Spiritual Warfare: Declassified

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Ephesians 6:12-18

New King James Version (NKJV)

12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age,[a] against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—

Opening illustration:

During any war, the enemy’s strategy is to conceal/hide some important information from the adversary so that they will not be successful in their endeavor. In fact the enemy will try to subdue the adversary so that they succumb to defeat. The information that they intend to hide is usually so vital that it is the deciding factor for winning or losing the war. During the 1971 Indo-Pak war there was an element in the war which India concealed from Pakistan. They let loose a battalion of monkeys in the battlefield strapped with dynamite on their bodies. This incident killed a catastrophic number of Pakistani soldiers on the ground and the war came to a closure.

Why do so many Christians lead defeated lives? Satan doesn’t want them to know that they are already in a spiritual battle and they could just live their lives out just as other people do in the world. He is sneaky and makes them believe by shrouding the truth from their eyes to look into God’s Word and be alert and at the same time to be defensive and offensive in the spiritual battle. They don’t explore scripture and get deep into His Word nor are pro-active in taking steps to have an intimate walk with him. They chose rather to just have a very casual relationship (FWB) with Him. Before they find the truth to set them free, they have already lost it all. Therefore it is very important for every Christian to know, understand and to be active in spiritual battle daily otherwise they can easily be consumed by the world and the demonic influences.

Introduction:

When God called Jeremiah as a prophet to the nations, it came with a 6-fold prophetic-apostolic mandate to root out, pull down, destroy, throw down, build and plant. A humble Jeremiah accepted the calling and, despite the spiritual warfare that raged against him, he walked in obedience and fulfilled his mission in God. Prophets or not, God’s people are still called to root out, pull down, destroy, throw down, build and plant. We don’t engage in physical battles, but we wrestle “against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). We have spiritual weapons for offense and defense, including the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit and prayer (vv. 14-18).

As Paul said, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.” (2 Corinthians 10:3-6).

What are the 3 things Satan doesn’t want you to know?

1. Spiritual battle than a physical one (v. 12) – The Enemy

Satan doesn’t want you to know that you are wrestling against persons without bodies that are launching fiery, faith-stealing darts against your mind in the form of thoughts contrary to God’s Word. However, most savvy Christians understand their authority in Christ and realize they are in a battle that’s targeting their minds. Yet there’s still one thing Satan doesn’t want you to know about spiritual warfare: You can’t effectively pull down strongholds, cast down imaginations and bring every thought into captivity without casting down every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God in your own mind.

We all know we can’t battle Satan in the flesh, yet the temptation is to rely on the flesh in warfare in subtle ways. “You’re resisting the Devil, So Why Won’t He Flee?” we can take pride in our spiritual warfare skills. But it’s not just pride in our warfare skills that can hinder our effectiveness in destroying strongholds. It’s pride in any area of our life. Of course, we all have a measure of pride in our carnal nature. But when the Holy Spirit is dealing with us about pride in some area—or when we see our own pride and don’t cry out for the grace of humility—we’re walking in sheer disobedience. The Bible says we are to have a “readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled (2 Corinthians 10:6). I believe the more we seek to walk in obedience to the Word of God, the more effective we’ll be in spiritual warfare. Satan will attack you at your weakest time and spot. Be alert and vigilant always; ready to get into spiritual battle any moment.

So we return once again to the admonition of James: “He gives more grace. Therefore He says: ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (James 4:6-8). In our flesh, we’re no match for the devil. We need the power of the Holy Spirit to back up our authority in Christ to root out, pull down, destroy, throw down, build and plant. We can’t drive demons into obedience to the Word of God when we’re blatantly disobeying the Word of God in any area, whether it’s walking in pride or some other sin.

Before you engage in spiritual warfare, examine your heart, and take the time to break agreement with the enemy, repent before God and ask for His guidance. It could be that you’ve opened the door to the spiritual enemies that are attacking you and that simply renouncing agreement with them will stop the attack. In any case, we should enter spiritual warfare with confidence but not arrogance. We can be confident that God will lead us into triumph over our enemies if we lean and depend on Him and not on carnal weapons or pride.

Illustration:  Similarly during the Gulf War I & II America concealed the use of stealth aircrafts in bombing the enemy hideouts and easily won the wars. How did the US take down Bin Laden? Under the cover of darkness stealth helicopters and fighter planes intruded into Pakistani air space without informing the Pak government or being detected by the Pakistani aerial radars. They were able to target the enemy and bring him down perfectly giving no space to error. In less than 45 minutes, they were able to complete the task and get out of Pakistani air space much before their planes could gun them down. Strategy of deceptive concealment is the art of the game in any kind of warfare. It decides the final outcome. Satan can easily knock us down if we are not alert to his play of deceptive concealment.

2. Have the authority in Christ by using the whole armor of God (vs. 13-17) – The Weapon-Power

James tells us that if Satan is resisted, “he will flee” (James 4:7). Paul wrote that if we want to resist the devil and guard against his schemes, we must “put on the whole armor of God” (Ephesians 6:13). Expanding on this, Christians must dedicate themselves to studying the Bible. Jesus said that God’s Word is “truth” (John 17:17), which makes it the very antithesis of Satan, since the devil is the “father of lies” (John 8:44). We are to love the truth so much that we actually thirst for it like a baby longs for milk (1 Peter 2:1-2).

Here the apostle Paul says the sixth thing necessary in spiritual warfare is to use the Word of God as a sword. So, the full armor of God includes integrity, purity, serenity, certainty, sanity and maturity. Most people don’t know how to use the Word of God against the devil — even people who’ve been in church for years and have heard the Word that whole time. But hearing the Word isn’t the same as using the Word.

