Basic Principles of Spiritual Warfare part five

5 Dec

We are looking at some of the most basic principles regarding spiritual warfare.

We have seen so far that:

The Scriptures are totally sufficient.

God is in complete control

Humans are fully responsible.

And today Christians are radically delivered.

I am afraid we sometimes make one of two mistakes when it comes to our relationship as humans with the devil and with demons.

One mistake is that we don’t always appreciate the desperate need the unbeliever has for deliverance from the devil and the second mistake is that we don’t always appreciate just how delivered believers really are.

And basically what I want you to see is that what happened when you were saved is not something small. 

Being saved is a dramatic power encounter.

It’s funny once in a while people might talk to you and ask something like,‘does your church have a deliverance ministry?’  

And I love that question because if we don’t have a deliverance ministry, we are not a church.

The gospel, and what God does through the gospel when someone is saved, is a dramatic deliverance.

Colossians 1:13,

“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of His beloved Son.”

It’s like there are two countries spiritually, one is the domain of darkness and its pretend ruler is the prince of darkness (now he only has authority that God allows him to have but I think as a consequence as man’s sin he is allowed for a temporary period of time to pretend like he has this authority over this kingdom) and the other country or kingdom is Christ’s and this kingdom clearly acknowledges Him as Lord. 

And the only way you can go from one kingdom to the other is to be delivered, transferred by God Himself. 

Being saved is a dramatic deliverance.

If you were under the dictatorship of a terrible ruler who was abusing you and someone came in and sacrificed their life to rescue you and transfer you and give you citizenship in another country which was peaceful and prosperous and ruled by someone who loved you that would be an awesome deliverance, and that’s what happened in salvation.

But unfortunately what you often find is when you respond by talking about people hearing the gospel and getting saved that the people asking you about your church’s deliverance ministry are a little disappointed.

You say,

‘Yeah, we have a great deliverance ministry.  We preach the Word of God and people are repenting and turning to Christ.”

And they’ll kind of shake their heads at you and say,

‘No, no, we don’t mean that.’

‘We are talking about something really powerful.  We mean a real kind of deliverance ministry where your pastor casts out demons of fear and lust and stuff like that.’

And what bothers me about that is when they say that they are talking as if someone hearing the gospel, repenting of their sins, and putting their faith in Christ were something small. 

When it is most definitely not.

A Christian is a person who has been radically delivered.

And I think perhaps one reason we don’t always appreciate how radical that deliverance is, is because we don’t always appreciate the desperate position the average, everyday unbeliever finds himself in. 

The Bible pictures us as having three great problems.

One problem we as people have is with sin. 

We are dead in our sins before God saved us.

Another problem we have though is the world.  The world meaning a system of thought and ideas that are opposed to God and His Word; as the apostle John defines it, the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does.

And the final problem, is the devil.

And I think when we think about what it is like for unbelievers, we pretty much recognize the problems they have with sin.

And we might even recognize the problems they with the world, but where we fall short, what we often don’t recognize is the problems that the average, everyday unbeliever has with the devil. 

We don’t take seriously what it means to belong to the domain of darkness, and one reason for that is because we so often only think of the devil’s dark influence in dramatic and strange kinds of experiences.

When someone is foaming at the mouth and rolling around on the ground beating himself, we know that guy has troubles. 

But, with the person who sits next to us at work, it is sometimes harder for us to see.

What I am saying is we tend to recognize the devil’s influence in a person’s life only in obvious cases of demon possession, whereas the Bible describes the devil’s influence in the lives of unbelievers as much more pervasive than that. 

In fact, let me show you two passages which might shock you.

One is in Ephesians.

We can start with the way Paul puts it in Ephesians 2 and verse 2. 

He says,

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in 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…” 

Now Paul is describing the condition of someone who is not a Christian, and he does so in three ways.

First he identifies the unbelieving person’s relationship to sin. He’s dead in trespasses and sins.

Second, the unbelieving person’s relationship to the world. He’s following the course of this world.

