Radio Broadcast

Spiritual Warfare 101: What is the Invisible War?, Part 1

Demons, Satan, the powers of darkness - they’re real and they are actively at work in our world. The question is do you know how to recognize them - and, if need be, go to combat against them? Chip begins this series, “The Invisible War: What Every Believer Needs to Know About Satan, Demons, and Spiritual Warfare,” with an overview on who the Enemy is and how they operate.

Message Notes more broadcasts from this series


When you talk about spiritual warfare, and you think of the Christian community, you have the spectrum, don't you?  I mean, that raises issues like, “They're gonna teach that here?”  And over here, you have people that, I mean, it is what they talk about all the time, and demonic spirits, and territorial spirits, and there are all kinds of things with the unseen world.  And then, you have whole branches of Christendom that would intellectually acknowledge that, “Yes, the Bible talks about Satan and demons, but you know, that was probably at another time, in another world, and I don't really see that stuff playing out, in our day, in this way.”

And sometimes – I don't know about you, but if you flick the little clicker on TV, and you hear someone talking about spiritual battle, and . . .  I've heard, literally, some of the most wacko stuff I've ever heard in my life.  Have you ever just thought to yourself, I wonder what the Bible actually teaches?

And so, what I wanna tell you is, we're gonna do Spiritual Warfare 101, and that's session number one, and it's gonna be the very basics.  And then, next session will be Spiritual Warfare 201.  This is just like a college class.  And then, we're gonna go to Spiritual Warfare 301, and it's gonna get a little bit more intense.  And then, we're gonna get to graduate work, and we're gonna do Spiritual Warfare 401.

But here's the one promise I wanna make.  I make no claim, whatsoever, to be an expert in this area, but what I wanna tell you is this: There are extremes in the Christian community, but the Bible is very clear.  There are certain things that we can come together, and open the Scriptures, and we can know, 100 percent, this is what God says about the area of spiritual warfare.  Because we're not gonna jump all over the world.  You're gonna open your Bibles to Ephesians 6, and we're gonna study, for the next few days, in four sessions, chapter 6, verses 10-20.

And what we know is the Apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesian church, and in the first three chapters, he told them, “This transformation, this amazing thing occurred.  You're brand new.  You're accepted; you're redeemed.  You have an eternal inheritance.  You've been bought with a price.  The Spirit has sealed you.  There's this brand new thing.”

In chapter 2: “You were in the kingdom of darkness.  You've been ransomed.  Now you're in the Kingdom of His beloved Son.  There's this new entity called the Church.  And it's been a mystery, but it's been in the mind and the heart of God since eternity past – Jew, Gentile, one new thing, new relationship.”

And then, chapter 4 opens up and says, “With this supernatural, new life that you have with God the Father, through your relationship with Christ, by the Holy Spirit dwelling in you, walk in a manner worthy of your calling.”  And chapter 4 will talk about walking in purity, walking in light. 

Then, chapter 5 will say, what's it look like to walk in the light, and walk in purity, and to walk in love?  And it talks about relationships with husband and wife.  And then, chapter 6 will open up and talk about with children, and then slaves.

And so, He's given us the entire orb, or sphere, of living the Christian life: “This is what happened.  This is who you are.  This is how to do it.  This is what it looks like.”

And then, in chapter 6, beginning at verse 10, he says, "By the way don't forget this.  This new life will be lived out in a hostile environment.  You live in a fallen world.  You are brand new, but you still have the flesh, and the flesh wages war against the Spirit."  Right?  Galatians.

“But not only is it a fallen world, a sinful world, things aren't the way God created them.  He will make it all right one day, but it's a fallen world.  You have this battle going on between the Spirit and the flesh, and there is a supernatural, angelic being, who fell from Heaven, who took a third of the angels with him, and his job, and his goal, and his strategy is to destroy your life, to murder you – spiritually, emotionally, relationally, physically.  He wants to take you out.  He wants to ruin your life.  He wants to ruin your marriage.  He wants to ruin your children.  He wants to split your church.  He wants to have you overwhelmed, deceived, believing lies, and be rendered completely ineffective in this new relationship with Christ, so that the Church and the Gospel are discredited, and you become a miserable person, and all the work of God, and the work of the cross, and the Resurrection is for naught.”

