Spiritual Warfare:  Gearing Up for Battle

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Time for Us to Gear Up for Battle

For some time now, we have been involved in a rather rigorous training program, a Spiritual Boot Camp of sorts, designed to prepare us—as followers of Jesus Christ—for service as soldiers in the Army of God.  As part of this training, we have…

Our Uniforms and Their Maintenance

Having completed these preliminaries, the time has come for us to suit-up in our uniforms and learn about the weapons we will be carrying with us into battle.  Unlike the heavy duty combat attire worn by most soldiers—designed to camouflage both a soldier’s person and location (as well as any dirt that he might pick up along the way)—the uniforms we will be wearing are robes of purest white, made of the finest linen, and designed to call attention to our holy lifestyles and identify us as saints set apart for service to our Lord and Savior.  According to Revelation 19:7-8, this is what we, as the Bride of Christ, will be wearing to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb…

…for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

And, according to Revelation 19:14, it is what we will be wearing when we accompany our Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, on His return to earth to crush His enemies at the Second Coming

And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses.

Our Uniforms are Meant to Shine as Lights in the Darkness

These Kingdom-Issued Spiritual Robes are what each of us receives when we come to Christ for Salvation—robes that were purchased for us by Him through His sacrificial death on the Cross, and given to us to replace the filthy, sin-saturated civilian clothes we are wearing when we are first saved.  We find a wonderful illustration of this in the spiritual re-outfitting of Joshua, Israel’s high priest, in Zechariah 3:1-4…

Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him.

And the LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, O Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?”

Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments.  And the angel said to those who were standing before him, ‘Remove the filthy garments from him.’ And to him he said, ‘Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.’

Like the new garments given to Joshua, our robes, when first issued, are spotless and bright white; however, because we are still living in bodies of flesh and in a corrupted world system, it doesn’t take long for them, too, to become soiled by sin.  This, of course, brings us to the matter of maintenance; for, as Soldiers of God, we need to understand that once we have been issued our uniforms, we must make every effort to see that they remain in the same pristine condition as when we first received them.

Fortunately, we have not been left on our own in this endeavor; for, from the moment we are born into the Family of God, we are placed under the supervision of our very own Drill Instructor/Inspector General—the Holy Spirit—who comes to live within us 24/7 for the rest of our lives, in order to train us in the righteous ways of God, to empower us to live obediently to His commands, and to call attention to any violations of God’s uniform code of conduct.  When such violations do occur, and our uniforms become soiled and tattered due to sin, He is there to inspect us, to convict us of our need to repent, and to assist us in carrying our dirty laundry to the Cross of Christ where it can be cleansed in the Blood of the Lamb.  We can be assured of this because of the promise of God that…

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

Putting on the Mind of Christ

Developing a Missional Mindset

In His capacity as our DI, the Spirit of God works tirelessly to transform us from the raw recruits we once were into the seasoned soldiers we need to be; those who are trained and fully equipped to meet any challenge that might eventually be faced on the battlefield.  However, just providing us with uniforms and then helping us to keep them clean isn’t enough to make us into this kind of soldier.  To really prepare us for service in the army of our King, along with a change of clothing, we must also undergo a change of mentality—one in which we replace our old carnal, self-centered, civilian ways of thinking with new spiritual, selfless, and mission-oriented mindsets.  In other words, it is essential that we learn how to…

…put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:22-24).

What does it mean to be renewed in the spirit of our minds?  Well, it means that we…

  1. Put on the mind of Christ…

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:3-8).

We must have a mind of humility, servanthood, and obedience and, like Christ, we must be willing to give our lives in service to God our Father.

  1. Learn to live in submission…

First, to God…

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you (James 4:7)

Then, to Earthly Rulers…

Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.  For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people (1 Peter 2:13-15).

And, to others…

…submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:21).

We should be living as one “under authority,” respecting whatever authority structure God has placed over us—like the Roman centurion, who told an impressed Jesus in Matthew 8:9…

For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.

  1. Like Jesus, be prepared to suffer…

[For] Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered (Hebrews 5:8).

Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God (1 Peter 4:1-2).

Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.  No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him (2 Timothy 2:3-4).

  1. Train ourselves in godliness…

Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come (1 Timothy 4:7-8).

