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

From the series 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.”

I’d like you to underline the phrase, “Be strong in the Lord,” and put a number one above that. And then I want you to move over and it says, “Put on the full armor of God.” I want you to underline that and put a number two. There are two commands in this passage. The first is a general command, and it’s grammatically in what’s called the present tense and the passive voice. And I’m going to give you – for some of you Bible students, you’ll appreciate that, and others will go, “I don’t know what that is,” and it really doesn’t matter.

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.

Now he says, “This is all that you have. I want you to stand firm or hold on to what you already have.” And then he says the way you do that is by putting on the full armor of God, and then he gives the reason. He says, “For our struggle,” put a circle around that word, “Is not against flesh and blood.” In other words, the men, and people, and material world. “But against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

And so, the specific command, if you want sort of a little broader interpretation here, okay, I’m going to be strong in the Lord. How do I do that? By continually and repeatedly putting on this, at specific points of time, the spiritual protection God has provided for you, the spiritual armor.

This is in what is called an aorist imperative. And I’m not going to throw a lot of Greek words around, but here early on it’s really important, because an aorist imperative has a sense of urgency. In other words, what you need to do is be ready, and be urgent, and ready, and continually when the battle comes, you need to be strong in the Lord, and you do that by appropriating this armor at any time at any moment when the darts of the enemy come.

It goes on to say, “For the express purpose of holding on to the position in Christ as you’re bombarded by satanic strategies designed to destroy you and/or render you ineffective in kingdom pursuits.” The reason is it’s because there is a real struggle. And that word struggle that you circled literally is a picture of a wrestling match. They would have the gladiators go in and wrestle to the death, and this is that word. This is serious stuff. This isn’t a little man in a red suit with horns and a plastic tail. This is against the physical material adversaries. That’s not the problem. People, circumstances, organizations. But he’s literally giving us a hierarchy.

If you’re in the military, you know there’s generals, and majors, and lieutenants, and sergeants. He’s giving us a hierarchy of demonic forces. Rulers, powers, world forces of darkness, spiritual forces of darkness in the heavenly places.

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. Now, let me show you that from both of Old and New Testament.

If you have your Bibles, you can look at 2 Kings chapter 6. And as you turn there, I’m going to be looking at about verses 14 through 17. And it’s about the prophet Elisha. And Elisha has been used by God to frustrate a certain king’s plans multiple times, multiple times, multiple times. And they can never figure out where he is, and they want to get him. And so, they finally find out what city he’s in, and he sends cavalry, chariots, soldiers, and they surround the whole city. And so, now they’ve got him.

And the story, we’ll pick it up, is his servant goes out early in the morning and he looks out in the city and he goes, “Oh my! We’re done.” And so, notice, we pick it up, “Now when the attendant,” verse 15, “Of the man of God had risen and gone out, and behold an army with horses and chariots were 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 who are with them.’”

Now, I don’t know exactly where the servant was coming from, but I imagine he had been with Elisha for a while. He’d seen him do miracles. He’s a great prophet of God. But I’m guessing right at this point, he’d think, “You know, my master is very godly, very wise, very close to God. He’s just really bad in math. Because best I can tell, it’s you and it’s me, and it’s all of them, and you’re telling me there’s more with us than them.”

Then it’s very, very interesting. Verse 17, “Then Elisha prayed and said, ‘Oh Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.’ And the Lord opened the eyes of the servant, and he saw. And behold the mountains were full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. And when they came down to him, Elisha prayed to the Lord and said, ‘Strike this people with blindness I pray,’ so He struck them with blindness according to the word of Elisha. Then Elisha led them back to that king.” All I want you to get is there’s two realities, and there’s one going on all the time that we don’t see.

In the New Testament, we’ll look at it in a minute in 2 Corinthians chapter 10, the apostle Paul will write to this church and he’ll talk about a warfare that’s going on. Now only is there an invisible world, but there’s a battle going on. In Ephesians he says, “Look, it’s not about flesh and blood.”

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. Well, I won’t mention any names of current pros that seem to have their life completely ... Remember when the sports page was about sports? I watch ESPN and I find out more about who’s getting beat up by what player.

My point is, if that brings you what ... it’s the when/then theology of the enemy. When you have, when you become, when you look, then you’ll... But even if the “then” arrives...

I remember I did the chapel for the Seahawks. The guy who normally does it was hurt or out of town or something. I got a call from Seattle, and the guy said, “Hey, the normal chaplain can’t do it. Would you do it?” And they won the Super Bowl the year before. I said, “Sure, I’ll do that.” And so, I was doing the chapel, and kind of all the names and people you would know, and they had a lot of believers. And the guy who’s sort of the right hand assistant to the coach there was a really good guy. We built a good relationship.

And so, I was doing the chapel, and I said, “Well, kind of what are the issues? Tell me a little bit about what’s life with you guys.” And one by one by one, they said, “You know something? I mean, we’re believers on the team, so we thought this wouldn’t happen to us.”

But he said, “One of the most depressing things that happens in the world is winning the Super Bowl, because it’s like this is the thing. This is the thing. Man, we’re world champions!” He goes, “Sort of the depression that happens, like it’s, this is it? I mean, I got a ring, and I went to Disneyland, and I got a bonus, but we thought it would be here.”

And the believers said, “You know what? We thought we’d be immune to that.” But we all buy the lie to some degree.

And so, that’s what he wants us to know. He says you’re in a spiritual battle. Look: speculations, knowledge of God. And here’s the deal. What you’re going to find is much of spiritual, much of spiritual warfare is about you putting good things in your mind and renewing your mind so you look at life the way God looks at life, so you are focused on the truth. Because when you know the truth and practice the truth, it makes you free.

Notice the apostle Paul goes on. There was a situation with a brother who had sinned, and the church was not handling the reconciliation very well. And Paul’s writing to them to correct that, and he says in 2 Corinthians 4:4, “In whose case the God of this world, Satan, has blinded,” what? “Their minds of the unbelieving, that they may not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

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. And we have some people in the name of Christ that have done a lot of negative things, but I will say, boy, when you see what’s happened in the last ... go around the world with me. Hospitals, orphanages, language. Man, it has been Christians, God’s people: salt, light, loving.

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.