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

From the series The Invisible War

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.

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Message Transcript

If you want to open your Bibles to Ephesians chapter 6, there is one key text, verses 10 through 20, where the apostle Paul is going to explain spiritual warfare.

Now, what you need to understand, if you will mentally go with me here, is chapters 1 through 3, he’s telling them, “This is who you are in Christ. You’re a brand-new creature. You’ve been redeemed. You’ve been sealed with the Spirit. You have an inheritance. God has made this brand-new thing called the Church of Jew and Gentile.” Then chapter 4 says, “In light of all that God has done for you, I want you to walk in the manner worthy of your calling.” The word worthy, we get our English word axis. It’s a picture of those balances. And it’s saying chapters 1, 2, and 3 is all that God has deposited in you. You are new in Christ, seated in the heavenly places, loved more than you can ever be loved. It’ll never, ever change. Now, live in a way where your belief and your behavior tell the same story.

And then in chapter 4, he’ll talk about how that has happened and the role of the Church, and then he’ll talk about life change and how that occurs. In chapter 5, he’ll talk about walking in purity. He’ll talk about walking in the light, being filled with the Holy Spirit, what that looks like in your marriage, what that looks like with your children, what that looks like in your employment, in that day with slaves. And then after giving all that, he’s going to say, “This new life and all those relationships, and the Spirit of God living His life out through you is going to occur in a hostile environment. You’re in a battle.”

And so, beginning at verse 10 through verse 20, he’s going to teach very clearly what the battle is, where the battle is, how to put on spiritual armor, and how to actually experience the victory that Christ has also given us.

So, with that, you’ll notice verses 10 to 12. It says, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For 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.”

Here’s what it means. It means this is something that you are commanded to do right now, but the passive voice, it’s something that you have to allow to happen to you. I’m commanded to do it, but I can’t make it happen. So, for example, right below the general command, I basically took the text and let me give you an expanded translation. “Allow yourself to be continually strengthened by the power already made available to you in your new position in Christ and your relationship with Him. The power that raised Christ from the dead now also dwells in you.”

First and foremost, there’s a general command to be strong in the power that God has already given us. Allow that power to work in and through your life.

And then there’s the specific command. This is: well, how do you do that? You put on the full armor of God. And we’re going to spend some time talking about what that is and what that looks like and very practically how to do that.

And then notice the purpose clause, “That you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.” Circle the word schemes. We get our word strategies. And literally, it’s a picture of literally holding fast or standing firm. It’s the idea that if you would understand that you, when you trusted in Jesus Christ, were taken out of the kingdom of darkness and you were placed in the kingdom of light. Then you were sealed with the Spirit. His Spirit was deposited in you. Spiritual gifts were given to you. You were made a part of the body of Christ. You are now protected and a part of it.

And so, what I want you to do is, okay, we’ve got a general command: be strong in the Lord. We have a specific command. You do that by putting on the armor of God. You do that so that you can stand firm against the schemes, strategies of a personal angelic being with a third of the angels who are seeking to destroy your life; render you useless; hurt you emotionally, spiritually, relationally; discredit Christ; and do anything possible to make your life miserable and get you to trust anything or anyone other than Christ.

Now, with that said, I want to give you five basic truths. Five things, this is 101. This is just directly what the Bible teaches about spiritual warfare. Are you ready? Good.

Basic truth number one is there is an invisible world that is just as real as the visible world. There’s an invisible world. There’s a world that you can’t see and that I can’t see that’s just as real as the visible world. There’s a system. There are angelic beings. There’s a world that is real as touching your skin, kissing your child good night, cutting a steak, watching a sunset that’s very, very real.

I don’t know if any of you remember Francis Schaeffer. He had a great impact in my early life. And he wrote a lot, but he had a tiny, little booklet, and his booklet was called Two Contents, Two Realities. And it really changed my life. I read it. He was a philosopher, and a brilliant guy, and did L’Abri and all those things, and traveled all around the world. But it was just he said there’s two contents, two realities. There’s a material world and an immaterial world. There’s a visible world and there’s an invisible world. And what happens in the invisible world has direct correlation and impact on the things that we see.

Premise, basic truth number one:  there is an invisible world that is just as real as the visible world.

Basic number two: we are involved in an invisible war, a cosmic conflict that has eternal implications. He says in 2 Corinthians 10, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we’re taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.”