Our Spiritual Dogtags

We do this as we study our Training Manual in Righteousness, the Bible… 

[For] All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

We do this by learning to Communicate and stay in contact with our Father and Commander-in-Chief through Prayer…

I call to God, and the LORD will save me.  Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and he hears my voice.  He redeems my soul in safety from the battle that I wage, for many are arrayed against me.  God will give ear and humble them, he who is enthroned from of old…because they do not change and do not fear God (Psalm 55:16-19).

For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer.  But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil (1 Peter 3:12).

And, we do this as we Dedicate our Lives and Wills to the Purposes of God through Worship…

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship (Romans 12:1).

…for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body (Corinthians 6:20).

Therefore…let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:28-29).

We Must Remember Who Our Real Enemies Are

The Weapons in Our Armory 

Now that we have addressed the matter of our uniforms and their maintenance, and our mental attitudes have been reoriented from individualistic, self-seeking, and opportunistic ones to those that are more team-spirited, selfless, and completely dedicated to God’s mission in the world, we can move on to an introduction to the weapons that we will be carrying with us into battle.

The first thing we need to know about these weapons is that they, like the warfare we will be engaged in, are spiritual, not fleshly, in nature.  We need to remember that we are not battling flesh and blood people, or warring against the physical, cultural, or religious structures that we’ve identified in our previous exercises, but against the evil spirits who are working in and through these to accomplish the will and work of Satan.  As the Apostle Paul explains in Ephesians 6:12…

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 

Our real enemies, then, are the powers of Satan who are…

…organized in a hierarchy of ruler/principalities (archai), authorities (exousia), powers (dunamis), and spiritual forces of evil (kosmokratoras).  It is reasonable to assume the authority structure here is arranged in descending order.  Daniel 10:13 and 20 unveil the identity of the archai as high level satanic princes set over nations and regions of the earth.

The word exousia carries a connotation of both supernatural and natural government.  In the Apostle’s understanding, there were supernatural forces that ‘stood behind’ human structures…

Presumably, the dunamis operate within countries and cultures to influence certain aspects of life.

The kosmokratoras are the many types of evil spirits that commonly afflict people, e.g., spirits of deception, divination, lust, rebellions, fear, and infirmity.  These, generally, are the evil powers confronted and cast out in most deliverance sessions.  Even among them there is ranking, the weaker spirits subservient to the stronger ones…

These insidious powers continue to work through human governments, religions, and powerful personalities to keep people in bondage to legalism, social ideology, and moral compromise.  Their role is to pollute the minds and pervert the wills of people, diverting them from redemption, holding them hostage to the father of lies.[1] 

Powerful spiritual enemies such as these require powerful spiritual weapons to ensure their defeat—the kind of weapons which can only be provided by our All-Powerful Lord…

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the fleshbut have divine power to destroy [enemy] strongholds.  We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete (2 Cor. 10: 3-6).

We Are Never Out of His Line of Sight

Our Defensive Weapons

As for the weapons themselves, these fall into one of two categories—they are either defensive or offensive in nature.  In Ephesians 6:10-12, Paul describes those in the defensive category by comparing them to the armor worn by the Roman soldiers in his day.  During his many imprisonments, when he was either chained to or guarded by one soldier after another, he had countless opportunities to study these warriors up close, and plenty of time to reflect on the parallels between Rome’s mighty fighting machine and the kind of warriors we should be for Christ.  Given this insight, Paul’s instructions to us are to… 

  1. …be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might…

Here, at the outset, Paul admonishes us to remember just where our strength for the battle comes from—it comes from the Lord.  This is so important for us to keep in mind because, on our own, most of us don’t even have the strength to deal with enemies that we can see—much less take on enemy forces that we cannot see.  Fortunately for us, the Lord is not at the same disadvantage that we are.  Not only is He All-Powerful but He sees everything—and, according to 2 Chronicles 16:9…

…the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.

In fact, He has made the very same power that raised Jesus from the dead and exalted Him far above all rule and authority and power and dominion available to us, so that we can…

…walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy (Colossians 1:10-11); and,

…to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us (2 Corinthians 4:7).

  1. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm…

Being fully assured of having the strength we need to fight, we can now put on the armor that will protect us from our enemies.  And, armed with the knowledge that every need of ours will be supplied by our Commander-in-Chief, we can, with confidence…

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.  Let all that you do be done in love. (1 Cor. 16:13-14).