Being able to use God’s Word against Satan is one of the most important marks of spiritual maturity. The Bible says, “You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food” (Hebrews 5:12 NLT). It’s not hearing, reading, or even learning the Word of God that makes a believer mature. It only grows you in faith. According to Hebrews 5:12, a mature believer is the person who puts the Word into practice.

Paul calls the Bible “the sword of the Spirit” in Ephesians 6. The sword is an offensive weapon that soldiers used to expand their territory — and take something over. Putting the Bible into practice is how you invade Satan’s territory. Satan isn’t afraid of your words, but he is afraid of God’s Word! The Bible doesn’t become your sword until you memorize it, though. Why? You rarely have your Bible with you when you need it. If you’re looking at a $300 dress and trying to decide whether to go into debt to buy it, you need to have stored in your heart what God’s Word says about buying what you can’t afford.

Jesus did this. When Satan tempted Jesus three times in the wilderness, Jesus always responded by quoting the Bible. Jesus didn’t have to pull out his pocket Old Testament to respond to Satan. He had already hidden the Word in His heart. That’s how you defeat the devil.

Have you been memorizing Scripture? Those verses give me power most people don’t have. Often, someone will ask me a question for which I don’t have an answer. When that happens, I ask God, “What do you want me to say to this person?” The Holy Spirit then goes back through all the verses I’ve learned and brings the right verse to my mind. Start with key verses in areas where you’re often tempted — like sex, impatience, or speaking without thinking. Then, when you’re tempted, you’ll be able to use God’s Word against Satan. This is our defensive and offensive weaponry.

3. Pray in the Spirit (v. 18) – The battleground

We might as well admit it: when we don’t pray, it’s because we don’t want to pray. Why is it we don’t want to pray?  Because the flesh doesn’t like it. When we don’t want to pray, what does it tell about us?  That we’re carnally minded rather than spiritually minded. The carnal mind has no more desire to pray than your dog has to watch the opera. The Holy Spirit of God will help you in your prayer life.

There’s something in us, in our flesh (our old nature), that not only doesn’t want to pray, it has an antipathy toward prayer.  We need to stop trying to cover it up and admit that the reason we don’t pray when we don’t pray is we don’t want to pray.  And the reason we don’t want to pray is we’re in the flesh rather than the Spirit. If you get Spirit-filled, you’ll have to backslide to keep from praying. The Holy Spirit will activate your will in prayer. The Holy Spirit will help you.

For the Spirit-filled person it becomes so natural to say, “Abba Father,” to worship and praise Him. When the Holy Spirit is in you and you’re yielded to the Spirit, not walking in the flesh, it is as normal as breathing to pray. This is the answer to the problem of a lack of appetite for prayer. The Holy Spirit activates our will in prayer. We’re not just taking ourselves by the nape of the neck and making ourselves pray as a discipline—though indeed if it takes that, we ought to do it.

Truth is our most effective weapon in prayer against Satan. Jesus stood on the Truth when he was confronted in the wilderness. (Matthew 4:1-11) We should do the same. Prayers for spiritual warfare are not said just once, then we wipe our hands across the brow and say “Whew! I’m glad THAT’S over with.” Yes, Satan is a defeated foe. But like those pockets of isolated Japanese soldiers on remote islands in the Pacific at the end of World War II, Satan and his demons fight on, oblivious to or in denial of God’s ultimate victory. These prayers will be a continuing part of your Christian life here on earth.

Effective prayer for spiritual warfare starts with prayer in general. You should begin from the baseline of an active prayer life. It’s especially important to draw on your close relationship with God when engaged in spiritual warfare. And a prayer life filled with regular prayers of praise, thanksgiving, confession, supplication, and meditation are what nurtures and grows that close relationship.

Do not pray from a position of fear. Understand and take to heart the truth that you have eternal life with Jesus. He is your strength. With him, there is nothing to fear. Usually we address prayers for spiritual warfare to God and not to the evil spirits. We ask God for protection and deliverance.  We thank Him for our lives in Jesus and for the power of His Truth.  This is important because too often people will just try to rebuke the evil spirits without prayer to God. Remember Mark 9:29 where Jesus tells the disciples some spirits cannot just be cast out; prayer and fasting is required. We believe it’s just prudent to pray to God for help; He’ll decide if we need it. And He’ll lead us to fast if necessary. Then we renounce the evil spirits and their effect on our lives, in the authority of and in the power of Jesus. Authority and power he gave us and commissioned us to use. (John 14:12)

There are people who seem especially gifted in the discernment of demons and spiritual warfare. It’s almost as if they are anointed by God for direct battle with the enemy. For the rest of us, taking on evil spirits directly can be risky. We’re fighting in a realm we don’t know much about – the spiritual realm. God will lead you to confront evil spirits if that’s what He deems best. In fact the apostles used direct confrontation in those rare cases of complete demonic possession. Otherwise they prayed to God for His help and deliverance. The archangel Michael, who does have the authority to speak directly to demons, deferred to God when addressing Satan: “But even Michael, one of the mightiest of the angels, did not dare accuse the devil of blasphemy, but simply said, ‘The LORD rebuke you!'” (Jude 1:9)

Application:  We must be careful not to think we are stronger than Satan. If we ignore his tools of deception and discount his existence, we are sure to fall prey to his treachery (1 Corinthians 10:12). As long as we are dedicated to serving Christ, God will not allow us to be tempted beyond our ability and will always provide a “way of escape” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

The devil doesn’t want us to think about spiritual things. Rather, he only wants us to dwell on our own selfish desires. Avoid the temptation to delay any thoughts of spiritual self-examination, and make it a priority to encourage others to examine themselves. As it says in Hebrews 13:3, “but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.”

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