Keep Calm And Resist The Devil

Star Trek made famous the statement, “Resistance is futile.”  Of course, our heroes from Star Fleet did resist the Borg, and, in the end, defeat them.

We have an enemy who we are told – not once, but twice – to resist and defeat:

Jas 4:7    Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

1Pe 5:8    Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.

1Pe 5:9    Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.

James and Peter say we ought to resist in two very different contexts:

James is talking about resisting the devil when he is using our flesh and the world to tempt us to sin.

Peter is talking about resisting the devil when we are experiencing the pressure of persecution.

Lets start with James and be encouraged we can resist the devil when he is tempting us in a way that causes him to flee.

Jas 4:1    Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?

Jas 4:2    You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask.

Jas 4:3    You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.

Jas 4:4    Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

Jas 4:5    Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”?

The fist three verses are a commentary on our flesh, called by James, “your desires for pleasures that war in your members.”  When yielded to, our flesh manifests as wars, fights, murder, and coveting.

The next verse, verse four, presents the world as a spiritual harlot, and Christians who are enjoying the friendship of the world as spiritual adulterers and adulteresses.

We’ve said before that the devil uses the world to tempt our flesh.

Jas 4:5    Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”?

Difficult verse unless you see it in context and think of the “spirit” not as the Holy Spirit, but as a reference to your human spirit that can “yearn jealously” for the things of the world.

How can we ever hope to resist such formidable opposition?

Jas 4:6    But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “GOD RESISTS THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.”

That God gives “more grace” shows that His grace is greater than the power of the flesh, the world, and Satan.  The Old Testament quote (from Proverbs 3:34) reveals who obtains God’s grace – the humble.

The word humble does not define a special class of Christians, but encompasses all believers.

True, a little later in this chapter we are told to “humble ourselves” (v10).  Here, in verse six, we are called “the humble.”  Being “the humble” is our position as saved individuals – not our practice.

Jas 4:7    Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

“Therefore,” i.e., because God gives more grace, I “submit.”

“Submit” could be translated obey.  Here’s the thing.  I CAN obey God; I CAN submit to Him, because I am a recipient of His grace; and His grace is more than enough to overcome my flesh and the world.

I think our problem is that we read these commands as if they are something we must do in order to earn God’s grace.  We think the more we obey and submit, the more grace He will release.

But that puts all the emphasis on my efforts.  I will always fail.

The grace for me to obey and submit is already there.  If and when I disobey and rebel, it’s because I consciously choose to yield to the devil’s temptations.
If I realize God has given me the grace to say “No” to sin, I resist the devil, and he must flee.

He only flees for a time.  Even Jesus had to do battle over and over again with him.  When Jesus defeated his temptations in the wilderness, we are told Satan fled “until a more opportune time” (Luke 4:13).

But flee, for a time, he must.  Or, you could say, if I resist, he must retreat.

You’ve played rock-scissors-paper.  It’s an elegant game.  Rock breaks (dulls) scissors; scissors cut paper; paper covers rock.

When he was very young, just a child, one of the brothers in our fellowship added an element to rock-scissors-paper.  It was a gesture using your hand to look like a rising cloud.  He called it Atomic Fire and, as you might suppose, it obliterated rock, scissors, and paper.

It was a true doomsday weapon that could not be overcome.

I think we sometimes approach the devil’s temptations as if we’re playing rock-scissors-paper and need to outsmart him in order to win.  If I’m reading James correctly, grace is our Atomic Fire; it obliterates his temptations, if we will choose it over our own strategies.

Let’s take a look at Peter’s idea of resistance.  Peter’s command that we resist the devil is in a totally different context.  Here it is again.

1Pe 5:8    Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.

1Pe 5:9    Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.

The context is “the sufferings” of Christians “in the world,” or what we would call persecution.

I hate to be the one to point it out, but there’s something you don’t see here; there’s something Peter doesn’t say.

He doesn’t say, “resist the devil and he will flee from you.”  In fact he says you may continue to suffer:

1Pe 5:10    But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.

Often when talking about this verse Bible teachers say things like, “Satan is a lion with a roar but no teeth.”  One commentator I read compared Satan to a small, yipping dog that belonged to a neighbor.  One day, he decided to bark back at the dog, and, when he did, the dog turned tail and ran.

