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, in fact—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 guerilla warfare against the Church through the use of subterfuge, deception, and bluff.  While guerilla 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 previously 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; or, 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 part of our spiritual makeup—that is, as these verses attest to, 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 its 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 by no means 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 that is 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 positions as 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.

The Way We Are Isn’t The Way We Were…

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While it is true that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, and while it may seem that we have been wandering off the beaten path during some of our recent visits together, I feel certain that if we take a moment to do a brief recap of our journey together so far, we will find that we have been traveling along a remarkably straight road.  In fact, we should be able to see an orderly, even progressive, pattern starting to develop—almost as if someone had planned it that way!  I wish I could take credit for it but, in spite of the fact that I am a linear thinker (my self-imposed protection against confusion and getting lost), all organizational cudos must go to God.  My part in all of this is just to show up and ask, “What now, Lord?” and then wait for His answer.

Now, in order to see where we need to go from here, let’s take a minute to review how far we have come.  Thus far…

We have learned that the meaning of life is simple–it is all
about Jesus.
 →  Since life is all about Jesus, God’s plan for our lives is to
bring us to Jesus, then to make us like Jesus.
Although life is simple, that doesn’t mean that it is going
to be easy.
That’s because coming to and becoming like Jesus puts us at
odds with everyone and everything else around us.
When we first come to Jesus, we must overcome the opposition
presented by the world, the flesh, and the devil.
 → And, even after we come to Him, we must spend the rest of
our lives learning to overcome these same three enemies of
our spiritual well-being.
Since overcoming these things is a spiritual battle, if we are
going to be victorious, we must allow God to defeat them by
the power of His Spirit working through us.
  For that to happen, we must learn to live life in a state of
worship,which really means living a life that is daily
surrendered to God.

This all sounds simple, logical, and straightforward enough, doesn’t it?  And, isn’t it reasonable to believe that those of us who have come to Christ for salvation would all desire, at least on an intellectual level, to live out our Christian lives this simply and this victoriously?  Then why is it that when we try to put this kind of lifestyle into practice, we are so often met with frustration and failure?

At first, we may be tempted to attribute our lack of success to our own weakness, immaturity, or lack of commitment; but then, when we consider the fact that someone of the spiritual caliber of the Apostle Paul also struggled with the very same issues, we need to acknowledge that there is more to this than we may have realized.  Just listen to the frustration that Paul experienced, as he writes in his letter to the church at Rome:

For I do not understand my own actions.  For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate…For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 

For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.  Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.  So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 

For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.  Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (Rom. 7:15, 18-25 ESV)

Oh woe, woe, woe–there here we have it!  Although Paul, in his mind, wanted to serve the law of God—that is, to do the will of God—in his flesh, he continued to serve the law of sin, just like we do.  What a dilemma—for both him and for us!  So, how did this happen and what, if anything, can be done to alleviate this miserable situation?  Well, for us to answer that, we will need to take a little detour and go back to the beginning, back to when God first created man, so we can see how we were originally designed, and learn how that design was altered as a result of sin—an alteration which we, like Paul, have been struggling to overcome ever since.

Back in Genesis 1-2, we find a beautiful but abbreviated description of God’s creation of a world that was designed to be the perfect dwelling place for man.  Once He had that home prepared, God set about the business of creating man, the pinnacle of His creation, and the only being ever to have been made in His very own image and likeness.  He began this process by first taking some of the dust of the earth–that is, some of the natural elements of this world—and fashioning it into a human form so ideal that later, in Psalm 8, man would be described as having been “made…a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned…with glory and honor.”   Finally, God completed the process by breathing into this being His very own breath, an act which gave man his life and made him a spirit being capable of sharing in the very moral, spiritual, and eternal essence of God Himself.

Hmmm!  If you have been paying attention all this time, you will know that this presents us with a serious question; for now we have spirit + flesh together, or, a supernatural, eternal being living in a natural, mortal body.  But haven’t we already established the fact that, “…that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit”, and that never the two shall meet?  So then, how are these two supposed to coexist together?

