Spiritual Warfare: Becoming a Spiritual Warrior in the Days We Live in
The Following is from Chapter 7 of The Rogue Christian.
The war is not won on the battlefield;
it is won in the boot camp
We should never forget that everything Hitler
did in Germany was legal.
-Martin Luther King, Jr.
Salvation is a helmet, not a nightcap.
There are two main themes throughout God’s word. The first is love.
When God created mankind, He set them in a garden paradise. Creation before the Fall was fresh, pure, and brimming with life; the roses and flowers would have had deep, vibrant colors with intriguing textures. The fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts they ate must have been delicious, providing all they needed for peak health and performance. Even after the Fall, Adam lived close to 1,000 years. Think of how strong their bodies must have been to last that long. It doesn’t appear that the animals were dangerous in their pre-Fall state. Imagine watching the sun rise with a lion, rolling on the thick, emerald-green grass with a grizzly bear, or swimming with a crocodile. Every member of the animal kingdom was Adam and Eve’s best friend.
The man and woman had new, beautiful bodies, and they were naked. Imagine the wonder and joy of a relationship that isn’t plagued with sin. No fighting, bickering over small things, or attacking each other with cutting words. There was no risk of adultery, no lust for others outside their union, and, best of all, no pride. Their intimacy, both emotional and physical, must have been out of this world, like having a best friend you love being with every moment of the day and can’t wait to wake up with in the morning.
God could have dropped them in the Sahara Desert and said “Here you go, have at it!” Instead, He showed the extravagant generosity of His love by giving them a starter home in paradise.
But there’s more. Adam and Eve enjoyed the wonder of seeing God face to face. Genesis 3:8 gives us a picture of God walking in the garden in the cool of the day. Apparently the Lord met them often. Imagine man and woman, their hearts fully alive, and the Creator of the universe in all His majestic, shining glory enjoying each other’s company with the animals watching nearby. There was no sin to confess; no shame, worries, or fears. God enjoyed being with them, and they with Him. There must have been moments of joy and spontaneous laughter intertwined with quiet reflection and thanks from the man and his wife. This was life as God intended.
The second main theme of Scripture is war.
Just three chapters into the Bible, Satan launches his first attack. He assaults Eve with lies, and she caves and falls to sin. Then Adam, who is standing nearby and has watched this scene unfold without intervening, goes down with her. Satan has won the first battle with devastating consequences. Adam and Eve, now corrupted with the evil of sin, are driven from paradise. Some of the animals turn predator and are now a threat to them. The laughter-filled walks with God cease. Has He become their enemy?
You might think God would vaporize Adam and Eve and do a reboot. Instead He shows them kindness by killing an animal and covering them with its skin. Amazingly, as the Lord hands out the consequences for the Fall in Genesis 3:15, He foretells the coming of a savior who will “crush Satan’s head”. God still loves them and is already making plans for their healing and restoration.
Adam and Eve have two sons, Cain and Abel. Satan attacks Cain with discouragement and bitterness, and Cain murders his brother Abel. The human race has been at war with Satan since Eve was deceived. The Bible is filled with stories of brutal battles, rape, murder, witchcraft, robbery, adultery, demonic oppression, and hatred.
When God’s people turn away from Him, the consequences are severe. When they walk with Him and obey Him, they are victorious, although there is always a cost. Being at war means you take hits and suffer losses, even when the battles are won.
Fast forward 2000 years. Immediately after Jesus is born, Herod, the king of Judea, searches for Jesus with the intent to kill Him. He fails after Joseph and Mary flee to Egypt, and…
Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted,
because they are no more.”
This is the side of the Christmas story we don’t hear during the holidays; it’s all about peace on earth and the jolly fat guy. Jesus’ birth was an invasion, an act of war. The legions of angels the shepherds saw the night of his birth were the warrior-army that accompanied His landing on earth.
Thirty years later, Jesus begins his ministry. He is a spiritual juggernaut such as the human race has never seen before. Everywhere He goes, the demonized are freed, the sick are healed, and the starving are fed; He raises several from the dead. Jesus radically changes people’s lives to such an extent that some drop everything and follow Him.