That is not the picture Peter is painting.  He portrays the devil as a terrorist who can indeed inflict devastating suffering.  And it is a suffering you might have to “endure for a while.”

According to Peter, you “resist” the devil; he doesn’t flee, but gets all the more violent and vicious.  The temptation here is to give-up, to throw in the towel, to quit living for Jesus – maybe even forsake The Lord.

“Don’t,” says Peter.  “Don’t quit resisting.”

Remain “steadfast in the faith,” realizing it is part of your warfare to suffer persecution.

That’s what it means to be “sober” and “vigilante.”  I should expect the devil’s attacks.  My threat level is always red.

This answers a lot of questions for me, namely, “If I’m in a trial, why doesn’t the devil flee when I resist him?”

It’s because I am not promised he will flee in my trials, in my sufferings.  I am promised “grace” that is sufficient and, in the end, I will be perfected, established, strengthened and settled.

In movies, the hero is a guy (or a gal) who cannot be broken.  No matter how viciously they are tortured, they won’t give-up the information; they won’t renounce their position.

We are that spiritual hero when we trust the grace of God and endure our hardships as good soldiers of Jesus Christ.

With regards to tempting you to sin – you have grace to resist the devil and he must retreat.

With regards to trials – you have grace to go on resisting the devil though he may continue his onslaught.

Either way, resistance is not futile.

Map Quest

Luke Skywalker thought he was ready to face Darth Vader.  Ignoring the warnings of both Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda that he was heading into a trap, Luke confronted Vader, only to have his hand cut off and hear the iconic words, “I am your father.”

Although the light saber was “an elegant weapon for a more civilized age,” Luke’s real weapon would be something totally unexpected.  In their second confrontation, it wasn’t until he abandoned his weapon altogether and was willing to lose his life that he defeated his enemy.

I’m not suggesting that Star Wars is in any way a Christian allegory.  The scenes I just referenced are a common literary device, found in lots of books and screen plays, to emphasize that we can go off half-cocked, thinking we are proficient with our weapons.

Spiritual warfare can be like that.  We can go off half-cocked if we don’t understand the weapons of our warfare.

You may have heard Christians talk about spiritual mapping.  It started with John Dawson’s book, Taking Our Cities for God, published in 1989.  The book’s subtitle is: “How to Break Spiritual Strongholds. ”

The author taught that demonic forces block the Gospel.  His thesis: the power and influence of the “principalities and powers” over a city must be broken before the Gospel will significantly advance.

Spiritual mapping involves some, or all, of the following techniques:

The history of the city must be studied and understood. Certain key questions must be answered.  For example, How and why did the city begin?  Who were the founders and what were their intentions and spiritual condition?  What presently characterizes the city, or, what is it known for?
The latest demographic study of the city should be analyzed.
The history of race relations must be studied along with any traumatic event the city had experienced like an earthquake, a flood, etc.

With proper research, the demonic spirit or spirits in control of the city will be identified and thus their power can be broken by the use of some appropriate spiritual effort.  For instance, if a city is characterized by pride, then the Christian response ought to be humility.

(I thought humility was supposed to characterize us all the time?)

That sounds great – even spiritual.  But I’m suggesting it’s more like Luke Skywalker getting his hand chopped off.

Let me give you two reasons why spiritual mapping is not part of our spiritual warfare.

The first reason is that it simply is not taught in the Bible.

There is one clear text that describes territorial spirits or demons.  It’s in the Book of Daniel.  We’re going to study it in subsequent weeks, so, for now, a brief overview will suffice.

In Daniel ten, the angel Gabriel tells Daniel that he was sent to give him a message, yet it took him twenty-one days to get to Daniel because he was restrained by a demon called the Prince of Persia.  He finally broke through with the help of Michael the Archangel.

Daniel wasn’t doing any mapping before this demon was revealed to him.  After he was made aware of this territorial demon, it had no effect on how he prayed.

No cities were set free; no mass evangelism took place.

I’m not being cynical – just factual.

One scholar summarized this, saying,

That the Bible attests to the existence and activity of territorial spirits does not constitute grounds for thinking that Christians can or should attempt to identify them and the areas they control.  The presence and influence of the princes were disclosed to Daniel, but not because he sought to discover their identity or functions. Nor is there any evidence that Daniel prayed for their defeat. Proponents of spiritual mapping run the risk of indulging in the sort of speculation that Scripture consistently avoids.

