mountaintop experience.”
THE VOICE OF KAA
Monday morning found me standing guard at Post 14, in one of the NATO buildings, the one in which there was a PX with lots of foot traffic. I was about to experience my first spiritual test as a new believer.
Watching the people go past my guard booth, many who were smoking, I had a sudden craving for a cigarette. When I was with the guys over the weekend there were plenty of distractions to keep the urge at bay. But on that first day of duty I was by myself, alone. Only I wasn’t alone. I soon heard an oily, voice-like-Kaa-the-snake hiss in my ear. It wasn’t an audible voice, but I heard it nonetheless. The voice said:
“What are you doing? You’re making a fool of yourself with all this Jesus nonsense. Come back to your senses.”
I listened to the voice bummed a cigarette off the first enlisted man that passed by my booth, intending to smoke it as soon as I got off duty. I stood in smug defiance, reveling in my fleshy rebellion.
THE VOICE OF THE SPIRIT
No sooner did this rebellion occur when I felt a stinging rebuke, like a lash through my spirit. The second Voice.
“Don’t you dare!”
It was the Holy Spirit, of course. The Voice was inaudible but I felt the holy glare of God upon me. It was the first time as a new believer that I actually felt the discipline of the Lord, for which I am eternally grateful. I repented, crumpled the cigarette, and once again felt the joy of the Lord in my soul.
The devil––that serpent of old––has three weapons in his arsenal. Only three. But he uses them with great success. They are:
The lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16).
Satan used each of these weapons in the Garden of Eden when tempting Eve, and he’s been using them ever since. In my case it was the craving of a cigarette (lust of the flesh), the spotting of a cigarette dangling from a man’s lips (lust of the eyes), and my rebellious sense of autonomy (the pride of life) that he employed against me that particular day.
I failed my first test miserably. Thankfully, I have a Heavenly Father who loved me enough to discipline me, and quickly got me back onto the path of righteousness.
WHAT’S THE POINT?
When the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness (Matt 4), the devil tried each of his weapons on Him too but without success. Jesus defeated each attack with prayer-backed Scripture. We must do the same. Here’s what Jesus said:
Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matt 26:41)
I think most believers succumb to temptation because they fail to watch. They’re too busy looking at worldly distractions (fill in the blank), making them easy prey for the enemy who, like a roaring lion, is seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). He’s seeking believers. Constantly. We must be on the alert at all times, watching for the enemy as though from our guard posts (wherever God has placed us). If we aren’t alert then we are vulnerable to attack.
If we have a particular weakness in our flesh (“a chink in the armor,” as we used to say) then we ought to be praying for God’s help to overcome temptation in that area. “The spirit is willing,” Jesus said, “but the flesh is weak.” We are engaged in a spiritual battle and must use spiritual weapons to overcome. All of our spiritual armor is powerful, but prayer puts us in direct contact with our Commander in Chief. It is prayerful and watchful study of God’s Word that will send the enemy packing.
That was my first test as a new believer, but it wouldn’t be the last. In the days and weeks to come the enemy would seek to devour not only myself, but also a handful of Christian Marines that were making an impact in the barracks.
Next blog: Heady Days