Thursday, January 22, 2009
The Truth About Spiritual Warfare
Is spiritual warfare a common occurrence for Christians? Or is spiritual warfare a scare tactic to get Christians in line? "God would never let Christians be tested by the devil." "'Spiritual warfare' is a phony phrase. We already have spiritual victory." "Spiritual warfare is a concept that only kooks believe." I've heard these responses and more to the statement Christians are in a spiritual battle. But such beliefs are right out of the pit. Furthermore, they contradict the Scriptures. It's true that we are born again by the Spirit of God. We begin a vibrant new life (2 Corinthians 5:17). But we also are joined in a battle-a battle from which dying and arriving in heaven will be our only escape. This battle is called spiritual warfare. Such warfare appears on nearly every page of Scripture, from the beginning when Adam and Eve fell to the lies of Satan, through the journeys of Israel as they listened to more lies of the devil. It led finally to the coming of Jesus and the arena of entrenched falsehood that He entered, which ultimately led to His death. Through it all, though, a reassuring theme runs through the Bible: God is ultimately in control; nothing happens outside His sovereignty, and even Satan is little more than a player in God's vast drama. God has every lie and machination well in hand. The Scriptures declare that nothing Satan does will deter the triumph of God's plan, which is the establishment of the kingdom that will last forever. The New Testament describes the battle as continuous and purposeful. In Ephesians 6:10-18, the classic passage detailing the spiritual armor that every Christian must carry into battle, the apostle Paul gave this call to arms: "Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 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." (verses 11-13). And the apostle Peter cautioned all believers about the leader of the attacks: "Be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion" (I Peter 5:8). Satan is in fierce battle with God and His followers, but his fate is sealed, for God has already won the victory. As Christians, we fight from victory, not for victory. Such victory is not always a reality in our Christian lives, however. Paul exhorted Timothy to "wage the good warfare" (I Timothy 1:18). But truthfully, most Christians know very little about the enemy or the warfare he wages against us and which we must wage against him. As a result, we do not walk in the spiritual victory that is ours in Christ Jesus. Years ago, I heard a man speak on spiritual warfare in a way that raised the hair on the back of my neck. The casting out of demons, frontal attacks on Satan through rebuking prayer, and loud denunciations of the enemy using biblical language, all ran like a thread through his speech. Today, I honesty question that speaker's accuracy in describing real spiritual warfare. True, there are moments when the casting out of a demon is necessary. And yes, prayer is essential in defeating the power of Satan in a bleiver's life. But warfare does not involve attacking Satan himself. Instead, spiritual warfare means confronting the enemy's lies with God's truth. In warfare counseling, I have found people face mainly two problems: they sin and they believe lies. Satan's only real power is through those lies. He will take God's truth and twist it or deny it. In tempting Eve, for instance, the serpent (inhabited by Satan) twisted God's words (Genesis 3:1) and directly denied them (verse 4). Satan succeeds as the great deceiver when we believe in our mind and emotions what he says is true even though it is false. Liberty comes when we grasp and believe the truth. At that point we are no longer deceived. Satan's advances against us are foiled. Why is this deception so sinister? Because we live what we believe. When I believe a lie, I live that lie. If I think I'm worthless, I am worthless. If I come to believe hatred is justified, then I will feel just in hating. Satan foments anger and all sorts of negative emotions with such lies. This is why warfare is so much a matter of the heart and mind than of exorcism and so many other dramatic examples others give to the issue. I believe that in America today more people are susceptible to the subtle lies of Satan than any kind of oppression or possession through the occult. Though the occult is gaining a much greater foothold, even to those trapped in its bonds, it's not actual indwelling of spirits that occurs, but a series of lies accepted and followed as the truth that destroys them. You need not be in the occult to hear and accept Satan's lies. Many Christians are listening to his lies. Some are as simple yet devastating as someone telling himself that he's stupid, no good, worthless, ugly, etc. The truth "I am fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139:14). The amazing thing is that many people will go through life believing such lies and never recover or learn the truth. How does Satan manage it? He whispers the lie so subtly and so repeatedly that we cannot think any other way. Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings.