The Battlefield of the Mind

If I were to ask you where Jesus ranks among your life’s priorities, what would be your response?

Would your first impulse be to give a “spiritual” answer? That is, would you be inclined to say what you think you’re supposed to say as a Christian? Or would you respond with what you know in your heart to be true?

Those questions are in no way meant to be presumptive or accusatory. Not at all. The truth is none of us, including yours truly, consistently gives Christ the rightful place He deserves in our life. In fact, if we were honest, most of us would have to admit that we are so preoccupied with the concerns and attentions of this world that thoughts of God rarely cross our minds—until we need Him, that is (Matthew 15:8).

It was several years ago that a former pastor of mine said something that still resonates with me to this day. He said that the battlefield of Satan is the mind. I have since discovered in my own life how right he was—and is.

It is through the mind that Satan attacks believers in Christ.

Since the Garden of Eden, Satan’s modus operandi—that we exchange the truth of God for a lie (Romans 1:25)—has not wavered or altered. And why should Satan change his strategy since it has served him so well for so long? As Jonathan Edwards said, “The devil can counterfeit all the saving operations and graces of the Spirit of God.” Conversely, A.W. Pink said that “Satan is not an initiator, but an imitator.”

It was on the battlefield of his mind that the apostle Paul—the same man who, under the inspiration of the Spirit of God wrote nearly thirty percent of the New Testament—engaged in spiritual combat with the one who is the enemy of all believers in Christ. Paul acknowledged this struggle in Romans 7:21-25, where he confessed:

I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.”

If we truly are to understand the conflict Paul is describing, we must first understand that, biblically speaking, the mind (nous) comprises our human faculties of perception and understanding, of consciously judging, determining, and discerning. In the above passage, Paul is contrasting the “mind” with the “flesh” in terms of the principle of evil which dominates us as fallen human beings. 

When compared to you and me, the apostle Paul was a unique person in many respects. But he was not so uncommon that he did not struggle with sin (Romans 7:14-25).

The war Paul fought against sin and temptation was waged on the very same battlefield upon which you and I fight every moment of every day—in our mind. It is against the backdrop of that universal reality that I am reminded of this encouraging yet sobering admonition by pastor and author John MacArthur who, in The Gospel According to Paul, said:

“As believers, we wage continual war against sin, always seeking to mortify it, never to dance with it.”

The “mind” that Paul describes as “waging war” in his “inner man” speaks to his utter powerlessness and inability to obey God in and of himself. 

The sixteenth-century German reformer Martin Luther understood the utter futility of this kind of man-centered self-effort where, in On the Bondage of the Will, he said, “Let all the ‘free-will’ in the world do all it can with all its strength; it will never give rise to a single instance of ability to avoid being hardened if God does not give the Spirit, or of meriting mercy if it is left to its own strength.

In a world in which unjust disparities and inequities appear normative (Ecclesiastes 5:8; Jeremiah 12:1), sin has a way of leveling the playing field for everyone (Romans 3:23). 

Regardless our differences ethnically, culturally, or socio-economically, sin renders each of us equally helpless, defenseless, and impotent in the war against our flesh—leaving us all in desperate need of a power greater than ourselves as we contend against the sin nature that indwells us (Galatians 5:16-26). 

It was the Puritan theologian Richard Sibbes who said:

“When we find our souls at all declining, it is best to raise them up presently by some awakening meditations, such as the presence of God, of the strict reckoning we are to make, of the infinite love of God in Christ and the fruits of it, of the excellency of a Christian’s calling, of the short and uncertain time of this life, of how little good all those things that steal away our hearts will do us before long, and of how it shall be forever with us hereafter, as we spend this short time well or ill. The more we make way for such considerations to sink into our hearts, the more we shall rise nearer to that state of soul which we shall enjoy in heaven.”

Sibbes’ wise counsel should be considered within the context of Paul’s exhortation Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” 

To “dwell” on the things Paul mentions means that we, as believers, are to so “set our minds” on the things of God that we “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (Colossians 3:22 Corinthians 10:5b).

As believers who are engaged daily in an ongoing battle for our mind there are only two choices to consider: either submit to the will of Christ who loves us or to the will of Satan who wants to destroy us.

There is no third option.

As the “Prince of Preachers,” Charles Haddon Spurgeon, said:

“You cannot expect God to listen to you if you will not listen to him; and when you ask of God, you must not imagine that he will give to you what you ask of him if you do not give to him what he asks of you.”

May God grant each of us the grace to continue fighting the good fight of faith (1 Timothy 6:12) as we, by His divine power (Ephesians 6:10-13), engage our mortal enemy on the battlefield of our minds (1 Timothy 6:12).

In Christ,


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7 thoughts on “The Battlefield of the Mind

  1. David Dean

    Great article Mr Harrison. I believe there is a reason Satan attacks the mind. Our mind is the crucial tie breaker wherein believers can be lead astray. I have this image of myself being three parts. The fallen, poisoned world is all around me. My Body is my flesh and it is the interface to the world through my senses. As such it is corrupt. At the opposite end of my being is my Spirit which is the door way to something better. It is fortified with prayer, faith, worship, hope and reverence. Then smack dab in the middle is my Soul, seated in mind, where imagination, memory, conscience, reason, and affection can be influential toward allowing the Body to rule or to follow the Spirit. Satan knows this. He attempts to infect our imagination with lewdness, corrupt our memory towards grudges, cause our conscience to become hardened, make what is irrational seem reasonable, and have our affections be for that which will harm us. If our mind is lead astray, then our Spirit will be neglected. That is how he seeks to destroy us.

  2. thank you, darrell. i appreciate this line so much: “The “mind” that Paul describes as “waging war” in his “inner man” speaks to his utter powerlessness and inability to obey God in and of himself.”

    my own struggles with sin might not be manifesting externally, but in my mind there’s much bloodshed. and only because of the death of Christ and me being baptized in his death… realizing the reality of that theology… and implementing it in my own thinking through the Spirit’s enabling that i could gain victory over all kinds of lusts, and temptations, and pride.

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  5. Last night I was reading Created to Learn by William Yount who made the following statement that I found very interesting, “What we give focused attention to, where we place our mental effort, causes changes in the actual structure and wiring of our brains. Let this thought roll over you mind for a moment” (Yount 2010, 532). He then moves into the Scriptural call for believers to focus on the things of God as you have done in this article. Very important article on the mind as a battlefield and grateful for your labors.

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