And get this, third, he describes the unbelieving person’s relationship to Satan. He’s following the prince of the power of the air. 

That means there are three primary influences that direct the lives of the unbeliever:

Sin

The world

And the devil.  

Now these are serious words that I am saying and I don’t say them lightly but it’s the way the Bible describes the desperate condition of a person who is an unbeliever. Those who don’t know Christ are not only slaves to sin and to the present evil age, but also to Satan.  

There is more going on in their lives than meets the eye.

As someone has said, “There are personal evil forces that inspire and empower and influence unbelievers as they go about living their day to day lives.” 

Do you see what this means?

When we see a person who is possessed by the devil, we think, wow the devil is really messing with that person.  But what we need to realize is that the devil and demonic forces are also messing with the person who is not possessed, just as much as the person who is possessed, only differently. 

One of the primary ways that the devil is influencing unbelievers is through blinding their eyes to the truth.

That’s what we see in 2 Corinthians 4:4. 

Paul writes, “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God.”

He blinds them in several ways.

Through lies.

Through false teaching.

Through making sin seem attractive.

Through trying to keep the Word of God from really taking root in their hearts as it is preached.

Through to trying to keep them from hearing it preached.

Through distorting the gospel and offering a substitute gospel

The devil’s influence in the life of a person who is possessed and a person who is not possessed but is an unbeliever is just as real, only different.Instead of possessing, he directs and influences through sin, through temptation, and through worldly ways of thinking.

Obviously, we all know there is more than one way to get someone to do what you want. 

You can use external force or you can use deceit, but either way, if someone is forced to do something or if he’s tricked or manipulated to do something, the difference is really small in the end, either way they are being played with by someone else, and what I am saying is that is the picture the Bible paints of the unbeliever and his relationship with the devil.  

Either he’s controlled, forced and that’s possession and I think that’s much rarer than the second way Satan plays with the unbeliever, and that’s blinding, deceiving, and manipulating through error and false teaching.

Now the unbeliever is responsible for his sin, please don’t misunderstand; but still the Bible makes clear that whether the unbeliever realizes it or not, and I am guessing most don’t realize it, they are not free, they have a ruler, and that ruler is identified here in Ephesians 2:2 as the prince of the power of the air, in other words, Satan. 

The unbeliever is in principle sold out to Satan.

Now of course, again we don’t always see this because it doesn’t look like it.  But even in the ancient world there were different kinds of slaves with different levels of freedom.  There were slaves that worked in the fields and were beaten and other slaves that worked out in public and you may not even have known they were a slave until you got to know them a little more intimately, but the point is either way, whether it’s obvious or not, they were owned by someone else and that’s also the way it is for the unbelievers all around us, we may meet someone where we can obviously see that they are being dominated by Satan as in the case of demonic possession, where with others the influence is not so obvious, but either way they are dominated by the devil.  

And if that sounds too strong to you, listen to the way the apostle John puts it in 1 John 5:19John takes everyone and everything in the entire universe and divides it into two categories. 

He says,

“We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” 

 We, meaning believers, are from God.

The whole world, which definitely includes unbelievers live their lives under the domination of the devil himself.

They lie in the power of the evil one.

One author says you might picture a python as it captures its prey, wrapping itself around it, squeezing the life out of it, until the bird or the small deer, just lies there in its grasp. 

 “That is the picture of the world, helplessly under the control of the Serpent, Satan.”

Now this is so significant because it means if you are an unbeliever you have absolutely no hope of winning this spiritual war through your own efforts or even the efforts of someone else like a sangoma on your behalf. 

Your condition is too desperate for that.

If you are outside of Christ, you can use all the rituals you want, you can wear all the bracelets you want, you can pay money to all the sangomas you want, but you will not be able to win this war, to stand against Satan.

In fact, when people look to rituals like that to deliver them from spirits or demons, it’s simply evidence that they don’t really appreciate how desperate a position they are in as unbelievers.

There is no way an unbeliever can successfully fight this spiritual war against demonic forces.

