Today is our FINAL week in a series I’ve entitled ‘Old Scratch’. Which is just an old timey name for Satan. The series is all about Satan, Demons, Possession, and Exorcisms.
This week – Spiritual Warfare
Today as we close we’re going to talk about “Spiritual Warfare” Have you ever heard that phrase “Spiritual Warfare”? It’s an interesting thing to say, that there’s this spiritual battle that’s raging and it’s something where we can take a side and fight.
And some people will say “Aren’t we peaceful people? We follow the prince of peace, and we’re called to be people we bring peace. So don’t you think we should just get rid of all this combat, fighting, violent imagery? ” The Salvation ARMY” – Is that really necessary? Don’t you think we should get rid of that? The answer to that is no. Because it’s not imagery that we made up. It’s biblical imagery.
And I think it’s important for us to remember that there’s a kingdom of God that is absolutely at odds with the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of this world. And these forces are absolutely at war. That’s true in a global sense, but it’s also true in a personal sense. That the ways of the world and the ways of the kingdom of God are both pulling on your heart and vying for your loyalty.
Even in things that to you seem very ordinary. How you conduct yourself at work, how you treat your wife, how you treat your husband, how you treat your kids. You might think it’s unimportant, but I promise you, there are forces of good and forces of evil that are paying very close attention to you. And are influencing you in ways you don’t realize. There’s a spiritual battle being waged for your heart and your loyalty.
And you can’t get through a single page of the writings of Paul without him telling you to wake and get your head in the game. You are in the middle of a battle and it’s time for you to fight.
When we talk about ‘spiritual war’ there’s many different approaches.
Power Encounter View:
Spiritual warfare is a distinct activity where we actively fight Satan through prayer and direct confrontations with demonic forces.
You’ll recall T-Bone the Christian gangster rapper “Buck buck buck another demon gets struck.” – He’s talking about having a direct confrontation with a demon, and in his particular case, shooting it with a gun which I don’t think would work. So let’s assume he was talking metaphorically.
So this would be “Pastor David, can you pray with me? I feel like I’m under attack.” Or if you’ve ever heard someone say something like “So we take authority in the name of Jesus and declare that the power of the enemy is broken.”
The idea there is that we are actively fighting a battle in prayer.
Another example of this would be an exorcism where someone might directly address the devil or a demon. We see Jesus do this. Where he addresses the demon and talks with him as a way to fight.
Spiritual Warfare is primarily fought by following the will and way of Jesus in our everyday choices.
- So when you forgive, that’s spiritual warfare.
- When you’re generous, that’s spiritual warfare.
- When you read your bible, that’s spiritual warfare.
In fact, I think it can be visualized like this: (Concentric circles)
Power encounter warfare circle inside and a part of lifestyle warfare circle. Yes there are occasional encounters where we fighting the forces of darkness directly, but that’s just a PART of a bigger whole which is a life that’s committed to fighting the forces of darkness by being a light to the world.
Outflow. But the important part is that it’s an outflow of a life where you recognize that you are fighting in a spiritual battle every time you make a decision to follow God’s way or the world’s way.
I recently read that in the US, suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death in people between the ages of 10 and 14. (!!!). In my opinion that’s probably the most blatant example of demonic activity in America today. I think drugs and suicide.
So how might you fight against something like that?
- Maybe Power Encounter? Do we get on our knees and pray for the young people of our communities and demand that satan take his hands off of them? Yep.
- Is that the only way? No. In addition to that, you can engage in spiritual battle by befriending some young people, and trying to be a positive example in their life. Maybe get involved in the youth ministry here at church, or get involved in the big brother program to become family to a young people that has none.
So there is absolutely some powerful places we can go in prayer, but that’s just one piece of the bigger circle which is as life dedicated to bringing light to a dark world in every decision that we make.
1. There is more going on than we will ever know.
Moments in scripture where God pulls back the curtain and lets someone see what’s really happening. You guys know the wizard of oz where there’s this thing that looks super ferocious and then the dog opens the curtain and you see it’s just this awkward little man. Well it’s the opposite of that. Where God pulls back the curtain and there’s this whole other world with thousands and thousands of spiritual beings at war with each other.
2 Kings 6
We read about an army that has been sent out to capture the Prophet Elisha.
