Spiritual Warfare – Part 1

Time to Wake up!

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. For you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light . . . trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, BECAUSE THE DAYS ARE EVIL. (Ephesians 5:1, 2, 8, 10, 15 & 16 NASB)

Sean turns sideways in his bed, half asleep, and reaches for the alarm clock whose annoying and erratic screeching has just woke him up (at least half of him) from what may have been a somewhat pleasant dream. The half of Sean that is awake can’t remember why the dream may have been pleasant since the real life of Sean was plenty dull. The half of Sean that was disparately trying to remain asleep, but losing, thought the dream was pleasant because he wasn’t at work. He wasn’t sure where he was but at least it didn’t involve anyone in his office.

Sean’s “awake” side, rather reluctantly, wins this everyday battle and within minutes he is up out of bed. He begins the day as always doing the same routine. After shaving and showering and dressing for work, he prepares breakfast and sits in front of it. On the table is his Bible. His wife must have left it there for him to read. It used to be that the morning paper would be there, but times have changed and a morning paper is not only hard to come by but inadequate in this “information age.”

It was obvious that Renee wanted him to read his Bible this and every morning now, ever since that sermon Pastor Tony gave about these being the end times and all. He claimed that reading the Bible was like reading the current headlines in the news. But Sean couldn’t see it. So he ignored the book, finished his grapefruit and muffin, and headed off to work. He’d read the internet news at work, like always, and that would give him all the knowledge he’d need to combat the conversations that were sure come his way today.

So he thought.

At about the same time Sean woke up this morning, Renee had been up for about an hour. Her preparation for the day was like always and could be considered a routine just like Sean’s. However, she began the day with a different attitude. She knew how some of her day would go but also knew that she could never predict all of her day. So she started her day putting on something to keep her safe and prepared for whatever, or whoever, the day produced.

Renee kneels down in the living room in front of a chair, with her Bible open to Ephesians 6:10-20. She begins praying to her Lord in a low voice so as to not wake up Sean. After a few minutes of praying out loud like this, she looks up to her open Bible and then repeats, in her own words, the verses written there.

After Renee finished praying like this she gets up off the floor. She feels ready for the day.

And she is.

Sean and Renee are both believers in Jesus. They both became Christians when they were children. Their parents took them to church almost every week. As adults, after they got married, they attended church. Both enjoyed it. Both developed friends there. Both would tell you that they were good practicing Christians and both could tell you how you could become a Christian.

But as you probably realize, they go about their day a lot different. Renee realizes that she is in a war and needs God’s armor in order to survive each day. She knows there are spiritual powers at work against her and she wants to be armed for the coming battle that will be waged. Sean, on the other hand, has no clue that a war is going on. He is on the sidelines of the battles in his own life. He doesn’t realize why he feels like he is a loser when it comes to spiritual matters. He feels that he is no Peter or Paul. No Billy Graham. Normal Christians just can’t be as good as the pastor keeps preaching about. But Sean will keep attending church. He will keep tithing and donating can food or whatever fundraising scheme is popular this year.

Sean is spiritually dead and doesn’t even know it.

What is he missing? Better yet; what can the average Christian do to not feel so discouraged when bad things happen or when someone attacks their faith? Sean knows he’s not perfect and feels that if he tries to witness or invite his coworkers or friends to church they will point out his hypocrisy. So he keeps quiet. He just shows up as required and goes home at the end of the day.

What Sean doesn’t realize, or wants to face, is that he is in a war. We all are. Renee knows this and has decided to get involved.

The purpose of this article is to remind us of that war, who is in it, and that the victory is already ours. Every person is in this war whether a Christian or not, so if you are an unbeliever, you need to be aware of the fight you’re in and the need of a Savior to survive this war. If you are a Christian, you have been given the weapons to fight the everyday battles. All you have to do is pick up those weapons.

Be of good cheer, Christian, we win in the end. In fact, the war is already won! This article is for you.

However, non-Christian, fight as you might, you will never win a single battle in this war until you give your life to Jesus. This website is filled with helpful links and articles to bring you to Jesus and today is a great day to come to Him and get to know Him. Until you do, this article is a warning to you, because without Jesus, you lose in the end. And oh, what a loss it is.