So the apostle Paul is saying, “I’m in a battle, but I don’t battle flesh and blood in the same way spiritually.” He says, and notice the key words, he says, “We have divinely powerful, pulling down fortresses, speculations, knowledge, and thoughts.”

Here’s what you need to get. So often when people think about spiritual warfare, they think of some scary movie, and in the old, old days it was The Exorcist and now it’s like ... Have you just noticed on TV just how many dark, just dark stuff? And there’s all kind of spiritual beings doing all kind of spiritual things. And what you need to understand is the great, great majority of all spiritual warfare is not like that at all. There are some overt times, and we’re going to talk about that. Ninety percent of spiritual warfare and the battle is in your heart and in your mind.

The number one thing Satan is is a deceiver. And he has a world system. He has a world system that he takes what God says is good and he twists it. He wants to give a good thing at a wrong time, in the wrong way, or with the wrong person. He takes beauty and he twists it. He takes what is right and twists it to make what is wrong. He takes truth and makes it relative, and then he makes it different. And then he has all kind of things where what he’s doing – deception, deception, deception, deception.

And if he can get you to believe lies about God, His goodness, His kindness, how could a good God let this happen? Lies about you: you’re worthless, you’re a nobody, you’ll never amount to anything. Or if that doesn’t work: you are wonderful, you’re entitled to everything, you’re the most important person in the world. Lies about what makes you secure, what makes you successful: if you just had enough money, if you just had bigger muscles, if you just had those little purses that had the insignia on them so everyone would know how important you are, if you just had a car that had a little different emblem than the car that you have, if you go public and have so many patents, then you’re a somebody. If your kids make the traveling team, you’ll finally really be worthwhile. If you get all A’s, right? And the lies are someway, somehow your performance, you can either possess something or be something or impress people, and somehow, someway the lie is that will bring joy, and meaning, and purpose, and happiness.

Which is why we have people that are I would say in the less than top one percent of the gene pool, that are beautiful and talented go through relationships like other people go through underwear. Because no amount of money and no amount of beauty ... Or they put white powder up their nose, or we have athletes making twenty, or twenty-five, or thirty million dollars a year that struggle in relationships.

Here’s a little application that I would just like you to ponder. Because when you see that, there’s eternal implications. People not believing in Christ is not primarily an intellectual issue. It’s a moral issue. It’s not that people don’t understand, but there is an enemy blinding people from understanding, making the connection.

I mean, if you just look at it logically, the proposition of the gospel is like a win-win-win, how do you turn it down unless your brain’s not working. We all know we mess up. The Bible calls it sin. We all know we fall short. We’ve all said things, thought things, done things, hurt other people. We all know that we long to be forgiven. We want life and purpose. God in His great mercy sent God the Son, who lived a perfect life to reveal what the Father is like, and then living a perfect life dies on the cross in our place to pay for our sin. Literally the word is atone. He covers it. He rises from the dead and proves it’s true. Five hundred eyewitnesses. This isn’t some fairy tale. This isn’t another religion. This isn’t like, “Oh, can I ponder this?”

And then it starts out with this mustard seed of a ragtag group of semi-uneducated people, save one. They transform the world. It’s the largest movement in the world. Boy, when you see what’s happened in the last ... go around the world with me. Hospitals, orphanages, language. Man, it has been Christians.

And He makes this offer. I want you to know that no matter what you do, you could never make yourself right with Me on your own, so My son died in your place and He paid for your sin. He rose from the dead and proved that it’s true. And the offer is whosoever by faith would believe and receive that gift has eternal life.

I mean, if someone said, “Excuse me, sir. You could never have a billion dollars because no matter how long you work…and so, I have a friend, he would like to give that to you, but you need to receive that by faith and put your trust in him in order for him to give you the billion dollars.” Would we go, “Eh, that’s too easy. Nah. It’s probably a robo-call.” Yet, that’s the gospel. I mean, and it’s clear. It’s simple. It’s the substitutionary work of Jesus.

But the issue is people’s minds, they’re blinded. This is why intercessory prayer is so important. There is a correlation between praying and beseeching God, asking the Father to cause His Spirit to work in the heart of someone to open their eyes and open their mind where they could lay down their pride, or feeling unworthy in order to believe and to trust in what Christ has provided.

