I’ve been feeling the spiritual battle again. The reality is, it never really stops. We are never out of it. But some events make us more aware lf it than others. I guess the last few weeks have made me very aware lf it again.
If you are a theologically conservative evangelical Christian (like myself) and you spend any time reading their blogs and scrolling through their social media feeds, you will discover a favorite pastime: talking about what is wrong, missing, or avoided in the Church at large. While I wonder about the effectiveness of such an approach, I will take my chances and throw my own hat into the ring.
I don’t think we pay enough attention to this:
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings (1 Peter 5:8-9, NIV).
The Bible clearly teaches that Satan is both defeated, and is still an enemy. This is crucial to understand, and something I think we conservative evangelicals and especially Reformed types (again, like myself) tend to gloss over. Sometimes we focus so much on the gravity of the fall and the depth of original sin that we don’t bother to look outside of ourselves for the cause of suffering and sin. But I have been learning that if you are going to advance very far in the Christian life, you have to live in light of that reality. That means accepting three things as true.
The first is understanding that Satan and demons are real. They are not fictional characters or metaphors or symbols, they are real beings, as real as you and me. Satan and demons are angelic beings who rebelled against God and have been cast out of heaven. Paul makes it very clear that Satan and demons are real, saying in Ephesians 6:12 (NIV), For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Not only are Satan and devils real, they are not in heaven or hell, but here on earth. Three times Jesus refers to Satan as the prince of this world (John 12:31, 14:30, and 16:11). Paul refers to him as the god of this age in 2 Corinthians 4:4, and as the ruler of the kingdom of the air in Ephesians 2:2. Revelation 12:9 tells us that Satan was the serpent who lead Adam and Eve to sin. Satan accused Job in Job 1:9 and 2:4. He enticed David to sin in 1 Chronicles 21:1. He accused Joshua the High Priest before God in Zechariah 3:2. He tempted Christ in the wilderness. He was behind Peter’s insistence that Jesus would not need to go to the cross in Mark 8:33. John 13:27 says that Satan was behind Judas’ betrayal of Christ. Satan and demons are real, and they have been adversaries of God and accusers of His people from the beginning. In fact Satan means “Accuser,” or “Adversary.”
The second reality we need to accept is that Satan was defeated at the cross. When Satan made Adam and Eve sin in the Garden of Eden, he was sure he had found a way to permanently corrupt God’s creation, and doom humanity to God’s wrath, taking away the entire human race whom God had made in His image for Himself and for His glory. But he was wrong. The author of Hebrews tells us in Hebrews 2:14 (NIV), Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil. Once our sin was punished in the death of Christ, Satan’s power over us was destroyed. So Paul says in Colossians 2:13-15 (NIV),
When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
Satan has been disarmed. There is now nothing he can accuse us of before God. Not only are we no longer condemned, but we are now free again to be totally loved by God. What Satan thought he had undone at the fall, God restored in an irrevocable way at the cross. So Paul is moved to say in Romans 8:37-39 (NIV),
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Jesus totally defeated Satan at the cross.
The third reality is that Satan is still a dangerous enemy. Revelation 12:12 (NIV) says,
But woe to the earth and the sea,
because the devil has gone down to you!
He is filled with fury,
because he knows that his time is short.
Satan is not locked up. He knows that he has been defeated, but he is still fighting. He is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Paul warns in 1 Corinthians 10:20 that it is Satan and demons who are behind the idols of other nations. He warns Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:1 (NIV) The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. He was aware that Satan was scheming against him and the work of the Apostles so he needed to be careful that he was not outwitted (2 Corinthians 2:11). A few chapters later in 2 Corinthians 11:12-15 (NIV) he says,
And I will keep on doing what I am doing in order to cut the ground from under those who want an opportunity to be considered equal with us in the things they boast about. For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness.
Satan and demons are real. He has been defeated. They are still fighting, full of fury over what happened at the cross, and all the more because they know their time is short.
Examples? Let me share a few…
When my wife Mandi was 32 weeks along in her pregnancy with Rachel she had severe complications that landed her in the hospital for a week and a half. After she came home she had a hard time sleeping. I had sleep apnea but was not diagnosed yet, meaning I snored—loud enough to wake the dead. So I was banished to the living room couch.
Late that night, she woke up to a heavy oppressive force on her chest, arms, legs, and unborn baby, that made her feel that the life was literally draining out of her body and out of our baby. No matter how much she tried, she could not move, nor could she make a sound. She was terrified.
Then Mandi prayed. She prayed with everything in her, “In the name of Jesus Christ, get off my back Satan! I am His, not yours. I am Jesus’s!” She prayed that over and over again. Finally, she was able to get up, and she ran sobbing to me. We prayed together for her protection and for the protection of Rachel claiming the hope of Psalm 22:9-10 (NLTse),
Yet you brought me safely from my mother’s womb and led me to trust you at my mother’s breast. I was thrust into your arms at my birth. You have been my God from the moment I was born.
Then she was able to go back to sleep.
Sometimes spiritual attacks are overt. Overt attacks are obviously evil, like the attack that Mandi had when she was pregnant with Rachel.
More often however they are covert attacks; as Paul says Satan likes to appear as an angel of light. His specialty is deception, lies, and misdirection. The enemy is an expert at temptation, and at manipulating pride and fear. There have been times when Mandi and I have all the sudden lost it with each other and in the midst of arguing we start asking ourselves, “What are we fighting about?” And it occurs to us that we might be under attack. As soon as we started to pray not only did the fighting stop but the rage disappeared as well. Has that ever happened to you?
Let me give you another example of a covert attack. You decide that you are going to spend 30 minutes every night reading your Bible and praying. I am willing to bet that more often than not your experience follows this pattern….
- The day you decide to start you do it and you feel great and you become even more committed to the idea.
- The next night you get a long distance phone call from an old friend.
- The next day you have to work late and get home late and go right to bed.
- The next day the toilet needs a new balloon and you have to go out to Home Depot and because of the line you are out for more than an hour.
- The next day you think about it, it’s a week later and you are amazed at how busy you are and wonder how you will ever make the time to read the Bible.
Do you really think all that was simply coincidence? That, my friends, is one of the favorite and most successful attacks of the Enemy! To the enemy you are not a civilian; you are a military target. It does not matter your age, your race, or your sex. You are a target.
Their attacks have one goal: to get you to take your eyes off Jesus, to stop talking to Him, so that you doubt His promises, remain trapped in guilt and shame, and focus on your sin instead of God’s grace.
We don’t have to worry about lions attacking us on our way to work or when we walk down to Starbucks for a coffee. But just because that threat isn’t real for most of us, we should not be unaware that there are more dangerous things than lions hunting for us. Remember 1 Peter 5:8-9,
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.