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About this series
What Every Believer Needs to Know About Satan, Demons, and Spiritual Warfare
Beneath our tangible landscape lurks an invisible spiritual realm where unseen battles rage. It's real. And it's dangerous. If you're prepared to remove the blinders and gaze into the unseen world, Chip Ingram is ready to take you there. Hang on to your seat. It's going to be a journey inside the very folds of our Bibles, a journey that will teach us about our greatest foe, Satan, also known as Lucifer, the Dragon, Serpent, and Son of the Morning Star. Although this lying thief comes to "steal, kill, and destroy," God details, in Ephesians 6, the battle plan to uncover Satan's cunning deceptions and to resist his sinister schemes. The cosmic conflict exploding all around us will have eternal implications, for us and those we love. This series will prepare you to do spiritual battle with the enemy of your soul... and win! You'll learn to clothe yourself with God's spiritual armor so you can be confident of certain victory over the scheming enemy.More from this series
I want to start off with two true stories. I’m not intending to be dramatic but we have learned from spiritual warfare 101 that there is an invisible world, that we’re in a battle, that we have a foe that’s formidable. We know that we respect and that we’re not afraid and we fight from victory, not for victory. And then we understand that part of being protected is God has given us armor and He’s commanded us to pick up this armor and put it on. And He’s given us armor that will protect us in many ways.
And He’s going to protect us from condemnation, He’ll protect us from doubt. He’s going to keep us from deception with just the normal walking with God, being a man or a woman, renewing our mind, being in the body and community. But sometimes, there is frontal attacks and we’ll talk about when.
This was now many years ago, it was our first year in Santa Cruz and Santa Cruz is a place very New Age, a lot of demonic activity. It’s 2 AM in the morning. I don’t know whether I’m awake or I’m asleep. All I know is I can look over and see my wife in the bed and I know I can’t move any part of my body.
And I’m thinking, “I must have a rare disease because this is really, really weird because I can’t move my hands, I can’t move anything but I can move my eyes and I can see my wife.” And then I’m looking around the room as much as I can and a sense of evil, you know, the night is dark but if there’s a darkness that can come over the dark, it did. And then, it was like a five thousand pound came on my chest and started pushing down and pushing down and pushing down and I couldn’t get my breath and then it was like someone grabbed my windpipe and squeezing.
And I don’t know if you ever remember as a kid, when someone ... When you were at a pool and they were dunking you and they held you under and they held you under and you were sure, you can’t get your breath, you can’t get your breath. And that’s what it felt like and I literally remember in my mind, Help Jesus, help Jesus, help, help, help.
And I just thought, how can you drown or die in your bed and not be able to move your body? And then just at the last minute before I kind of passed out from not getting my breath, whooo, and then I sat up in bed and I was literally soaking wet. If you’ve ever seen my play basketball, I mean, when I play, I mean, I was drenched and the bed was drenched. And my wife was asleep over here.
And there was evil in the room like never. And the hairs on the back of my neck. And I’m wondering, “What is happening?” And I’m terrified. And now, just for context, I went to seminary. And I was discipled by the Navigators. I know some verses. You know? I’m scared to death and I don’t know what to do. And so, I think this is evil. And I had some interaction but nothing like this. I mean, I think I’m inside of a Frank Peretti novel and I don’t know what to do.
And then the thought comes to me, You need to command these demons or do something to get them out of there. And then I had this second thought, I’m sure it was my pride. I looked over and I thought to myself, If I start talking out loud in the middle of the night and my wife wakes up and I’m speaking out loud in an empty room, she’s going to think I’ve gone over the edge. And so, I battled and then I did something which I’ll share with you a little bit later what I did and why.
No, it’s important. Second story. I had a friend who, he would call himself a very nominal Christian, came to church now and then, a little bit more often than maybe Christmas and Easter and was invited by a friend and said, “Hey, I think you’ll kind of like church, it might be a little bit different than you’re used to.” He came for a few weeks and then someone told him I played basketball and this guy was a diehard, what we call, gym rat. I mean, he loves the game.
And so he comes up after his third time at church. He goes, “Hey, how you’re doing?” I said, “Great.” Then he goes, “I hear you ball?” I say, “Yeah, I do. I love it.” He goes, “I do, too.” I said, “Well, do you want to play some time?” He said, “Yeah.” I said, “Two o’clock, my driveway today.” He goes, “Really, what’s your address?” I gave it to him and he goes ... I mean, it is our tradition. You know, I have three grown boys, couple key friends, we go three on three and it’s almost to the death in a good spirit of Christian love, of course.