The question I have, and you’ll see this in your notes, when is the last time you honestly considered some struggle or relational conflict that was rooted in satanic opposition? And what I mean by this is that C.S. Lewis has wisely said, “The greatest error when it comes to spiritual warfare is it to think far too much about Satan or to think far too little.”

And I’m amazed that we have a modern mindset and somehow, we just think everything’s cause and effect. I did this and this happens. I did this this happens. Look at the pervasive evil in the world. All human beings are made in the image of God and have amazing dignity and value, but there’s some unspeakable evil historically and currently.

I mean, I remember reading the story of a little ten-year-old boy who took a hammer and smashed the head of a little six-year-old girl and killed her. That’s evil. We’ve seen ISIS beheading people. That’s evil. We know about what’s happened. I mean, whether it’s Idi Amin, or whether it was the Holocaust, or things that we’re seeing. I mean, there’s amazing, amazing ... There is evil in the world, and it’s pervasive. And what I’m going to say is that everything that happens isn’t just cause and effect or human problems.

Now, again, extremes over here. I’ve been with some groups that, “Yep, that’s right, brother. I agree with you. I had a flat tire. You know those flat tire demons. They’ll get you every time. You know, my wife burned the eggs, but we’ve got the burn the egg demon. They really do that. I lost my job. That’s the bad boss demon. I didn’t come in on time, didn’t do a very good job, but you know the devil.”

Listen very carefully. We take absolute personal responsibility for our behavior and our choices, and there is a cause and effect to those things. And some things happen very difficult in our world because it is a fallen world. Bad things happen to good people. There are tornadoes and hurricanes. God never designed the world to be this way. But there’s also an enemy that tempts you in ways.

Have you ever had a really close friend and you just can’t explain it, that there’s a wedge that comes between you, and no matter how many conversations, like you just can’t get it? Have you ever been going about your life, and maybe you’re taking some spiritual steps, and you have what feels like an almost irresistible urge to sin? Or have you ever – this is a confession. Have you ever had a really deep time, you feel like I’m really talking with God, and have a cuss word start to flow through your mind? And then you go, “Oh, gosh. I’m the worst person. I’m in the presence of God and cuss words were going through my mind.” Well, you didn’t bring them there.

Just my point is, have you ever seen good people in a marriage, or good people in a church, or good people in a small group and you know they’re godly, and they’re godly, and they’re both great people, and it’s just like no matter what happens, there’s this and there’s division?

Or at least in my case, this used to happen about nine out of ten Saturday afternoons and I was a very slow learner. We had a Saturday night service, and I would review everything, work on my message, review it two or three hours in the morning, and then I would go in and when I had kids, we would do all the sports and things you do on Saturday, and then about two, two-thirty I would drive to the church, pray, get my heart right for an hour, hour and a half.

But about one thirty and often when I was driving, I’d be driving into church and literally it would be like I’m in the light and then just whoosh, I’d get depressed. But I don’t mean like, Oh, I’m starting to feel a little blue. I mean, it’d be like, Life’s not worth living. I don’t want to preach this message. I’m the worst person in the whole world. I mean, it was dark, dark, dark, and it was like, “Boy, what happened?” Then I would struggle, and, “You didn’t study long enough,” condemnation. “Boy, you’re a loser.” And it was just like I’d pray and pray and get the guys to pray with me.

And I’m a pastor, and I don’t know how many weeks it took me to realize, “Wait a second. What are you doing? I’m going to preach God’s Word. What is it? This is demonic activity to really get me off my game.” And I remember, then it happened multiple times. I’ll tell you other things later, but I remember that would happen, and finally I got, “Okay. I refuse to allow this to happen,” and I’ll share with you how to do this. I would quote two or three verses about who I am in Christ, command the demonic spirits to leave. Bam, they’re gone.

But if you would have asked me growing up, that’s weird stuff. I mean, only weird people have those kind of experiences. Do you realize that addictions, some deep seated issues of hurts that maybe happened years ago, maybe some shame that you feel like you can never get over – there is an adversary.

I am not saying in any way everything is caused by the enemy, but just for our purposes, would you consider if there are struggles that you’ve worked very hard, you’re trying all that you can, or a relationship or a situation, would you just possibly consider that there is an enemy that’s seeking to destroy you? And you can go the physical, the psychological – right? The spirit. You can do all these things, but if you don’t address this, maybe nothing changes.