What is Spiritual Warfare?

Machew is a guest writer to ETM, and as such the views expressed in this article may not be the views of ETM and its staff.

It is incredibly important for the church as a whole to understand spiritual warfare.  Too often Christians delegate their struggles to their flesh not realizing that much of what you think and feel doesn’t originate from you at all.  We have a very real enemy that will stop at nothing to get you to convince yourself with his lies to undermine your walk with Jesus and to make destructive decisions in your life.  For this reason, I write this article.

Before I start with Spiritual Warfare, I need to lay down some Biblical Context:

We will start in Genesis:

Genesis 1:26-30 (NASB)(emphasis mine)

26Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.

27God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

28God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.

29Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you;

30and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so.

So what is the point I want to make in this passage? God gave Adam and Eve delegated authority to rule over the Earth. We all know how this story ends, the devil comes in the form of a serpent and Adam and Eve eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and they fall because of sin. The devil had no authority over the Earth before the fall. So how did he get his authority?

When Adam and Eve came into agreement with the devil’s assessment of reality, they sinned. And because there was no atonement for sin at the time, they were separated from God and their agreement with the devil essentially handed over their delegate authority over the Earth to the devil. (John 12:31, John 14:30, 2 Corinthians 4:4, Matthew 4:8-10)

Next I will give some basic groundwork to what spiritual warfare is.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NASB)(emphasis mine)

3For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh,

4for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.

5We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,

So according 2 Corinthians spiritual battles happen in our mind and thought life. Why is this the case?

In Matthew 4:8-10 Jesus is tempted by the devil, as the devil offers Jesus all of the kingdoms of the world if he bows down to him and worships him. The devil still had the authority and rulership over the Earth from Adam and Eve. But after the resurrection of Jesus, He says to His disciples in Matthew 28:18 “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me

If Jesus now has “all authority” over the Earth, this means that the devil now has no authority. Jesus took back Adam and Eve’s authority from Satan. He was able to do this because their sin was now completely atoned for.

So the question you probably have now is: “How then is the devil able to do so much evil on the Earth?”

The question to ask is: How did the devil gain authority in the Garden of Eden?

He hasn’t changed his strategy at all. Look at 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 again. The battle is in our mind. The weapons formed against us are thoughts and speculations that exalt themselves above the knowledge of God. Why are these weapons used? Because the devil needs your agreement in what he wants to do before he has authority to do it. Jesus gave back authority over the Earth to humans. Before Jesus dies on the cross He states the following to His disciples:

Matthew 16:19 (NASB)

19I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

So the devil is able to steal, kill, and destroy when humans come into agreement with what he says (thoughts, emotions manifested from thoughts).

This is what 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 is talking about when it says the weapons of our warfare are not carnal. The fortresses that it is referring to are areas in our thought life that we are in agreement with the devil. The devil builds on your current agreements with him, to bring in more deception into your life. Essentially the agreement with the devil (fortress) is a place where he can hide in your life and have authority in that area of your life. This fortress is what the enemy hides behind to assault you with more lies, to try to gain more ground in your life.

So to review: The devil is only able to operate on the Earth through human agreement.

So what does this mean?

The devil is only able to operate in your life through your agreements with his lies, and the agreement of lies that the people in authority over you believe (ie: parents, teachers, government authorities).

This is why it is so important to constantly be studying and filling your heart and mind with the Word of God. The Word of God is what reveals deceptions you are believing, that allow the enemy into your life, and the lives of those under you.

Hebrews 4:12 (NASB)(emphasis mine)

12For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

For this to work though, you need to be born again and filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit’s help is a necessity in understanding the Bible and to know how it applies to everyday life.  Only through the Holy Spirit does the truth of the Bible penetrate your heart and actually change you (2 Corinthians 3:6, John 16:13, John 14:16-17, Romans 8:27, Isaiah 11:2, Ephesians 1:17).

The current situation we face is having a whole world of people where most people are not born again, and the devil is able to wreak havoc over the Earth because people are constantly in agreement with him. But God has given believers the keys to His kingdom. God’s Kingdom is superior to this kingdom(the Earth), and Jesus tells us to model our prayer like this:

Matthew 6:9-10 (NASB)(emphasis mine)
9″Pray, then, in this way:

‘Our Father who is in heaven,

Hallowed be Your name.

10’Your kingdom come

Your will be done,

On earth as it is in heaven.

So then we are to bring the dominion of God’s Kingdom to Earth (God’s government/way of doing things), whether it be through the salvation of others, loving the unlovable, giving all of your possessions, or worshiping Him through praise. In the words of Matthew 6, His “…Kingdom Come…Will be done…On Earth As it is in Heaven.” So if it is happening in heaven it should be happening here. If it is not happening in heaven it shouldn’t be happening here. When God’s kingdom is brought to Earth it enforces what Jesus did on the cross and destroys the work of the devil in our lives, and in the lives of others. Spiritual warfare cannot be won by human strength as 2 Corinthians 10 tells us, but as indicated, only by divinely powerful weapons. And we have no divinely powerful weapons by ourselves. But we do have God’s Word; whether it is from the Bible, something God has spoken to you recently, or something God told you before. God always backs up His Word with the resources of His superior Kingdom. But just reciting God’s word isn’t enough!

