A World at War
This past Sunday we began a series on Spiritual Warfare. Given what’s happening in our culture and persona lives, the need is great. Yet, teaching on this topic has been lean in recent years. Why is this? Many people do not believe we are in a spiritual battle. The Apostle Peter paints a stark contrast in his letter: “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8, NLT).”
Stay Alert! Watch Out! You have an enemy waiting to devour you. I think Peter, and Paul in Ephesians 6, are shouting the same message: PREPARE FOR BATTLE! We live in a world at war. The Christian life is a BATTLEGROUND!
However, we are NOT prepared. Most Christians do not think they are in danger spiritually. It reminds me of a movie I watched many years ago called, “Pleasantville.” This is how many of us treat the Christian life. In fact, we think it is the goal of the Christian life! Pleasantville is a place where there are no problems, everything is in black and white, and everyone is safe. How many out there would like to live in Pleasantville?
But that is not reality—we are at war! In the words of Aragorn from the Lord of the Rings: “Open war is upon you … whether you would risk it or not.” That is why spiritual warfare is important. It is not optional—it is an essential element of the Christian life. Here is my question for you today: Are you prepared for battle? We need to be ready to fight. Preparation requires two things: (1) Recognition of the war. (2) Skill in combat.
Recognition of the War
Look how Paul begins his famous section on Spiritual Warfare in Ephesians 6:10: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might (Ephesians 6:10, ESV).” What is Paul saying? We must know where to run for help! I want you to noticed three words: First, “Finally.” Remember this verses comes at the end of a letter where Paul taught about our identity is Christ. The first half of the letter taught us who we are. The second half shows us how to live out our identity as a Christ follower. This expression in the Greek does not mean that this is the end—rather, it is the beginning of the Christian life. It means, “from now on” live this way. How should they live? Second, “Be strong.” A prepared Christian is strong. How are you strong? Third, you are strong, “In the Lord … in his strength.” This is foundational for our growth in spiritual warfare. The phrase, “be strong,” is a passive voice. The whole idea of this phrase is that we are receiving strength, not from ourselves, but from an outside force. When you recognize you are in a spiritual war, you also recognize you need help from our Savior King.
Skill in Combat
Once we recognize the war, we also need skill in combat. We must know the enemy’s tactics. Look at Ephesians 6:11: “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” This verse focuses on our chief enemy: the Devil. Satan. He is described in Scripture as the “Father of Lies (John 8:44).” He was once an angel who rebelled against God and was cast out of heaven. Now, he is intent on attacking the people of God. How does he does this? Through his “schemes.” The Greek word for schemes is methodia where we get our English word, “Methods.” The devil has his methods to take us down. Why do they look like?
We have three enemies: (1) The World (2) The Flesh and (3) The Devil. First, we live in a fallen world and its sinful messages often run contrary to God and His Word. Second, we have a sin nature, our flesh, which is enticed to rebel against God like our ancestors Adam and Eve. The devil uses that to his advantage. He entices our flesh with the world’s messages in an attempt to take us away from God. What are his tactics? Let me offer three categories.
First, Deception. The devil and his armies are deceivers. Their native tongue is the language of lies. Paul tells the Corinthians that Satan “disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14).” Where are you being deceived? This is where warfare starts to get personal. Some of us right now are believing lies about who we are. Satan wants to make you forget who you are and what you have in Christ. That’s what the whole book of Ephesians is about. This can also occur at a societal level. Our society, every day, believes lies about what is true and real. The angel of light entices us and he does so with a purpose.
Second, Defiance. What was the original tactic Satan used in the Garden of Eden? He made Adam and Eve question God’s goodness. “Did God really say you cannot eat that fruit? Is he trying to keep all the power for himself?” Then Adam and Eve rebelled against God. Sin entered the world. Now, there are many people walking around as enemies of God—openly rejecting him! Even some Christians are living in defiance of God because we have allowed our sin nature to rule us. As John Owen once said, “we must be killing sin or sin will be killing us.”
Third, Discouragement. This is Satan’s favorite tactic with Christians. I have felt it in my own life. You think your life is going a certain direction but then you lose a job. Your marriage falls apart. You get a medical diagnosis and discouragement sets in. Those are big issues but it can also be daily issues. Some of us are living in a constant state of discouragement and depression. We start to believe the lies: “Nothing goes my way,” “I will never achieve God’s plans for my life …”
Deception, defiance, discouragement. Those are tangible tactics the enemy uses to keep us from being effective for the kingdom of God. Can we combat them?
Yes! I would like to propose a countermeasure equation. When the enemy tempts you this week, fight back like this: (1) First, meditate on God’s word … DAILY! Find a time and place to read it. You will not recognize the lies if you do not know the truth. (2) Second, rely on the Holy Spirit to apply it. When you feel attacked, pray like this, “Holy Spirit, show me the truths of God’s word I need to hear right now.” If you meditate on God’s Word, if you rely on the Holy Spirit, do you know what that equals? DISCERNMENT. We combat deception, defiance and discouragement with DISCERNMENT based on the truth of God’s word. That is a WINNING strategy.