March 1, 2012 9:06:29 AM CST
I have put this on the thread regarding repentence, but will put it on again. Sent to me by an American Pastor friend regarding Spiritual Warfare.
Last week while ministering at the Bible/Evangelism conference aforementioned, a pastor's wife, after an extensive conversation we had with her and her husband about spiritual warfare, made a startling but not surprising statement. After discussing some experiences they had gone through during their pastorate, she bluntly told us that if I preached at the conference about some of these subjects we addressed, it would be highly unlikely that we'd be invited back.
That may or may not be true. One thing is certain, though, and that is there are literally thousands . . . perhaps millions . . . of Christians who are either refusing to acknowledge the existence of spiritual warfare or are, for a variety of reasons, refusing to seriously involve themselves in it. In spite of the fact that the Bible acknowledges its existence and details all the provisions available for victory, too many still are, quite frankly, in a state of denial. And, to deny the existence of spiritual warfare is to deny one of the fundamental truths of scripture.
Here are five things we can confidently say about the battle:
+ The Battle is Real. Need I say more than this? You already know this . . . but, do you really??? Have you yet to connect the dots and see that not only are the things we face in our inner lives part of spiritual warfare, but so are many of the things happening in the world around us. Maybe such ignorance stems from the assumption that the battle is much more limited in scope and not so all-inclusive. Nevertheless, scripture is clear that virtually everything that lies within the parameters of God's creation, apart from heaven itself, is cursed, condemned, and under the bondage of the Prince of this world and of all the demonic powers of darkness.
It seems to me that I addressed this not too long ago in an earlier letter. The battle rages in three fundamental but often overlapping and intersection arenas. Just as World War II was one great war but fought in three "theaters" (Europe, North Africa, and South Pacific), so it is in spiritual warfare . . . the world, the flesh, and the devil (or the spirit world or demonic). We dare not even hint at the theological issues of spiritual warfare; it is much too vast a subject . . . and territory . . . to sufficiently address.
Suffice it to say, the battle is very, very real, . . . and it collaboratively operates like a well-oiled machine . . . like a skillfully thought-out and trained operation of special forces. It is no doctrinal perversion; it is no theological play on words; it is no unexpected and unexplained quirk. It is real . . .
. . . and you're in the middle of it . . . like it or not.
The only remaining question is . . . how are you dealing with it?
+ The Battle is Ongoing. There are no days off from the war . . . there is no furlough . . . there is no leave . . . there is not even any "R and R". Wherever you are, whatever you're doing, whatever you're thinking about, . . . when you awake . . . when you work . . . when you play . . . when you preach . . . when you pray . . . when you sleep. Because it was originally initiated against the Eternal One Who created all things, the war that was begun by one whom God had created and who now craves God's position, the battle is a "fight to the finish".
Because that is the case, you and I, dear friend, must wake up every day recognizing that we are grabbing our weapons, running to the front lines, and serving our tour of duty at our appointed times. There are no days off . . . and if we don't wake up with a courageous military mindset, we'll become a casualty right off the bat. If you ever decide there's an end to the battle in your day, you'll let fear and exhaustion overtake you, . . . and you'll go AWOL. The two things you must remember is that your Captain has provided everything you need, and has assuredly promised total victory.
In the meantime, the battle rages on . . .
+ The Battle Won't Go away. The singular thing that will end the battle is when the Captain of Our Salvation ultimately declares the battle is over, the victory is final, and the enemy has been soundly defeated and eternally imprisoned in his fiery destination prepared for him and his demonic hordes. Dear friend, . . . absolutely the only way you can escape it is if you die, or Jesus Christ returns, sword in hand and banner lifted high. Until then, it's best to get used to it, suck it up, stop running away from it, and stop letting yourself be intimidated by fear or hindered by weariness.
God has prepared both you and me for these days, and "You are of God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is he that is in us than he that is in the world." (I Jn 4:4) Live like you really believe that . . . because you do!