A second reason we don’t want to get caught-up in this kind of thing is because it comes from a misunderstanding of the meaning of the word “strongholds” in Second Corinthians ten.

2Co 10:3    For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh.
2Co 10:4    For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds,
2Co 10:5    casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,

I like the sound of “pulling down strongholds,” don’t you?

Trouble is, we tend to think of a stronghold as if it’s a rats-nest of demons, led by a more powerful demon; and that we need to make an assault on their territory.  That’s not it by a long shot.

Paul defines for us what he meant by “strongholds” in verse five.  He says they are “arguments,” and then qualifies them as “every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God.”

William MacDonald said,

Paul saw himself as a soldier warring against the proud reasonings of man, “arguments” which oppose the truth.  The true character of these arguments is described in the expression “against the knowledge of God.”  It could be applied today to the reasonings of scientists, evolutionists, philosophers, and religionists who have no room for God in their scheme of things.  The apostle was in no mood to sign a truce with these.  Rather he felt committed to bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.

MacDonald mentioned evolution.  It is an “argument” that seeks to explain origins without any need for God and His creation.

Mormonism, and every other false religion, is an argument against God as He is revealed in the Bible.

These “arguments,” lame though they may be, hold nonbelievers captive.  They think they are free thinkers, who have thrown-off the bondage of believing in God.  The “arguments” are the doctrines of demons, and “every high thing” sounds like a wall behind which they are prisoners held captive.

In some cases, the “arguments” are directly attributed to what we’d call a demon; like the angel Moroni who gave Joseph Smith Mormonism.

The question is, How do we cast down those strongholds?

Let me further qualify that question by using the words we find in the Bible text: How do we pull down those strongholds in a way that “brings every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ?”

It seems, to me at least, there are three common approaches to the pulling down of strongholds.  One I’m going to call ‘legislation,’ although that might not be the best descriptor.  What I mean is that we try to keep laws on the books, or pass new ones, that are in line with the truth taught in the Bible.

Let me say, I see nothing wrong with this; and there is much value in it.  For example Prop 8, the 2008 California ballot initiative that established that only marriages between a man and a woman would be recognized in The Golden State.  The voter-approved amendment to the state’s constitution overturned a California Supreme Court’s ruling from the same year that had granted same-sex couples of the state the constitutional right to marry.

Unfortunately, United States District Court Judge Vaughn Walker, who is openly homosexual, overturned Proposition 8 on August 4, 2010.

Many people don’t know that the folks who really led the Prop 8 initiative were Calvary Chapel of Chino Hills, pastored by Jack Hibbs, as he was stirred-up by The Lord.

We live in a society governed by laws and should exercise our rights as citizens to see laws passed that reflect God’s government.

You’ve probably heard someone say, “you can’t legislate morality.”  On one level, that’s not true.  Laws are the very means by which societies do, in fact, legislate what they consider right and wrong.

On a spiritual level, laws cannot change the heart.  No legislation can “bring every thought into  captivity to the obedience of Christ.”

We want to pull down strongholds in a way that affects the heart.  Legislation is good, but it stops short of our objective.

A second common approach to the pulling down of strongholds – again, a good one – we can call debate; it’s really apologetics.  It is to meet the arguments of the enemies of the Gospel head-on with the truth of God’s Word.

Creation science would be a good example of this.  Believers who are scientists who seek to have creation taught side-by-side with evolution; or who debate prominent evolutionists; are to be commended.  Creation decimates evolution, and nothing in the Bible contradicts good science.

But, again, please notice: winning a debate does not, by itself, “bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,” because the problem is with the heart.

Apologetics might clear the way, if a person is sincere; but it is not the way of obtaining our objective.

The third approach to the pulling down of strongholds is evangelism.  It’s the one – the only one – that affects the heart and renders it possible for the saved person to “bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”

Ultimately, then, the weapons of our warfare are the usual, but extraordinary, spiritual disciplines – like prayer and the proper use of the Word of God as a spiritual sword to discern between the soul and the spirit.

We can certainly show how societies who have devalued marriage have crumbled; we can easily prove evolution cannot be true; but it doesn’t deliver anyone from behind the barricades.

