We are continuing our series on Spiritual Warfare. So far in this series we have discussed the reality of our spiritual fight – that it is a mega-theme that runs through scripture and that as citizens of God’s kingdom we’ve been drafted to fight in this war. Secondly, we observed the nature of our fight – that ours is a multidimensional sin war in which we struggle against the world, the flesh and the devil. We zeroed in on the world and the flesh in the last sermon, and today we will study our enemy, the devil.
The Devil: A Brief Biography
The Bible doesn’t give us all the information about our enemy that might satisfy our curiosity, but it does tell us enough to protect us against him. Apparently, according to Isa. 14:11–23; Ezek. 28:1–19 Satan was an angel who led a rebellion against God and was cast down to earth, along with the roughly 1/3 of all angels he had recruited to join him in his rebellion. The Bible picks up His story after the creation of man, where he appeared as a serpent tempting Eve and Adam into sin, so that we to would rebel against God and share in his destruction. It is important to note that Satan is not God’s equal, and that God would use even the fall of man (what Satan intended for evil) to the praise of his glorious grace by redeeming us through Jesus his Son. In this way God can demonstrate His love and mercy to us, even while crushing Satan and destroying evil forever. While not God’s equal, Satan has been given power and authority over this earth, ruling it as its prince until Jesus returns. He continually opposes God and his people, ruling over his demons, trying to keep us from our loving God and taking as many of us down with him. Going back to last week – as if it is not enough that our flesh is bent toward sin and the world is set up to bait us, we also have a personal supernatural enemy bent on our destruction. We need Jesus.
As you know, we’ve been traveling a little this month, so it’s always good to pick up some light airplane reading. I got the book, How to Lose a Battle, a litany of military blunders throughout history. As I read through some of the stories, two ideas started jumping out that I had never connected before – overconfidence and cowardice. I had never connected the two – in fact, in a way I would have thought that they were almost opposites. I don’t think of cowards as confident people, much less, overconfident. But they are connected - in fact you could say that overconfidence breeds cowardice. If you are over confident, then you have no need for courage, because it doesn’t enter into your mind that you could be touched. So when the unthinkable happens and you are attacked, you’re not prepared mentally for the fight and you flee. I think this is probably an apt description of how many of us approach our enemy the devil. We are overconfident cowards. We go through most of our lives, not realizing the strength of our enemy, until he attacks one of us, then we freak out and forget that Jesus has taught us how to fight him.
Myths about Spiritual Warfare
1) Demons used to be active, but their activity has subsided today. Some of us have been taught that Satan just sort of gave up a couple of thousand years ago and we’re all good now. A subset of this myth is that Satan and demons are active only on the mission field. Are we not a mission field? Is there not a renewed interest in spiritual forces here in Canada? Ephesians 6:13: in the evil day – today! Now, there has been a dramatic shift that has occurred since the death and resurrection of our savior (Colossians 2:14-15), but it is still the case that the New Testament clearly teaches that we are involved in a warfare with spiritual forces and will be until Jesus returns.
2) What used to be called demonic activity is now called mental illness. This is what C.S. Lewis referred to as the modern arrogance of looking back after thousands of years of progress and thinking how quaint that they believed in demons, when we know better. Do we really? The terms we throw out are merely labels classifying symptoms. Schizophrenia is a description of a mental state that may include loss of personality (flat affect), agitation, catatonia, confusion, psychosis, unusual behavior, and withdrawal, so someone who is labeled schizophrenic is someone that that exhibits these behaviors. But that says nothing of the cause! We have made the mistake of thinking that giving a scientific label to something means we understand it. We have confused symptoms, with source.
3) Demonic behavior is only evident in extreme cases or violent sin: This myth is that the spiritual forces only reveal themselves in extraordinary ways – so that most of us go through life day-by-day without sensing a need to fight this war – because, you know, our eyes aren’t rolling back and we are not speaking in strange voices, but if anything like that happens we would be ready. Satan and his forces are subtle! If we relegate satanic activity only to these extreme manifestations, we may be blind to the footholds and strategies and power that we have allowed to control our own lives.
Puritan Thomas Brooks, in his book Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices, speaks of the ordinary demonic as Satan coming to us as our Tempter and baiting our hook with various pleasure and temptations. Parents, you know your kids schemes before bed – they’ve got like 10-12 different schemes they use all the time. We are going to go through these 38 schemes very quickly, but I want you to mark any that you have been ensnared by.
Note: nearly all of these schemes are to get one to have:
- A too high or too low view of sin: that my sin is either too big for Jesus to handle or too small for him to die for.
- A too high or too low view of faith: that my faith either must be perfect and so I’m not good enough to be a Christian, or faith is merely believing in Jesus and it doesn’t matter how I live.
- A too low view of Jesus: the Jesus is not truly the only God, who has provided the only means for my salvation, by taking away all of my sin and giving me all of his righteousness.
- They are all lies!!!!!!!!