Spiritual Warfare: Understanding the Nature of the Conflict

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This is War

And We Need to Know What It’s All About

Having established some of the foundational principles for Spiritual Warfare in our last two exercises—that…

  1. Through Christ, we are once-again the divinely Authorized Rulers over Planet Earth; and,
  2. By learning to exercise our Authority over His and our enemies, we are being trained to rule along with Christ when He returns to the Earth to set up His Kingdom…

…it is time for us to move on to the training exercises that will help ensure our victory in the spiritual battles that lie ahead.  To help us get into the best fighting shape possible, this training will include exercises in…

Understanding the Nature of the Conflict;
Knowing the Enemy;
Getting the Lay of the Land;
Familiarizing Ourselves with our Weapons; and,
Honoring the Rules of Engagement.

That being said, let’s get exercise number one underway by first assessing what is involved in this conflict; for…

…what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand (Luke 14:31)?

What We Need to Know

At the outbreak of any war, before the potential combatants suit up and march off to battle, it is essential that they know whom they will be fighting and what they will be fighting for.  In order for them to be fully committed to winning the war at any cost, they must first understand the reason behind the conflict and just what is at stake in it for them.  If they don’t believe they have a personal interest in it, then they won’t even bother to show up.  I think this concept is best illustrated by a brief look at the United States and its delayed entry into World War II.

Throughout much of its history, when it came to its involvement in overseas wars, the United States maintained a policy of isolationism, because it didn’t see that it had a personal stake in those faraway conflicts.  Maintaining this position was possible because, unlike a lot of the nations in other parts of the world—nations which shared common borders—the United States was protected east and west by oceans, and shared its northern and southern borders with only two neighboring—and friendly—countries.  So, why become involved in wars on the other side of the world which seemingly had no bearing on life in America?

Uncle Sam Wants You

And Uncle Sam Got Them , Too!

All of this changed, however, when Adolph Hitler came to power in Germany, and he began his rampage across Europe in pursuit of world domination.  At first, even though war had been declared by England and France in 1939 and Hitler had been wreaking havoc across the continent before then (with his oriental ally, Japan, doing the same in the Far East even longer than that), the US refused to become involved.  Since it wasn’t being affected by the war, why fight in it?  That was its position until Japan attacked America’s naval base at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941—and, then, it became personal!  The US immediately declared war and thousands of young men—eventually millions—made their way to the nearest military recruiter and signed up, because they suddenly had a stake in the outcome of the war!

Although the Second World War was…

…the most widespread and deadliest war in history, involving more than 30 countries and resulting in more than 50 million military and civilian deaths (with some estimates as high as 85 million dead)…[1]

…the war which has been raging in the spiritual world since the beginning of time is one that has affected far more people (every person who has ever lived, in fact), and is far deadlier than WWII—or, all of the wars in human history put together, for that matter.  That’s because it is the one war which has not only impacted the quality of life on this planet and endangered the life of every human being on it on a daily basis, but it is the one war which has determined the eternal destiny of every person who has made the earth his home.  Given this, it is a war in which we all have a very personal stake—and one that we each need to understand more fully and take more seriously!

To help us do this, let’s take a moment and look at this war within the overall context of the Bible Story, in an effort to discover…

The Source of the Conflict;
The Nature of the Conflict; and,
The Outcome of the Conflict.

As we do, we need to keep in mind God’s original goal for Mankind and the Earth—which was, to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Earth, with His Sons and Daughters ruling over it in Righteousness.  We know this to be true because…

  • God gave the first Man and Woman Dominion over the Earth—that is, the Authority to Rule it–which they subsequently lost to Satan; and,
  • Jesus later came to the Earth and reclaimed that lost Authority through His death and resurrection, and restored it to the Children of God.

