Two weeks ago we began our series titled “Spiritual Warfare”. In this series we have been looking at what the Bible says on the subject of spiritual warfare. In our introduction I mentioned the four realities of Spiritual warfare that I will talk about in our four week series. Two weeks ago, I talked about…
Ephesians 6:11, 12 (ESV)
This morning I have chosen to use the ESV translation of this passage because I think it gives a relevant look at the battle, we are engaged in. We are in a spiritual battle or a wrestling match, but our opponent is not human. The text says that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood” which is translated as human/mankind. We are not in a physical, emotional or political struggle with our fellow man; it’s not a battle of man against woman, Republican against Democrat, or church against church…our battle is spiritual. It is against rulers, authorities and evil powers of the spiritual realm. The enemy we wrestle with hates us, he wants to destroy us, and he will do whatever it takes to overpower us. This is frightening but as we will soon see this is nothing to be fearful of.
The Greek word for struggle or wrestle is the word “pale” (palay) and it means “wrestling (which is a contest between two in which each endeavors to throw the other, and which is decided when the victor is able to hold his opponent down with his hand upon his neck).” According to Webster’s 2 New Riverside Dictionary the word wrestle is defined as “struggle with an opponent in an attempt to throw or pin him down.” This is the goal of the sport of wrestling is, whether fake or real, the goal is to pin down your opponent.
Wrestling is a sport of strength, endurance, the mind and manipulation. Many moves of a wrestler are not the ones where you overpower with sheer brute strength your opponent, but many are moves of strategy where you set up your opponent (manipulate him) so you can use a tactical move that will give you victory.
There is a saying, generally said before going into battle or even before a wrestling match or any sporting event, “Know your opponent.” Why is this? Because if we have done our homework, studied our opponent’s tactics, and we have properly trained and prepared for our match, then we will have a plan than can lead to victory. This is why sports teams watch films of their opponents the week before a game; so, they can be familiar with plays, strategies and weaknesses and be victorious. The same goes for Christians in Spiritual warfare.
I talked about this last week. We need to know our enemy because he is crafty, deceitful and he will do whatever it takes to pin you down and destroy you. Our struggle or wrestle match is taking place in the spiritual dominion. Our opponents are the spiritual beings, authorities, powers, forces and rulers of evil in the heavenly realm. These include Satan and his legion of dark angels.
One of Satan’s maneuvers is to deceive people into believing he doesn’t exist, a metaphor or he is just a figment of our imagination. He is this character that people made up to represent evil. Some people think if you believe in this Satan character then you may be delusional or mentally unstable. However, the Bible talks about the reality of the devil, Satan, the dragon or Lucifer quite a bit. Jesus talks about him and many of the epistles reference him as well. He is alive and well and he is doing whatever he can to try and destroy God’s people. Another tactic he uses is convincing people he does exist but conclude that he is not as bad as he is made out to be.
The Devil’s Tactics
Satan’s tactics are always subtle. In the introduction I mentioned our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual dominion. Now, this is not to say that our battle does not make it into the physical or human realm. There are times our enemy influences others, meddles in relationships, and causes conflict and division among God’s people. This is also part of the battle and we must always remember it is not the person we are at war with, it is the spirit behind the battle. We will talk a little more about that in a moment.
Would you believe me if I told you that often conflict among believers and/or Churches is one of the main sources of our Spiritual Battle? Satan is never happier or pleased when God’s beloved children battle one another. However, the real question lies in what or who is the source behind our conflict? We are children of God who are saved by grace, since this is true why is it that we fight so often? There is a saying that goes like this, “Where two or more are gathered there will be conflict.” According to author Ken Sande, “Conflict affects our marriages, families, churches, neighborhoods and workplaces. It affects Christians and non-Christians alike, bringing us low, damaging our relationships, and tarnishing our witness to the world.” Is this what God wants for his people? I can boldly answer that question with an emphatic, “NO!”
James 4:1 – 6: “Where do quarrels and fights among you come from?” The answer, “It comes from selfish desires that are at war in us.” When we look at any unhealthy disunity or conflict in our lives it is almost always a guarantee that the root of the problem is selfish desire. We see this in the modern church. There are conflicts or fights over the style of music that is played for the time of worship, communion, baptism, theology, placement of furniture in the building, our core purpose, jealousy, bitterness, anger and they are all rooted in selfish desire. Douglas Moo writes, “The seventeenth century Jewish philosopher Spinoza observed: ‘I have often wondered that persons make boast of professing the Christian religion – namely love, joy, peace, temperance, and charity to all men – should quarrel with such rancorous animosity and display daily towards one another such bitter hatred, that this, rather than the virtues which they profess, is the readiest criteria of their faith.’ Some battles to be sure, need to be fought. But even they must be fought without sacrificing Christian principles and virtues.”
In the second verse James expands on the nature of these sinful desires and he uses some strong language to describe their actions like envy, kill, and covet. Now it is uncertain as to whether these people were actually killing one another out of selfish desire (which isn’t entirely improbable) but we can safely assume that he is using an analogy like Jesus as he describes.
At the beginning of the message I showed a video of the The Screwtape Letters which is a fictitious (but theologically sound) book written by C.S. Lewis. It is a fictional story about a demon named Screwtape who writes letters to his nephew, a junior tempter demon named Wormwood. He writes his letters with the purposes to advise him on methods to get the “Patient” (John Hamilton) to falter in his faith and fall into sin.
Lewis writes in the preface,
“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors, and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight. The sort of script which is used in this book can be very easily obtained by anyone who has once learned the knack; but ill-disposed or excitable people who might make a bad use of it shall not learn it from me.
Readers are advised to remember that the devil is a liar. Not everything that Screwtape says should be assumed to be true even from his own angle.”
In writing Lewis gives many examples of how the spiritual battle that is ongoing is engaged and fought. As he mentions and the Bible states, “Satan is a liar” and he will do whatever it takes to engage and overtake us in battle. I have three subtle tactics the devil uses to invite and engage us into a spiritual battle.
How to Fight the Battle and Win
So, this battle is intense. It is a fight we are engaged in whether we like it or not. There is a battle going on all around us and the Devil desires to do whatever he can to overthrow God’s people. So, how do we win this battle that we are in? There is no better battle plan than Jesus’ battle with Satan found in Luke 4:1 – 13.
First things first… If Jesus was tempted by the devil, then you and I must acknowledge that we are not exempt from the attacks of Satan. Since we are not Jesus, we are more vulnerable to his attacks. We are in battle and there is only one way to emerge victorious… By holding fast to God’s Word. We win the battle by the Word of God.
Jesus’ temptations were both plausible (they made sense) and attractive (enticing) just as they are to us today. Satan is a master deceiver so he will appeal to the intellect and he will appeal to the flesh. This is why it is important to hide the Word of God in our hearts. Hebrews 10:23 says, “Let us hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, since he who promised is faithful.” We are not strong or smart enough to ward off the Devil, but God is, and His Word is powerful enough to give us victory. Next week we will look at the victory that is promised to us.
 Biblical Peacemaking: Applying the Gospel to Conflicts of Daily Life (Peacemakers Ministries 2011), www.peacemaker.net
 Moo, p. 181
Jeff has been in ministry for well over two decades. He currently serves as Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Southside Campus in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). Both are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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