This month’s post is written primarily to believers. It will make little sense to others, and even believers don’t typically spend much time focused on Spiritual Warfare, which is exactly what Satan wants, and makes his destructive mission much easier.
Satan particularly hates believers because we will spend eternity where he began but can never return: in Heaven with God. He does everything he can to lie and to confuse, insuring that as few people as possible accept Christ’s free gift of salvation. Despite his lies, if someone nevertheless becomes a believer, Satan then does all he can to make that person feel ineffective in telling others.
His goal is to take as many with him as possible, including our families, to an eternity without God—an eternity of indescribable sorrow and pain. Our critical role as believers is to fight back, particularly for those we love.
My friend Ken Boa has a very full and concise section on Spiritual Warfare in his advanced discipleship book Conformed To His Image, which I strongly recommend. This is a huge subject, worthy of many words, not just a short post. Some of what follows therefore borrows from Ken’s well written summary.
I want to touch here on three important aspects of Spiritual Warfare.
First, Satan is real. He is a personal, created being, with intellect, emotion and will. Christ refers to Satan’s fall in Luke 10:18, and the New Testament mentions Satan 120 times. For a believer to deny or ignore the daily reality of demonic forces at work to destroy us is to parse Christ’s teachings in a way that would not be condoned on any other subject. If one believes that Jesus is the Son of God who died for our sins, then as a sinner saved by grace, one also has to believe in Jesus’ many teachings on Satan.
Second, there are really three separate but related aspects to Spiritual Warfare: the world, the flesh and the devil.
The flesh is our inherent sin nature. As Boa writes, even as believers, “no one has to be forced into selfishness, pride, gluttony, self-pity, lust or bad temper.” The flesh can never be reformed or improved through some self-help program; it can only be overcome and buried on a daily basis by walking in submission to the rule of the Holy Spirit. As believers, to battle the flesh we need to pray daily for the fruit of the Spirit, and give Him free reign to overcome the temptations that inevitably come our way.
The world refers to the external forces which promote an attitude of independence from God, the result of all our individual sin natures working together. As the world becomes darker and more secular, there is ever more fertile ground for indulging the flesh and pulling people away from God’s principles and truths. Media, entertainment, education, weak families, peer pressure—all combine to make a world in which the Creator is at best a second class after-thought. And His good purposes for us are lost in constant temptations, or just plain busyness.
To push back against the world’s lies requires believers to renew our minds with the truths of Scripture. Boa writes, “We need to internalize biblical values through a daily program of reading, memorizing, meditating, and personalizing Scripture. This has a price tag: it takes time and discipline.”
The devil and his demons then use the first two–our inherent sin nature and the ever darkening world’s enticements–as ports of entry to influence, oppress, and ultimately, in the worst cases, to control us. Like Satan, demons are real and personal beings, with intelligence, emotion and volition. According to Boa, approximately 25% of Jesus’ ministry deals with deliverance from demonic affliction—hard to ignore!
At the first level, using both our flesh and the world as pathways, “demons seek to plant thoughts in our minds, influence our emotions, and weaken our wills. They inject deceptive, accusing and condemning thoughts and attitudes that are opposed to the truth of Scripture.” If given freedom to continue without being checked, their work can lead to oppression and control, and they then must be confronted directly and commanded to leave, relying on the power of the Holy Spirit and the prayers of the saints.
Being saved from demonic influence—whether their influence, oppression or control—is a large subject. But Boa lists seven conditions which are always needed for deliverance:
- Salvation. Without Christ, there is no hope of victory over the powers of evil.
- Willingness. We must want to be set free.
- Confession. To reclaim any ground that we have yielded to the adversary.
- Renunciation. Make a clean and permanent break.
- Forgiveness. We must forgive all who have wronged us.
- Submission. Acknowledge our complete dependence on Him.
- Resistance. When the other conditions are met, we must use Christ’s authority to command the demonic forces to leave.
In my own life, I’ve found that I need to pray, study, and then pray some more.
Third and finally, I am struck by how the family is designed by God to be the first line of both defense and offense when battling spiritual darkness. By weakening and destroying the family, Satan furthers all of his purposes. So it is our daily responsibility to defend and build up families, starting with our own.
Husbands and fathers, the family is our first and most important responsibility. God has put us in charge. What will we report about our family on the day that we meet our Judge face to face? Can anything be more important than where our wife and children spend eternity?
We’ll look at Spiritual Warfare and the family more in a later post. For now, there is no better place to start than on our knees.