In fact, as these verses illustrate, Jesus’ entire ministry was focused on restoring the lost Kingdom of God and re-establishing it on the Earth within the Hearts of Men…

From that time [the beginning of His ministry] Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17)

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God…unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3, 5)

…but he said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God…for I was sent for this purpose.” (Luke 4:43)

Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. (Luke 8:1)

When the crowds learned it, they followed him, and he welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God and cured those who had need of healing. (Luke 9:11)

And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried…your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.  Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the   (Luke 12:29-32)

The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it. (Luke 16:16)

…and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Luke 22:29)

And this gospel [the good news] of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:14)

Since the Kingdom of God—both its restoration and proclamation—was at the heart of Jesus’ mission to Earth, then it stands to reason that it must have been the reason for the conflict in the first place.

The Source of the Conflict

To discover the reason behind this war, we must go back before time even began; when, at some point in Eternity Past, the All-Wise, All-Knowing, All-Powerful God purposed to have a Family and to create the Earth as the place for that Family to live.  In anticipation of this, He first created a huge Host of Angelic Beings, whose purpose would be to serve Him by serving His soon-to-be Heirs of Salvation—or, the coming Sons and Daughters of God…

Of the angels he says, ‘He makes his angels winds, and his ministers a flame of fire.’  Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?  (Hebrews 1:7, 14)

Angels of the Lord

Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his hosts! Psalm 148:2

To facilitate this future Service, God created different types of Angels, each one designed for a specific purpose and each one given a particular rank of Authority—with those highest in rank called Archangels.  One of these Archangels was named Lucifer; and, as possibly the highest-ranking Angel, it was his job to protect the Throne of God and lead the Worship which took place around itHe must have been something to behold, because in Ezekiel 28 he was described as being…

…the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty… every precious stone was your covering… On the day that you were created they were prepared.

You were an anointed guardian cherub.  I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God; in the midst of the stones of fire you walked.

You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created.

That is…

…till unrighteousness was found in you… you were filled with violence in your midst, and you sinned; so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God, and I destroyed you, O guardian cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire.

Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor. I cast you to the ground… (Ezekiel 28:14-18)

Just what could have caused this?  In Isaiah 14, we learn that…

You [Lucifer] said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’  (Isaiah 14:13-14)

In other words, Lucifer—now the Devil and Satan—so coveted God’s Throne and Power that he rebelled against God in an effort to obtain that Throne and usurp His Power.  Having been denied the Throne in the Kingdom of Heaven, Satan then purposed to set up his own kingdom here on Earth.

God had other plans for the Earth, though; for, as we have already learned, He intended for it to be ruled by Man.  So, try to imagine the outrage that Satan must have felt when he heard God announce…

Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth (Genesis 1:26)…

…as well as his delight when the Woman he tempted…

…saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate (Genesis 3:6).

What a coup!  Not only did he succeed in enslaving Man and alienating him from God, but he also managed to wrest the Right to Rule from Man so that he could set up his own kingdom here on the Earth.  Where before, there had only been One Kingdom and One Will in existence—that being God’s—there were now Two Kingdoms and Wills, both contending for the hearts and allegiances of Men and Women.  As Watchman Nee explains…

We may say that there are two massive contradictory wills throughout the universe.  On one side stands the holy and perfect will of God; on the other is arrayed the defiled, defiling, and opposing will of Satan.  In between subsists the sovereign, independent, free will of man.[2]

This is so important for us to grasp, because in this cosmic battle of wills, the decision as to which one will prevail on the earth has been delegated by God to the will of each human being living on this planet; and, it is determined every time he or she is chooses to do what will satisfy his or her own selfish desires, or what will be pleasing to God.  To put it simply, then, this contention for the free will of man is what this war is all about.