The Belt of Truth

  1. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth…

As strange as it may seem, the very first piece of armor we are told to put on is the Belt.  That’s because, while seeming to be the least important piece of equipment in our arsenal, it is actually the most important.  Although it is nearly invisible when the rest of the armor is put on, this piece is so important because, like the Belt worn by the Roman soldier…

  • It secures the soldier’s robe and keeps it from flapping around in battle;
  • The soldier’s shield and lance are attached to it when they are not in use;
  • The soldier’s breastplate is attached to it and held in place by it; and,
  • The sheath containing the soldier’s sword is also attached to it.[2]

Unlike the Roman soldier’s belt, though, our belt is not just any old piece of leather.  Paul refers to it as the Belt of Truth because Truth, for us, is the foundational piece of our spiritual armor—Truth, for us, is none other than Jesus Christ.  Not only is He the One who holds everything in life together but He is the One who gives us eternal life and brings us into the Family of God in the first place.  As soldiers in the Army of God, we know the Truth that…

…In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1)…

…[and that] the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).

We know that He is…

…the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through [Him] (John 14:6).

And, we know the saving Truth that God wants everyone else to know is…

…there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time (1 Tim 2:5-6).

Ours is One of Righteousness

  1. And having put on the breastplate of righteousness…

The breastplate worn by a typical Roman soldier was made of either bronze or brass and was the shiniest and most beautiful piece of equipment he owned.  It covered the area of the body from his neck to nearly his knees and protected all of his vital organs, especially his heart.  It consisted of two sections of metal—one going down the back and the other going down the front—which were held together at the shoulders and attached to the belt at the waist.[3]  No doubt, when Paul saw this breastplate, he was reminded of an image of protection similar to the one afforded to us by the Righteousness of God, and made available to us through Christ…

…the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe (Romans 3:22).

When we come face-to-face with the Truth that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life—and the only mediator between God and men—and we put our faith in Him for Salvation, we are immediately made righteous in the sight of God and empowered to live righteously by the Spirit of God who comes to live within us.  These are the two aspects of Righteousness—one Positional and one Practical—that we need to take into consideration here.  John MacArthur explains them in this way…

Basically, God’s gift of salvation in Christ brings a believer into a position of righteousness. God imputes the perfect righteousness of His Son to the believer, and thereby declares him righteous positionally.  But as you know full well, believers still have sin in their lives — Christians are not practically righteous, 100 percent of the time. However, it is on the basis of our positional righteousness, that we are exhorted to strive for practical righteousness in our daily lives.

Positionally…

As a Christian you are: spiritually alive unto God, dead to sin, forgiven, declared righteous, a child of God, God’s possession, an heir of God, blessed with all spiritual blessings, a citizen of heaven, a servant of God, free from the Law, crucified to the world, a light in the world, victorious over Satan, cleansed from sin, declared holy and blameless, set free in Christ from the power of sin, secure in Christ, granted peace and rest, and led by the Holy Spirit…

Positionally, you cannot increase or decrease in the favor of God. As a genuine Christian, nothing you do, or fail to do, can change to the slightest degree your perfect standing before God — for ‘in Him you have been made complete’ (Colossians 2:10).

But…

…that completeness does not mean that when you understand your position you will remain as you are—no, you will see changes in your life. The New Testament continually emphasizes your identity as a believer and urges you understand and apply your spiritual resources. As you continue to mature in Christ, you will not only come to a greater understanding of who you are, but you’ll also rely more consistently on your resources — those granted to you as a result of your position in Christ — to handle the practical aspects of Christian living. [4]

Because of our Positional Righteousness, we can pray with expectation…

Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me (Ps. 5:8); and,

In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me; incline your ear to me, and save me (Ps. 71:2)!

And, as we maintain our Practical Righteousness, we can trust God’s promise that…

Righteousness guards him whose way is blameless, but sin overthrows the wicked (Prov. 13:6).

Our Shoes are for Carrying the Gospel of Peace

  1. …and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace

Although they might seem relatively insignificant, especially when compared to his massive and beautiful breastplate, the shoes worn by a Roman soldier were critical pieces of his equipment.  Like the breastplate, they, too, consisted of two parts—the greave, which was a piece of metal—a sort of shin plate—extending from the knee to the ankle; and, the shoe itself, which was made of leather with long, dangerous spikes on the bottom of the shoe.[5]  Not only did these shoes enable him to stand firm while engaging in hand-to hand combat with an enemy but, because of the spikes, they could also be used as weapons to maim or even kill his opponent.  When properly shod, the Roman soldier was prepared for whatever the war threw at him—he was ready to march to the next battlefield and ready to fight when he arrived there.