SpiritDark1.fw

God’s Design for Communicating with Man

Well, back again in Genesis 2:7 (KJV), where we are told that
“…the Lord God formed man of the dust of the
ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath
of life,” we also learn that when the Spirit entered
his body, “…man became a living soul.”  In
other words, a whole new entity was created; man
was not just a physical body with a detached spirit
floating around in it; he had become a physical being
with a  newly formed personality that was designed
to function as the mediator or go-between of his body
and his spirit.  In effect, this set up what I like to call
God’s “top-down” system of communication, something
which in graphical terms, might look like this:

First, God’s Spirit would speak to man’s spirit,
telling him what God wanted him to do;

man’s spirit would then pass this information on to the mind part of man’s soul which, in turn,
would communicate God’s instructions to the body for its execution.

In this way, God’s will would be carried out effectively and efficiently on the earth by His one and only legal representative, Man.

What a really great solution to the problem of communication between two such mutually exclusive entities, wouldn’t you say? And for a while, it was functioning according to plan–that is, until a seductive yet diabolical h-i-s-s-s-s was suddenly heard in the neighborhood!

Snakez1

Do I Hear a Hssss Coming…

 …………………………………………………………………….to be continued next time →   

Smiley Face with Earphones2

 

Big Daddy Weave, wondering “What Would Life Be Like”

 

Welcome to the Overcomer’s Club!

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Hi, and welcome back!  After our last visit, and our previous discussion about some of the more depressing aspects of the Christian life, I wasn’t altogether sure that you would be back.  But, I am glad that you weren’t scared off because today, I want to talk to you about one of the most positive and exciting realities of our Christian experience.  In fact, what I have to share today is so good that we may have to once again resort to the use of sound effects!

Before we get to all of that, however, let’s take a moment to review what we talked about last time—which is, Jesus and all of the humiliation, rejection, opposition, and affliction that He suffered on the way to the Cross.  Although Jesus2experiences such as these do not make for the most pleasant or popular of topics, we need to recognize them for what they are—as some of the most vital components of a truly successful Christian life.  For it is through experiences such as these that God has chosen to work out His plan for our lives; a plan which is nothing less than the slow but steady refashioning of us into the image of Christ.  As to just what that image is, I believe that if we were to consider for one moment how Christ 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—then we would have to agree that the image He modeled for us most consistently was that of an overcomer.

I bet you didn’t realize it at the time but, when you became a Christian, you also became an overcomer, just like Jesus.  That’s because, before you could even come to faith in Christ, you had to overcome three really big obstacles; I am an overcomeror, the things that the Bible refers to as “the world, the flesh, and the devil.”  What that means is 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.

As I was thinking about this initial process of overcoming, an illustration of it came to my mind from the strangest place.   My mind flashed back to one of the old Three Stooges’ routines that my brother used to love to watch when we were growing up; and the one that came to mind was probably their most popular one, the “Niagara Falls” skit.  You may not be old enough to have seen it but every time Moe hears Curly say, “Niagara Falls,” he replies in a long, drawn-out fashion, “S-l-o-w-l-y I turn, step-by-step, inch-by- inch…,” and then, Pow!  he beats Curly to a pulp.  As I thought about it, it occurred to me that this is exactly what happens to us on our own treks to the Cross and toward our new identities as overcomers.  S-l-o-w-l-y, we turn…away from the world, step-by-step…we begin to realize how futile it is for us to try to control our sinful natures on our own, and inch-by-inch…we crawl over and around (and maybe even under!) the obstacles placed in our paths by the devil.  Finally, when we get to Jesus and give our hearts to Him, POW POW!  He beats the devil to a pulp—again—and then ushers us into the most unique club of all—The Overcomer’s Club! 

Overcome evil with good...The reason I know that this is the most unique club going is because only those who have been bought with the precious blood of the Son of God can get in; and only those who have passed from death to life and from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light are qualified for membership.  It is also unique in the fact that, as part of the initiation process into the club, each and every member becomes the new dwelling place for, and also becomes empowered by, the Holy Spirit of God Himself; a dynamic reality which makes it possible for them to fulfill their new responsibilities as members and to carry out the mission of the organization.  Their responsibilities?  To overcome the flesh by the Spirit, to overcome evil with good, and to overcome the deception and darkness in the world with the light of the truth.  And the mission?  To bring to Jesus as many new members as possible.

Wow!  What a great club to be a part of!  That being said, though… how’s the overcoming and recruiting going over by you?

 

Smiley Face with Earphones2

Like Jesus, we are overcomers, as Mandisa  reminds us in “Overcomer.”