The Nature of the Conflict

When we describe this war as a clash between kingdoms, mind you, we are not talking about physical or material kingdoms, but spiritual ones.  They are actually the systems of governance which rule the hearts and minds of people and, by extension, the operating systems existing in the spheres where these people live.  We need to clarify this because I think there is a tendency on our parts to regard Satan as the owner of the Earth when, in reality, he isn’t.  In Ephesians 2:2, the Apostle Paul calls him the Prince of the Power of the Air because that is where his domain is.  The Earth itself, on the other hand, still belongs to God…

The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein… (Psalm 24:1)

Since Adam and Eve were only given the Right to Rule as God’s governors on the Earth—and not the title deed to it—the Dominion that Satan took from them also gave him the Authority to rule over the world and its systems, but not the legal ownership of the Earth.  Even so, this Authority alone was enough to enable him, over time, to establish the political, cultural, and religious systems that are so reflective of his ambition and nature–systems which he has used so effectively to manipulate and dominate his poor, unsuspecting subjects ever since the Garden of Eden.

Because Satan’s kingdom was founded upon pride and rebellion, and operates on the basis of deception and lies, slander and corruption, every institution that he has established as part of this world’s system bears those same characteristics and functions according to the same principles.  Through these institutions, as well as through his constant appeal to the pride and baser human instincts of man, he has—as the god of this world—been able to control the hearts, minds, and especially the wills of those in his kingdom, and 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 4:3-4).

The Devil's Tactics

No Tactic is too Low

In the war to maintain control of his subjects and his territory, no underhanded scheme or dirty trick has been beneath him—with guerrilla warfare being his specialty.   To use the words of Jesus…

He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44); and, is…

The thief [who] comes only to steal and kill and destroy (John 10:10).

C.S Lewis, in his classic apologetic novel, The Screwtape Letters, imagines this war of wills through the eyes of a seasoned demon named Screwtape, when he writes…

To us [demons] a human is primarily food; our aim is the absorption of its will into ours, the increase of our own area of selfhood at its expense. But the obedience which the Enemy [God] demands of men is quite a different thing. One must face the fact that all the talk about His love for men, and His service being perfect freedom, is not (as one would gladly believe) mere propaganda, but an appalling truth.

He really does want to fill the universe with a lot of loathsome little replicas of Himself—creatures whose life, on its miniature scale, will be qualitatively like His own, not because he has absorbed them but because their wills freely conform to His.  We want cattle who can finally become food; He wants servants who can finally become sons. We want to suck in, He wants to give out. We are empty and would be filled; He is full and flows over. Our war aim is a world in which Our Father Below has drawn all other beings into himself: the Enemy (God) wants a world full of beings united to Him but still distinct. [3]

In this excerpt, Lewis clarifies the Nature of the Conflict for us:  Satan and those in his kingdom want to destroy the individual and absorb his will into their own, in order to satisfy their insatiable greed and increase their power base; while God and those in His Kingdom want to bring the individual into the Family of God, shower him with love, and empower him to become the unique and whole/holy person God created him to be.   In the former, the motivation is selfishness and greed, while in the latter, it is giving and grace.  Given the marked contrast in the nature of these two kingdoms, we might wonder why anyone in their right mind would will to remain in a kingdom such a Satan’s, when they could will to enjoy the freedom in a Kingdom like God’s.  As I see it, the most likely explanation is that they have no idea that the Kingdom of God even exists, and that they can actually choose to be a part of it—a situation directly attributable to the Church’s lack of obedience in carrying out Christ’s final and Great Commission to…

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age (Matthew 28:18-19).

Soldier of the Cross

Armed and Ready to Serve

As the Sons and Daughters of God–and Soldiers of the Cross, it is our responsibility to take the Light of the Gospel into the sin-darkened territories held by Satan, so that those still imprisoned there can see their way clear to the Kingdom of God.  Instead of going AWOL, we need to suit up and show up, ready for battle—because the sooner we do what we are supposed to do, the sooner the war will end.

The Outcome of the Conflict

Because…

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance (2 Peter 3:9)…

…He will not bring this war to an end until every single one of His Children has been brought home to Him.  When all those who will be saved are saved, and His Family is complete, He will crush His enemies, merely by the Word of His mouth, and set up His Kingdom of Righteousness and Peace on the Earth. Satan and all those in his kingdom will be thrown into the Lake of Fire where they will suffer forever, while those in God’s Kingdom will take their places before him and hear, at last, their Father say…

Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master (Matthew 25:21).

