This is the final blog answering some questions raised in the sermon a couple weeks ago as we looked at a demon-possessed man. The final installment here will look at the things the Bible says about spiritual warfare and our source of victory.
The first issue though, is to know the reality that victory is promised because of the death of Jesus. There are many passages showing us this victory, here are a few:
· “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Col. 1:13).
· “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all ourtrespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him” (Col. 2:13–15).
· “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
· “. . . in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:37–39).
· “Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8).
· “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Heb. 2:14–15).
· “But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head” (Ps. 3:3).
· “My shield is with God, who saves the upright in heart” (Ps. 7:10).
· “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold” (Ps. 18:2).
Knowing then that victory over the satanic and demonic is promised, we need to learn the keys to appropriating this victory in our lives. Once again, the Bible has much to say here, and we must begin in the book of James.
“But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:6-8)
James says we are to resist the devil and he will flee. But what exactly does this mean? Does it mean that we shout out a prayer saying, “I resist you devil!”? Is James trying to tell us that we need to dig our heels in and have strength to endure? James actually defines what he means in the verse. He tells us to submit to God, and then he says to resist the devil. This is not two actions, it is actually one action from two angles. At any point where we are proud, self-exalting, and believing in our own ability we actually are partnering with Satan and demons in their work in life. Pride shows up in so many ways. It is the call to self-esteem and self-actualization. Pride includes taking credit when we should be deferring glory to God. Pride shows up at any point in our lives when we say, “I don’t really want God’s way, my way works better.” At the root of all sin is our pride, our attempt to live for myself rather than for the one who Created me. Satan’s sin began with pride, and so does ours. And God opposes the proud. He is not neutral to pride, God opposes pride, because it robs Him of His glory and leads people away from the deep experience of God in life. But God gives grace to the humble. Humility here is not a self-abasing attitude that lowers the eyes and acts as if they were but a worm. In his book Humility: True Greatness, C. J. Mahaney defines humility as, “Honestly assessing ourselves in light of God’s holiness and our sinfulness.” It is seeing our own need and the wonder of Christ. At the very core submitting to God is the act of seeing my absolute need and as a result, turning to God in humble submission and faith. This very act is the core of resisting the Devil. Satan does not flee because I say the right words or have power in myself. Satan flees because he sees the one who is fighting for me. Satan is a bully who is tougher than you. But he is chicken when confronted with One who is stronger. But the reality is that this process is a war, and that is the language the Bible uses to describe the battle we have with these spiritual forces.
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil 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 firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. Ephesians 6:10-20 (ESV)
There is so much more here than this blog can address. But a couple key things about finding victory in our lives. First, we have to know this is war and that Satan and demons are real enemies. Their goal is to destroy you! But one of the ways they do this is to convince you that they are not enemies but friends. No soldier will get up close and personal with an enemy. You don’t go to lunch, play softball, or go to a movie with someone with whom you are at war. Paul wants us to know that there is a battle, our enemies are unseen, but we need to do everything we can do to stand against them. Second, God has provided armor for this battle and that armor is our only defense. Each item in this armor is given to the follower of Jesus on the day of salvation, but as Christians we must appropriate this armor daily. A soldier must wake up each morning, make sure his gear is ready to go, and then grab it and put it on. This is what Paul means when he says we must put on the whole armor of God. Third, there is only one weapon, the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. While the other parts of this armor are for our protection, the use of God’s word in life puts us on the offensive and destroys. This is why Paul said, “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinions raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).” The weapon we have is our use of the Scriptures given by God. Make no bones about it, a person who is not in the Scriptures is primed to be run over and ruined by Satan. So many believers in Jesus are weak, useless soldiers because they have no idea how to utilize the weapon God has provided them. The Bible is not just a book, it is a powerful spiritual gift given by God to His people. As we read, hear, memorize, meditate on, and obey the Bible we gain skill in using the weapons provided. This leaves us ready to stand.
Jesus is the ultimate example here. Satan attacked Jesus head on in his temptation (see Matthew 4:1-11). Jesus did not respond to Satan by saying, “Leave me alone, I am God.” He did not jump into a UFC death match with the Devil. Three temptations come at Jesus with the fury of a nuclear missile, and all three times Jesus responds by saying, “It is written,” and then he quotes Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy!!! Many of us can’t find it in the Bible. But this is how Jesus waged war against the forces of darkness, this was his weapon. And each time Jesus responded with Scripture Satan ceased the temptation. This is not a magic mantra, but a true force in this battle that is at our disposal.
Finally, the text on warfare ends emphasizing the importance of prayer. This is where the battle is always won. Only people immersed in prayer can have true victory in spiritual warfare. Satan and demons are real, but prayer is the most significant act of dependence and trust in Jesus as the true victor. Mark 9:14-28 tells the story of a father who brought his son who was tortured by the demonic to Jesus’ disciples hoping they could deliver him. I can picture the scene, here comes the father and the boy, Peter steps to the front and says, “I’ll handle this one,” and calls the demon out. But nothing happens and the boy is worse. The others take a whirl, but nothing. Finally Jesus intervenes and delivers the boy from the demon. Perplexed, his disciples ask why their attempts at this exorcism did not work. Jesus responded by telling them that the only way to victory in the demonic is through prayer. If this is true for them, it is true for us. Failure in our spiritual life is a call to more and deeper prayer!