+ The Battle Is Intensifying. Both Jesus and Paul made it clear that as we draw closer to the return of Christ, things will get worse. The perfection in Eden which was corrupted in man's fall, has systematically and progressively increased in its own nature and character . . . that of sinfulness, wickedness, corruption, and decay. It is the classic illustration of the Second Law of Thermodynamics . . . everything by nature progressively deteriorates. This is why the idea of evolution simply cannot work; evolution says everything evolves upward, when the evidence is clear that just the opposite is true. Even the Law of Gravity proves it, unless something counters it. Nothing ever falls up . . . it always falls down. The only time something can go up, it must do so through the aid of something that lifts and restores. So it is spiritually . . . for that reason (praise His Name!), "From sinking sand, He lifted me! With tender hand, He lifted me! From shades of night to plains of light; oh, praise His Name, He lifted me!"
Until that day, though, don't be shaken by the gathering storm clouds, and growing gales, and the deafening thunder of the enemy's horsemen. True, we are in for some indescribable and seemingly unpredictable hardships and battles, but they are all bearable through His power and by His grace. In the meantime, do not be shaken, intimidated, or frightened by what lies ahead. God will make a way . . . even when there seems to be no way.
+ The Battle is Win-able". "Submit yourselves, therefore to God; resist the devil, and he will flee from you." (James 4:7) Scripture abounds describing just how thorough and complete the victory of Christ is over the battle in all three fronts. I wish I had time to share even a few truths concerning the victory He has gained and provided over the world and all its temptations, the flesh and all its lusts and cravings, and the devil and all his threats and tactics. That simply cannot be done in just one letter to you.
Suffice it to say, the battle is totally win-able . . . because He already won it. Our role is to go about, enforcing his victory and picking up the spoils of that victory.
Now; . . . since the battle is real, won't go away, is ongoing, and is win-able even though still intensifying, we should accept the fact that God expects us to be in it. He has provided everything we need by which to enforce the victory Christ secured when He burst out of the tomb and was seated at His Father's right hand in power and authority.
So many Christians, though, live as if Jesus didn't crucify us with Him to the temptations of the world, didn't crucify our flesh with Him, and didn't destroy the works of the devil. They live as if He's still in the tomb, defeated and decayed, instead of sitting as their personal representative and mediator at God's right hand. They've forgotten all about . . . or never understood from the beginning . . . what took place, ". . . when He raised Him from the dead, and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only is this age, but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet; and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fulness of Him who fills all in all. . . . and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus, in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus." (Eph 1:20-23; 2:6-7)
You'd think that Christians would recognize enough of the Bible to know that they are smack in the middle of the war, that they cannot deny it, they cannot ignore it . . . AND that they are in it as victors! God has given us virtually everything we need to live victoriously in this battle; He gave us Nothing by which to deny it or flee it . . . but everything to endure it. We have the authority of Christ's mighty name, . . . we have the ambassadorship title as our King's representative, . . . we have the power of His Name, . . . we have the unlimited power of the Holy Spirit, . . . we have the gifts of the Holy Spirit, . . . we have armor, . . . we have the weapons, . . . it's all there for us. Therefore, every battle should be fought victoriously . . . From victory rather than For victory.
So, what happens when we flounder? It seems to me there are only two things that can cause us to stumble or crumble in the heat of battle . . . either we've refused to fight or use the resources, OR . . . we haven't taken time to find out How to fight that skirmish. You see, if you have all the resources available, and even know how to use them, but if you don't know the heart and intention of God, you will neither understand what His agenda is nor recognize how you need to be doing the fighting.