 

Keith and Kristyn Getty challenge the Church to Arise…

 

 

 

[1] History Channel Website, http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii.

[2] Watchman Nee, The Spiritual Man (Richmond, VA: Christian Fellowship Publishers, Incorporated, 1968), Book 3, 77.

[3] C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2001), chapter 8.

 

Salvation: What It Is and Why We Need It

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When it comes to thinking about Salvation, there seem to be two vastly different approaches to the subject.  Although both of these are very broad generalizations…

  • To the “Unsaved,” Salvation is often regarded as either–
    • an antiquated theological doctrine, designed to rob life of its happiness and any sense of personal fulfillment; or,
    • a religious crutch for those who lack the intelligence, sophistication, attractiveness, or success necessary to do life well on their own; while…
  • To the “Saved,” it is seen merely as the means by which—
    • their sins are forgiven and their lives are made right with God; and,
    • their eternal destination is changed from Hell to Heaven.

Of course, the first approach is completely inaccurate and the second one is woefully incomplete.  So, in an effort to correct the former and complete the latter, let’s begin to stretch our Spiritual understanding as we learn What Salvation Is, and Why We Need It.

Salvation

We All Need to be Rescued by Jesus


What Salvation Is
 

For a definition of Salvation, I prefer the one found in my little Webster’s pocket dictionary which defines Salvation simply as “a saving or a being saved” or as “a person or thing that saves.”  I like this definition because “a saving” implies an act“a being saved” implies a process; and “a person or thing that saves” implies that salvation is not something that we can do for ourselves—it must come from a source outside of us.  Essentially, this is what Biblical Salvation is all about; for, in reality it is…

  • The One-Time Act of faith which makes a person a child of God;
  • The Life-Long Process of spiritual growth which follows; one which transforms the character and behavior of that person into that of a child of God; and,
  • Jesusthe One Outside of Ourselves who does all of the saving.


The One-Time Act of Faith

As simple as this may seem on the surface, please don’t let its simplicity blind you to the real significance of this One-Time Act of Salvation; for it is the only legitimate, divinely-authorized way in which a Holy God takes a Sinner, or a person who was…

…dead in the trespasses and sins in which [he] once walked, following the course of this world…carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and [was] by nature [a child] of wrath, like the rest of mankind (Eph. 2:1-3)…

…and not only adopts him or her into His family as His own child, but also makes that child a Joint-Heir with His only begotten Son, Jesus!  And, it is through this One-Time Act that a person goes from being alienated from God to being accepted by Him, from religious slavery to spiritual freedom, from unrighteousness to holiness, and from certain death to life everlasting!  So, just how does all of this happen?  Well, through the three stages of Salvation known as Redemption, Sanctification, and Glorification.


Redemption and Why We Need It 

Since the definition of Redemption is…to pay off, as a debt; to buy back or recover; to ransom or to obtain the release of a captive by paying the demanded price; to restore to favor… 

Redemption for our purposes is the act by which our sin debt is paid, making us righteous in the sight of God and releasing us from the penalty and power of sin. 

This act is a necessity for us because while God is holy, due to the sin nature we all inherited from Adam and Eve, we are not.  Therefore, before any of us can be reconciled to God and any adoption can take place, something has to be done about the problem of sin in our lives.

The Heart is Desperately Wicked

“For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” Matthew 12:34

While most of us are all too quick to deny that any sin problem exists, it is a spiritual reality that from the moment of our births until the moment of our deaths, we are constantly adding to a “rap sheet” of offenses against God; that is—through our thoughts, words, or deeds, we repeatedly violate the laws of God’s righteousness, with these violations all too judiciously being transcribed into our “permanent records.”  This means that we are all lawbreakers from birth, on the run from God, and unaware of the day looming before us when we will be apprehended and called to appear in His court for judgment.