You would think everyone would welcome Him with open arms, especially the synagogue leaders. But, until the time Jesus submits to Pontius Pilate’s God-given authority to have Him crucified, His fiercest battles are with religious people, including the Pharisees, the theologians of their day who had to memorize the first five books of the Bible before they could graduate.
At the age of 33, Jesus submits to the Father’s plan for the restoration of the human race that was set in motion after the Fall. There will be no victory parade. He is scourged with a metal-and-bone imbedded whip that exposes tendons and muscles in his back. After a crown of thorns is pushed on His head, He is beaten, mocked, stripped naked, and fastened to a wooden cross with spikes that are hammered through his hands and feet. This is all done in public—where the religious people sneer at Him as His life slips away.
Three days later, the Son of God rises from the dead and defeats death and sin. Those who believe in His atoning sacrifice are given His authority over the demonic realm and a host of other weapons and blessings (Ephesians 1, 2, 6; 2 Corinthians 10; Colossians 2; and more).
Satan hits back hard. Historians tell us that 11 of the 12 apostles die martyrs’ deaths. God appoints Paul, a former member of the religious clan that killed Jesus, as the man God will use to pen many of the New Testament letters. Paul is beaten multiple times, stoned and left for dead, whipped, and imprisoned. Tradition tells us Paul was in his early sixties when he was beheaded in Rome.
Let’s look at where we are today. As we saw in Chapter 1, Satan is rampaging through the US. How are we responding? In one generation, our churches have gone from singing “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” (a warfare hymn written by Martin Luther in 1529), “Onward Christian Soldiers,” and other hymns that depict the intense spiritual battles every true believer in Christ must face, to today’s tunes which include such rousing choruses as “You’re a good, good, father, it’s who you are, it’s who you are, it’s who you are….”
The songs we sing reflect our heart. It’s no coincidence that a church that doesn’t recognize the fierce spiritual battle it’s in chooses hymns from the well of “positive and encouraging.”
We must build our understanding of the Christian life from the perspective of war. There are generations where God grants peace, such as the days of King Solomon, but we’re not in such a time. Solomon’s generation enjoyed peace only because his father David, a “man of war who shed much blood” (1 Chronicles 28:3), was a warrior-king who went after Israel’s enemies and defeated them.
I pursued my enemies and overtook them,
and did not turn back till they were consumed.
I thrust them through,
so that they were not able to rise;
they fell under my feet.
For you equipped me with strength for the battle;
you made those who rise against me sink under me.
You made my enemies turn their backs to me,
and those who hated me I destroyed.
This past week has been rough. Last Sunday, a pressure cooker exploded in the kitchen in our house. My wife and I got in an argument and didn’t go to bed on good terms. I had what I call a warfare night that lasted well into the early morning, with thoughts of doubt, fear, and lust hurled at me, coupled with the feeling that something was pressing in on my chest. On Monday, we had strife at the office. Then on Tuesday, as I was taking my 15-year-old daughter to school, we came within inches of being T-boned by another car.
Being at war doesn’t mean we look for the demon behind every corner, and it never means our purpose is to chase them. That’s a trap meant to take your attention off the Lord and get you fighting in the flesh. Our mission is to love the Lord with all our heart, be a part of God’s work to set captives free, and make disciples. As we encounter the enemy along the road, we fight God’s way, but we don’t go on orc- hunts. Being at war also doesn’t mean we don’t rest, enjoy our loved ones, and have fun at times. Warriors need rest and recreation to recharge their batteries.
Assuming you’re up for the challenge of joining our army of Rogues, I will complete this chapter by equipping you for the basics of battle.
* Remember who your enemy is.
Your enemy is not your spouse or other people, but the demonic forces that come to “steal, kill, and destroy” (Ephesians 6:12). Part of their strategy is to keep you fighting against your loved ones and other brothers and sisters in Christ instead of with them against the real foe. This is why unity is so important, assuming those around you agree on the basic tenets of the faith.
* Spiritual attack can have a dark, invasive edge to it. Often demonic forces will throw subtle lie-darts at an emotional wound with unresolved pain, lies, or trauma from the past. You’ll want to get healing in those areas. Expose what you’re going through to the Lord, and ask Him for the wisdom and discernment for the next step.
Not every trial is about spiritual warfare. You wouldn’t want to treat a chemical or emotional issue like you would a battle with the enemy. Some believers make the mistake of thinking that if they can cast out the demon of lust, for example, that their struggles with sexual sin will go away. You can’t cast your flesh out, and temptation doesn’t stop this side of eternity.