When the servant of the man of God (Elisha) got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” the servant asked. (2 Kings 6:15)
“Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” (2 Kings 6:16)
And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. (2 Kings 6:17)
See there was a physical battle, but at the same time there was a spiritual battle that was actually much bigger, and through a prayer this mans eyes were opened to it.
Fascinating. So this guy Daniel, who’s super close with God. Like first name basis. Daniel has a vision and he needs help understanding it so he prays that a messenger would come and help him interpret the vision. So Daniel fasts and prays, and nothing. A day passes, 2 days pass, 3 days pass, a week passes, 2 weeks, 3 weeks pass and nothing.
Finally after 3 weeks, an angel arrives. For some reason I picture this angel as Danny Devito, sweaty and out of breath. The angel says: “WHEW! Sorry it took so long! I actually left right away when you prayed 3 weeks ago, but I got held up because this “Prince of Pesia” resisted me. So we fought for 21 days, and that’s why I’m late. Sorry I’m late.” WHAT?!
So Daniel prays, and for weeks his prayer goes unanswered because some spiritual being decided to battle with the angel that was supposed to answer the prayer?! WHAT.
So the angels tells him some stuff and then he says “Alright I gotta get back to this prince of Persia thing, and I’m concerned the prince of Greece is gonna join in the battle too. Oh boy, then we’ll really have a mess on our hands. Ok bye.” What in the world?
We have no idea what that means. But it’s just a glimpse that there’s more happening than we ever realize.
2. Our primary battle is against false ideas.
We’ve been hinting at this through the series – Satan’s primary weapon is deception. – The power of the lie.
And that’s not to say he’s weak. No a lie in the most destructive force in the world.
Every mass killing is centered around a lie.
September 11, 2001 (pic)
- 19 hijackers kill 3000 people.
- Were not angsty impoverished teenagers.
- They were middle aged, middle class, men.
- It wasn’t rushed, they planned it. For over a year. They had to learn to fly planes.
They hopped on a plane – murdered flight attendants, pilots, take control of the plane loaded with people and fly it into a building and murder thousands of people. Why? B/C they believed a lie. And to us it seems so obvious, but to them, it felt like the truth.
Jim Jones (pic)
Cult Leader who convinced 909 people to drink Cyanide laced Grape Koolaid in an act of “Revolutionary Suicide”. 304 of them were children. Why would people do that? B/C they believed a lie. To us, obvious and insane, but to them, it felt like the truth.
2 Corinthians 2:10-11
Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, (2 Corinthians 2:10)
in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes. (2 Corinthians 2:11)
In the case of 9/11 or in the case of Jim Jones. Were the forces of darkness at work? Yeah absolutely. But no one was overpowered. They were ‘outwitted’ in Pauls words. They bought his lie.
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. (2 Corinthians 10:3)
The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. (2 Corinthians 10:4)
How’s that for spiritual warfare? DEMOLISH STRONGHOLDS! And what are these strongholds?
We demolish arguments and every pretension (in greek – a high wall trying to block the truth) that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5)
Satans primary weapon is deception. To get you to believe a lie.
We fight against the lies with the truth. A lot of those lies are lies about God. Who God is. Maybe God hates you. Maybe God did this to teach you a lesson. We fight against those ideas with the truth and in doing so we DEMOLISH STRONGHOLDS.
3. Submission is Warfare
1 Peter 5:8 – Discipline Yourself
Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8 NRSV)
I think people in churches when we read this scripture that ‘Satan goes around like a roaring lion’, we tend to think ‘Alright fine, we’re gonna say a special prayer, and we’ll talk to the devil’. And we’ll cast him down, and boom! We’ve just won the battle.
I love that Peter when talking about Satan going around seeking someone to devour. He doesn’t send us on a prayer demon hunt, he says ‘DISCIPLINE YOURSELVES’.
And nobody wants to hear that!
Everybody wants a once per lifetime encounter with the devil where we pray the magic prayer, and vanquish him forever. As opposed to the lifelong process of Disciplining Yourself so that you’re able to resist him.
That’s not sexy preaching. That’s like saying to get in shape you have to eat better and exercise more.
Isn’t that a bummer?! But most of us think ‘But isn’t there a way that I can just get on a machine that giggles my fat really fast and that will make it disappear. And all the trainers in the world and saying ‘Nope. It’s the food and exercise thing.’ But we want a shortcut.
I think again of the spiritual disciplines: Fasting, Reading Scripture, Meditation, Prayer. You know what they all have in common? Discipline.