But, I mean, it’s so great and it’s intense and we would go for a couple hours and Dave shows up. And I mean, Dave’s a player. And we just, we bonded. We had a great time, had fun. And so, when you’re playing, you’re sweating, you talk a little bit. And then little by little, Dave started coming regularly and then somehow, Dave thought, “I’m a Christian but I’ve never read the Bible.” And he starts doing that and pretty soon, his life starts to change. And fast forward about two, two and a half years, everybody didn’t show up and so Dave and I played five thousand games of one on one. And then we’re exhausted and he goes, “Hey, can I talk to you?”
And we’re sitting in the driveway, both in a pool of sweat. And he said, “Man, something happened weird the other night.” I said, “What do you mean?” He goes, “You know, we’ve put the kids to bed and we put on this really, really old movie and it’s a chick flick and my wife really loved it. And then you know how it is, they want to watch one of those kind of movies and they fall asleep and so I had my arm around her and she fell asleep and I had one of those moments that I just looked down at her and I see our life has changed, my life has changed. Our marriage has changed. And I looked down and I thought, ‘I love her so much.’ And then this thought came to my mind. She’s going to die. It might be today, it might be tomorrow. She’s going to die.”
And he goes, “I mean, it was weird. But my emotions.” He goes, “Man, this was so weird. It was not like just a thought. It was like a doctor handed me: she has terminal cancer and has forty-eight hours to live. It was that real. And then my next thought was, ‘How could a good God let that happen to my wife?’ And then my next thought was, ‘How could you trust a God like that that would do that to my wife?’ And then I realized…” He goes, “Has anything like that ever happened to you?”
I said, “Yeah.” He said, “So, what’s going on?” I said, “Dave, that’s called spiritual warfare.” He goes, “Well, what do you do?” That’s what we’re going to talk about. Okay? What do you do?
What do you do when some very unusual things happen? First of all, you need to understand there’s four facts you need to know, and this is the baseline.
Fact number one, God has objectively defeated Satan and his agenda. He has delivered us from sin’s penalty, power and ultimately, will deliver us from sin’s presence. In the interim, we’re involved in a guerrilla warfare with demonic forces. Fact number one.
Fact number two. As believers, we have been transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light with all the rights, privileges, and position of being a child of God and what that entails.
Fact number three, the spiritual battle that we fight involves our responsibility on our part to put on the spiritual protection God has provided for us.
We can, and we will, resist the enemy’s attempts to deceive, accuse, and cast out when we stand firm by number one, being honest with God, ourselves, and others as a prerequisite to spiritual battle. And we learned what? It’s the belt of truth.
Number two, responding to the truth that God shows us about His will for our lives or living righteously. The breastplate of righteousness. And number three, a clear understanding and a readily sharing of the gospel, the message of grace. Our feet shod with the gospel.
Now, get this, and please, fact number four is very important. The great majority of spiritual warfare never need go beyond the regular practice of living out your position in Christ by faith. Our practice of Paul’s metaphor of the spiritual armor protects us from Satan’s ongoing attempts to break our fellowship with Jesus and as a result, greatly minimizes any impact by the enemy.
And now, however, there are times when we must move beyond standing firm and here’s the key word, engage the enemy in actual combat. There are times that are very predictable when it will go from: you have a great defense, you’re not being deceived, you’re walking with God and there are some times when frontal attack is likely to happen. Five examples.
Number one, when you’re taking significant steps of faith for spiritual growth. Dave went from a nominal Christian who intellectually believed in Jesus, who came to a saving faith, who began to get into God’s word, found out he had the gift of evangelism, found, he began, he actually started a businessmen’s group in our community that people would come from. And because of his role and brothers in the community, they had a big role at the Santa Cruz boardwalk.
Pretty soon, God was using his life. Then his marriage began to change. Then I remember him telling me one day, “You know what? I went to church and when you’re a kid, you put a quarter in. When you got to be in junior high, you put a dollar in and then when you’re an adult, you gave five dollars. And if you had a really good sermon, you maybe give twenty.” I’ve been in the Bible and now he goes, “I’m tithing.” He goes, “I’ve got a good job.”
And he just looked at me like, “Man, sometimes I look at the number that I write down. I go, ‘Dude, are you kidding me? I’m giving that money away?’” And then he says, “And I’ve never been happier and it’s just lightened me up and I see what it does. And God keeps giving me more.” And then he starts to talk about his life and this guy is ... I mean, fast forward, I’ll let you in. It was about five years later; he came on our staff. I mean, his life was having such an impact, he couldn’t squeeze it all in in his day job. And at this particular window, guess what. The enemy was trying to take him out because he was taking aggressive steps in spiritual growth. He was making a real difference. And when that happens, fear and some other things come at him. And we’ll talk about how he responded.