We must approach this spiritually so that the Holy Spirit can convict the hearts of nonbelievers of sin, of righteousness, and of the judgment to come, and be saved.

Let’s legislate!  Let’s debate!  But, foremost, let’s pray and share the Word, which is the power of God unto salvation.

Soldier Up – Warfare Crash Course

Back in 2007 the Air Force realized it needed to get its non-combat personnel who were headed to Iraq and Afghanistan quickly up to combat readiness.

They developed a five-day crash course: Two days in the classroom – learning about body armor, chemical warfare protection suits, high-risk isolation scenarios and the like – and three days of field exercises.

“When we hand them an M4 or M16, they won’t say, ‘Which end do I point downrange?'” said Col. Scott Bethel.

The moment you become a Christian, you are thrust into a war zone.  You most definitely need a crash course on spiritual warfare.

Any crash course in spiritual warfare would begin with the classic New Testament passage, Ephesians 6:10-17.

There are two separate tracks to follow in those verses:

Verse twelve describes our enemies, “the devil,” “the wicked one,” who commands “principalities… powers… the rulers of the darkness of this age… [the] spiritual hosts of wickedness.”

The remaining verses describe our own equipping to fight our enemies.

We are in a time of war; fierce, spiritual war.  Our greatest need is to understand our equipping, right now, because we are coming under attack.  We can study our enemy in more detail later.

Ephesians 6:10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.

The very first thing I get from Ephesians six, in general, is that I must soldier up every day because I am in a constant conflict.  I don’t just put on armor when I’m in a trial, or when I am involved in some Christian service.  I’m to be suited-up all the time.

I’m to be armored at home… at work… in school… on vacation… You get the idea.

“Finally” should be translated from this point forward.  What point?  Ideally, from the point at which you first become a Christian.  You are born-again resulting in radical changes in your marriage and family, and at work.  It’s as if Jesus were in your home, at your job.  You take a stand; the devil and his demons take note of it and the battle is on.

“From this point forward” can also be any point at which you decide to really commit yourself to the Lord and walk in the power of a Spirit-filled life.

“Be strong” is in a verb tense that means be continually strengthened.  You are continually strengthened “in the Lord”  as you put on the armor He has provided.  The armor is the “power of His might.”

“Power” refers to the power that was revealed by the Lord when He was on the earth.  By His death, resurrection, and ascension, He was victorious over the devil.  In Colossians you read that at the Cross Jesus “disarmed principalities and powers.”

“Might” refers to the power that resides in the Lord in Heaven.  In His Second Coming He will return to vanquish the devil.

In-between the Lord’s victory in the past, and the vanquishing to come, you occupy enemy territory.  You need to,

Ephesians 6:11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

“Stand” is the important word in these verses – repeated four times.

“Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (v11).

“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground” (v13).

“and after you have done everything, to stand” (v. 13).

“Stand firm, then, with the belt of truth” (v14).

We use the phrase, “take a stand.”  It means we take a position in opposition to others; it means we resist their influence.

As Christians, by the very nature of being translated from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of God, we take a stand against the devil.  We’ve chosen sides – crossed over the line in the sand.

Eph 6:12    For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

Paul is not changing metaphors; he’s not talking about an athletic event in a gymnasium.  He’s describing a fully armed soldier wrestling against his enemies.  When a fully armed soldier is wrestling, he’s involved in close-quarter, eyeball-to-eyeball, hand-to-hand combat.  In this case you’re the soldier and the enemy is supernatural.  It’s mano-y-diabalos.

As I said, we’re going to skip over the devil and his minions and get right to your armor.

Paul was all too familiar with Roman soldiers.  He was probably being guarded by one while he was dictating the letter to the Ephesians.  He looked over and said, “I’m going to put you in the Bible.”

Putting on the whole armor of God involves both what you believe and how you behave:

The armor is given to me by God.  Each piece involves something spiritual you believe He has given to you as a Christian.
You must put on the armor.  You must behave in a manner consistent with what you believe in order to hold your spiritual ground in.

Ephesians 6:13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

“In the evil day” is a description of the world ever since the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.  Every day is “evil.”  We’re forced to take a stand.

Ephesians 6:14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth…

The soldier was “girded” with a leather belt underneath that held all the other equipment together.  Your belt is “truth.”  God’s Word is truth.