The spiritual parallel for us is this:  having put on the belt of truth—that is, having put on the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 13:14), and having been covered by our breastplate of righteousness—both the positional and the practical or personal, we are ready to put on our shoes and take the gospel (the good news) of peace with us wherever we go.  Being so shod, we are equipped for both the march and any enemies we may meet along the way; remembering…

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns’ (Isaiah 52:7).

To Protect Against the Flaming Arrows of the Enemy

  1. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one…

So far, in the donning of our spiritual armor, we have put on…

  • our Belt of Truth—the Truth being Jesus Christ, whom we also know to be the Word of God;
  • our Breastplate of Righteousness—our Positions of Righteousness with God and our Practices of Right Living made possible through our relationship with Christ; and,
  • our heavy-duty Shoes—which enable us to take the Gospel of Peace–the good news about Jesus–across some rough and rugged spiritual terrain to those in need of it.

Before we march out, though, Paul tells us that we must take up our Shields of Faith to protect us against any enemy missiles that may be launched at us as we proceed.  Since we’ve already exercised Faith in coming to Christ for Salvation…

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9)…

By Faith, we have been made Righteous and live Righteously…

’my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.’  But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls (Hebrews 10:38-39)…

And, it is with Faith that we launch out with the Gospel of Peace…

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ…standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel…(Philippians 1:27)…

…what Faith could Paul be referring to here, when he tells us to take up the Shield of Faith?  Since Faith is…

…the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1)…

I think he is referring the assurance we need that—before going into battle…

If God is for us, who can be against us?…[assurance] that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

…and the conviction that…

…in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us (Romans 8: 31, 37-39).

If…

….everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith (1 John 5:4)…

…where does this Faith come from?  Well, according to Romans 10:17, it comes from the Word of God, for…

…faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ (Rom. 10:17).

To help illustrate why Paul chose this particular piece of equipment to represent the protection afforded to us by Faith, we need to take a closer look at the shield used by the Roman soldiers in his day.

A Roman legionnaire usually possessed two shields—a small round one made of metal that was highly decorated, and only worn when he needed to dress to impress; and, a large rectangular one, sized and shaped very much like a door that, when used properly, would cover just about every part of his body. It was this shield that he used in combat and the one that Paul was referring to in this instruction.

This type of shield was usually formed by taking at least six layers of animal skin and laying them on top of a piece of wood.  These were then tanned and woven together to created a nearly impenetrable surface.  In order to keep the leather on the shields from becoming dried out and brittle over time, a regular application of oil was needed—something which became an important part of a soldier’s daily routine.  In addition to this, prior to going out into battle, a soldier would immerse his shield in water until it was completely saturated.  In this way, be could prevent his shield from catching on fire when it was struck by the enemy’s flaming arrows.[6]

I am sure that when Paul learned how the soldiers cared for and used their shields, it put him in mind of the anointing oil of the Holy Spirit and the Water of the Word he mentioned at another time in Ephesians 5:25.  It is through our saturation in the Water of the Word of God, applied to us daily by the Holy Spirit, that we receive the Faith needed to move out onto the battlefield with confidence, laying claim to the victory that Christ has already won for us.  We can do this because we know that…

Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him (Proverbs 30:5).

The Helmet of Salvation

  1. …and take the helmet of salvation…

As for the helmet of the Roman warrior, it too was made of bronze, with pieces of armor attached to the sides to protect his cheeks and jaw.  It was often decorated with elaborate engravings and usually had a plume made from either feathers or horsehair standing straight up from the top of the helmet—so it was quite impressive to behold.  Because the helmet was so heavy, the inside of it was lined with a cushiony substance which protected the head.[7]  A wise soldier wouldn’t dare go into battle without it because he surely would have lost his head to an enemy’s battleaxe or sword.

Paul tells us that we, too, have a helmet for the protection of our heads—in our case, our minds—that is found in our Salvation.  When we come to Christ for Salvation, we come to a personal Knowledge of the Truth, something which we had never known before.  That’s because…

…the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4).

But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another (Ephesians 4:20-25).