Second, when we’re invading enemy territory.
I remember, we would do major outreaches, especially in Santa Cruz because it’s such a pagan town. And it was in the day when musicals were really popular and we had a gifted church in that area. We might do eight or nine of these and thousands of people would come, hundreds of people would come to Christ. I literally remember at times having three or four appliances break down in one day, right before that happens and my car break down. I mean, you just can’t do all that all. We had just crazy stuff. In one of them, a lady’s hair caught on fire, for real. I mean, it was crazy stuff that was more than just coincidental.
The third time is when you’re exposing him for who he really is.
We as a staff knew we were going to teach on this. We started a few weeks ago and we really upped our prayer and intercession knowing this is going to happen.
Fourth is when we repent or make a clean break with the world or a long-held sin pattern or unholy relationship. Now, we were involved in a lot of Celebrate Recovery ministries. When someone’s coming off cocaine or a sex addiction or alcohol or often, I would have a couple, you know, they’d come and love and grow and then they come up and say, “We’re living together and God’s showing us this really is not His plan and so we’re going to move apart for a season and get some counseling and we’re going to get married.”
And the moment they did that, everything that could go wrong. I’ve talked to countless men involved in either porn or affairs. And when they break off the relationship, just the battle, the enemy doesn’t give up his own easily. So, I don’t say this in any way to make anyone fearful. It’s just you need to put your chinstrap on. You just need to realize, when you take certain steps, there’s going to be opposition.
And then finally, when God is preparing us individually or corporately for a great work for His glory. You read in Nehemiah and as Nehemiah begins to rebuild the wall and a revival is going to take place and Ezra is going to come in and God’s going to turn all of history around with this business guy. And you know, chapters 1, 2, and 3 are pretty exciting. But chapters 4, 5, and 6 are about opposition. And he gets general opposition and he gets personal opposition. And then there is an assassination on him.
Jesus is ready to launch His ministry, He’s ready to be the Savior of the world and begin His formal teaching ministry and what happens? He’s led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness and He’s tempted by the enemy, right?
So, I had a professor, Norman Geisler. And we built a relationship with him and I had one friend that he majored in that and we would try and get him to let us come over for dinner and we’d ask him questions and stuff. And I remember in the hallway one day, I was talking about, “Hey, how’s it going?” This, this, this, this.
He goes, “I’m really getting a lot of opposition in a lot of areas right now.” And then he kind of leaned back and said, “I kind of take it as a compliment. I think the invisible world knows a lot more than the visible world and I figured that if I’m getting this kind of attention right now, must be some good stuff ready to happen.” And I thought what a great perspective.
So those are times when we can expect. The question is once you’re wearing your spiritual armor yet find yourself bombarded by spiritual opposition, how do you engage the enemy and win the battle? Well, we know that our battle’s not against flesh and blood but it’s against the rulers, the powers, the world forces, the spiritual darkness, right? Therefore, stand firm in the Lord. Right?
Put on the full armor of God. And having what? Girded your loins with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness and having had your feet shod with the gospel. In addition, verse 16, “To all, taking up the shield of faith, which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.”
So how you engage that as I would like to talk about, these three armor pieces that we have that will teach us how to engage in spiritual battle and win.
Taking up the shield of faith. I alluded to this when I was addressing the breastplate of righteousness and so these are these two-and-a-half-foot shields from about here, down to here. They were made of iron, then they would have leather on the outside, linen inside, and a gap like this.
Seneca was an ancient writer and he wrote of one warrior who came in and had actually two hundred arrows in his shield. And the Roman armies, they would hook them together and they just kept moving forward.
And so, Paul gives us this metaphor. And the faith here is the absolute confidence in God, His promises, His power, and His program for our lives. Although rooted in the objective reality of the gospel and our new standing with God, justification, in other words, saving faith, this faith refers to our present faith in the Lord Jesus Christ for victory over sin and a host of demonic activity. That’s a quote from Kenneth Wuest. Its purpose is to quench the fiery missiles of the evil one. Which kind of raises the question, what exactly is a fiery missile or a dart?
Let me suggest, it’s the schemes, the temptations, the lies, the deceptions and the attacks, aimed at us, God’s people, get this down, to get us to shift our trust to something or someone other than God. The goal, just the goal is don’t trust God. It’s impossible to please Him apart from faith. The number one agenda of God in your life is this, will you trust me? Will you believe in ... When Jesus was asked, what is the work of God?
John chapter 6 he said, “This is the work of God that you believe on Him whom He has sent.” There is only time the disciples were ever reproved by Jesus that we have in the New Testament. Oh, you of little…[faith].