Let me give you three reasons the unbeliever cannot win this war on his own.

For one thing, the Bible tells us unbeliever has no spiritual life.  As Paul said they are dead and dead men don’t make good soldiers. 

For another, the Bible tells us the unbeliever has no weapons or armor from God with which to fight.  Unless he turns to Christ in faith and repentance, the only weapons the unbeliever has to use against the devil are weapons the devil himself has given him and of course the devil is not going to give him any weapon that really works in this battle.

And finally, ultimately, the unbeliever is actually committed to the same basic goals as the devil himself and so it is not very difficult for the devil to dominate him because he wants what the devil wants as well. 

What the unbeliever, the average, everyday unbeliever needs is the very same thing the person needs who is possessed andthat is a dramatic and powerful deliverance which is exactly what the Bible tells us God has provided for those who put their trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

God has provided a solution for those who are held captive by Satan and the solution lies not in rituals and chants and tricks or techniques but instead in the saving work of Jesus Christ.

Through Christ, you remember how Paul says back in Colossians 1:13, God has delivered you from the domain of darkness to the kingdom of His beloved Son. 

Now I want you to think about that, for a moment.

Because I am concerned that while unbelievers often don’t recognize just how desperate their condition is apart from Christ, we as believers don’t always appreciate how secure a position we now have in Christ.

That’s the second problem. 

Either we don’t appreciate our need for deliverance or we don’t grasp the reality of deliverance.

There is a book called Pilgrim’s Progress. 

It is a story about the Christian life.

It pictures the Christian life like a journey. And as Christian is going on that journey, there’s one point on his journey that he sees and hears two lions roaring up ahead.  Seeing these lions, he’s afraid obviously, who wouldn’t be and he doesn’t want to move forward because he’s afraid of what they’ll do to him, but what he doesn’t realize at first, what has to be pointed out is that while these lions can roar and frighten, they can’t do much more than that, because though they are fierce beast, they are on chains.

That’s like Satan and demonic forces.

They are fierce.

They are frightening.

But when it comes to our life as believers, they are on chains and they of course don’t want us as believers to know that.  They want to hide their chains because Satan and demons do their best work in the believer’s life through fear and intimidation.

One of the blessings of being born in Africa is that many Africans are very aware of the spirit world, that there is more going on than meets the eye; one of the dangers of being born in Africa however is that many Africans live lives dominated by a fear of these demonic forces, even after they become Christians.

And what I am saying is that it is good to believe the reality we find in Ephesians 6 that we are involved in a spiritual war, BUT it’s not good to become so focused on this spiritual war that Paul talks about in Ephesians 6 that you forget everything Paul’s said about what it means to be a Christian in chapters 1 through 5!

There are at least four foundational truths you have to keep in mind as you think about your war with the devil and demonic forces.

First you need to think about about God’s attitude towards you as a believer. 

Paul starts Ephesians by telling us in 1:4 that if you are a Christian you have been chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world.   

That means you didn’t simply choose God, God chose you.

More than that, Paul goes on to tell us in 1:5 that he planned for us to be adopted as sons. 

Meaning, God views us as believers as something much better than simply his slaves.  

He considers us His family.

Which I think is huge when it comes to spiritual warfare, don’t feel alone in this.  I mean, how do you feel when someone attacks your family?  If you really love them, that’s not something you delight in and as you consider Satan and his demonic forces, you need to remember that being a Christian means God’s attitude towards you is one of eternal love.

Second, you need to consider God’s actions on your behalf as a believer.

To get that, we can look back and think about the cross, how as Paul says in 1:6 and following that God provided redemption for us through the blood of very own Son.

Or we can look at our own life as Paul talks about in 2:5 and see the radical transformation that God has affected, giving us spiritual life.

Or we also can look forward.

Paul tells us in Ephesians 1:11 that we have obtained an inheritance in Christ.  One proof that God considers us his family is that he’s planning on giving us an inheritance, and to make sure that we receive and enjoy this inheritance Paul tells us another important thing about being a Christian in 1:13, and that is that God has sealed us with the Holy Spirit. 