His Word Becoming Who We Are:

When we read the Bible, have relationship with Him through prayer (conversation), and meditate on what He has said or is saying, it opens our hearts to receive His Word and Truth. Truth that we only believe conceptually or intellectually will falter when tested. But Truth that has become a part of us deep down in our core, our very being, and heart can never be shaken. This is why we are not only supposed to hear and read the Word but receive it implanted into our hearts (James 1:21). And as James 1 describes the Word of God given to us will be tested but proven true to us by experience through perseverance in the testing trial. Once we have God’s Word truly implanted in us, because it has proven to be true under testing and trial, no argument, emotion, or lofty thing will ever be able to get us to doubt what God has said. And we are then able to stand firm, in boldness, and in confidence against the devil’s lies. When we are able to fully believe God’s Word deep in our very being, we are finally actually fully capable to “Submit…to God” which is when God uses His divinely powerful weapons, giving us what we need to “Resist the devil” causing him to “flee from you” (James 4:7) Until we truly believe what God has said and have the faith to believe it, it is impossible to submit to God(specifically submitting to what He has said to us). As Hebrews 11:6 says it is impossible to please God without faith.

God brings every believer through this process for our benefit, that His Word would literally become a part of us, so that we would become the walking Word of God. God’s plan is that we would literally become the image of the Living God. The devil has no weapon that works against this kind of believer.

Blessings,

Machew

The Humanity of Christ

It is well known that Jesus came in the form of man, and He experienced life on earth, going through all of the problems we go through, all of the hurt we go through, and experienced pain, suffering, and loss just like the rest of us.  We all know this, but in the back of our minds is a thought that since Jesus is God made flesh, He really did not, or could not have gone through as much pain and suffering as we go through.

Great Loss

When thinking of how Jesus went through loss of personal relationships, two people come to mind.  First is Joseph, his father.  We do not know for sure what happened to Joseph, but we do know that Joseph was there when Jesus was twelve in the temple (Luke 2:28), then we never see him again in scripture. When Jesus was dying on the cross he tells John to take care of his mom, something Jesus would not have to do if his father was still alive (John 19:26-27).  This also shows that Jesus cared about his mom, he wanted her to be well taken care of, something any of us would want.

Another powerful passage in the Bible is when Jesus’ close friend, Lazarus, died.  Jesus got word that Lazarus was not feeling well and then after he died Jesus made his way to visit.  Seeing the women weeping over Lazarus and then seeing the grave himself was too much for Jesus, and “Jesus wept” (John 11:35).  This simple verse showing that Jesus had compassion, felt pain, even though he knew Lazarus would not be dead for much longer, it was still painful to him.

Isaiah 53:3 He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Great Suffering

I think it is downright impossible for us to understand the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross.  All to often I hear others, or even think in the back of my own mind, that what Jesus went through was bad but at least he knew the end result so it was not that bad.  How wrong can we get? Not only did Jesus get tortured and executed, but his status with God was, for the first time in all existance, severed from the Father (Mark 15:34).  Can you imagine what this would have been like? Do you think Jesus was anxious at all, or wished that he could avoid what was ahead?

Jesus did not want to go through with what was ahead and prayed for God to remove this trial from his only begotten son (John 22:42).  Jesus, “being in agony, prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” (John 22:44)

Yes, Jesus was human, he had compassion, felt the pain of loss felt great anxiety. Jesus went through the pain that we went through, even more so.

So why did He do it?  Jesus prayed “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me: nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” (John 22:42).  Do you not think that the loving father would take such trials from His only begotten son? But he did not, why?  Because it was the only way.

Isaiah 53:4-5 Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.

“He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever.” (Hebrews 10:12)  Jesus died, do you really understand that? Jesus, our creator, was beaten, tortured, betrayed, and executed for you!

Acts 3:19
Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,

2 Corinthians 7:10
Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.

John Piper, in Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ writes

Therefore, this man of indestructible joy was “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me” (Matthew 26:38). This “great high priest” is not unable to sympathize with us in our weakness, becasue he was tested in every way as a man like us (Hebrews 4:14-15). He wept with those who wept (John 11:35) and rejoiced with those who rejoiced (Luke 10:27, 21). He was hungry (Matthew 4:2), he was weary (John 4:6), he was forsaken (Matthew 26:56), betrayed (Matthew 26:45), whipped (Matthew 27:26), mocked (Matthew 27:31), and crucified (Matthew 27:35).

Jesus can and did relate to us, he felt pain suffering and loss.  Why did he go through all of this pain and suffering?  Because only through Jesus can we be reconciled with God.  Jesus went through all of that, only for you, what do you do for him?