Think of Adam and Eve.  Had they simply believed God’s Word was truth, they would have withstood the serpent’s lies.

I said the armor involves what you believe and how you behave.  With regards to truth, most Christians believe the truth, as revealed by God in His Word.  But we have a tendency to behave erratically.  Case in point: Christians would agree sex outside of marriage is sin, but you’d never know it by their behavior.

Ephesians 6:14 …having put on the breastplate of righteousness,

The “breastplate” covered both front and back protecting all the vital organs.

Your breastplate is “righteousness.”   When you receive Jesus as your Savior, He takes your sin and gives you His righteousness.  God declares you righteous because of what Jesus has done and you are saved for eternity.

How is God’s righteousness part of your armor?  It protects you to know that nothing can ever separate you from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus.  No matter how severe your supernatural struggle, Jesus will never, no never, leave you or forsake you.

Ephesians 6:15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
The Roman soldier wore sandals which had small nails in the soles.  He was thus able to dig-in and hold his ground during an assault without losing his balance.

Your sandals are “the preparation of the gospel of peace.”  You have peace with God and, as a result, can experience the peace of God.  The peace of God guards your heart in the midst of the fiercest of struggles.

You are “prepared” to stand in any conflict because you have the “good news” that you are at peace with God.

Ephesians 6:16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.

“Above all” doesn’t mean it is more important.  The phrase should be translated, in addition to these.

The shield described here is the large, oblong shield that was able to defend the entire body from flaming arrows tipped with tar or pitch.  When those arrows hit they would splash fire all over.  The shield deflected these and allowed the soldier to hold his ground or advance.

Your shield is “faith.”  God’s Word is truth; you have been declared righteous; you are at peace with God and can have the peace of God.  You maintain this spiritual posture by faith.

Ephesians 6:17 And take the helmet of salvation…

We have some help interpreting this in another portion of Scripture.  In First Thessalonians 5:8, Paul says to put on “for a helmet, the hope of salvation.”
The hope he is talking about is the sure hope of the coming of Jesus for you to complete your salvation.  Your helmet is the blessed hope of the return of Jesus to complete the work He has begun in you.

Ephesians 6:17 …and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;

We’ve already said that “truth” is the Word of God.  How is it that “the sword of the Spirit” is also the “word of God?”  The word for “word” here is rhema.

Rhema is a precise, particular word from God’s Word that is perfect for your particular warfare.  It is “the sword of the Spirit” in the sense that the Holy Spirit brings a word from God’s Word to you.  Your sword is the rhema you need to stand your ground and to withstand.

This is the armor you’re told to put on in order to take your stand for The Lord.

Here is something super-encouraging.  The Lord Himself trusted in, and trusts in, armor.

Listen for the items of spiritual armor we’ve mentioned in these passages from the Old Testament prophet, Isaiah, describing Jesus in both His first and second comings:

Isa 11:4    But with righteousness He shall judge the poor, And decide with equity for the meek of the earth; He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, And with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked.
Isa 11:5    Righteousness shall be the belt of His loins, And faithfulness the belt of His waist.
Isa 59:17    For He put on righteousness as a breastplate, And a helmet of salvation on His head; He put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, And was clad with zeal as a cloak.
Isa 52:7    How beautiful upon the mountains Are the feet of him who brings good news, Who proclaims peace, Who brings glad tidings of good things, Who proclaims salvation, Who says to Zion, “Your God reigns!”

In Exodus 15:3 He said of Himself, “The Lord is a warrior; The Lord is His name.”  He fought the devil and his followers two thousand years ago; He will return to deal a death blow.

The armor you are to take up is Jesus-battle tested and true.

Soldier Up! (The Saint And Spiritual Warfare)

From beginning to end, the Bible is a book describing a war:

In the beginning, in the Garden of Eden, God spoke of ultimate fighting when He told the serpent that “He [would] bruise [his] head,” while the serpent would “bruise His heel” (3:15).  It wasn’t a one-time match; it was a description of the unfolding of human history, of two kingdoms that would, for an age, be in constant conflict.

In the end, in the Book of the Revelation, there is one last serpent-led battle on the earth, for the earth, before he is cast alive into the Lake of Fire to be tormented in defeat forever and ever (20:7-10).

