Christianity 201

August 2, 2019

De-Mystifying Spiritual Warfare

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.


“Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you.”  Luke 10:19

About a year ago we borrowed an item here from the the New Wineskins blog at Patheos by Josh Draffern, and yesterday I decided to see what he’s been writing lately, where I came across this article. I really felt this opened a frequently-discussed topic in a new way, and I hope you’ll agree. Click the title below to read this at source, and bookmark the site so you can make return visits.

What If You Could Take the Mystery Out of Spiritual Warfare?

What if you could take the mystery out of spiritual warfare? Growing up as a church kid, there were several Bible passages that continually fascinated me. Whenever the story of David and Goliath was told (1 Samuel 17), I would imagine that I was there in the crowd, watching history unfold. I loved imagining that like Peter I might have had enough faith to walk on water when Jesus gave the invitation (Matthew 14:22-33). Right up near the top was Paul’s picture of spiritual warfare and the description of the armor of God in Ephesians 6:10-18. The imagery of swords and shields was very compelling for a middle school boy, and the thought of fighting demons seemed like the real life version of all those fairytales I heard growing up where the hero slayed the dragon and saved the princess. For years, that’s where my understanding of spiritual warfare remained: medieval sword fights and imaginary battles with demons.

What if you could take the mystery out of spiritual warfare? When I finished high school and went off to a Christian college I continued to be interested in the topic of spiritual warfare and for the first time was exposed to books outside my narrow field of evangelical teaching. The good news was that there was a whole spectrum of teaching on spiritual warfare out there, especially from the pentecostal and charismatic stripe of Christianity, that claimed to know all sorts of fascinating information about spiritual warfare. The bad news was that too often these books left any semblance of biblical grounding behind and relied on supernatural revelations that changed from book to book. In the end, I was left with little I could trust and less I could understand.

What if you could take the mystery out of spiritual warfare? After college I spent two years overseas in Africa as a missionary through the International Mission Board, the missions agency of the Southern Baptist Convention. There in Africa I saw two distinct demonic manifestations happen with my first month of being there, moments that made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. Finally, this seemed like what I had always expected spiritual warfare to be like! But as quickly as they appeared, they dissipated. No more demonic manifestations after that, nothing that fit the stereotypical episode of spiritual warfare. Just normal, mundane, everyday life. Could spiritual warfare exist if nothing extraordinary appeared to be happening?

What if you could take the mystery out of spiritual warfare? Once I came back to the United States and began working full-time in local churches as a youth pastor, I began to see the evidence of spiritual warfare all around me. Good Christian marriages were falling apart left and right, entirely preventable divorces were being filed, and kids were left with emotional scars from a broken childhood that would threaten to haunt them for generations. Good kids from good homes were making bad decisions that left life-long consequences. Division and strife riled through churches as the enemy seemingly went unchecked in our midst. Like a dull ache in the back of my head, I knew we were being defeated in spiritual warfare, but I didn’t know how to fight back. Should I purchase a sword and shield? Did I need to go demon hunting or go searching for territorial powers like the books I read in college suggested? Should I wait for an undeniable demonic manifestation and deal with it then? Even after decades following Jesus and reading the Bible, the mystery of spiritual warfare remained simply that: a mystery.

What if you could take the mystery out of spiritual warfare? As the years went by and I became a senior pastor of a local church, I had the opportunity to teach through the armor of God in Ephesians 6 on a number of occasions. In preparation for a message, trying to grasp the armor of God in a way that could help my congregation (and myself) better understand Paul’s teaching on spiritual warfare, I tried a different approach, one I ultimately believe was prompted by the Holy Spirit. Instead of focusing on the pieces of armor, as I had always done and as commentaries always did, I ignored the pieces of armor completely and simply focused on what was attached to the pieces of armor. That small shift changed everything.

When you think of a marriage, if you had to settle on one image or one event that best encapsulates a marriage it would most likely be the wedding day. A wedding is a beautifully scripted ceremony that visually captures and celebrates the love and commitment between a husband and wife. From the flowers and the cake to the wedding dress and corsages, the beauty and elegance of the wedding ceremony celebrates the finest of what a marriage should be. Yet no one would try and make the argument that the only way to properly be married is to dress up every day in your tuxedo or wedding dress and walk down a rose petal strewn church aisle. In fact, if someone made a routine of putting on their wedding dress or tux so they could be married that day, he or she would be missing the whole point. Marriage isn’t the tuxedo or wedding dress, those are merely symbols. It’s the love and commitment represented by the wedding ceremony that’s the key.

