Sunday, August 16, 2020

What is Spiritual Warfare? Keys to Victory on the Worldwide Battlefield

Spiritual warfare, for some reason it always brings to mind for me, the Lord of the Rings. Specifically the siege of Minas Tirith. If I were trying to compare our situation right now in this country to the Lord of the Rings, there is one battle that comes to mind, the battle of Osgiliath. Faramir whispers “To the river quick!” He’s got about 500 men defending Osgiliath, late at night. But the enemy is crossing the river in a sneak attack. Faramir and his men fight on the shores bravely, but are soon overwhelmed, and must retreat to Minas Tirith. Though defeats come, and the enemy attacks us from all sides, we know that in the end we will have the victory, and Satan will be crushed under our feet.

Today we address the important topic of spiritual warfare, on our journey through Key Issues of the Faith. Spiritual battles are draining, and intense. So we ought to fight them doggedly, refusing to give up, and we ought to fight heroically in them.

We are in a battle right now as Christians that has been going on for two thousand years and beyond. Ages and ages of past Christians over the centuries have fought this battle. This battle is a spiritual battle. The battlefield is the world, in which we fight for the lost souls of humanity, who need salvation through Jesus Christ, and to be freed from the dominion of Satan and hell.

The goal of spiritual warfare from the standpoint of our enemy and his forces is to stifle, stop, slow down, or defeat the work of Jesus Christ, as he works through the church. This is accomplished in various ways by the forces of the evil one. The goal of our side is to spread the gospel far and wide through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

On one side you have the historic church, on the other you have the forces of evil. We find ourselves at a slight disadvantage due to the fact that every person born is born under the dominion of Satan, and we are challenged to try to win these people one by one to the cross of Christ, and make them into Christians. For this reason it often seems like we are constantly fighting a losing battle, it seems that there are so many people, and so little time. And each person has free will, the ability to either embrace salvation, or reject the offer of salvation. Yet we also find ourselves at an advantage because our enemy is already defeated. He was defeated by Jesus at the cross. And our God’s victory is sealed.

Each of us were once members of the world system, under the control of Satan.

Ephesians 2:2-4 says, “In the past you were spiritually dead because of your disobedience and sins. 2 At that time you followed the world's evil way; you obeyed the ruler of the spiritual powers in space, the spirit who now controls the people who disobey God. 3 Actually all of us were like them and lived according to our natural desires, doing whatever suited the wishes of our own bodies and minds. In our natural condition we, like everyone else, were destined to suffer God's anger.4 But God's mercy is so abundant, and his love for us is so great, 5 that while we were spiritually dead in our disobedience he brought us to life with Christ. It is by God's grace that you have been saved. 6 In our union with Christ Jesus he raised us up with him to rule with him in the heavenly world.”

So we were all once part of the selfish worldly reality. We did what we wanted, and lived in sin. But now things are different. God has adopted us as his sons and daughters. And we’re now soldiers on the battlefield, attempting to win the world to Jesus before time runs out.

So how does spiritual warfare play itself out? To answer this question all you need do is study the book of acts. The book of acts catalogues the activities of the early church in spreading Christianity, and clearly shows us how spiritual warfare takes place between the church and the forces of evil.

In our scripture today we see how spiritual warfare tends to play itself out. First of all, we see that Peter has been thrown in jail by Herod. Typical, the enemy finds a way to shut us up, to keep us quiet. The enemy will use church leaders that he can manipulate, or governmental leaders to hurt us sometimes, like with Peter.

What does the church do in response? It says in verse 5, “So Peter was kept in jail, but the people of the church were praying earnestly to God for him.”

This is a constant in spiritual warfare: Our chief weapon is prayer. Individual prayer, corporate prayer. Praying to God changes the situation over time.

Then we see that Peter is sleeping, bound with two chains, next to roman guards. But an angel wakes him up, and causes the chains to fall off him. He follows this messenger of God, through the gates, and Peter escapes. This can be a result of a situation of spiritual warfare, God intervenes, and you are set free from the persecution.

But it can also happen quite differently. It’s hard to predict God, he doesn’t always repeat his methods. Just a few chapters earlier in Acts, we saw Stephen a member of the early church who was captured, and brought before the rulers where he testified about Jesus. I’m sure the early church was praying for him. But the result wasn’t divine deliverance. The result was that Stephen had the great honor of being martyred for Christ. He was stoned to death by the crowd.

Still another time when the apostle Paul was put in prison, he had to sit in prison for several years. There was no angel that broke his chains. Instead, this was part of God’s plan to have him testify before Caesar in rome.

My point here is that God’s methods often tend to vary. We can’t necessarily predict how things will play out. But the tendency in spiritual warfare is that we face some sort of persecution, temptation, or demonic attack.

Generally, I can tell that I’m under demonic oppression, or in a spiritual battle by this tell-tale sign: Something in my gut tells me that what is happening is beyond worldly conditions. What I mean is we all encounter everyday problems in the world. You get a flat tire, get into an argument, or have a rough day at work. But when it’s spiritual in nature, it’s a pretty surprising sequence of events, that seems to go beyond the struggles of the world, and into the realm of demonic attack.

Write this down, stick it in your head: When you fight your spiritual battle, always remember it’s against Satan, not against people or institutions.