And what he's gonna say is, “You better get your chin strap, and you better buckle it, because this new life that you're living is in a very difficult spiritual environment you are involved in.  You can be aware of it, or you can not be aware of it, but you're in an invisible war.”

So, open your Bibles to Ephesians 6:10-20, and let's start with Spiritual Warfare 101.  This is the central teaching of the entire New Testament on spiritual warfare.  So, let's cover verses 10-12, and then I wanna develop five basic truths – I mean the most elementary, basic truths about spiritual warfare – out of Ephesians 6:10-12.

The apostle Paul says, "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.  Put on the full armor of God" – why? – "that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the Devil."  This reason: “For [the struggle,] our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places."

Now, in the margin, you might write two commands.  In verses 10, 11, and 12 there are two commands.  The first command is in verse 10, and this command is, "Be strong in the Lord" – and then, it tells you how – “and in the strength of His might."  Whatever we know about this battle, it's not about you mustering up certain strength, or doing something on your own.  There is strength available.  There is power available.  And the only way to win this war is, “Be strong in the Lord,” in what you already possess that He's told you about in Ephesians chapters 1, 2 and 3.

Now, for those of you that like a little bit of the grammar, this is in the present imperative – that means it's a command – and it's in what's called, grammatically, the “passive voice.”  And that doesn't mean a lot to you, so, notice, in the notes, it says, "Verse 10, general command."  The passive voice means, you can't do it, but you have to allow God to do something.  Yet, it's a command to obey.

So, are you ready?  This is the Chip Ingram paraphrase.  Allow yourself to be continually strengthened by the power already available to you in your new position and relationship with Christ.  And then, alluding to what power?  The power that raised Christ from the dead, and now dwells in you.  So, there's a command.  You need to allow God to work in your life in such a way that the power that has been made available in your new relationship with Him gives you the strength to win this battle.  You're gonna find that you've already won the war.

Now, notice, the second command is how to do it.  Well, how do you do that?  It says, "Put on the full armor of God."  The purpose is the idea that you can stand firm, or, literally, it's “hold your ground.”  You're already in a conflict, but you're to put on the armor of God.  That's God's provision so you can actively win this battle, because you've already won the war.

And so, he says how to do this: You put on the full armor of God.  That's verse 11.  It's by continually and repeatedly putting on, at specific points in time, the spiritual protection God has provided for you.

This verb is a little bit different one.  It's in a tense that means at a punctiliar, at a point in time.  The other one was a command, but this one has the idea of a sense of urgency.  At specific times, you need to be urgent, and ready.  Put on the armor of God.

And this is what's called the “middle voice.”  It's something that you cooperate, and you do for yourself.  You do it for the express purpose of holding on to your position in Christ as you're bombarded by satanic strategies designed to destroy you, and/or render you ineffective in your Kingdom pursuits.

So, he's saying, "Be strong in the Lord."  That's the way you win.  How do you do it?  By putting on the full armor of God.

Where is the battle?  There are – did you notice the little word schemes?  Circle that word.  We get our English word strategies.  There is an invisible, angelic being, who has a host of demons, that has specific strategies to take you out, to tempt you, to deceive you, to get you to believe lies, to get you to be drawn away from God, to get your heart filled with partial truths and untruths, to get you to try and go after a good thing in the wrong way, or the wrong time, or with the wrong person.  He's got schemes. 

Now, notice, why do we need to do this?  The reason is verse 12.  He says, "For our struggle," and you might circle that word.  This word, struggle, means “hand to hand combat.”  It was used in ancient Greek times of two people going into a wrestling match, or hand-to-hand combat, until one person was in victory and could hold the other person down.