* Satan is attacking marriages today. We are seeing Christian couples going through intense strife and other trials. The enemy knows how to trigger one spouse to spark a fight while he gets the other heated up to keep them at it. You can spend days or weeks with a dark cloud over your marriage if you don’t realize the cause is warfare.
Not long ago, Michelle and I went on our first trip without kids since the early years of our marriage. We got on the wrong foot from the first day, arguing over seemingly small issues. The tension in our relationship continued to build until the morning of the third day, when it got so bad that we started talking about spending the day apart. I was confused and asked the Lord what was going on. His reply: “Your marriage is under assault.” I told Michelle what God said, and after several minutes of warfare praying that included commanding the enemy to stop his attacks on our relationship, the dark cloud lifted, and Michelle and I were at ease with each other again.
A 1993 Gallup poll revealed that among married couples who pray together daily, the divorce rate is one out of 1,153. The divorce rate is the same as the national average for couples who don’t pray together consistently. Pray with your spouse every day.
* Praying scripture aloud is a powerful weapon that combines the living and powerful word of God (Hebrews 4:12) with the nuclear force of prayer. Psalms 91 is the great warfare chapter, and is my go-to.
* There will be battles when you will need to take up your authority in Christ (Ephesians 2) to resist the enemy (1 Peter 5:9) and command him to stop.
It’s 2012, and I’m in the second day of a five-day Daniel fast. From the time I awoke that morning, my mind was being assaulted with dark thoughts. I can usually tell when I’m getting hit with a spiritual attack versus a set of random thoughts fluttering through my mind, because the thoughts are evil and keep coming. There is a sense I’m being wailed on, which is what was happening that morning.
I prayed Scripture, but the assault kept coming. As I drove to the office, I got angry and shouted at the top of my voice, “In the name of Jesus Christ, I who am a citizen of heaven, seated with Christ in heaven, command any evil spirits that are messing with me in any way to stop, leave my presence, and go where Jesus sends you to go!”
* Some battles must be won with a different approach. Ask the Lord to show you the steps He wants you to take for victory. I have had situations when nothing worked and God told me to do something out of the ordinary, such as praise Him. During Old Testament times, God often gave the children of Israel a different strategy for victory. Jericho is a classic example.
* Warfare may be a result of sin that hasn’t been repented of or confessed. Frequent porn binges, or strongholds of bitterness or fear can be open doorways for the enemy to wreak havoc in your life and the lives of your family. Confess your sin to another brother or sister and ask them to pray for you (James 5:16), then ask God for the next step.
* If you’re getting attacked with the same lie and it’s not going away, ask the Lord to break its power, confess it as sin if needed and/or renounce it, then ask God to fill your heart with the truth. If there is an emotional wound attached to the lie, you may need to pray through it with someone who can help you in this area (we offer counseling at Blazing Grace if you want help).
* Surrender. “Submit therefore to God, resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). If the Lord has been telling you to obey in an area and you’ve put Him off, it could be that the key to victory lies in obedience. For example, if God has been telling you to forgive someone and you’ve refused, a spirit of bitterness may have a field day attacking you. All the spiritual warfare techniques in the world won’t help you. Once you’ve closed the door by forgiving the other person, it’s a simple matter of rejecting the enemy’s attacks by refusing to feed on the thoughts of bitterness.
* Don’t fear. Once the enemy has established a beach-head of fear in your life, he can use it to torment you. You will need to take a stand against fear, which can be done by confession, having others pray for you, and driving the stakes of God’s word in the ground of your soul. “The Lord said to trust Him with all my heart in Proverbs 3:5 and I will do so. I will not fear”… “God said I am not to fear because He’s with me… I will not fear no matter how I feel” (Isaiah 41:10). Fear may also be attached to an emotional wound. If you continue to struggle with fear, you may need outside help to walk through the process of healing.
* Filter every thought that comes through your mind with God’s word. Refuse to latch on to thoughts that don’t agree with His word or character. The only way to know God word is to saturate your mind with it. Read the Bible every day.
* Ask for prayer. If I’m getting hit with an overwhelming battle, I’ll text a friend and ask them to pray for me. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.