When Paul writes to first century Christians to instruct them on the basics of spiritual warfare, he gives them a metaphor to hold onto, a symbol. He describes spiritual warfare in terms that mirrored the physical warfare every reader would have been familiar with. Every first-century believer reading Paul’s letter to the Ephesians would have been painfully aware of the power of the Roman soldier. And just as the Roman army conquered the known world of the time, Paul instructed early Christians on how to be just as victorious in the spiritual battles that raged around them. But the pieces of armor have always been a metaphor. It doesn’t make any more sense to think the key to spiritual warfare is putting on pieces of armor than to think that the key to a successful marriage is to wear your wedding dress or wedding tux every single day. The key isn’t the pieces of armor, but what’s attached to the pieces armor. Right there, hiding in plain sight, we discover the steps we need to begin to win the war in the spiritual.

 

This is an excerpt from (hopefully) an upcoming book to be published on spiritual warfare. [For meaningful conversations on this and all my other content, join my Facebook Group: Josh Daffern Digital]

 

January 16, 2019

Five Practices Needed to Ward Off Lack of Faith

The major takeaway I took from today’s devotional is that spiritual warfare is not always an external battle; it may begin with an inner fight.

Today we’re paying a return visit to the devotional page at Daily Paradigm Shift. We visit these blogs either annually or every six months in the hope that at some of them you’ll see writing which resonates and want to bookmark or subscribe to their sites.

Today’s writer is Brian Maisch.

5 Tactics for Fighting Unbelief

It could be argued that the greatest enemy in our spiritual walk is unbelief. Someone might say, “No, it’s Satan.” However, as one of my favorite Christian teachers likes to say, “The bible doesn’t say, ‘pick up your cross, deny the devil, and follow Jesus.’ It says, ‘Deny yourself, and follow Jesus‘ (Matthew 16:24 NIV emphasis added.)

In Mark Chapter 9, Jesus’ disciples are unable to cast a demon out of a boy. Then Jesus shows up on the scene and is able to cast it out. When they get alone with Jesus, the disciples ask Him why they couldn’t cast out the demon, and Jesus tells them that it is because of their unbelief. Jesus’ exact answer to the disciples is, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20 NIV).

Related Post: 4 Ways to Remain Grounded and Steadfast in Your Faith

Brothers and sisters, we live under an open heaven! Satan has already been defeated. Jesus has given us the authority in the heavenly realms to unlock any door that needs to be unlocked in order to carry out His will on this earth. Matthew 18:18 NIV says, “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” The only battle left to fight is the one we fight with ourselves to dispel unbelief and to trust God!

If the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead lives in us, then there is absolutely nothing the enemy can put in front of us that is more powerful than that Spirit. It’s not even a competition! Therefore, the enemy’s main tactic is to get us to doubt. He is constantly trying to instill unbelief, while the Holy Spirit is constantly working to instill faith. The enemy’s main tactic is to twist the truth in such a way that we begin believing things that are incorrect about God and incorrect about ourselves. Sometimes it seems like the enemy’s main weapon is the Bible itself! He twists and distorts scripture to confuse people and keep their lives from bearing fruit for the Kingdom.

So how do we practically fight? I wanted to provide a quick list of things that have helped me experience victories in fighting unbelief:

#1. Spending intimate and meaningful time in the presence of God.

Spending intimate and meaningful time in the presence of God is the most important activity in our lives. It helps us to establish a relationship with our creator. It is where we learn His nature, His voice, His touch and His will. This is how we practically allow Jesus to teach us and guide us in every step of our lives.

#2. Reading God’s word.

Maybe it would be better to say falling in love with God’s word. This goes right along with the first point. God’s word brings clarity and insight into the things that God is saying to us. It shows us God’s nature, and helps us to understand His will.

#3. Guarding our hearts and minds.

The enemy has set up the world system to fight for our affection. It will constantly try to turn us away from Jesus, and towards our own selfish desires. Therefore, we have to draw lines in the sand. We have to protect ourselves from destructive mindsets and behaviors. Part of that process is controlling what we allow into our minds. Over the years, I have had to stop watching certain television shows that I knew were destructive, distance myself from certain friends who were pulling me in the wrong direction, and surround myself with people who would hold me accountable in my areas of struggle.

#4. Hanging around people with outrageous faith.

Bill Johnson, senior pastor of Bethel Church, always says, “If you want to slay giants, then hang around a giant slayer.” We all need people in our lives who stretch our faith and compel us to deeper levels of reality in the Kingdom!

#5. Fasting.