Jo Ann reminded me of an important element of spiritual warfare that we often overlook . . . strategy. God's strategy, . . . not ours. She reminded me of Rick Renner's February 21st daily devotional in his book, Sparkling Gems From the Greek. II Cor 10:4 reads, "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds." Renner points out three key words in that verse . . . weapons, warfare, and carnal. In that particular devotional, he focuses on the word "Warfare", taken from the Greek word, "Stratos". Here's part of what Renner wrote:
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"The word stratos is where we drive the word strategy. This informs us that spiritual warfare does not occur accidentally but is something that is strategically planned. Just as any army plans a line of attack before a battle begins, the devil plans a line of attack, decides which methods he will use, and chooses the approach he wants to take as he cautiously charts a well-thought-out assault.
" But the word stratos doesn't just describe the devil's strategies. It also tells us that if we will listen to the Holy Spirit, He will give us a strategy that is superior to any schemes of the devil. . . . The Holy Spirit always holds the key to every victory, and He wants to provide us with a divinely-inspired strategy that will render null and void the works of the devil every time! . . .
"Imagine an army that is fully equipped with weapons of warfare but has no strategy about how to use those weapons against the enemy. Even with all those weapons and artillery at their disposal, an army in this condition would utterly fail.
"Likewise, although it's crucial that you put on the whole armor of God, that's just the first step. You must then have a strategy on how to use those weapons and how to attack! Until you receive a strategy from the Lord on how to use your spiritual weapons, they will be of little help in driving the forces of hell that have come against you.
"This leads to the word 'carnal'. In Greek, this word is sarkos, which describes anything that is of the flesh, fleshly made, or fleshly conjured up or anything that is natural or of an unspiritual nature. Paul uses this word when he writes, 'For the weapons of our warfare are NOT carnal . . ."
"In effect, Paul is saying, 'Don't look to your flesh for the weapons or strategies I'm describing to you because they do not arise out of natural talent, mental exercises, or human efforts. These are spiritual weapons and spiritual strategies, and they come from the spiritual realm."
"When you put all these Greek words together, II Cor 10:4 carries this idea: 'Our God-given weapons are to be used in connection with a divine strategy. But don't look to the flesh to find that strategy, for the battle plan you need is not going to arise out of your own natural talent, mental exercises, or human effort.'
"If you want to receive the strategy needed to assure your victory, you must turn your attention to the realm of the Spirit, for it is from this realm that you will hear from God. . . . Just as spiritual weapons come from God, so do spiritual strategies . . ."
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If there is anything we must remember about the battle we're in it is these two truths . . . particularly if we're "in it to win it", ----
First, any strategy we have, must be "battle-based". In other words, if any strategy we are using is not seasoned and hardened for battle, it is worthless to us, and is doomed to failure . . . no matter how genuine, well thought out, and sincere it may be. Either dump it or watch it be destroyed.
Second, and equally important, since we are automatically involved in spiritual warfare, we'd better have a strategy as to how we're going to engage the enemy, whether it's in the arena of the world, the flesh, or the demonic spiritual world.
Listen, dear friend! The only way you can lose in this battle is to deny that it's not about you, you want no part of it, and you're simply not in it.
When you have that attitude, you're not only actually in it, . . . but you've become a casualty. There are no bystanders in this battle.
NOT IN IT:
We know Paul's declaration . . . "We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the world forces of darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." Tragically, far too many Christians . . . especially pastors . . . completely misquote that verse in their hearts, if the truth be known. Their version, which they have secretly adopted in their minds, simply reads, . . .
"I wrestle NOT!"
There is both a truth and a lie in that translation. It is true because many don't get actively engaged in the battle. The lie is that it implies that since one is not wrestling, there is therefore no battle. The rationale is "I leave you alone, and you leave me alone. I'll live the Christian life without rocking the boat or invading into your territory, and you let me go through the motions with some degree of freedom and enjoyment. Do we have a deal?"
Well, dear friend, I have to tell you that such a person is in for a rude awakening to the truth. The truth is, they actually ARE in the battle, . . . and they've already been taken captive, imprisoned to the threats, intimidation, and strategy of the Devil himself. Such a person is literally being controlled and held in check by Satan and his minions, not only no longer a threat to his domain of darkness, but actually a great asset to his agenda because that person serves as a false testimony to both the tactics of the enemy and the power of God.