“For our struggle” – our battle, our hand-to-hand combat – “is not” – notice, it's not with circumstances.  It's not with people.  It's not with another person.  It's not with an organization.  You get the idea?  It is not with flesh and blood.  The struggle, or the conflict, isn't a material issue, but it's an invisible war.

And then, what he begins to list for you is a very clear hierarchy of demonic power.  Just like there are generals, and lieutenants, and majors, and sergeants, he says it's not flesh and blood that your battle's against, but “against the powers, against world forces of this darkness, against spiritual forces of wickedness.”  He makes it very clear, it's because this real struggle, or wrestling match, isn't against physical, material adversaries, but against a hierarchy of demonic forces doing battle in the spiritual realm.

Now, you know what?  When Paul’s readers were reading this, unlike being in the 21st century, they weren't going, "Oh, wow, that sounds kind of weird."  Demonic activity was very common in that day.  They understood all about it.  And he was just telling them some things that were realities in their life.

Because, like us, what happens?  We get thinking the problem is our mate.  We get thinking the problem is our boss.  We get thinking the problem is one of our kids.  We get thinking it's circumstances, and situations.  And we don't understand, behind those things, there is an archenemy that wants to use those to destroy our lives.

Now, we all make choices, and sometimes the consequences are, bad things happen to us.  We don't blame that on demonic forces, or the enemy.  Sometimes it's just a fallen world, and circumstances happen.  Everything, again, is not because of demonic forces.  The danger, as we approach this, is to think that everything has to do with Satan and demons, or that nothing has to do with Satan and demons.  As C.S. Lewis, I think aptly, said, "When speaking about the reality of Satan and demonic activity, the danger is always twofold:  to put way too much emphasis, or way too little."

And so, with that, here's what I'd like to do.  This is 101.  I wanna give you five basic truths that just flow right out of this passage, and that you can know, for sure, this is true about spiritual warfare.  So, turn the page on your notes, and we'll dig in together.  Five basic truths about spiritual warfare.

Truth number one:  There is an invisible world that is just as real as the visible world.  Now, empiricism, and scientific method – you know, we've got, now, a couple, three, four centuries since the Enlightenment, that we wanna explain everything, and test everything, and measure everything.  What I want you to know: There is a world.  There's a world that you can't see.  It's invisible.

But it's as real as touching your skin.  It's as real as when you kiss one of your children on the cheek, and put them to bed.  It's as real as when someone rear-ends you in your car, and you find yourself with lower back pain and back spasms.  It is as real as tasting, and touching, and watching a sunset.

And we've got multiple examples.  For centuries, people couldn't see bacteria, but was bacteria real?  Viruses, are they real?  Electricity – I can't see it, but it's doing some things, isn't it?  Natural gas – I can't see it, but you know what?  I've got a little thing in my house that if I light this, and turn a little switch over here – whew!  Carbon monoxide – I can't see it.  I can't smell it.  It is completely invisible.  But if you stay in a room with enough of it, what will it do?  It'll kill you.  There's an invisible world.

Let me give you an Old Testament example, and a New Testament example.  Turn in your Bibles, if you would, to 2 Kings 6.  And as you turn there, I'm gonna look at verses – pick it up at verse 15.  And this is the story of one of the great prophets Elisha, and as you turn there I'll give you a little background.

Elisha is making this king absolutely crazy, and he's doing a number of amazing things.  He's God's man, and tremendous things are happening.  And so, they are trying to get rid of him.  But every time they try to get rid of him, he sneaks out of it, or he knows it's coming.

And finally, the king gets fed up and says, "You know what?  I'm gonna put an end to this thing."  He gets a whole army together.  He gets word where Elisha is.  He has an army, and horsemen, and chariots, and he surrounds the city.  And he's gonna get this prophet, once and for all.

