Thursday, September 9, 2010

"What is 'Spiritual Warfare?"

David recently transferred to a prison facility where chapel services have been different from what he’s known. After hearing a message about “spiritual warfare,” David wants to know if he needs to be more aggressive spiritually. He asks, “What is spiritual warfare? Should I be doing this?”

Though I don’t see the exact term “spiritual warfare,” mentioned in scripture, Paul, Peter and James do discuss spiritual battle and battle readiness. Paul writes:

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”
Ephesians 6:10-18

In describing soldiers, Paul describes more a Roman Centurion, than our modern guerilla type soldiers. Paul’s describing here rather stately soldiers: confident enough with power to win any battle while steadfastly standing in full view of the enemy.

During the American Civil war, the southern army had a famous battle cry known as, “The Rebel Yell.” Northern and Southern accounts attest to its powers to terrify even seasoned Northern Generals. To this day we don’t know what The Rebel Yell, sounded like. By the time tape recorders were ready, the only confederate veterans around were very old men. One, when asked if they could record him doing the yell, declined. Apparently, he said, one could only do the Rebel Yell at a full run, and certainly not with dentures.

For those wanting to know how to cast out demons, please bear with me. As effective as The Rebel Yell was against the North, it was not a spiritual weapon. I can raise my voice, and emote all I choose, and it is not going to intimidate demons. Still, God has equipped us for spiritual battle. Paul writes:

“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
2 Corinthians 10:3-5

For spiritual battle then, we are to:

Take our stand.
Put on God’s armor.
Stand our ground.
Stand firm in truth.
Stand firm for righteousness.
Stand firm with readiness that comes from the good news of peace.
Hold up our faith to quench fiery darts.
And to have our mind on God’s word.

Not on the run, these stately soldiers are unconquerable because they are steadfast in God. These soldiers obey God, going where He sends them. And when it comes to the “readiness that comes from the good news of peace,” we’re told to, “ be ready in season and out of season to share the hope that is within,” us. Are we ready?

Yell if you want. But the soldiers we are called to be, do battle with resolve and steadfastness. We don’t chase or run! We stand. And we follow Jesus into areas where light is needed. That’s when kingdoms collide.

We entered the battle when we became children of God. The most effective way to injure a good father is to wound his children. There is not a shred of decency in the devil. God wants you prepared because He loves you so much.

Effective armies have clear lines of authority. Take careful note whenever scripture talks about a “Centurion.” Whether Gaius, Julius, Cornelius, or an unnamed one, Centurions in scripture have a perfect track record for understanding authority and are often blessed as a result. Sometimes believers find themselves in trouble when they don’t follow the lines of authority that God has set in place. Peter writes:

“Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.”
1 Peter 5:5-11

Years ago I worked with emotionally disturbed teenagers. I loved the job and the kids! But one month, I did run into a slump. The kids ignoring me, were out of control; some even showing aggression. “Lord!” I asked, “What is going on?” Then that week in church, the teaching concerned that Centurion whose faith amazed even Jesus. Not knowing my struggles, the preacher said, “If those you are in authority over are not honoring you; check to see if you are honoring those in authority over you. The one out of line may be you.” I was under instant conviction. Something I’d brazenly said to God came to mind, concerning a particular sin that didn't want to go. Tired of confessing it and repenting and not having instant victory over it, I told God a few weeks prior that He was just going to have to take it away Himself. Who did I think I was talking to?!? I repented that morning in church, thus repositioning myself under the authority of my Lord and His word.

The next week at work the kids were great! Back where I belonged, restored peace opened the door to bringing Christ into every situation for the kids. And personally, I like not having my life in chaos.

Peter here tells us how to battle and to win. We are to:

Respect and submit to those in authority over us.
Respect our elders.
Humble our selves before God’s mighty hand.
Cast all our anxiety upon God.
Know that He cares for us.
Be self-controlled.
Be alert.
And to Resist the Devil.

James writes:

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”
James 4: 7-10

Followers of Jesus don’t need to go after demons. As children of the light, we are going to be resisted by darkness. When confronted by demons, the casting out come as result of us being battle ready; lined up under His authority. As soldiers lined rightly, and prepared as the apostles teach, darkness doesn’t really stand a chance. Casting out demons is not the battle. The battle is bringing ourselves into proper position and in preparedness despite what our flesh and the enemy would rather.

Peter reminds us to:

Stand firm in faith.
Remember we are not alone in suffering.
Let God restore us, while recognizing that the power is His. (Give Him the credit!).

The power is God’s. Obeying Him results in victory. Whether Gideon’s fighting a great army with only 300 lapping men, or Jericho’s walls fall with a post-march shout, or Moses' hands are lifted for a battle’s win, we’re always to follow God’s instructions. Obedience sees victory. Victory then credits God alone; telling the world that He is awesome!

When loneliness, bitterness, or discouragement hits, your victory comes by heeding what the apostles teach. Set your heart on pilgrimage. March whenever and wherever God leads. Be prepared always, to share the truth of your hope. Standing firm, keep your faith shield up. When demons challenge, vigilant you, will be ready; and God through you, will bring His truth into each situation, where before was once deception and bondage.

I suggest that spiritual attack is designed to distract us, not from doing impressive things; but from living the adventure of faith in Christ? Life in Christ is an adventure!

“Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs--he wants to please his commanding officer. . . ."
2 Timothy 2:3, 4

". . . Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.”
2 Timothy 2:7

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

thanks i've been struggling with feeling alienated and rejected at my new church knowing how to line up correctly makes resisting the devil more effective.