He wants us to believe. He’s demonstrated His power, He’s given us His promises. In fact, here is a question that in any situation, okay? Jot this down, it’s not in your notes, maybe it’s a challenge in your marriage, maybe it’s a challenge in your business, a challenge of one of your grown kids. Maybe it’s a physical situation. Ask this question. What does it look like to trust God in this situation? Lord, I don’t know what to do. What does it look like to trust you? That changes the equation because here is what I know is God’s will. No matter what I’m going through, an all-knowing, all-powerful, good, and sovereign God wants me to trust Him.
I may have a role in it, I may not. But we tend to jump to: how do I fix this or how do I take control of it? Or, how do I manage it? Some examples of fiery darts are blasphemous thoughts. My friend, my friend had a demonic spirit create overwhelming fear that he went in under thirty seconds from thankful for this beautiful wife and his new life to wondering if he could trust a God who is good enough. And it came completely out of the blue. And I mean, it shook him up. He was as fearful as I was that night.
Other things that can happen. Hateful thoughts, doubts, a burning desire to sin. Questioning other’s motives, unexplained waves of discouragement or depression, often rooted in either questioning God’s identity or your new identity.
I shared, this would happen to me every Saturday afternoon for months and months and months until I recognized what was happening. The classic example and let me encourage you in this whole area of spiritual warfare, study Genesis chapter 3 and study Matthew chapter 4.
The game plan hasn’t changed. Did God really say? There was always a doubt in His Word. Notice, he doesn’t come as Satan, he comes disguised. So, he comes disguised, almost always, offering you a good thing to solve a problem in your life. But he’s offering a shortcut or it’s a good thing in a bad way or at a bad time or in a way that God has said, “This is not the way to do it.”
And then after that, if you take a piece of the fruit, whatever the fruit happens to be that he’s shown you and you know it’s wrong, then he will blow over you with the condemnation for what you’ve done and then convince you that you’re unworthy of any of God’s mercy and any of God’s grace and it’s a downwards spiral.
As you would study Matthew chapter 4, you’ll find that Jesus is tempted in three specific areas and if you study Genesis carefully, you’ll find that they’re tempted in three specific areas and those three areas are found in 1 John. I want you all to open your Bibles to 1 John, all the way at the end, 1 John chapter 2.
And in 1 John chapter 2, he will identify the three areas of temptation that faced our first parents, the three areas of temptation that Jesus faced and the three areas of temptation that you and I will always face.
These are like three verses that would be of great profit to memorize. Verse 15 of 1 John chapter 2, “Do not love the world or the things that are in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Okay, well, what’s the world? Is this the physical world? No.
This is the world as in the culture, the society, and the values. And who’s the prince and the power and the governor of this world? Satan. And so, he creates culture and society and norms and values to seduce.
Here’s his goal. He’s a seducer. He wants to seduce you from your love of Jesus and get you to love you. Yourself. And he tells you the way that you can have all that you want. Remember what Eve…? “This will make you like God.”
And we don’t want to admit this but when we want to control our world and our outcomes, we want to be little gods. And so, notice what he says, well, what is the world? “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life is not from the Father but is from the world.” And then the next verse is like perspective.
“And the world is passing away and also its lust but the one who does the will of God abides forever. And by the way here, this word for lust, lust of the eyes, it’s not necessarily a negative word. Literally, it’s the word desire. In this passage and others, there is a little prefix they put to it. It means an intensified desire.
And so, three things. Jesus comes and the enemy says, first questioning His identity, “If you are the Son of God,” well, he knew who He was. But it’s: prove it. Prove it. Turn these stones into bread. Use Your supernatural power rather than trust in God, you take control and it’s been forty days and the text says He’s hungry. He has a legitimate need for food. And the enemy says, “Well, then turn the stones and prove something and You can meet Your legitimate physical need of the flesh now. My way and my time.”
And what did Jesus say? “It is written man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that precedes out of the mouth of God.” The test, lust of the flesh. Then he took Him up to the top of the temple and he says, “Throw yourself off.” And then, are you ready? He quotes Scripture. He quotes the Psalms and says, “The angels will catch you.” Here is the temptation. The lust of the eyes. “You want to look good in front of people. People will know you’re the Messiah. You’ll be hot stuff.” And then third, “Look at all these kingdoms. You can have power, You can have fame, You can have glory and guess what, there’s no cross involved. All You have to do is bow down and worship me.”