And the prophet has a servant who works with him, and I don't know if he got up and got his clothes ready, or cooked a little breakfast, or went out and got water, but the guy gets up early, and they're good buddies, and . . .  “Uh-oh.”  Loose translation here:  "Hey boss?"  "Yeah."  "We got problems."  "Yeah?  What?"  "Come out here.  You gotta see this."  And the guy goes, "We're dead.  We're dead.  What are we gonna do?"  I mean, it's surrounded – troops, and cavalry, and chariots.  I mean, there's no way.  And this is a very interesting text in the Old Testament, where God wants us to understand, there are invisible realities that we do not see, but they are very, very real.

Into that situation, verse 15: "Now when the attendant of the man of God had risen early and gone out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was circling the city.  And his servant said to him, 'Alas, my master, what shall we do?'  So he answered, 'Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those with them.'"  And if I'm that servant, I'm thinking, This guy's a prophet.  God, speak through him.  He's powerful, but he's terrible in math.  You know, I'm going, "’Yo, hey.  Hey, bro, come on out here.  Let's count again. You, me – that's two.  Now, let's count all those."

And then, notice what he does.  Look at verse 17, "Then Elisha prayed and said, 'O, Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.'  And the Lord opened the servant's eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha."  The Old Testament clearly documents that there is an invisible world that is real.  He prayed, and he had the power, for that moment of time, to see angelic beings, and the protection that he had.

In the New Testament, we have 2 Corinthians 10:3-5.  We'll look at it more later, but the only point I wanna make is, the apostle Paul will say, "The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh."  Though we live according to the flesh, we don't battle according to the flesh.  He's gonna say, there's an invisible world, and he's gonna introduce the idea that not only that, but there's an invisible war.

In fact – not in your notes, but you wanna jot down a very interesting passage, Daniel 10, because there is a connection between this invisible world, and this visible world.  This is an old, old booklet that had a great impact on me, by Francis Schaeffer, a little booklet called Two Contents, Two Realities.  Francis Schaeffer just makes the point, there are two contents.  There is a content of a material world, and there is a content of a spiritual world.  There is a visible world, and an invisible world.  And there is a content of men, and flesh, and organizations, and trees, and sky, and tangible things, and, just as parallel, a real, invisible, non-material world.  And there are realities occurring in this invisible world, and there are realities that we experience in this visible world.  And then, Schaeffer made the point: There is an arch, or a connection, between the invisible and the visible. 

And if you would read Daniel 10 very carefully, you find that he gets revelation that he doesn't understand, so he fasts and prays.  And he gets no answer for the first 21 days.  And after 21 days, one of the big, heavy-duty, super-charge angels comes – not just a regular angel – and he says, "Daniel, your prayer was heard on high and answered from the first day, but I was dispatched, and I've been doing battle with the king of Persia."

Now, we don't understand, exactly – not a lot of details, and people make a lot of it.  Here's what we know for sure: An angel was doing battle, somewhere, and God was answering his prayer.  And something happened in this invisible reality that had an impact on the visible reality.  When a man prays, God is answering.

And there's not only an invisible world, but – fact number two, basic truth number two: We are involved in an invisible war.   We are involved in a cosmic conflict that has eternal implications.

Notice what the apostle Paul says, in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, "For though we walk in the flesh, we don't war" – notice that word, war; that’s a battle term – “according to the flesh.”  Why?  "For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses."

And then, he begins to tell us where this war occurs: “We are destroying speculations in everything raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.”  Put a line under "every thought captive."  The battleground for this invisible war, this cosmic conflict, is largely between your ears.  The attack is on your mind.  He is the father of lies.  He is a deceiver.  He is a deluder.  He casts doubt on God.  He casts doubt on His Word.  He casts doubt on you.  He wants you to believe a set of lies.

And when you do spiritual warfare – he says, we pull down destructive, lofty things against the knowledge of God, and we take “every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.”  Your mind, your belief system, your worldview – that's where the great majority of the battle occurs.

And if you think this is just a small-time deal, look at 2 Corinthians 4:4.  It's speaking here of, "In whose case the god of this world” – Satan – “has blinded the minds" – underline that word – "the minds of unbelievers" – why? – "that they might not see the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God."  The battle is for the minds.