Just as the Truth is in Jesus, the Truth is now in us, and given that, we are to live as people of the Truth.  In our former civilian lives, all we knew were the lies that the enemy wanted us to believe; but now, as people of the Truth, our minds must be renewed so that we think like Jesus—and, when we start thinking like Jesus, we will start acting like Jesus.  So, in putting on our Helmet of Salvation, what we’re doing is protecting our minds from the lies, accusations, and false guilt that the enemy hurls at us in an attempt to render the “command centers” of our minds inoperable.

But, having…

…been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God (1 Pet. 1:23)…

…we can protect our minds from the devil’s onslaught by filling them with the very same Word of God.  As we do, we will learn more about who we are in Christ and become more confident and secure in our identity as the Children of God.  Our “heads” will then be as protected as a Roman’s soldier’s was in his helmet, and the enemy will be denied the access to our mind that he has long been scheming to get.

The Word of God

  1. …and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God…

In Hebrews 4:12, we are told that…

…the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart…

…and, it was the two-edged sword of the Roman soldier that Paul had in mind here.  Although a soldier usually had five swords at his disposal, not all of them were suitable for use on the battlefield; some were too big and unwieldy for hand-to-hand combat and some were too small to inflict very much damage.  But the two-edged sword was just right for this purpose; it was the sharpest, easiest to maneuver, and the most lethal weapon he had in his arsenal.

This sword was about 19 inches long and in addition to its two razor sharp blades, it had a tip which turned upward.  When it was thrust into an enemy combatant and twisted, it could virtually rip the foe’s insides apart.[8] As gruesome as the thought of this may be, it was the image Paul chose to use when describing the Word of God as the Sword of the Spirit; for, it is the one weapon capable of penetrating a person’s innermost being, separating one’s thoughts from his feelings, one’s blood from his bones, and one’s mind, will, and emotions from those of God.

Probably the best example of the effective use of the Word of God as a defensive weapon can be seen in Jesus’ use of it in His wilderness testing, recorded for us in Matthew 4:1-11…

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.

And the tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.’  But he answered, ‘It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, He will command his angels concerning you, and On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’

Jesus said to him, ‘Again it is written, You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.  And he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.’

Then Jesus said to him, ‘Be gone, Satan! For it is written, You shall worship the Lord your God
and him only shall you serve.’  Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.

Three times, Jesus was tempted by Satan to act apart from the will of God and each time He met the temptation with the spoken Word of God.  This is exactly what we should do when confronted by the devil or tempted by “…the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16).”  Hindsight being what it is, if the First Adam had wielded the Word of God as faithfully and forcefully as the Second Adam, just think how different life on the earth would have been!

The use of the Sword of the Spirit is not limited to its use as a defensive capacity, however.  Unlike the other pieces of our armor, it also serves as an offensive weapon.  But, we will have to wait until our next exercise to learn more about that and our other weapons of offense–and, about the Strategic, Operational, and Tactical Levels of our Warfare.

 

Armed and Ready for Battle

 

The Gaither Vocal Band reminds us of the faithfulness of God’s promises…

 

Original Armor Images by Rev. Yves Langevin, courtesy of www.freebibleimages.org.

Image of the soldier’s shoes from Dressed to Kill by Rick Renner.

[1] Thomas B. White, “Understanding Principalities and Powers,” in Territorial Spirits, ed. C. Peter Wagner (Chichester, England: Sovereign World Ltd., 1991), 61-62.

[2] Rick Renner, Dressed to Kill: A Biblical Approach to Spiritual Warfare and Armor (Tulsa, Oklahoma: Harrison House, 2015), 261-262.

[3] Renner, Dressed to Kill, 292.

[4] John MacArthur, “How to Get in the Game,” article dated January 12, 2010, on the Grace to You website at https://www.gty.org/library/articles/a179.

[5] Renner, Dressed to Kill, 313-314.

[6] Renner, Dressed to Kill, 346-351.

[7] Renner, Dressed to Kill, 374-375.

[8] Renner, Dressed to Kill, 405-406.

Spiritual Warfare: Preparation for Our Destiny

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Authorized by Christ

…to Take Down the Kingdom of Darkness

In our last exercise, Spiritual Warfare: A Question of Authority, we were introduced to the concept of Dominion; and, as part of that introduction, we learned that our Destiny, as God’s Children, is to one-day rule alongside of Christ in His Coming Kingdom.  In anticipation of and preparation for that Destiny, God gifted the first Man and Woman with the Authority that they (and we) would need to rule over His Earthly Creation.