That person is being used as a Pawn in the enemy's hands to show everyone that compromise and defeat are not so bad and that Satan's really a pretty decent guy who, in spite of how Jesus described him as one who came to "steal, kill, and destroy".
Secondly, he is used as a Pretense that a Christian can compromise the truth and live his life complacently and still come out unscathed and Christian character and testimony intact.
Finally, he is used as a Perversion of the truth that God, through Jesus Christ, literally destroyed the works of the Devil, and that everything the enemy does is illegal, unwarranted, and evil to the core.
In other words, a Christian non-combatant shows that Satan's not as bad as he sounds, total commitment is not as important as we've been told, and God's not as powerful as He claims.
The fact of the matter is, though, that this type of Christian . . . one unengaged in the battle . . . is clearly not what he claims to be . . . a faithful and courageous follower of Jesus Christ. He's a play actor . . . a hypocrite . . . a compromiser at best, and a coward at worst.
Sadly, most Christians intellectually, and even with deep conviction, believe in spiritual warfare . . . but seldom if ever engage in it. To them, it's a distant doctrine rather than an immediate and present reality. It's more theory than fact to them. They believe the right things and say the right things, but don't do anything in the spiritual realm that threatens the domains of darkness. Some of the remaining believers are simply skeptical and suspicious of anything that hints of spiritual warfare; they leave it up to the "extremists" on the fringe of the Church to take care of that. Still others simply slough it off by saying, "Well, it's all under the blood. Jesus dealt with it at the cross, and there's nothing else left for me to do. I don't need to get involved."
May I ask this question? If "it's all under the blood", then does that mean I never need to confess my sins, pray for healing, or witness? After all, "it's all under the blood".
The answer is clear. Spiritual warfare is a "contact sport", and it requires hands-on involvement. If the battle is real, then fighting the enemy is also real. You cannot twist biblical truth to ease your responsibility to not only Believe the whole counsel of God, but also to act on it in courageous faith-driven obedience.
Quite frankly, dear friend, if you are not courageously, militantly, intentionally, and strategically in the battle, . . . you are in collusion with the enemy. It's true . . . "If you're not for us, you're against us." There are no "neutral nations" in the spiritual realm. Just as Joshua admonished the Children of Israel, "Choose today whom you will serve, but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord," the same is true in spiritual warfare.
In order to see victory in your life . . . to see habits smashed, thoughts mastered, temptations overcome, curses cancelled, fears quieted by confidence, and demons flee, . . . you must enter the battle, and enter it prepared. That requires not only understanding your identity AND authority in Christ, not only in recognizing your armour and weapons, and not only acknowledging that this battle must be fought in the spiritual realm, but it also requires that you are plugged in on God's strategy of exercising the victory His Son secured for you.
I am personally convinced that most Christians run from the battle for one simple reason . . . fear. That fear overwhelms them because they have been misinformed and lied to by the devil (and sometimes by well-meaning preachers and teachers), they have been poorly trained (if trained at all), and they don't have a clue what their arsenal includes nor how to use what's there.
So, dear friend, . . . if you are fed up with being intimidated and deceived by the enemy as he tantalizes you with the world, demoralizes you through the weakness of the flesh, burdens you down under curses, condemns you through repeated sins you can't master, holds you prisoner in strongholds from which you cannot escape, and then harasses you by sending his evil spirits to stir things up and magnify them, then claim your identity, grab your weapons, stand in your authority you've been given, . . . and don't take it anymore!
You don't need to keep suffering defeat! That is totally unnecessary . . . and unacceptable.
Get up, gird up, . . . and get at it!
There's territory to claim, an enemy to rout, captives to free, and a Warrior King to follow.