I had a situation.  I spoke at an Easter service at a church in Atlanta, and Theresa and I had a great relationship of an interim teaching pastor for a year, and it was my second-to-last service. We had a little farewell, and it was a great time.  And I did a little bit of an unusual Easter service, in that I gave a little, brief overview, and then I gave the core of what occurred on the cross, in terms of reconciliation and redemption.  I mean, it was the Gospel, Gospel.  I mean flat out, flat out.

And I got together with a group of men before I preached, and one fellow was telling how his dad had come.  His dad's an unbeliever.  He's probably a guy about my age, maybe five or six years younger.  And he said to me, he said, "I don't get it.  I don't get it.  I've been sharing Christ with my father for over 20 years.  He came last week.  He came to church.  He said, ‘That's the clearest, most persuasive hearing of the Gospel I've ever heard in my life.'  And I went out to lunch with my dad, afterwards, and I said, 'Well, Dad, what did you think?’  And, ‘Let's talk about it.'  And his response was, 'You know, I don't just really understand where Cain got his wife.  Do you?  You know, if the Bible says this about Adam and Eve, and if Cain's over here . . .'"  And he said, "Chip, all I can tell you is, it was like BBs off of a tank." 

See, we tend to think that the knowledge of God is an intellectual issue.  It is not.  It is a spiritual and a moral issue.  And the god of this world – part of his battle, part of his strategy, is to blind the minds of people so they can't ascertain, they can't grasp.  By the way – we'll hit on this much later – this is why intercessory prayer is so vital and important.  There is a relationship.  Now, what that relationship is, I don't know.  I can tell you it flows right out of the New Testament text.  How it works – I'm not even gonna begin to try and explain it.

But here's what I can tell you: There is a relationship between a man, or a woman, beseeching God and praying for people, and their eyes being able to see.  And when people are coming to Christ, I'll guarantee one thing about a church: Somewhere, somehow, in that church, someone believes in prayer and isn't talking about it.  They're doing it. 

And you know what?  I mean, in Jesus' life . . .  In Jesus' life . . .  When Jesus was tempted, when Jesus was in the agony, Am I going to do the Father's will? – let's remember now.  Let's get our theology clear.  Jesus didn't have, like, a nice robe, and a nice beard, and have an "S" on his chest, underneath.  You know, like, when it really got hard, He would forget being a Man and go – bah, bah, bah, bah, bah!

He was fully Man, and He was fully God.  He was tempted in every way like us, but did not sin.  He was tempted with lust.  Jesus was.  He was tempted to quit.  He was tempted with depression.  He was tempted with envy.  He was tempted with anger.  He was tempted with the false beliefs that, These people won't appreciate this sacrifice.  Don't die for them.  This is too much.  He agonized, as a human being – fully Man, fully God – He agonized to the point of sweating great drops of blood.

What did Jesus do, in order to overcome a temptation?  Where did He go, and what did He do?  He prayed.  And His three closest friends – what is the one thing He asked them to do?  He had a need in his life.  He was in a spiritual battle.  What did He ask them to do?  Pray.  When Peter – remember?  The last night, "Peter, Satan has requested to sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you."

Now, wait a second.  He's God, right?  Yeah.  Well, why didn't He just speak a word and say, "Satan, get behind him," or something?  He's modeling for us.  Jesus walked with the Father, in total dependence in the power of the Holy Spirit, and lived a perfect life, modeling for us what it looked like.  And when someone was being tempted or harassed by the enemy, Jesus' solution was to pray.

Do you understand?  You are involved in a visible and invisible world that intersect, and there is a war going on, a cosmic conflict that has eternal implications.  The souls of men, and the souls of women, and the souls of little boys and little girls, of every nationality, of every color, of every persuasion, of every background, all over the planet – that is what is at stake.  And the enemy seeks to blind – and we'll see how – and he seeks to dull.  And their souls, and their lives, and their futures, forever and ever and ever, are at stake.  That's what spiritual warfare is all about.

