WE ARE AT WAR
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. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight. (Lewis, The Screwtape Letters)
My hope in this series is that we will come away reminded that spiritual conflict in our life on this earth is real. This world is a battlefield. It is a war taking place in an unseen realm, but the effects are being lived out through your life on earth. And in reality, it’s intensifying. Some of us are completely unaware that such a war is taking place. Some Christians live in denial about this and some live in unconscious disbelief.
I certainly do not want to move us into an unhealthy obsession over the devil and demons. Let’s be real. We can’t blame they demonic for everything that goes wrong in our life. Demons don’t make your washing machine break down. But it’s dangerous to go to the other end of the spectrum and deny that the enemy exists.
And if there is a spiritual war, what do you need to know about it? What do you need to do about it?
An old story is told about a farming community in a drought. The churches all came together one Sunday afternoon in a large, sunbaked field for a prayer meeting to ask God for rain.
As the first old preacher got up, he stood in silence on the platform hooked up behind the tractor. Then he said, “I noticed as I came in to begin this prayer meeting asking God for rain that, in all this crowd, that no one brought an umbrella.”
But I wonder, in much the same way, how many of us show up each day expecting, not rain, but a war? Did you bring your armor this morning, your weapons? Are you aware that we have a very real, very dangerous enemy lurking who wants to “steal, kill, and destroy?” Possibility is, for some of you, he rode to church in your car!
You may have heard that on Wednesday of this week, Russian media declared that we are now in WW 3. According to their media pundits, the war with Ukraine has now grown larger and is now a war with the US, with Britain, and with NATO. WW 3. It’s on! I would say most of us aren’t worried about it. It’s not real to you.
In the same way, many Christians live oblivious to our battleground and the existence of our spiritual enemy. As the old hymn by Martin Luther says,
“And still our ancient foe
Doth seek to work us woe
His craft and power are great
And armed with cruel hate
One little word shall fell him.”
You gained a very real enemy when you gave your heart to Jesus. Since he will never regain ownership of your soul, (demons cannot possess a person the Holy Spirit lives in) he seeks to lie, accuse, and torment and defeat those he has lost. He seeks to separate you and isolate you because you really can be manipulated if you aren’t under the covering of a spiritual family. And he will take you down and discourage or disqualify you if you don’t learn to fight spiritually.
THERE IS A REAL ENEMY
Billy Graham used to tell the story of a boxer getting pounded in the ring by his opponent. When the bell rang, he went into his corner bleeding and bruised, and said “You’ve got to throw in the towel!” His trainer yelled in his face, “He’s not touching you! He’s never laid a glove on you!” But through swollen lips, the boxer said, “Well I wish you’d keep an eye on that referee then, because someone in there is beating me half to death!”
There is a real enemy. He’s not made up, not a fairy tale, not simply a myth or legend. He’s a real, smart, and powerful being. The Bible calls him “The Adversary.” In some places, he’s called “The Accuser.” And in others, “Apollyon—the Destroyer.” He hides. He wants you to believe that he’s some old guy in a red onesie with a goatee and horns and a pitchfork.
He has a strategy.
The Bible tells us that our enemy disguises himself, sometimes as “angel of light.” He can come in religious packaging, be a moral crusader if it furthers his purpose which is to deceive and to hide. But let’s be clear.
The Devil is not equal to God, nor is he omnipresent meaning, he can’t be everywhere at once. So, there is a hierarchy in this cosmic war…he commands demons.
Jesus confronted him in the wilderness and wrestled with him for 40 days and 40 nights. He resisted him with the Word of God. You will only win as you do the same. Now let me be quick to remind you again the devil is not responsible for every bad thing that happens to you. We have three enemies as believers: THE WORLD, THE FLESH, and THE DEVIL. (1 John 2:16)
We live in a fallen, broken, sinful world. It’s a perfect environment for the enemy to work in. One day God is going to end it, but until then we live in an imperfect and broken world.