The Days are Evil

Look at Eph. 5:15-16 which you will find at the top of this article. Paul tells us that we should walk as wise men, making the most of our days because the days are evil. Now I think this is kind of funny to read these words today knowing the days that Paul lived in and the evil times today. If anything, we have more variety of evil than in the first century. Just take a look at today’s news.

But let me give you a picture of what Christians were facing back then in the early days of the Church. They were virtually non-citizens in the Roman world. Considered an outlawed sect of Judaism, they were persecuted by both Romans and Jews alike. You may remember Paul was one of those Jews who used to hunt down Christians to arrest and transport back to Jerusalem for persecution. Now he is a believer and a missionary to boot. So the Jewish leaders really wanted to have him put out of service.

During the time of Nero (AD 64), Christians were blamed for the fire that burned down a great portion of Rome. Many Christians were arrested and thrown to the wild beasts in the circus, or they were crucified. Many were also burned to death at night, serving as “lighting” in Nero’s gardens.

Beginning in 66 AD, the Jews began a final revolt against Roman rule which ended with the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Obviously Jewish Christians were targeted as well.

But that was not his biggest problem or the largest issue facing the Church back then. It was the Church! That’s right. Jewish Christians, who didn’t fully understand the saving grace of Christ, were going around to each local church set up by Paul and Silas, including the one in Ephesus, and stirring up trouble. They taught that Christianity was Jewish in origin and therefore Gentile converts to Christianity had to follow the Mosaic law. They needed to be circumcised just like Jews. They needed to be members of the local synagogues. They needed to be under the teaching of the Jewish leaders in conjunction with the Christian leaders. They needed to observe the Jewish holy days. They needed to eat the right foods and abstain from the wrong ones.

According to Paul, this was the work of none other than Satan himself and portions of his letters to the churches he started, especially the Galatian churches, warned of this error.  But the problem was “global” and remains in some form or another to this day. Refer to Revelation chapters 2 and 3 where Jesus is pointing out this error.

Moreover, the errors discussed in these chapters in Revelation can be seen as attacks by the devil. Don’t be surprised that the devil works more within religious circles than anywhere else. As I read what Paul writes in Ephesians 6, the same verses that Renee was reading and praying over, I believe Satan has stationed most of his demons around churches if not within them.

One example: A while ago, Sean and Renee had moved and was searching for a new church home. The first church they visited was large but the teaching was sound and they had programs for the kids. Within three weeks, however, the pastor was being fired due to some photos he and his wife were in that were publicly released pursuant to divorce proceedings of members of that church. Needless to say those photos were not very pastoral and contained nudity. The next church they visited was smaller but had good children programs and a place they felt they could comfortably serve. After the second week, however, the pastor gave his notice that he was leaving. Shortly thereafter, the church board began firing staff members and closed down its Christian preschool. Ministries were ended and a church split took place.

Fighting the Good Fight

Renee learned from Pastor Tony that Paul spent most of this letter to the Ephesians describing the life a Christian should live. He then sums up his letter by telling them what it is going to take to do it. Beginning at verse 10 of chapter 6 Paul writes:

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.”

Now I see a few things here. When Paul writes for us to be strong in the Lord, he assumes this is a doable thing and for every Christian. Not just Pastor Tony. Not just Renee. But even Sean can do this. Then Paul writes that we are to be strong in the mighty power of God’s strength. Again this is doable. But it is His might, not ours. That is why the “Seans” of the Church feel like failures in their Christian walk. I can’t find the verse that tells Christians to walk the Christian walk on their own. We can only do this in God’s power. That means to remain in fellowship with Him.

When Renee was a kid, her pastor used to tell her that we need to keep short accounts. He meant that when we sin, when we fail God, as soon as we realize we have sinned, “we confess our sins, [because] He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9 NASB)

The next verses tell us how we are strong in God’s mighty power:

“Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.”(Eph. 6:11-13)

Renee could tell you that the armor of God is complete, it is all we need, but we must put it all on. Better said, we need to appropriate the attitude represented by the armor itself.