Guilty

“…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” –Romans 3:23

Sadly, because we don’t realize or accept the fact that we are sinners, or because we think we will be able to appeal to God on the basis of our morality or relatively good works, we mistakenly think that we can safely put this day of reckoning off until after our deaths. But, this is a disastrous decision which will leave us standing before the Righteous Judge of the Universe, alone, guilty, and without any legal representation.  And, once the charges against us have been read—and our appeals of innocence have been proven to be without merit—this Just Judge will have no other choice but to honor the law and sentence us to the death that the law demands—a death which will mean our eternal separation from God and all things holy.

But, there is a way that such a terrible outcome can be avoided. You see, this Righteous Judge is also the God of love, grace, and mercy—the One who was…

… not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9)…

…and because of that, He made a way to provide us with an Advocate, sort of a court appointed attorney, who will plead the cases of all those who will come before Him and acknowledge the crimes for which they are guilty—if they will only do so before they die!

Advocate

Jesus is Our Advocate

This Advocate is Jesus, the Son of God, and He can represent a sinner before God because He is the One who came to earth, lived a sinless life which met the righteous demands of God’s law, and then died an agonizing death on the Cross to pay off the sin debt owed by every human being who has ever lived.  Through the substitution of His death for theirs, deaths which the law calls for, He is able to clear the charges against them and offer them a pardon, without so much as a fine to pay!  Once pardoned, and with their sin records expunged by the blood of Christ, they can stand righteous before God, and are in a position to be legally adopted as His spiritual children!


As for Sanctification

Since the definition for Sanctification is …to set apart as holy; to consecrate, or to devote to sacred use…

…Sanctification, for us, is the process whereby a new child of God is set apart for the sacred or holy service of God.

In reality, this is the life-long schooling in righteousness that every child of God must undergo if he or she is to realize the eternal purpose for which they were created.  It begins at the moment of adoption when the Holy Spirit of God comes to live within the heart of each new believer, and He begins teaching him what it means to be a child of God.  He does this by…

  • Training him in the laws of God, and then empowering him to obey those laws;
  • Reproducing the character of Christ in him through the development of the “fruit of the Spirit”–or the character qualities of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control;
  • Empowering him to carry out the work of Christ through the various “giftings” of service imparted by the very same Spirit;
  • Teaching him how to worship God, and how to overcome His enemies through prevailing prayer and persistent praise; and,
  • Helping him learn to die to the things of the flesh so that he can learn to live by the power of the Spirit.

This training—which we will discuss in greater detail in a later session—is designed to totally transform every child of God, until he thinks, speaks, and acts like Jesus; something which, when completed, will prepare him ultimately for his graduation into the glorious and eternal presence of God, his Father.

Glorification

Glorification: The Final Stage of our Salvation


About Glorification…

Since the definition for Glorification is …to give glory to, to honor; to extol; to praise highly

Glorification is what we will experience when, upon our physical deaths, our earthly bodies are replaced by heavenly or glorified ones, and we are ushered into the presence of God where we will receive the inheritance He has promised to His children.

Then, as the legitimate, blood-bought children of God, we will be recognized and honored in heaven, and share in the same glory that is accorded to Christ.  And, having been prepared and equipped through our earthly training process, we will be ready to move into positions of authority as co-regents, or rulers, with Christ, when He sets up His kingdom, first here on earth and later in eternity.

As you can see, Salvation is, in no way, just an antiquated theological doctrine or religious crutch for the needy; neither is it merely about having one’s sins forgiven so he or she can bypass Hell and go to Heaven.  It is the one and only way that we can realize our God-ordained destinies of becoming the Children of God—destinies made possible solely through the sacrificial death of God’s Son, Jesus Christ—and ones which will become realities once we have been Born Again.  

 

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A message worth considering from Francesca Battistelli…