You may have heard the term “spiritual warfare” and assumed that it is some kind of rarefied topic that only a minority of Christians needs to know about. On the contrary, spiritual warfare is central to the core teaching of our faith that “The Son of God came for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). Spiritual Warfare is what Jesus fought (and won) to redeem us: it is what each of us fight as we seek to live sanctified lives and to be representatives of God’s Kingdom on Earth. Paul was not speaking to a select few, but rather to the entire Church (then and always) when he wrote, “Be strong in the Lord and His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against the flesh and blood but against the rulers, the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realm.” (Ephesians 6:10-12) Jesus has given us the authority, and the mandate, to share in that battle.
Some believers tend to think, in regard to Satan, that if we just ignore him, he’ll go away. You and I may not want to be engaged in a battle, but the fact of the matter is that we are. We are born into a war, and when we accept Jesus as Lord, we step onto the battlefield of that war. Every time we resist the impulse to act out of selfishness, and instead we are generous toward another; every time we fight against any temptation to engage in a thought or a behavior that is not fitting for a redeemed child of God, every time we share the Good News of Christ with another, through word or through deed, we are engaging in spiritual warfare. “Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you” James tells us (James 4:7).
In our fight against the kingdom of darkness and for the kingdom of light, we are handicapped if we do not know against whom we fight, nor how our enemy wages war against us. In his 2nd letter to the Corinthians, Paul tells them not to become locked into unforgiveness and division so that they “would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.” From this it is clear that Paul (led by the Holy Spirit) is instructing Christians to be alert to Satan’s plan to destroy believers and the Christian community. Paul desires that we NOT be ignorant of the enemy’s plans against us.
1) recognizes the reality of intelligent, unseen forces which seek the destruction of God’s Kingdom and His people
2) identifies the areas in which we, or those whom we seek to help, have become vulnerable to the enemy and
3) under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, rejects these forces and their role in our lives, submits to God’s will, and erects Godly defenses against the enemy’s attacks.
Spiritual warfare is always a conflict between Truth and lies. Jesus said of the devil: “He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44). It is often through lies that the devil carries out his intention to “steal and kill and destroy.” (John 10:10). There may be lies that we believe about ourselves, about God, about others, about the nature of reality. Many of those untruths are the product of emotional woundedness from pain or neglect in our past. Or they may be the result of simply never having heard God’s Truth spoken clearly – the mouthpieces of this world are seldom proclaiming the truth from God’s perspective! Lies are always the fertile field of the enemy; truth is a primary characteristic of the Lord. Our primary weapon against the spiritual forces of evil is Truth: and Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life.
C.S. Lewis wrote “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors, and hail a materialist or magician with the same delight” (C.S. Lewis. The Screwtape Letter. 1941, p. 3). Spiritual battle on the part of a Christian is conducted through a vibrant prayer life, faithfulness in the Christian walk, assembly with other believers, and the actual renunciation and expulsion of evil forces from our lives and our homes. We can be confident of winning the battle through Jesus Christ, for “in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” (Rom 8:37).
If you would like resources for learning how to engage in spiritual warfare in a healthy, balanced way, these are just a few of the excellent resources available:
The Bondage Breaker by Neil Anderson (2006)
Peace in Your House: Spiritual Cleansing of Life and Land by Douglas Overmyer (Oct, 2016)
A Woman’s Guide to Spiritual Warfare by Quin Sherrer & Ruthann Garlock (2010)
A Believer’s Guide to Spiritual Warfare by Tom White, Frontline Ministries (2011)