Between Genesis and the Revelation is a record of the serpent’s constant interference with the plan of God to come into the human race as a man.

The serpent, who is Satan, is powerful.  We are told that Satan is “the prince of this world” (John 12:31) and “the god of this age” (Second Corinthians 4:4).  John writes, in his first letter, that “the whole world is under the control of the evil one” (5:19).

Satan goes about, on the earth, like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (First Peter 5:8).

Satan is not alone in his opposition to God.  The Old Testament informs us that one-third of the created angels rebelled with Satan and now work with him and against God.

These are described as principalities and powers, the rulers of the darkness of this age, the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12).

We see one of these minions, briefly but terrifyingly, in the Book of Daniel.  As Daniel prayed, God dispatched Gabriel to him, to deliver the famous prophecy of the Seventy Weeks.  Gabriel was delayed, however, in a struggle with a demon called the Prince of Persia.

Dan 10:13    But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia.

A major part of Jesus’ ministry in His first coming was to overcome the power of the devil.

Jesus battled Satan, and defeated him, one-on-one in the temptation in the wilderness.

He went about casting out demons, delivering their hosts from all manner of evil they were inflicting.

At one point He landed on a beach, almost like a military invasion, and did battle with a legion of demons, soundly trouncing them.

He explained to His disciples that He had the power to “bind the strong man,” referring to Satan, and establish in place of his rule, the kingdom of Heaven on the earth.

The leaders of the nation of Israel rejected Jesus, and with Him, their kingdom.  The devil, who would have been bound, was allowed to run free – to roam about as the devouring lion, seeking to rob, kill, and destroy.

He will be bound one day.  Describing the Second Coming, John wrote,

Rev 20:1    Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.

Rev 20:2    He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years;

Rev 20:3    and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished…

After the thousand years of the kingdom of Heaven on earth the devil will be released, but only for a short while before he is cast alive into the Lake of Fire for eternity.

We live in this present evil age, ruled by the devil, looking forward to the age to come, and to eternity beyond that.

It’s a war zone.  We are soldiers in a spiritual war.

Here’s the thing.  While we all, as Christians, consent to the truth that we are soldiers, we need to come to the awareness we are not weekend warriors.

We are not reservists who may or may not be called into active duty.  And there is no term to our tour of duty; we are lifers in the Lord’s army.

We – all of us – are on the battlefield.  And that’s why I’m calling this series on spiritual warfare, Soldier Up.

I want us to gain a warfare worldview.  One of the books I’m reading puts it this way:

There is a tendency for people in some circles to think of spiritual warfare as a specialized form of ministry rather than as a descriptive phrase characterizing our common struggle as believers.  Thus, for many people, to speak of spiritual warfare is to speak of exorcism, deliverance ministry, taking authority in the name of Jesus against the enemy, or special forms of authoritative prayer.  Certainly these are all aspects of spiritual warfare, but no single ministry exhausts our understanding of spiritual warfare.  We need to begin thinking about spiritual warfare in a broader way.  Spiritual warfare is a way of characterizing our common struggle as Christians.  Whether we want to think about it or not, the truth is that we all face supernatural opposition as we set out to live the Christian life.

Another author wrote, more bluntly:

Jesus’ teaching, His exorcisms, His healings and other miracles… remain somewhat incoherent and unrelated to one another until we interpret them… as acts of war.

We’ve said that the warfare worldview began in the Garden of Eden and it persists throughout the Bible until the creation of the new heavens and the new earth in the last chapters of the Bible’s last book.  What that means is we could put in almost anywhere in the Bible and talk about spiritual warfare; or, at the very least, we should have it as our worldview, and comment on it, as we are reading and studying anywhere in the Word.

Still, there are a few major, classic passages that especially highlight spiritual warfare:

Ephesians chapter six has to be high on that list, for it is there we are told to “put on the whole armor of God” in order to “stand” against our adversary and his principalities and powers and the rulers of the darkness and the spiritual hosts of wickedness.

Second Corinthians ten comes to mind, for there we are told to tear down enemy strongholds.

The devil’s temptation of Jesus has to be on any list of Scriptures about spiritual warfare.

We’ve got to take a look at Daniel ten and the angelic wrestling match.