In other words, He’s given us the Holy Spirit to help us make it to the day we receive this promised inheritance.

Which means while we can understand if it were just you and demonic forces that you could be really frightened by what they could do to you; but if you understand what it means to be a Christian, you know it’s not just you and the demonic forces; that’s the thing, the Bible is telling us if you are a believer, God Himself is committed to protecting and preserving you until you enjoy what He has in store for you and that’s part of why while you should be serious about the devil and his attacks, you must not live your lives dominated by the fear of it.

God’s acted for you in this battle against Satan in the past, by sending His Son to destroy the works of the devil.

God’s acted for you in this battle against Satan in your own life, by redeeming you and setting you from bondage to sin and giving you spiritual life.

And God’s acting for you in this battle against Satan, by sealing you with the Holy Spirit, putting a stamp on you, saying this one is mine.

And when you are controlled by a fear of spirits and curses, it just means you are not taking God and His love for you seriously enough and you need to go back and remember his attitude towards you as a believer and his actions on your behalf.  

This whole being a Christian thing is really big.

And what I have said so far is just the start.

A third way to gain confidence as a believer is to look at God’s promises to you.

You need to understand if you are a Christian God himself has made certain commitments to you.

Like Paul tells us in 1:19, his power is going to work on your behalf. 

Like you, 1:23, have been united to the one whom has been placed in a position of authority over all things. 

God Himself 2:6 has raised and seated you with Christ in the heavenly places. 

This means that 2:7, you are participants in God’s long term plan to display his grace and kindness. 

You are, according to Paul, 2:10, God’s workmanship.

And I am not really diving into each of these statements and explaining them because I am thinking the implications and applications to spiritual warfare should be obvious;  the MOST IMPORTANT ONE BEING when you as a believer are overwhelmed with fear about the devil or demonic beings or spirits can do to you, you are really not making a statement about your own strength, but about God’s because salvation is something really, really big.  God in saving you has committed Himself to you for the long term and when you are dominated by fear, it shows you aren’t sure if God’s really strong enough to do what He’s promised.  

That’s why it is serious.

What reason do you have for fear? 

God’s attitude towards you is one of eternal love.

God’s acted towards you in the past at the cross and in your own life, by giving you spiritual life and sealing with you the Holy Spirit.

God’s promised great things for your future and He’s a God who is able to keep His promise.

And, finally fourth, this text, this passage here in Ephesians 6, tells us God has gone on to provide you all the resources you need to fight the spiritual battle that lies ahead.

I mean, Paul doesn’t simply tell us to go out and put on armor.

He tells us to put on the armor of God.  

That word of, means belonging to.

The armor that belongs to God.  

And Paul here as he talks about this armor is drawing from the Old Testament, Isaiah to be specific, which describes God as a great warrior who clothes Himself with armor to go to battle for the good of His people. 

And what I am saying, why this is important, is what we see here is that God has provided the resources we need to fight in this spiritual war.  He doesn’t send us out to fight without armor. No He gives us His very own armor to wear as we engage in this war.  He says here use my armor. 

And we are going to look at this armor, in the days ahead, piece by piece, but how foolish we would be if we thought we needed more armor or better armor than the very armor God Himself has used and that God Himself has provided.

Someone might say, what’s the big deal about having some sprinkle your house with water to ward off evil spirits or doing certain rituals to make your ancestors happy, what’s the big deal is that in doing that, you are really saying that God’s armor is not enough, you need something better, stronger.   What’s the big deal of trusting in certain chants or saying certain words to deliver people who are already Christians, what’s the big deal is that it minimizes just how radically and fully those people have already been delivered by God through the saving work of Jesus Christ. 

If we are going to think straight about spiritual warfare, we have to think straight about what it means to be a believer in the first place, a believer is a person who has been radically delivered.

And if that hasn’t happened, all the techniques, all the instruction, all the shouting, yelling, dancing, binding, casting, it’s not going to be of any help at all in this spiritual war at all.

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