Unfortunately, this Authority was lost—handed over to Satan—when Adam and Eve succumbed to his temptation to disobey God in order to become “gods” on their own terms—that is, apart from God and through their own wisdom and works.  Of course, it didn’t take long for them to realize what a foolish decision that was; for, not only did they immediately lose their (and our) Authority to rule, but both they and we became slaves to Satan, sin, and death in the process.

Thankfully, God already had a plan in place—a plan in which His Son, Jesus, would come to the Earth as a Man, live and die as a Man; and then, through His sacrificial and atoning death on the Cross, He would recover Man’s lost estate—which included the forfeited Right to Rule over the Earth.  It was this Authority that Jesus, upon the successful completion of His mission, restored to His Disciples, and to all who would later come to Faith in God through Him.

He May Have Lost His Authority but He Still Has His Teeth

If We’ve Already Won, Why Fight?

When we say that Jesus, through His Victorious Death and Resurrection, won back our lost Authority, we do not mean to imply that He divested Satan of any of his power.  That’s because, in spite of the often-interchangeable use of these words, Authority and Power are two different things.  As Dutch Sheets explains…

…authority and power are not the same.  Power is the ‘strength or force’ needed to rule; authority is the ‘right’ to do so.  They are governmental twins and must operate in tandem; authority without the power to enforce it is meaningless; power exercised without authority—the right to use that power—is usurpation and is morally wrong.

Satan didn’t gain any power at the fall and didn’t lose any at the cross.  His power or ability didn’t change at either event; his authority, or the right to use that power, did.  In fact, though Christians often state otherwise, Scripture nowhere says that Christ delivered us from or dealt with Satan’s power at Calvary.  He dealt with Satan’s authority.[1]

This difference is important for us to grasp because it will help us understand the Apostle Peter’s warning to…

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).

It is also an important distinction to be made because…

If Jesus stripped Satan of his power, as some teach, then we longer need to concern ourselves with him—he becomes a nonissue.  Or if we Christians have been delivered from Satan’s power, as some teach, then he can no longer affect or control us.  We would be able to ignore him completely, which is precisely what many Christians do.

If on the other hand, Jesus dealt with Satan’s authority—the right to use his power or abilities—then we would need to deal with him as a usurper, a rebel, a thief that has no right to steal, kill, and destroy but will if not stopped (see John 10:10).  If we have been delivered from Satan’s authority and given a higher authority in Christ’s name, then we must exercise that authority over the devil’s works and power.  When we do, God’s awesome power will back up our authority.[2]

Since we know that Jesus has dealt with Satan’s authority, and we have been delivered from his authority and given a higher one in Christ’s name, we must use what we have been given to stop the works of the Satanic Usurper so that the Kingdom of Heaven can come to the Earth—just as God has always intended it to do.

For although Satan knows what Christ did to him at Calvary and through the Resurrection, and realizes that as a part of Christ the believer is his master, he still carries on a guerrilla warfare against the Church through the use of subterfuge, deception, and bluff.  While guerrilla warfare is illegal, it is still warfare and must be faced and overcome.  God could put Satan completely away, but He has chosen to use him to give the Church ‘on-the-job’ training in overcoming.  Otherwise, there would be no more warfare of any kind.

We are in apprenticeship for our place with Christ on the throne following the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.  The crown belongs to the conqueror—and without an adversary there could be no practice in overcoming.[3]

Crown of Righteousness

Is There a Crown in Your Future?

An Apprenticeship in Overcoming

By definition, to overcome means to…

  • to get the better of in a struggle or conflict; conquer; defeat: as in, to overcome the enemy; or,
  • to prevail over (opposition, a debility, temptations, etc.); surmount: as in, to overcome one’s weaknesses.[4]

I don’t know about you but the thought of all this effort holds little to no appeal for me; as someone with a serious aversion to confrontation and conflict, it sounds like a lot more hostility and hardship than I want to sign up for.  Given my “druthers,” my flesh—that is, my body and soul—would prefer to coast along through life with as few physical challenges and emotional hassles as possible.  However, this just isn’t going to happen, is it?  As most of us can already attest to, life seems to be one series of obstacles after another; between which, if we are fortunate, we find brief periods of rest and relief.  So, in light of this, what should our attitude toward these obstacles be?