Those are just a few of the passages we will look at.  I want to begin with a passage in Ephesians that gives us a balanced perspective on our overall approach to spiritual warfare.

When you mention “spiritual warfare,” there is a tendency to think of only one dimension of it – the demonic.  Possessions, exorcisms, the occult – things along those lines.

Our warfare is far broader in its scope.

The devil and his ilk are not our only enemies.  The world and our flesh, along with the devil, are the three things we are at war against.

Ephesians 2:1-3 mentions them all:

Eph 2:1    And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins,
Eph 2:2    in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience,
Eph 2:3    among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.

Prior to meeting Jesus Christ, you have no spiritual life.  You are spiritually dead.  You are physically dying.  And, if you continue as you were born, you will experience what the Bible calls “the second death,” which is a resurrection to judgment and eternal suffering in Hell.

God the Holy Spirit is in the world seeking to convict men, women, and children of sin, of righteousness, and of the judgment to come.  By His grace, The Lord frees the will so that a person can choose to repent and receive Jesus as their Savior.

A way of describing this transformation is to say that God has “delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love… (Colossians 1:13).

You were under the power of darkness – a captive of the devil, in his kingdom.  When you get saved, you are delivered from his kingdom and conveyed into God’s kingdom.

You therefore need no longer be subject to the power of the world or the devil or the flesh.

What do we mean by “the world?”  The world consists, in part, of the ungodly, and therefore spiritually unhealthy, influences that exert pressure on us everyday to disregard or disobey God.  It is everything and anything that opposes God or minimizes His centrality.

What do we mean by “the flesh?”  The flesh is not my physical body and its normal appetites and drives.  It is something that is left over after I am saved, lingering evilly in my mind, a propensity to desire sin, a lusting after fulfilling my appetites in sinful ways.

The devil is a personal being, a fallen angel, bent on destroying you on account of his long war against God.  He and his followers are expert at using the world to appeal to your flesh to bring you back into slavery to sin.

Let me give one prime, contemporary example of the three working together against you.

One of the devil’s most effective strategies today is pornography.  The world system that he rules over has relaxed most moral standards and simultaneously made pornography available to almost anyone at any given moment.

It appeals to the lust of the flesh that we find lingering in our minds.

It is destroying marriages and churches, not to mention how it undermines society as a whole.  50% of Christian men, and 20% of Christian woman, admit to being addicted to pornography.  The average age when a child is exposed to pornography is 11, but it’s getting lower every time the question is put.

It is the devil using the world against your flesh to rob, to kill, and to destroy.

To wage spiritual warfare as a good soldier of Jesus Christ, you must be aware of these enemies working in harmony against you.

But more than that: You must believe that having been “delivered… from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love,” you need never yield yourself to them.

I’m not suggesting you will never sin.  You will; I will; until we are free from our flesh and in our glorified bodies.

I am suggesting that we can be successful as soldiers battling the world, the devil, and the flesh.

That’s because we are not alone battling against these foes and forces.  If we were, we’d be toast.

God empowers us through His indwelling Holy Spirit through our relationship with Jesus Christ.

In Ephesians 1:19-22, the apostle Paul explained it like this:

Eph 1:19    … the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power
Eph 1:20    which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places,
Eph 1:21    far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.
Eph 1:22    And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church,

Jesus triumphed over the kingdom of Satan at the Cross.  Since we are in Him, seated with Him in Heaven, we can draw from His triumph, and triumph ourselves.

I mentioned earlier that Jesus had bound the strong man but, when He was rejected, Satan was loosed, and remains on the loose, robbing, killing, and destroying.

Satan may not be bound, but – if you are a believer – neither can he hold you captive against your will.

In Colossians 2:15 we read,

Col 2:15    Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.

Satan and his hoards have been “disarmed” at the Cross, for those who come to the Cross and are saved.

Likewise there are passages that tell us we no longer need yield ourselves to the flesh; or be overcome by the world.

Not only that: As we share the Gospel, we plunder the possessions of the strong man, winning souls to Christ.

We do not “bind” Satan; that is done for us by our Lord.  What we do is release those he holds bound.  We plunder his kingdom with the Gospel, which is the power of God unto salvation.

If there is a key, then, to spiritual warfare, it is this: To be, and to go on being, Spirit-filled.  Alone, we would be no match for our enemies.

But we are never alone.