There have been so many times where I could feel the snares of the world getting a hold of me and smothering the faith in my life. Declaring a fast is a way to draw a strict line in the sand, and to separate ourselves from the worldly things that have become louder than heavenly things. Whether it is food, social media, television, or all the above, fasting is great way to unplug from the world and get plugged back into God.

These are just a few tools that have helped me in my journey. The bible provides many weapons for fighting unbelief. No matter what weapon you choose, the most important thing is engaging in the fight! Instead of rolling over and giving in to yourself, make the choice to proactively fight to dispel unbelief!

May 29, 2016

Building Faith

img 052916•••by Russell Young

What is faith?  It is well worth the believer’s time and effort to come to some understanding of what “faith” really means.  Because it is usually left undefined and unclear, people apply meaning according to their own imaginations.  Strong’s Greek Dictionary identifies faith as “persuasion.” (#4102) This understanding gives a practical and realistic meaning to the term.  From experience we can understand that the more one is persuaded about the truth of something, the greater his conviction to accept and honour that truth.  A person’s persuasions about the spiritual world form his faith.

Faith is not something that just appears; it must be derived from some source.  Children develop faith, or not, in their parents to protect and provide for them depending on their experiences.  They tend to idolize their parents and take on their convictions/persuasions as their own; it is from their parents that a child’s faith journey takes root.  Because of the nature of the relationship of a child to a parent Jesus said that you must have the faith of a child- in this case Christ is to the object of one’s faith.  Faith in a parent’s convictions may not last, however.  As children mature they begin to see the world in a broader perspective and note the weaknesses in their parents and set their own.

However it is done, the starting point to spiritual faith in God comes with the recognition that God exists.  Although the truth of God’s existence is very clear to the believer, it should not be accepted that children accept His reality as fact.  They may continue to voice faith in His presence while harbouring doubt in their minds.  When full conviction of God’s reality exists, the new believer must learn of his nature and of his expectations.  These also form his spiritual faith.  It is not unusual even for adults to harbour great doubt about God’s nature and yet play along with the understandings of others-comfort can be found in the uniform persuasions of many.  Those who truly have faith will demonstrate it through commitment to honouring God in all aspects of their being- especially in their practices.  The writer of Hebrews has made it clear that belief is revealed through obedience. “And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest, if not to those who disobeyed?  So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.” (3:18-19)  True faith is revealed more in the believer’s behaviours that in his pronouncements.

Spiritual faith is personal and must be built if it is to have any value and strength.  Jehovah led the Israelites out of Egypt and took them on a circuitous route to build and to test their faith.  “When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter.  For God said, ‘If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.’” (Exodus 13:17, NIV) The LORD was aware of the faith reality of the Israelites and introduced circumstances to improve it.  As the Egyptian army chased them, he led them into a very vulnerable situation, then through Moses commanded them to turn, face their pursuers, and to watch.  Moses said, “Do not be afraid.  Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring today.  The Egyptians you see today you will never see again.  The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:13-14, NIV) From this experience they came to learn some things about their God and, at least for the moment, their faith grew.

Building faith in God is not easy and those who would like the pleasant, easy Christian experience will never enjoy strong faith nor the comfort that comes through it.  The believer must first recognize his own inability to resolve issues and learn to rely fully upon God.  It is human nature for people to want to maintain control of their lives, but faith-building requires the opposite-weakness, humility, and dependence upon the graciousness of God.  As God proves His faithfulness, the believer’s faith increases.

Peter stated that trials build faith.  “Now for a little while you may have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that your faith-of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire-may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory, and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.”  (1 Peter 1:6-7, NIV) The faith-building process can be painful.

The affluence of North America has eroded faith in God.  An abundance of personal resources –talent, finances, education, and family support — is highly valued.  Often once these resources are assured the development of faith is engaged.  The greater the believer’s resources, however, the more difficult it is for him to become vulnerable so that his faith can be strengthened.  Unfortunately, those in the body who do not have talents, wealth, education, or a strong family are often less valued even though these are the children that are most apt to honour the Lord through the exercise of humility and dependence-faith in Him. “But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” (Mark 10:31, NIV)

James wrote: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1: 2-4, NIV) Faith is built on the evidences and appreciation of God’s love and the manifestation of His work in one’s life.  It is built on weakness and an appreciation of one’s helplessness.

 

October 12, 2012

You Don’t Have Because You Don’t Ask

John 14 : 14 (NIV)  You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

John 16 : 23 (NIV) In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.

John 16: 24 (NIV) Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.

John 16: 23-24 (The Message) “This is what I want you to do: Ask the Father for whatever is in keeping with the things I’ve revealed to you. Ask in my name, according to my will, and he’ll most certainly give it to you. Your joy will be a river overflowing its banks!

