As many who were here Wednesday and have been following me on Twitter or Facebook know, this week has been one of severe spiritual battle for me.
I have asked for prayer for my family and myself. I have seen some things this week that have shaken me to my core. Things that others would probably pass off as superficial or just part of life. Things I would have passed off that way a few weeks ago as well, I’m sure.
However, as I have prayed over the past few days and weeks God has revealed to me an area of spiritual battle that I have taught and believed in for years.
Consequently, I have asked for prayers and I have prayed as never before.
There is risk when talking about spiritual warfare at times. As Baptists we fear discussion of the supernatural at times. We do well when speaking of discipleship classes and evangelism programs and events and other safe things, but when we speak of the spiritual battles and the warfare we face
as believers. . .we often shy away from that discussion.
While some believers see demons in everything and behind every bush (which I think is extreme and not biblically supported,) to discount their existence or the power and existence of Satan is to ignore the major adversary to God and his kingdom.
As I have talked to friends in the pastoral ministry over the past few days, it is evident that spiritual warfare is real. It’s intense and strategic.
So, this detour in the midst of our journey through 1 Corinthians is necessary. To ignore the events in my life this past week and just go “business as usual” to present the next scheduled message in a series is first, a disservice to you, because God is leading us to make this detour and second, a sin for me. If I am not hearing the voice of God and obeying the voice of God, I am not a disciple of God and therefore, not fit to serve.
C.S. Lewis said this well in his book The Screwtape Letters. . . “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other
is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.”
One of the problems when we speak of spiritual warfare is that we often focus too much on the enemy and not enough on the victor. This is not meant to be a shock messageor a scary one. However, I will be nothing but honest with you and we are going to speak of the battle in clear, real terms.
This is why.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12(ESV)
As Jerry Rankin, our former President of the International Mission Board has stated upon his assignment as a missionary in Indonesia, “It wasn’t long until we began to learn that where the gospel has not been proclaimed and Jesus is not known, Satan has considerable dominion and power.” What I have discovered is that even where the Gospel is proclaimed the enemy
has great power.
While I fully acknowledge the existence of Satan and demons and the powers they have, I agree with Rankin’s statement here – “Spiritual warfare is not so much about demon possession, territorial spirits, or generational bondage as it is overcoming Satan’s lies and deceits in our own
We often wear the name Christian, yet ignore the full story of Christ. In each of the three Synoptic Gospels, we see Satan appearing as the tempter of Christ.
From the first story in Genesis to the last story of Revelation, a very real being known as Satan plays a role in the story. He is an enemy of God and therefore and enemy of God’s people.
We have this book with stories of the past, all pointing to the future. We, however, tend to look at these stories at times as interesting historical anecdotes or “life lesson” stories designed solely for daily devotionals.
A deeper look reveals the stories to be part of The Story, complete with a Hero, an enemy and a battle.
Why is it we are drawn to stories, even those written by pagans who are far from God that echo the Gospel?
The heart of man desires battle, adventure and beauty. Why would God wire us this way?
Because He knew this story had an enemy. He knew there would be battle. Men – he has prepared you for this.
Most men believe that the battle is to just “not sin.” Really? That’s it. God, in his sovereignty and greatness has created us for his glory and ultimately desires that we just learn to “behave.”
The battle is not gender specific, however. Men and women are both created in the image of the Father, one with a masculine heart, the other with a feminine heart. Both divinely created. Both under attack.
So the battle rages.
Let’s think about Story.
Who are the great storytellers of our day? Stephen Spielberg, J.J. Abrams, James Patterson, John Grisham, J.K. Rowling, Suzanne Collins, Stephenie Meyer?
You may not like their stories, their styles or their subjects, but they capture the hearts of people with their narratives in print or on film.
We are wired for story.
Even those far from God write from a heart seeking truth. That’s why the Gospel can be found imprinted on stories from different cultures, belief systems, musicians, and even atheistic writers. They cannot help it because the story is elemental. It is foundational.
God’s story has a hero. He is the hero.
God’s story has an enemy. He is a created being, not all powerful, not all knowing. Yet, he is real.
He is our enemy as well.
He has many names in Scripture, yet he is one being.
- Abaddon and Apollyon – destroyer (Revelation 9:11)
- God of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4)
- Accuser (Revelation 12:10)
- Great Dragon (Revelation 12:9)
- Adversary – this word is used many places. The name “Satan”
is an English transliteration of the Hebrew word for Adversary.