The word “schemes” denotes a method or strategy. It is a battle plan of the enemy. He lies in wait with his cunning arts of deceit, craft and trickery.

The phrase, “of the devil”, is interesting in the Greek. It appears to be an adjective so it could be translated “schemes of one who is devilish.” The word describes a false accuser or slanderer. Metaphorically it is applied to someone who, by opposing the will of God, may be said to act the part of the devil or to side with him. Now if you were to ask Sean or Renee, they would tell you they know a few people like this. Yet only with God’s armor can they defeat those schemes.

The next verse tells us who the enemy is, but this verse tells us who the enemy uses. Certainly he uses people. He may combine that with circumstances but primarily he uses other people.

Take for example the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. After ten plagues delivered on their behalf from God against the Egyptians, the Israelites are faced with an impossible dilemma. The Red Sea is before them. The Egyptian army is behind them and the Israelites are without any weapons. So they think.

Listen to what the people say to Moses in Exodus 14:11ff:

“They said to Moses, ‘Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians?’ It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!’”

This is a perfect example of the believer without the armor of God. He is already defeated. Now how should the believer respond in this situation? Let’s see how Moses responds.

“Moses answered the people, ‘Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.’”

And sure enough, the Lord blinds the Egyptian army, so to speak, and God’s people walk across the Red Sea on dry land to the other side, whereupon, as soon as they are all done crossing, and the enemy sees where they are and starts in after them, God releases the water of the sea back to where it belongs and, splash, no more Egyptian army! In fact the Israelites see their dead bodies on the shore of the Red Sea. Not only does God defeat the enemy, he also provides His people with their weapons!
Who is The Enemy?

Let’s get back to Paul’s letter. He next describes our enemy.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces [or beings] of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

A great definition of the word “struggle” is wrestling, the Greco-Roman style. “A contest between two in which each endeavors to throw the other, and which is decided when the victor is able to hold his opponent down with his hand upon his neck.” But in this case the contest is decided by spiritual failure; ours or the enemy’s.

The word “powers” could be translated authorities. Satan has been granted certain authority in this world, definitely in the fallen world system, thus the term, “world forces” is used by Paul to let us know the scope of this evil.

The term “darkness” is defined as “ignorance respecting divine things and human duties, and the accompanying ungodliness and immorality, together with their consequent misery in hell.”

So described here are the contestants on the battlefield of Sean’s, Renee’s and, more importantly, your soul. This is your soul so you have the power and authority to wage war against any attack that comes your way. Or do nothing (i.e., Loser). As a Christian, you have been bought from the slave market of sin by the shed blood of the only Son of the one, true, living God, Jesus Christ our Lord. He has:

“. . . blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. . . . In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation – having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.” (Eph. 1:3-8, 13, 14 NASB)

Yep, that is you, Christian, plus much, much more.

Your opponent is the ruler of this fallen, sin filled world and his demons. Your enemies are spirit powers, who, under the permissive will of God, and in consequence of human sin, exercise Satanic and therefore antagonistic authority over the world system in its present condition of spiritual darkness and alienation from God.

Notice that we wage war “against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 6:12) However, we are blessed “with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places IN CHRIST.” (Eph. 1:3) Thus, the devil’s spiritual powers are impotent because “greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)

In part 2 of this article, we’ll cover the armor of God in detail. We will also check up on Sean and Renee.

To read Part 2, click here:

Currently on disability, Brian has been a pastor since graduating from San Diego Christian College in 1986 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Biblical Studies. In 1994, Brian earned a graduate level paralegal degree from the University of San Diego. Since 1984, he has been very active in the AWANA clubs serving as a commander, pastor and missionary advisory board member. Brian has worked on pastoral staffs of churches in Colorado and southern California. In 1997 he began a church in his home which currently meets in its own building located in Desert Hot Springs, California. A major hobby of Brian’s is cycling which includes two bike trips through Europe and a Canada to Mexico ride. Brian has been married to Beth, who he met in college, for over 26 years and they currently live in the Palm Springs area. They have two grown children.

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