We are commanded to go to God with our needs — our prayer petitions — and leave them before him. But what are our expectations of what happens next?

There are many people who believe that God’s intervention in the affairs of humankind are an extreme rarity. The world is simply what it is, and that is the answer to the question, “If God… why all the suffering in the world?” We live in a fallen world where there is bound to pain and sorrow; flood, fire and famine; doom, defeat and despair.

(That was a cheery paragraph; I’ll have to remember that one.)

There are other people who believe that God certainly hears our prayer requests and that this is the end in itself: That God wants to be in communication (or fellowship) with us. He wants us to tell us when and where it hurts. He wants each situation to bring us back to him. He wants us to come to him when we are ‘burdened and heavy-laden.’

Still others believe that while God’s intervention is rarity, miracles do exist; they just don’t happen every day. We’re talking about genuine miracles here, not things contrived for the glare of the television lights or the crowd in the arena. 

Further up the ‘hope’ ladder are those who would say, ‘God is positive disposed and favorably inclined to give us what we ask.’ Why this doesn’t happen may be related to the complexities of other situations we can’t see, or a lesson that we need to learn before the answer comes. But absent those factors, God’s default position would be to give us what we come to him asking.

And there are those who believe that God is constantly orchestrating more details in the lives of his people than anything we can possibly imagine; that there are constantly situations where God is even giving us ‘answers to requests we haven’t made;’ or that life consists of many seen and unseen coincidences, defined as, “Coincidence is when God chooses to remain anonymous.”  This view ranges from the dramatic holding on to the hope of healing even when doctors say the situation is incurable; to the trivial belief of some that God is truly willing to intervene in life on Planet Earth so that you will get a parking space next to the mall entrance.

…Parking spaces notwithstanding, I fall into the latter camp. I have to pray believing that my prayer is not only making a difference in me, but also in the situation. Regardless of statistical odds or past prayer performance, I have to go to him with an ultimate faith that he is willing and able to execute deliverance from whatever situation is pressing in. This is the faith of children; what it means to ‘come as a child,’ and it’s a faith that is not double-minded, but believes without doubt (See James 1:8 and 1:6 and Mark 11:23) and without wrong motivation (see James 4:3).

(Deliverance is a better way of defining the situation. If you are praying for money for a specific need you are praying for a deliverance from poverty with respect to that financial issue.)

…The greatest danger I see is in not asking at all. Not coming to God to bear our souls and cry out for help or mercy because the petitions we brought before him last month were not answered in the affirmative. I believe God will respect our tenacity in prayer; our willingness to go to him even in the absence (so far) of the answers we sought before.

He longs to see faith that is lived out in a concrete assurance of things not apparent (Hebrews 11:1).

PW

 

 

 

September 26, 2012

Show Me Your Way

We’re generally taught that God gave Moses Aaron to assist him because Moses was “slow of speech.” But while I believe we can take that literally — as do most commentaries ascribing it to stuttering — I think that it was also a metaphor for a general insecurity or diffidence. We may not have a speech problem but we can ‘stutter’ in our willingness to trust God.

I know I am very guilty of this.  I’ve seen past answers to prayer, and seen evidence of God orchestrating circumstances and using existing situations for His glory in my life, but sometimes I approach a new challenge wondering if God is going to show himself.

Today’s thoughts are from the book we used two days ago, A Year With God: Daily Readings and Reflections on God’s Own Words, by R. P. Nettlehorst, published in 2010 by Thomas Nelson. This entry, number 88, is part of a section titled “Faith and Doubt.”

NIV Exodus 33:12 Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’ 13 If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”14 The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

15 Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. 16 How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”

17 And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”

18 Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”

19 And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.

There’s always room for worry.  No matter how clearly God acts, human beings will want more reassurance.  Moses had seen many miracles.  He regularly talked to God face-to-face.  And yet, with all of that, he wondered who would be going with them to the promised land.  He wondered if he knew for sure where they would be going and what they would be doing.

God did not berate Moses, did not criticize him, did not even ask him a pointed question.  Instead, God quickly reassured Moses and told him again that he would be with him.  Moses – who saw God in the burning bush, on Mount Sinai, and even in the Tent of Meeting where he talked to God as a man might converse with a friend – then asked God if he could see his glory. And God gave him what he asked!

No matter how close we think we are to God, it is easy to start taking our closeness with God for granted.  We need a bigger fix just to feel normal and to know that God is still there.  God accommodated Moses, so don’t be afraid to tell God about the doubts and weariness you may be feeling.

Today’s worship song is Show Me Your Ways by Hillsong