- Lawless one
- Morning Star
- Prince of the power of the air
- Ruler of this world
- Evil One
- Father of Lies
- Little horn
- Man of sin
- Power of darkness
- Prince that shall come
- Son of perdition
- The wicked one
- Author of confusion
This is God’s enemy – Satan. He is all these names and more, but Satan, the adversary, sums it up. He is God’s adversary and since we are made in the image of God, he is ours as well.
People bristle at the discussion of Satan. There’s so much confusion out there. So much misinformation.
First of all – we must affirm that Satan is not the evil equivalent of God. He is a created being. He is not the “dark side of the force” while God is the “good side.”
He is a limited being.
Why is this essential to know the basics of who Satan is and what he does?
Without an understanding of our enemy, and I’m speaking to believers here, we will…
- Think too highly of him – give him more power and credit than he has.
- Think too lightly about him – believing he has no power.
- Not recognize his attacks.
- Be caught unaware.
So, while, as Lewis said, we must not think too much of him, we must not think too little either.
We will take some time next week dissecting the person of Satan, whom, I believe is real, not just an idea, not just a dimension of thought where God is absent. We’ll strip away the caricatures of Medieval thought and red horns and stick figures, to look clearly as the biblical descriptions.
We see him in the human story first appearing as a serpent tempting Adam and Eve. Twisting words, causing confusion, lying to the created about the Creator.
Does this sound familiar? It’s the very same tactics used today.
Here we are in the 21st century. We live in an age of tolerance and technology. As Christ followers and believers in truth we hold to what is inspired and written in an ancient book. In this book, we see the revelation of a strategy – a strategy of an enemy. One that cannot take out the Creator God, but attempts to hurt the Creator by taking out the created.
Let me ask you parents, moms and dads. How painful would it be to watch your children suffer? For those with children who have faced or are facing great illness, how many would willingly swap places with your child in order to keep them healthy and not have them go through what they’re going through.
Maybe it’s not medical. Maybe it’s something else, but it’s painful. It’s a situation where no medication can fix it, but you, as a parent are watching and it’s killing you to watch your children go through what they are.
God, our Father, the Creator, love by definition is watching the Enemy attack his children, Adam and Eve, and though as Creator, he could step in (I know some are asking) he created human beings with the ability to love and follow Him or not.
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her
husband who was with her, and he ate.Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.
Did Adam and Eve fall out of love with God in that story? Did they no longer consider themselves children of God? No.
But, they had lost focus and when the time was right, the Enemy struck. And he did so at the place where they were most vulnerable.
They fell to the attack and humanity was cursed.
We inherit that curse, but just as with Adam and Eve, there was restoration of relationship with God, so too is there for us through Christ.
Why is there spiritual warfare? What’s the point?
As with all of Satan’s work – the Garden of Eden, the wilderness with Christ, the cross and all the evil of the Old Testament, New Testament and today, there is one motivation. It is the enemy’s pride and self-glory.
Pride and self-glory are opposite to the humility and God-glory that is truth.
Consequently, one of the enemy’s most powerful allies in opposing and oppressing God’s people is our own pride. In this war, Satan has allowed his pride to grow so intensely that he believes God can be defeated. He has an army of fallen angels at his command.
Now, not to fall into the camp that sees a demon in every person and behind every bush, understand that their existence is real. In addition to this army, the enemy Satan also has allies in people who are demon possessed, demonically influenced and oppressed or simply living by their
sinful, selfish nature and flesh.
Who are these folks?
- False prophets who speak untruth (that sounds like truth)
- False apostles who begin false ministries
- False Christians who divide the churches
- False teachers who teach doctrine that is heresy to God.
At the personal level. . .
Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. What I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs. 2 Corinthians 2:10-11(ESV)
I fear that far too many of us are ignorant of his designs.
Knowing his tactics help us anticipate his work and live in victory rather than as victims.
For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. 1 John 2:16(ESV)
So where does this lead us today?
It’s an introduction. Not meant to scare, but to set the table for the teaching to come.
We must know the players in the game. We must know that we have a real enemy. Yet, more than that. Much more than that we must understand that as Christ-followers, we have the Victor.
Are you being attacked? Are you buying the lies? Are you making agreements?
Notice what the Bible says about what God has given us as born-again children of His. Notice too how Satan has twisted these promises. He is yelling from the rooftops, from the text messages, the friends, the inner office memos, the movies, songs, television shows, politicians, pundits, talk
show hosts, and unfortunately sometimes folks who claim to wear the name of Christ.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. John 14:27(ESV)
These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
POWER and STRENGTH
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.
Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Luke 10:19(ESV)
HOLINESS and BLESSING
And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19(ESV)
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to£ his own glory and excellence. 2 Peter 1:3(ESV)