Warfare series 1
Eph 6:10-12 “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 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.”
I want to begin this series on spiritual warfare by first looking at what kind of battle we’re in, and second, who our real enemy is.
Paul begins his word about spiritual warfare by telling us that our battle is…
I. A spiritual battle
Our battle is not one of guns and knives, bombs or chemicals, fists or fights…
It is a battle against unseen powers that seek to destroy our lives, carry the lost to hell, sabotage the Christian’s walk, and ruin all that is good and godly.
You see, the Bible reveals that there is a world beyond the material world we live in—a spiritual world.
In that spiritual world are found angels and demons, a real devil,
God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit,
Two mighty, stupendous archangels named Gabriel and Michael (who will be heavily involved in end-time events),
Glorious worshipping angels called Cherubim and Seraphim,
And millions upon millions of departed souls abiding either in a glorious heaven with Jesus, or awaiting judgment in Hades.
The world we live in is temporary, “passing away”, but the spiritual world is eternal.
And in that spiritual world a mighty battle is taking place—Satan and his legions of fallen angels are in fierce combat with God and His purpose and plan for the world and you!
If you don’t think so, let’s let the devil speak for himself!
And as we read this, keep in mind that he is a defeated devil through the shed blood of Jesus!
In one encounter with demon spirits speaking out of a man, the demons said to Jesus,
“Why are you interfering with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are--the Holy One of God!"—Mark 1:24
In another place Matthew records, “They began screaming at him, ‘Why are you interfering with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torture us before God's appointed time?’"—Matt. 8:29
You see, even the demons knew that Jesus would one day, at God’s appointed time, cast them into the eternal lake of fire and they feared Him!
Now, interestingly, stats taken from 1991 to 2007 reveal that belief in Satan as a living entity has dropped from 35% to 24% in America.
The majority of Americans believe Satan is only a symbol of evil, not an actual living being.
But as we’ve already seen, Jesus would totally disagree with that!
Jesus described the devil as a real person with an agenda: “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
Jesus said in Luke that before His incarnation, when He was still in glory, He saw “…Satan fall like lightning from heaven.”
Satan and his angels fell from heaven, their habitation of bliss and glory, down to hell for their sin and rebellion, as violently, swiftly, and suddenly, as the lightning falls from heaven to earth!
If you read the 4 gospels you’ll discover that about a quarter of Jesus’s ministry on earth was spent delivering people from Satan’s grip!
“God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and…he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him” (Acts 10:38).
Jesus cast out demons in the synagogues, in all Galilee, inside houses and outside in the open, in the multitude, at the seashore, in a ship, in the fields, and in every city and village.
The New Testament epistles reveal beyond a doubt that we Christians are in a real battle against a real devil in real time…
“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).
“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet 5:8).
So if Satan isn’t real today, where did he disappear to since Jesus’s time?
Now Paul uses the word “wrestle” to describe our spiritual battle with Satan.
“Wrestle” means, an intense contest where each fighter seeks to throw the other to the ground and hold him down with his hand upon his neck.
So the spiritual battle we are in as God’s children is one where our enemy, Satan, seeks to throw us to the mat.
When a spiritual battle is over, either you will be on the mat in defeat or, figuratively speaking, you hold the devil down through the authority of Jesus’s name with your hand upon his neck in victory.
So our battle is SPIRITUAL in nature!
And Paul also reminds the persecuted church of his day that their battle was…
II. Not against flesh and blood people
It was easy in their day (as it is in our day) to focus on people as the enemy, and not the evil influences driving them.
So Paul says, we do not wrestle against flesh and blood people!
“…but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:12).
Now, what is this telling us? How are we to understand that?
Because it is people we so often struggle with!
It is people that attack us, and the truth of God’s Word we stand for, and the Christ we love.
In a conflict, what part is them and what part is the enemy and how can you know the difference?
And what about battles in the home? Or at work? Or in the church?
Is the devil involved?
And if so, to what extent?
First, we need to understand that,
In the same way the Holy Spirit can influence the words and actions of people, Satan can also influence the words and actions of people, even Christian people!
For instance, we’re told that when Judas betrayed Jesus, Satan was involved!
“Then Satan entered Judas…So he went his way and conferred with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray Him to them” (Luke 22: 3-4).
In the Book of Acts when Ananias and Sapphira lied to Peter about the sale of their land, Peter said, "Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land?” (Acts 5:3).
This apparently Christian couple had been influenced by the devil to lie!
The Apostle James warned the believers under his care to watch their tongue because the devil can use it…
“And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell” (James 3:6).
It’s no surprise to anyone who’s been a Christian longer than a day that your tongue can be influenced by the Holy Spirit, or it can be set on fire with hellish, destructive words.
So we see by these examples that Satan can influence a person to do or say something wrong or even evil.
You might ask, “Jeff, how can I tell the difference between when I’m just dealing with a person, and when the devil has gotten in?
—First, I can tell you that for me, I know it when I see it….It’s a discernment thing.
Remember when Paul and Silas were preaching in Philippi, and a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met them, and began to say to the people:
“These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation” (Acts 16: 17).
Now, that’s not an untrue statement!
But even so, Paul became “greatly troubled” in his spirit and turned and said (not to her, but to the evil spirit within her), “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her” (17:18).
Paul was deeply grieved in his spirit over this girl’s actions, and discerned that he was not dealing with a person, but with a spirit…
He knew it when he saw it…
The deep grieving in his spirit was God’s way of showing him it was not a person, but an evil spirit he was dealing with.
A few examples from the Bible of when you can know for sure the devil is using a person to attack you would be:
—When a person is being used to tempt you to sin—drugs, immorality, breaking the law—the devil is involved.
—When a person is attacking you for your faith, mocking you, or blaspheming your Jesus, the devil is involved.
—When a person is doing all they can to hinder or destroy the ministry of the Lord in your life, the devil is involved.
—When a person is doing all they can to lure you out of what you know to be true into false teaching, the devil is involved.
So….When it comes to spiritual warfare, our battle is not ultimately with flesh and blood, but with the devil using people who are yielded to his influence to one degree or another!
Our battle is spiritual, and it is not with flesh and blood people!
But praise God, the Bible is filled with the good news that we have the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!
2 Cor. 2:14 “Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ…”
Ro. 8:37 “…in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
1 Cor 15:57 “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!”
Today we’ve talked about Your Enemy, next time I’ll talk about Your Weapons!