Christianity 201

April 23, 2010

Spiritual Warfare

The posts on this blog tend to be short and to the point.   But this time around, I thought I’d post the text from my upcoming Sunday sermon.    Currently, I’m only speaking about once every couple of months.   I really wrestled with what to do this time around; I started to write an outline only to be driven back to old notes.   But then these notes kind of jumped off the page, and with a little reworking, here’s what I’ve got so far:

This Means War!

  • Imagine you are one of the people being sworn in as a new citizen
  • You correctly answer all the questions about George Washington or Sir John A. MacDonald if you’re in Canada
  • You attend a ceremony where you are officially welcomed as a citizen
  • You’re then told the country is at war and you are needed to serve
  • You’ve been drafted, and you truly didn’t see that coming!

1) We are in a war.

In a way, that’s what happens when someone decides to live their life as a Christ-follower.      When we think of “spiritual warfare” we tend to think that

  • this is something involving angels and demons
  • this is something Pentecostal and Charismatic people talk about
  • this is the stuff of fringe Christian TV channels
  • this references stories of spiritual conflict in places like central Africa or S. America

However, if we go the other extreme, and totally discount the concept of spiritual warfare, we become hard pressed to explain much of what is taking place in our world.

The warfare model proves true.   There are spiritual forces behind a lot of things we take for granted:

Eph 6:12 For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms.

But anytime we

  • pick up the morning paper
  • surf the internet
  • watch the evening news

we clearly see a conflict of ideologies; where the ideals of Christian people come into conflict with the larger world.   We see this with:

  • creation versus evolution
  • gay marriage and other gender issues
  • pacificism versus ‘just war’
  • social justice versus capitalism

Unless we truly hide our personal convictions, or don’t stand up for what we’ve been taught in Church or taught from the Bible, there will come a time when our views will be in conflict with what it seems the larger society believes and practices.

2Ti 3:12 Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.

At this point I have a list of 25 different ways what the world says differs from the Kingdom of God, taken from a 1970’s book by then-youth-evangelist Larry Tomczak.

2)     We are fighting on enemy territory.

The director of the Ottawa airport recently opposed the federal government pulling the funding for airport security because “Terrorism is not against the airlines or the airport, it’s against the state.”

Similarly, people whose views are against what Christ-followers believe are not fighting against us personally, they are fighting against God; they are fighting against Jesus; they are fighting against the Holy Spirit.

But God is in heaven.   The place we have sworn our allegiance to is not under siege.  In fact positionally speaking victory in this battle has already been assured.   But we are needed to fight the battle on foreign soil.

1Pe 2:11 Dear brothers and sisters, you are foreigners and aliens here. So I warn you to keep away from evil desires because they fight against your very souls.

It is a battle very similar to what takes place currently in Iraq or Afghanistan.  Our soldiers, our government and our citizens have no issues with the people as much as we are fighting against an ideology with which we disagree and which we feel threatens freedom everywhere, including back home in North America and western Europe.

Jhn 15:19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.

3)     We are not to use the enemy’s weapons

Living out the principles of Christianity means that objectively, you could say “It’s not a fair fight.”

2Cr 10:3 We are human, but we don’t wage war with human plans and methods.

(We don’t fight the way the world fights.)

2Cr 10:4 We use God’s mighty weapons, not mere worldly weapons, to knock down the Devil’s strongholds.

(We fight with weapons that are different from those the world uses)

2Cr 10:5 With these weapons we break down every proud argument that keeps people from knowing God. With these weapons we conquer their rebellious ideas, and we teach them to obey Christ.

(Our weapons work!  They capture every thought, every worldview, and make it give up!)

One of the battlefields on which the war currently wages is the Internet.   Does “not using the world’s weapons” mean we shouldn’t use the Internet to get our message out there?  No, this has more to do with the substance of our response rather than the medium.

For example

  • What’s the opposite to an internet site devoted to promoting incest, or inter-generational sex, or pre-adolescent sex?  (see my book for more on this)
  • Usual answer:  An internet site that shows these things to be contrary to God’s will, the Bible; with support from psychologists and other experts indicating the great potential for individual and societal destruction

It might be useful to have some response like that online, to write letters to the editor of the newspaper countering those views when they are presented.

But in the spirit of the text,

  • What’s the opposite to an internet site devoted to promoting incest, or intergenerational sex, or pre-adolescent sex?
  • It might be a website that seeks out such people and instead presents them with the picture of Jesus Christ that leads to a desire to know him, and to eventually come to trust that His ways, His plan is better; and to surrender control of their life to Him and determine to try to live life on His terms, according to His perfect wisdom.

(The Message translation of II Cor 10: 3-6) The world is unprincipled. It’s dog-eat-dog out there! The world doesn’t fight fair. But we don’t live or fight our battles that way—never have and never will. The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity.

4)     We may lose some skirmishes but eventually we win the war

We can do this!  Previously attained perfection is not required.

Rom 7:21 It seems to be a fact of life that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong.

And that was Paul!   But using the language of the Olympic games, he “pressed on toward the prize” and wrote:

2Cr 12:6 I have plenty to boast about and would be no fool in doing it, because I would be telling the truth. But I won’t do it. I don’t want anyone to think more highly of me than what they can actually see in my life and my message,

2Cr 12:7 even though I have received wonderful revelations from God. But to keep me from getting puffed up, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from getting proud.

2Cr 12:8 Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away.

2Cr 12:9 Each time he said, “My gracious favor is all you need. My power works best in your weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may work through me.

2Cr 12:10 Since I know it is all for Christ’s good, I am quite content with my weaknesses and with insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

We are the “occupying army” that God has to work with on this enemy territory.  Yes, it makes no human sense!

1Cr 1:25 This “foolish” plan of God is far wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is far stronger than the greatest of human strength.

1Cr 1:26 Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes, or powerful, or wealthy when God called you.

1Cr 1:27 Instead, God deliberately chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose those who are powerless to shame those who are powerful.

1Cr 1:28 God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important,

1Cr 1:29 so that no one can ever boast in the presence of God.

But we are “people in process,” people being changed into something new.

2Cr 5:14 Whatever we do, it is because Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for everyone, we also believe that we have all died to the old life we used to live.
2Cr 5:15 He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live to please themselves. Instead, they will live to please Christ, who died and was raised for them.

2Cr 5:16 So we have stopped evaluating others by what the world thinks about them. Once I mistakenly thought of Christ that way, as though he were merely a human being. How differently I think about him now!
2Cr 5:17 What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun!

The result is that we are to take on the “form” of a Holy God.

Eph 5:26b-27 (Message) – Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness.

But it begins with us as individuals: 

Rom 12:2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is.

1 Comment »

  1. […] years ago, I wrote about the dynamics of spiritual warfare in this post. I think it’s well written and it’s filled with scripture references, but it fails […]

    Pingback by Unseen Warfare Going on Constantly « Christianity 201 — October 22, 2012 @ 5:01 pm | Reply

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