You live in a fallen, broken, sinful body. “The things I want to do, I don’t do….” Also, a perfect situation for the enemy to work against you. But sometimes the problems you faced aren’t Satanic, they’re just sin. They come because we live in a world that is yet to be transformed by the resurrection of Jesus. The same with your body. So, let’s not give the devil more than his due. He’s not orchestrating every bad situation. We sometimes suffer from self-inflicted wounds.
But let’s remember we have a very real enemy working against us, who has come to “steal kill and destroy.” Jesus said, “Satan was a murderer from the beginning.” The first sins committed by humanity were instigated by this enemy.
THERE IS A RELIABLE STRATEGY
Our warfare is not against flesh and blood…. you know what that means? That means that the person you’re mad at this morning…the individual that frustrates you continually…the person that is making your life miserable right now…THEY ARE NOT THE ENEMY! Our warfare is not with flesh and blood. Stop hating on people!
Now people can be pawns to the enemy if they are unaware of what this tells us today. And Satan can use any person…the person closest to you sometimes…to speak lies into your life; to keep your focus off the Lord and His purposes (get behind Me Satan).
He does this to keep you angry, and unforgiving, and depressed. The demonic realm needs a physical body to work through. We are told that Satan used a serpent in the Garden of Eden. He needs the cooperation of a person who is not aware of his devices: DON’T BE IGNORANT of his “methodia.” Don’t let him use you. He can do nothing to you that you don’t give him permission to do!
We win spiritual battles with spiritual weapons. We are to live armed with the full armor of God. We can choose to access this armor or go into the battle without a helmet to protect us or a weapon to wield. We can walk barefoot onto the battlefield, or without covering for our chest.
So, what are we supposed to do? There are six weapons, each of them to be energized with prayer. Six weapons: Two groups of three—
- Having…Wear these all the time
- Taking… Pick them up as you need them (Tony Evans, Victory)
But God has given us armor…He has supplied us with weapons. But He won’t dress us! Parents may I make an urgent suggestion? Instead of worrying about your children, dress them before they leave home. Pray the spiritual armor over them…as they leave the house, or your car, or as they are stepping on the school bus. Pray the spiritual armor over your children before they go out on dates, or as they are stepping onto a college campus for the first time.
2 Corinthians 10 reminds us that many of the battles we fight take place in our minds:
- When we believe the enemy’s lies
- When we surrender to the threat of fear
- When we yield to the pressure of temptations
- When we fight people as though they are the enemy
- When we are dealing with depression
- When we are struggling with our temper
- When we are gripped by addiction
Satan operates in the spiritual realm.
Everything that occurs in the visible, physical world is directly connected to the wrestling match being waged in the invisible, spiritual world. “The effects of the war going on in the unseen world reveal themselves in our strained and damaged relationships, emotional instability, mental fatigue, physical exhaustion and many other areas of life. Many of us feel pinned down by anger, unforgiveness, pride, comparisons, insecurity, discord, fear. . . and the list goes on. But the overarching, primary nemesis behind all these outcomes is the Devil himself.” (Shirer)
We don’t fight people. People are not the enemy. That’s the lie the devil wants you to believe. If you can just destroy that person that you are continually angry with, leave your spouse, quit your job, your life would improve. That’s the lie we must reject. Our warfare is not with flesh and blood.
THERE IS A REMARKABLE STRENGTH
The enemy wants to destroy you because of the presence of Jesus Christ in you, but “greater is He that is in you than He that is in the world!”
The war we fight is not our battle…it is not our fight. It is not by power; it is not by might but by My Spirit says the Lord.
Our strength is not in our own might. It is there when we learn how to get out of the way and let God fight the battle through us!
You see, we work from a position of a victory that has already been won! The cross, the death, the resurrection of Jesus secured our victory. So, we need to learn to live out the victory that God has already won for us through the blood of the cross and Jesus’ victory over the grave.
(Resources: Kent Hughes Commentary on Ephesians; John Stott The Bible Speaks Today; Tony Evans; Priscilla Shirer; Ray Stedman, Spiritual Warfare; Chip Ingram, The Invisible War; CS Lewis, The Screwtape Letters; Billy Graham)