As Ephesians 6:12 says, “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.”

When you are in legitimate spiritual battle, you are not fighting a person, you not fighting a group of people. Satan may be working through these people, because they are spiritually blind, or non-Christians, or Christians with dumb ideas, but inevitably it’s Satan attacking you through them. It’s not those people. They are just pawns in the game. So pray for them. Don’t hate them.

But as we talk about spiritual warfare let’s be careful not to overly spiritualize things too. Say you stub your toe on the way out the door, you hit heavy traffic, and then you realize you forgot your lunch. Listen, don’t say your in a spiritual battle. And don’t go and have an affair, or get wasted, or do drugs, and say oh look what Satan did. I mean, sure those temptations may be demonic, but it’s not a spiritual battle, it’s you made some bad decisions, and you need to pray, and start making better decisions. Not everything is spiritual warfare.

That said, be watchful. We have an enemy out there who wants to take us out. And he’ll try different ways to trip you up. He may put an old lover in your path, someone who is toxic to you, to try to trap you in that temptation. He may try to lead you back to your old ways, drugs, drinking, cigarettes, and so on. He may try to scare you into keeping quiet about Jesus through some confrontation. He may just make life hard for you, cause health problems to flare up, bring about arguments with family, and drama. But keep soldiering on. Fight through those trials, and God will bless you, and God will help you win them.

1 Peter 5:8 ESV says ,”Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

But also realize that you have the most powerful being in the universe living inside you. Let me say that again, you have the most powerful being in the universe, Jesus Christ, living inside you. You are a coheir with Christ, a brother or sister to Christ. You have the same authority as Jesus Christ to crush the enemy under your feet.

As it says in the word, “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

In Christ Jesus, you are mighty and powerful. And when you declare things in Jesus name, they are done. There is great power in that name, Jesus Christ. I used to say that name out loud when I was a kid in my room alone at night and afraid.

Our battle is spiritual. So we fight this battle in the power of Christ.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 says “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”

So we talked about how prayer is one of the chief weapons in spiritual warfare. Similarly, apologetics, reasonable defenses of the faith, theological discussions and debates are also massively powerful weapons that we fight with. They have divine power to destroy strongholds. We ourselves destroy every argument and every lofty opinion that raises itself up against the knowledge of God. That pictures the many questions and arguments that are raised against the Christian faith in our day and age. So many objections, so many high sounding arguments, but the wisdom we have from God is able to answer every one of those arguments with divine knowledge that demolishes false arguments and pretenses.

So very good, we see these various aspects of spiritual warfare, how do we apply these principles in our lives? Well, here are some practical ways in which you can fight the spiritual battle. I encourage you to write these down.

1.-Trust God in the spiritual battle, hold up a radical faith in God.

2.-Pray against the attacks of the evil one, and request prayer from the church. A praying church family shakes the world.

3.- Recognize you are fighting demons, not people.

4- When your in deep, fast and pray. This adds power to your prayers.

5- You have the power to “cast out” demons in Jesus Christ. Invoke the name of Jesus, and pray that God’s hedge of protection be around your home, and your family. Cast out demons in jesus name, speaking out loud, in your home, in public places, casting out demons in Jesus name.

6- As you analyze the situation, seek wisdom and discern to perceive the battle rightly.

7-You have binding and loosing power. You can bind demons in Jesus name across this city, and around the world. Do so, in prayer, out loud. You can loose angels from heaven, and loose bonds from believers, so please do loose in Jesus name.

8-You also have the power to cancel demonic plans, and cancel curses and hexes on non-believers. Do this in Jesus name, out loud over the individual or over yourself.

9-Realize that a spiritual battle may mean a great deal of suffering for you, but also realize that God is using your spiritual battle to build you, and inspire others.

10-There is power in the word of God, speak the word of God outloud, to yourself, to others. God’s word bring God’s life giving Spirit.

11-Speak out against false ideas, and wrong viewpoints of God, the word, and the world. Speak up for Jesus, not in arrogance, but in humility, with gentleness.

12-When being tempted, pray, and flee the situation when possible. Trust in Jesus Christ and know he has made an escape for every temptation.

So in conclusion, how does the spiritual battle end? Well, when we are persecuted demonized, or attacked, we will go through a time of trial and suffering. Then the church prays and speaks out in truth. Then we are set free, or we are not set free, depending on the situation. But either way, we continue to speak the truth, and those who persecute us are often dealt with as Herod was dealt with. He refused to honor God, so he was destroyed. Don’t be surprised if you find that those who persecute you later meet a sorrowful end. But don’t rejoice at that. Rejoice that God loves you.

The end of the spiritual battle in Acts 12 was Peter was set free to continue to preach, and Herod died an untimely death. But we know later in Peter’s life as he preached boldly over the years, he was taken prisoner, and he wasn’t set free, instead he became a martyr, crucified upside down for Jesus. And I too hope that someday I’ll have the honor to face a spiritual battle like Jesus did on the cross, where he was not set free, but his death brought life to billions across the world. As the ancient theologians said, the blood of the martyrs is the manure that feeds the growth of the church. Jesus gave us the example, he died for us, so we suffer, and even die, for him in spiritual warfare.

The enemy’s goal: to deceive the world to hell.

Our goal: to show the world to eternal life.