Drinking Deeply

Friday, January 13, 2006 at 12:00 PM

Spiritual warfare

This is really rough but I figured I wanted to post once more before I go to Resolved.

One topic that came up a lot at the camp was the topic of spiritual warfare. One person mentioned that he had seen spirits floating around and it had physically attacked him at night. Soon afterwards many people in the rooms mentioned that they were all really tied and felt like they were being attacked by demons. What follows is my personal position (which I am convinced by Scripture of) upon the topic of spiritual warfare.

Most of the focus for many people on the aspect of spiritual warfare is on demon possession and oppression. People talk about waking up being completely unable to move but still conscious. Let me state right now at the outset that this isn’t the main area of spiritual warfare, but I will address it.

While I believe all of this is possible and I am certainly not about to argue with a person who says that he feels like he’s being oppressed by demons or spiritually attacked, let me reaffirm that it is God who is in complete control over all aspects of creation, and this includes Satan. Satan needs God’s permission in order to do anything. Thus we, as Christians, have absolutely nothing to fear on the physical side of things. While we may be in danger of some physical attack, we are confident that God is working for His glory, and thus we can call upon Christ’s name in faith and cast out any and all physical manifestation of Satan.

But at the same time, there is no hope for the unbeliever. Remember the story in Acts 19)

13Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, "I adjure you by the Jesus, whom Paul proclaims." 14Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. 15But the evil spirit answered them, "Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?" 16And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all[a] of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.

They did not know Jesus, and thus had no faith in order to resist Satan. What happened? Certainly nothing good!

But for us who are being saved, we are given authority over demons, not on the basis of what we have done, but on the basis of Christ and His abiding presence.

The end of Mark reads: 17And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover."

Ephesians 1 reads as well: 20that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Christ is over all. Every name, every power, for all time. Christ is above and in authority over everything, and now we, as Christ’s children are under the shelter of His wings.

This does not mean that Satan will not succeed at all, but it means that all things that Satan does is directly under God’s authority, and by God’s active permission. Satan cannot do anything (and this includes exist) without God’s active workings in him. There is no possibility of evil triumphing over good in this battle. Evil exists only by good’s permission.

But let me tell you a secret. And it’s not a secret, it’s very obvious, but the problem with most churchgoers today is that their conception of “spiritual warfare” is this physical battle. Somehow there are demons that patrol the areas, looking for people to possess. This is completely without a stitch of biblical warrant. Nowhere does anyone in the Bible do battle with demons possessing land or hounding an area. Rather, spiritual warfare occurs primarily on the intellectual realm.

There are many verses that support such a view, but I will give two with a quick reference to one of Piper’s sermons in support of a third.

Ephesians 2:1-10)

1And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience-- 3among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body[a] and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

Notice who we were following: the prince of the power of the air. This is better known as Satan. Who is he at work at today? Sons of disobedience. But the key here is in what way did we follow him? We followed the course of this world. We lived in the passions of our flesh. We carried the desires of the body and mind.

Our war with Satan occurs with our sinful nature. We used to follow Satan, we sinned grievously, but now by God’s grace we are freed from that. This is what we now oppose. This is what we now are at war against. Not some mystical spirits that oppress us physically, but we are at war against sin.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5

3For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,

This is talking about true spiritual warfare. We aren’t waging war according to the flesh, aka we don’t fight with swords and guns, but we wage war with the weapons of divine power (see Ephesians 6) to destroy strongholds. These aren’t spiritual little buildings that demons occupy in the air, but these are strongholds in your minds . What does the rest of the passage say? We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. True spiritual warfare is on the intellectual realm. When someone struggles with pride, money, lust, they are waging war against Satan. When someone is atheistic, Buddhist, Catholic, Muslim, they are a son of disobedience, under the hand of Satan. This is what we war against.

But we may ask “there is no hope! For Satan is everywhere!” Yes, there is no hope for man. Man on his own is sinful and lost, but we as Christians are given the power of God. We carry our shield of faith, and the sword of the Spirit. We have the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is stronger than any force Satan can muster and will intellectually annihilate all non-Christian worldviews.

Finally, John Piper made an excellent observation in one of his sermons, where he said something to the following, “The problem isn’t Satan, it’s sin. Satan doesn’t damn anyone. God damns people. Our sin damns us. This is why Paul spends sixteen chapters of Romans warring with sin before he finally mentions Satan in one offhand remark.”

20The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.

So how do we do spiritual warfare?

1) Recognize it for what it is. It is actually a mark of spiritual warfare that has blinded most of us to the truth that Satan is out to get our minds and not our bodies. As people focus more and more on the physical, they lose the big picture, that spiritual warfare is a war over your soul.

2) Pray. God is sovereign and it is His hand that protects us from Satan.

3) Preach. It is the wisdom of God that will ultimately destroy the foolishness of man. As we take thoughts captive and demolish arguments, Satan will lose his stronghold upon man, which is all happening in accordance to God’s sovereign plan.

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