Let me stop for a moment of application.  When was the last time you honestly considered some struggle or relational conflict in your life that the roots could be satanic opposition?  When's the last time?  Now, again, am I saying that it . . .  This is not, Oh, I had a flat tire.  That must be the flat tire demon, or, I burned the steak.  That must be the too-hot-barbecue demon, or, I lost my job because I didn't show up, and didn't do a very good job.  That must be the I’ve-got-a-bad-boss demon.

No, no, no, okay?  We're talking some good, biblical common sense.  I'm talking about regular, ordinary people like you, who walk with God, who love God, who have normal conflict, who don't see a demon under every bush.

But when's the last time you had some things you couldn't explain?  You know, like someone you've loved, and trusted, and had a great relationship with, and then it starts going south.  And they love God, you love God, and no matter what you try and do, you can't get it together.  Or it's a church, it's a great church, and God has really used the church, and something's wrong.  Something's amiss, and no one can put their finger on it, and there's a sense of oppression, or depression.

Or, for my case, my personal life, as I began to prepare about three weeks for this.  I didn't think much of it at first.  And the lady pulls out and totals my car, and . . .  You know, it wasn't a big deal.  Nobody got hurt, and . . .  Then, two days later, we had some bushes that we've been trying to take out.  So, they took out the bushes, and broke one little sprinkler.  Well, it's not a big deal, except the guy who came to fix the sprinkler cut the telephone line, and the one little sprinkler turned into, “Well, this was done.  First time ever, in 26 years I've been working on houses.”  Then, our whole water system wouldn't work.  And then, Theresa and Annie and I were out to dinner one night –  In about a five-day period, as soon as I started to teach this, there were probably about 15 or 16 things.  It just got laughable.  I remember, in Santa Cruz, we would have musicals.  And we normally see sometimes hundreds of people come to Christ.  I've had five or six appliances go out in 24 hours.  I mean, that's not exactly coincidence.

Now I understand, physiologically, and this and that, but I remember teaching this one time.  We did a spiritual enrichment with our staff.  And I thought, I sense we need this, as a staff.  And I got up that morning, and I didn't get down.  I mean, in fact, I got up early.  It was Monday.  I had a good quiet time, and my wife was gracious.  I had a little prayer thing that I go through, and she said, "Hey, do you want some coffee?”  Coffee in bed?  I mean, guys, does it get any better than that?  And I had a good time with the Lord.  And it was an extra special morning, because she came by again: "You want another cup?"  "’Yo, honey, I love you.  Yeah, it's great," and went to work.

And then, about an hour before I was to teach, it was like a black curtain went over me.  Nothing's wrong.  As far as I know, the Lord and I are fine.  My wife's being loving, caring.  My family's fine.  And I have thoughts like, I don't wanna live anymore.  I don't wanna teach this.  I don't wanna be the president of Walk Thru.  I don't wanna preach.  I'm a terrible person.  I hate me.  And all these voices . . .  And, I mean – have you ever gotten depressed?  I mean, it was instant.  It was like I was in the sunshine, and then I stepped over, and I'm in the pitch dark.

And being the super intelligent guy that I am, I'm going, What's wrong?  I don't understand this.  What could be happening here?  I can't make the connection.  I mean, I'm a half hour, just, in a stupor, I mean, just, bad, bad, bad.

And then, the little light comes on, like, "Hey, Chip?"  "Yeah?"  "What are you teaching on?"  "Um, spiritual warfare."  "Ever think this might be part of it?"  "Huh, never thought of that."  And I'll talk about how, but I prayed.  I confronted the enemy.  Bang!  It was like walking out of the darkness, into the light.

When's the last time, in your life, rather than explaining it away, or taking a pill to feel better, or going out for a movie, or eating a little something extra, or just glossing it over and saying, Well, it's too bad about that relationship," you said, "Could it be, in this situation, there could be some spiritual opposition or demonic activity that I need to check out?  When's the last time you did that?