The Apostle Paul answers that question for us in Philippians 2:5, when he challenges us to…

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus…

…a challenge which then begs the question, what kind of mind did Jesus have?  Having reviewed some of the humiliation, rejection, opposition, and affliction that Jesus encountered on His way to the Cross in our last exercise, and considering how He triumphed over every obstacle that stood between Him and the completion of His mission—a mission which ultimately ended with His victory over death itself—I think we can safely say that the mind of Christ was one of an Overcomer.

I bet you didn’t realize it at the time but, when you trusted Christ as your Savior, you also became an overcomer, just like Him.  That’s because, before you could even come to faith in Him, you had to overcome three really big obstacles–the things that the Bible refers to as “the world, the flesh, and the devil.”   This means that on your way to the Cross, you had to overcome the downward pull of the world and its culture, the inward pull of your sinful human nature, plus all of the obstacles that were placed in your path by the devil solely for the purpose of keeping you away from Jesus.  And, since all of this was being accomplished over the course of time, you probably had no idea at all that this was what you were actually doing.

Overcomer

We Can Do All Things Through Christ

The truth is, that as distasteful as the thought of overcoming may be to our flesh, once we are Born Again through Christ, it becomes a part of our spiritual makeup—or, as these verses attest to, a part of our Spiritual DNA…

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. John 16:33

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith (1 John 5:4).

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them [opposing spirits], for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21).

To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne (Revelation 3:21).

Overcoming, then, is the process by which we, as the Church, learn to take authority over the obstacles and the enemies that are trying to keep God’s Will and Kingdom from coming to the Earth.  It is imperative that we become adept at this because, as the Bride of God’s Son, we will one-day be ruling with Him over this very same Kingdom.  As the Apostle Paul explains it…

…do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases?  Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! (1 Corinthians 6:2-3)

Therefore, in preparation for her glorious Destiny, the Church—the Bride of Christ…

…must learn the art of spiritual warfare, of overcoming evil forces in preparation for her assumption of the throne following the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.  To enable her to learn the technique of overcoming, God devised the scheme of prayer.  To give her ‘on-the-job’ training, God delegated to her the authority to enforce His will right here on earth.  In order to enable her to acquire the character and the ‘know how’ she will need as co-sovereign, He has place upon her the responsibility and authority to enforce God’s will and administer His decisions in the affairs of earth.[5]

We’re in the Army Now!

God's Army

Our Faithful Service for Christ will bring us Eternal Rewards

Although they may be unaware of it at the time, when New Believers come to Christ for Salvation, in addition to being Born Again spiritually and adopted into the Family of God, they are also automatically inducted into the Armed Forces of God.  Make no mistake about it, this is not a Volunteer Army; for, everyone who is raised to New Life in Christ is immediately conscripted into it as one of His Soldiers.

Unfortunately, some of these Believers, due to a lack of adequate Discipleship Training, remain woefully ignorant of the Spiritual War raging around them and of their responsibility to do battle in it—so they never even report for Service.  Some others, when they are made aware of the conflict, acknowledge the reality of the situation but then refuse to become involved; leaving others to do the fighting for them, while they assume the stance of Conscientious Objectors.  And, still others, when informed of the War and their status as Soldiers in it, flatly refuse to believe that it is real and go AWOL, choosing to live out their lives in a perpetual state of Spiritual Denial.

But, let’s not be counted among these!  Not only does their absence on the Spiritual Battlefield hurt the cause of Christ and hinder the coming of His Kingdom, but it also robs them of the rewards they may have otherwise received in that Kingdom.

Instead, let’s keep in mind that…

…we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil (2 Corinthians 5:10); and,

…whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward (Colossians 3:23-24).

Then, we can…

…press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14); being…

…fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised (Romans 4:21).

 

 

Mandisa reminds us that each of us is an “Overcomer” through Christ …

 

[1] Dutch Sheets, Authority in Prayer: Praying with Power and Purpose (Bethany House: Minneapolis, Minnesota, 2006), 20.

[2] Sheets, Authority in Prayer, 21.

[3] Paul E. Billheimer, Destined for the Throne (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 1975), 91.

[4] overcome. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/overcome (accessed: August 27, 2017).

[5] Billheimer, Destined for the Throne, 49.