“Be gone, Satan.” And each time: it is written, it is written, it is written. Sometimes, words like lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, the pride of life, they sound a bit biblical because they are. Can I give it to you in our nomenclature? Lust of the flesh: sex. Lust of the eyes: status. Greed. Possessions. Is it wrong to have appetite for food, a desire for sex, a desire for significance, a desire for security? Absolutely not. It’s how you go about getting it and believing that that will satisfy you.
God says, “Sex inside marriage is one of the most precious gifts.” Food, we all need food. But there is one thing to love food, it’s another thing to live to eat. And so he says to us that these desires for the flesh, “I want to provide for you. These are legitimate needs. But let Me provide for you in My way and in My time and in the right way.”
Lust of the eyes is we see something and we all want to look good. I mean, everyone, I’m guessing, looked in the mirror today. And psychologists tell us that if we walk by a department store and there’s glass, every single person, when you’re walking by, what do you do? You look at yourself. And usually…right? And elevators, if you get into an elevator by yourself, there’s a mirror in the elevator, what do you do? Oh, wow. We are obsessed with how we come off.
And it’s so interesting because it doesn’t matter if you’re young, it doesn’t matter if you’re in a gang, it’s funny to me because we’re all human. You can be in a gang and to be cool: “Man, I got my bling, I got my stuff here, get after your own bad self, I got my hat like this.”
Or, if I’m a worship pastor, I get these skinny jeans, I got holes in them here, I do it here. Or, if I’m a member of the Atlana Country Club, “I have these loafers but I don’t wear socks. And I have an insignia, right here, right?” And if you’re ... Actually, I used to go to conferences, and I’d say, “Okay, let’s name the pastor. Hushpuppies from Wisconsin, probably a Mennonite.” Okay? You know, you got the guy. Hair combed over, khaki pants, blue short, one of the Bible Church guys. You know?
And we all dress and we have our groups and there’s nothing wrong in wanting to look good but there is something very wrong when we believe that what we need to possess and how we come off and that our bodies are who we are and that what kind of house we have and what we see and the desire, it’s: if and when I have that or if I earn that. And then the final one is this whole idea of control and power.
The pride of life. I’m a somebody. Christ says, You are already a somebody by whom I made you. You’re already a somebody because you’re worth the death of My Son. And so, what I want you to know is that every temptation that will come your way or my way and the darts will come will be around these three things. It’s classic methodology. He’ll disguise it, he’ll cast doubt on God and His word and your worthiness. And then he will provide an immediate alternative rooted in the pride of life, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes.
And so, the application here when darts of doubt and deception must be immediately met with the shield of faith, your active, present application of truth to your personal situation, as soon as you recognize the dart. And now, I hope you’re thinking, “Okay, what’s that look like?” I mean, practically, how does this actually work? Let me give you three examples.
First, it’s trusting in God’s character. My friend has an overwhelming fear that God’s going to kill his wife that he logically knows makes no sense. In that moment, he says to me, “What do I do?” I said, “Well, you’ve been reading the Bible quite a bit.” Yeah. “Dave, do you know Psalm 84:11?” “No.” “Okay, let’s get it out. ‘The Lord God, Lord Adonai, Yahweh, is a sun and a shield.’” Unlimited source, unlimited protection. “The Lord God is a sun and shield. The Lord gives grace and glory. No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.”
The moment that thought comes in, it’s a lie about God’s character. On a card I have written: the goodness of God, Psalm 84:11 and I’ve memorized that card and then I have the definition on the back of the card of the goodness of God is that which aspect of my heavenly Father that longs and finds great happiness in His people and He wants to give me the very best. When God revealed Himself to Moses, Moses said, “Show me your glory.” Do you remember what he said? “I’ll let all my goodness pass before you.”
The Hebrew word for goodness there, the root of it is generosity. The most generous, lavish, caring, loving, compassionate person in the whole universe is God. He’s got your back and He’s for you. But the moment that thought comes, Oh, He’s not good. If I stay sexually pure, I’ll never get married. God’s not good. If I give my all and surrender to Him, He’ll send me to some foreign country where there is snakes and I hate snakes.
All those are rooted in a lie. And the moment your mind starts that way you stop and you out loud say, “The Lord, the Lord God is a sun and a shield. He has unlimited source of ability and abundance. He can protect me from anything. He gives grace.” What’s grace? That’s getting what you don’t deserve. He gives glory. He wants to exalt, He wants to lift you up. He wants to help you. As you walk with Him by faith, no good thing will he withhold from those who walk uprightly.
So, He prompts you to make a special gift to someone or to help someone out and the first thought is, “Oh, if you do that, there won’t be enough money left for you.” And then you quote that out loud. God’s a God of abundance. And as you quote that out loud, what you’re doing is you’re saying, “I trust in God’s character.”