If you live a disciplined life, where you pray, and read scripture. It will benefit you 1000 times more than reading Frank Peretti novels.
If you can just be a Christian with self discipline, you’re gonna do a really good job at resisting the evil one.
James 4:7 – Submission is Warfare
James gives the most practical advice in the entire bible on how to deal with the devil. Some of you might be thinking: “I bet it has something to do with casting down, or calling out or something.’ There’s definitely a place for all that, but if you don’t get this, none of the other stuff matters all that much.
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)
The most important thing I say today: Submission is Warfare.
The most important thing when it comes to dealing with the devil, is not putting on war paint, and army fatigues, no it’s submitting to God.
I believe in all the stuff
I believe there’s some crazy stuff that happens in this world. I believe that there’s people who are so influenced by the devil that there’s almost none of them left. Supernatural acts of strength, talking in different voices, I believe in all that stuff.
I believe in demonic possession.
But I think that we can watch too many exorcism movies and we start to think that the way we fight that is by having more crosses in our houses.
I think so often we want a shortcut to having to give our entire lives to Jesus. It’s like ‘yeah, I hear you, is there’s any way to NOT do that?’
Just for me personally, it’s HARDER for me to submit certain areas of my life to God, than it is just to say ‘Satan, I’m gonna bust a cap in your eye.’
“Buck buck buck, another demon gets struck”. I can do that all day long.
That’s easier. It’s easier for me to do that, than to take areas of my life, that I’ve held back for myself, and give those to God. That’s the hard stuff.
But Submission is Warfare.
And it’s not just straight up sin, there’s a lot of us that have areas in our life that we don’t invite Jesus into b/c we’re afraid he’s gonna tell us to do something different.
Let me be clear: I do believe there’s powerful places we can go in prayer, where we’re able to fight the devil back, but I just think outside of disciplining yourself, and submitting to God, that all those victories will ultimately be temporary.
And let me say this: It can actually make people worse off in the long run.
Matthew 12:43-45 – House Unoccupied
“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. (Matthew 12:43)
Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. (Matthew 12:44)
Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.” (Matthew 12:45)
People aren’t going to like this: But when we just try to vanquish the devil in one encounter, instead of developing a lifestyle of submission to God, I think it really hurts us.
Lose weight. – Again, I’m sure none of you have ever tried to lose weight. But wouldn’t it just be easier to just go and get some one-time procedure, liposuction or something, and then BAM, no problems with weight ever again. No, we know that’s not how that works. B/C the weight just comes back with 7 of his friends.
And the same is true in our spiritual lives.
Me – Counseling – demon possessed. I’ve met with people who come in to the church, and they’re positive that they’re demon possessed. And then just want to meet with me one time, and have me take care of that. And that never works of course. What these people really need is to develop a life of discipline and submission.
“The devil made me do it!” – The devil didn’t make you do nothin’. At worst he told you a lie and you believed it because you don’t live a life submitted to God.
Submission is Warfare.
Close w/one more scripture. In Luke 22, we find the disciples fighting over who’s the greatest. And Jesus responds like this:
Luke 22:31 – Jesus prays for us
“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. (Luke 22:31)
But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail.” (Luke 22:32)
Do you know how much theology is wrapped up in these 2 verses?
- Jesus is super aware that there’s more happening than meets the eye. That there’s an evil force against your life that wants to hurt you, wants to hurt your family. He knows all of that.
- Jesus knows you can’t make it on your own. So he’s wanting to help you. What a beautiful idea what Jesus would be praying for you.
When I submit, I fall into alignment with the prayers that Jesus himself is praying over me.
I don’t know if you have any people like this in your life, but I have people that when THEY pray for me, I feel like ‘Yeah that ones gonna get through! Like regular people, they can pray for me, but if THAT person prays for me, yeah that’s gonna work’
Well, just imagine the prayers that Jesus himself would pray for you.
You think Jesus is qualified to get a prayer through? He has connections. He knows people. And when I submit to him I’m falling into alignment those prayers.
Which of course brings us to the table of Jesus. Communion is a sacrament, which is to say a sacred practice of the Christian faith.
And these moments can seem perfectly ordinary, but don’t let the significance pass you by. This is an opportunity to meet with Jesus and to be changed by him.
As – pass, ask Yourself: Do I fight against the enemy by living a life submitted to Jesus?
(Pass / Invitation / Pray / Prayer 4 Poor)