Spiritual Warfare

I had one of those “chance” conversations last week. It came out in conversation that I was a “church boy” (I think that’s how it was put… how flattering!) and we soon got to talking about what true Christianity is. Praise God for these opportunities to witness.

What was remarkable to me was that this individual claimed to be atheist, and yet accepted the existence of ghosts. They spoke of a time they were asleep, and in the night felt a force or being pulling off the bedcover, and they were physically struggling to keep it on. Spooky! In the course of conversation, I explained how Christianity accepts and affirms spiritual manifestations, but that it is demonic, not ghostly. What is the purpose of it? I was asked. The answer: deception. I don’t believe the spirit had particular interest in making this person chilly for the night! No, the objective is to deceive. If Satan can lead people to believe anything other than the simple and profound truth of the Gospel, then he is pleased. Whether one believes that there is no spiritual realm, or is in utter bondage to spiritual powers; whether one is puffed up with self-righteousness, or self-abased and feeling worthless and unlovable, Satan is satisfied. Believe in ghosts all you want. Or don’t, and be an avowed materialist. Either way is fine by him.

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Before we come to the Lord Jesus Christ, we were Satan’s. Take a look at this passage:

Ephesians 2:1-3

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

Here’s Paul’s assessment of our lives pre-Christ. Our behaviour was governed by our own passions and desires, and we followed the world’s course, but notice also the spiritual element: “the prince of the power of the air” is a spirit at work in “the sons of disobedience,” that is, everyone outside of Christ. So in you and me — pre-Christ — Satan’s spirit was at work, keeping us in bondage.

Paul continues in Ephesians 2 to speak of the great salvation we have. But look how he puts it here in Colossians:

Colossians 2:15
He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him

At the Cross, the victory was won. He triumphed over Satan, death and hell, and by believing in His Name, we receive “the immeasurable riches of His grace.” The war has been won. And yet, I think you and I both know, battles still rage. Satan still fights to keep the lost, and remains fiercely antagonistic to the Christian life.

In 2 Corinthians 2:11, Paul is teaching “so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.” Paul says this because he knows that Satan is a real, malevolent opponent of God, the Church and the Gospel. To Paul, it’s important that we understand Satan’s M.O. and how we can have victory. So, this post is the first of what I plan to be a mini-series on spiritual warfare. Over the next few weeks, I aim to explore each of the following headings, focusing on how Satan’s attacks may come, and how we ought to respond.

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As I’ve already discussed above, one of his primary weapons is deception. The very name, Satan, means deceiver. No wonder, in John 8:44, Jesus Christ calls him the “father of lies.” Why was it, by her own confession, that Eve ate the forbidden fruit? “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” How does Satan deceive today? How can I recognise deception? What can I do to mitigate against it?

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The name of “the Tempter” is used of Satan in Matthew 4:3 and 1 Thessalonians 3:5. He tempted the Lord Jesus Christ, and Paul expressed concern that he could have also caused harm to the Thessalonian church through temptation. Temptation is a very real experience for all Christians, and many of us struggle to the point of accepting defeat. How can we move forward on this, and have greater victory?

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Once we have succumbed to his temptations, he then swiftly moves to his role of accusation. The word for Devil, in fact, means “slanderer.” In Revelation 12:10 he is called “the accuser of our brothers.” What provision has God put in His word to help us? Is there any action we should take if we experience this kind of attack?

I hope this will be a useful short series. Questions and comments are welcome!

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