Spiritual Warfare: How we Give the Enemy an Advantage-


Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour
– 1st Peter 5:8 NIV

Until recently I preferred to ignore the devil and demons. I believed in those things, but, like most post-enlightenment Christians I simply preferred to focus on “happier” aspects of the spiritual realm. Jesus, God, the Holy Spirit and angels were my jam and I would have been perfectly happy to keep it that way indefinitely. But, then the world went to hell. 

Literally. 

Right before my very eyes.  People began believing the most crazy-town stuff imaginable. Cancel culture became a thing, just as it also became fashionable to say there is no such thing as objective truth. People actually believe we all have our unique little truth we are entitled to even if there is no evidence to back it up. However, if you believe or say the “wrong thing” you will be “cancelled” and lose your reputation, livelihood and right to live in “polite” society.  Full-grown adults bought into the notion that gender is “fluid” and therefore changeable. Universities begin offering free tampons to “men” having their periods. Parents and teachers began encouraging kindergarteners to discover their true gender.  People were willing to throw a perfectly good country out the window because the founders of said country were fallible human beings. Everything went to hell in a handcart and Ephesians 6:12 is only plausible explanation for the madness that has engulfed the world. 

It says: 

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

 The devil is real. 

He is a created being who turned against God (Luke 10:18). He hates those who love God. It is critical Christians understand his tactics. Satan wants to steal our ministry opportunities, turn us against God and eradicate our influence in this world. He does this through attacks where he plants lies in our minds and tempts us to behave in ways that steal our effectiveness, kill our love for God and destroy any positive influence we have (John 10:10). Satan waits for just the right opportunity to attack us (1stPeter 5:8). We give it to him when we do the following:

We don’t pray or we suddenly stop praying-

I do not understand everything there is to understand about prayer. However, one truth I do understand is that regular prayer provides spiritual protection (Matthew 26:41).  When we stop praying regularly or never really form a habit of prayer we give the devil an opportunity to gain a foothold in our thinking (Ephesians 4:27). Once the enemy has traction in our minds he can plant all sorts of foul seeds that eventually grow into deception, dissatisfaction with God and curiosity about sin.   

We wander where we don’t belong-  

There are some places God’s people simply do not belong. Watching other people sin can awaken a desire within us to sin. Therefore, we should avoid anything that presents sin as normal or healthy behavior. Being around Christians who are willfully and proudly sinning breaks down the natural desire all Christians have to remain holy and please God (1st Corinthians 5:11). It is spiritually strategic to avoid anyone or anything that makes sin appear attractive (Matthew 13:41, Matthew 18:6-7). 

When our primary sources of information come from the world-

In Colossians 2:8 Christians are warned that they can be “taken captive” by “deceptive philosophies”. This is most likely to happen when we get most or all of our information on life, current events and how to do life from those who don’t know God or understand how Christians are to live in this world. There is nothing wrong with an occasional secular book, podcast or seminar. That said, getting all or most of our “how-to” information on living life from worldly sources gives Satan ample opportunity to take our thinking captive. Once our thinking is captive our actions always follow.

When we have the wrong kind of self-focus-

There are two types of self-focus. The first is when we think endlessly about making ourselves happy, being successful and getting our own needs met. The second is when we put our attention on where we need to grow and how we can become emotionally healthier, godlier, wiser versions of ourselves so we can glorify God and make the world a better place. The devil loves the first kind of self-focus but hates the second because the first inevitably leads to self-destruction and a life of sin. While the second always leads to a life of profound joy that inevitably points others to faith in Jesus (Matthew 5:19, Colossians 3).  

When we haven’t submitted our lives or some part of our lives to Jesus-

Seriously. Disobedience and rebellion are open doors the enemy will always walk through. Deal with those issues. Pronto. 

We refuse to forgive- 

We can’t even be forgiven unless we forgive others (Matthew 6:15). What would make us think Satan would not take advantage of that kind of opportunity to plant bitterness, rage and every other kind of evil in our lives (Hebrews 12:15)? Forgiveness is never easy but is is the most spiritually freeing thing we can do. It is worth the effort.

For too long most Christians have lived as if the devil is a joke, a fantasy or an exaggeration. This has resulted in a feeble church, worldly Christians and a world in crisis. We must endeavor to live lives that thwart the enemies plan and take back ground for the Kingdom.  We do that through constant prayer, a commitment to forgive quickly, submission to God, becoming the best version of ourselves and looking to the Bible and other Christians, not the world for answers to life’s questions.  

Four Steps to Breaking Free of Almost Anything-

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds- 2nd Corinthians 10:4 NIV

The world is a flaming-hot-dumpster-fire of a mess right now. 

Addiction, divorce, sexual sin, rage, hate and offendedness have all become routine in our increasingly unhappy and unhealthy culture. Government leaders everywhere are failing to meet the needs of those they were elected to serve. Corporations are filling the leadership gap and are quickly becoming weirdly authoritarian taskmasters with zero checks on their worst impulses.   Social unrest is at an all-time high and no one really seems to know what to do about any of those issues. 

The question we should all be asking ourselves is why? 

Why are people so much messier and more evil than they were just a few years ago? Why does the world seem to be teetering on the edge of madness all the stinking time? Why has evil taken root in the hearts of so many? Why are so many becoming despotic?  Why are people so easily offended?  Why are people so incredibly vindictive and cruel when they are offended?  

Well. 

The short answer to all those questions is of course sin. People are sinners and fewer and fewer people care about sin or putting any kind of restraints on their own corrupt inclinations these days. As a result, the world and the people in it are becoming more immoral, more sinful and more wretchedly unhappy. 

Sigh. 

The longer answer is much more complicated, as longer answers always are. Due to sin in the church Christianity has lost much of its moral authority and spiritual influence in the world. This has left people without a roadmap to figure out life.  People on their own rarely make good choices which always leaves a moral vacuum and evil inevitably finds a way to fill moral vacuums. 

This has led to a proliferation of spiritual strongholds in the lives of those both inside and outside of the church. A stronghold is a place where Satan has gained a foothold in the life of a person and sin has taken root. A stronghold is a place in a person’s life that has become a fortress for the enemy. When someone has a spiritual stronghold in their life they become controlled by unhealthy behavior or thoughts. 

The Church and the people in it cannot do anything about what the world chooses to do or not do. We cannot force non-Christian people to make healthy or wise choices about how they live life.  However, Christians can make healthy choices that empower them to get and stay free of addictions, life-controlling behaviors and thoughts. In the process, we can lead other people to a better place. But, first we have to be free of our own spiritual strongholds. The most common strongholds include unforgiveness, offendedness, shame, perfectionism, anxiety, rage, addiction, productivity, insecurity, unbelief, deception, critical spirit and control.

The only way anyone can be the influence God intended us to be in this world is to get free of the strongholds in our lives. We get free through the following four practices:  

Ruthless self-examination- 

No one can get free of anything they refuse to see or acknowledge. Because the human heart is both naturally wicked and self-deceptive it is sometimes difficult to see our own sin (Jeremiah 17:9, Proverbs 21:4). For that reason, is critical we examine our hearts and lives frequently for sinful behaviors and attitudes that have taken root (2nd Corinthians 13:5) or sin that we have never really dealt with (Acts 8:23). 

Once we become aware of a sin or sinful stronghold, we must:

Make prayer a priority-  

Sin that it is not confessed and prayed through can never completely be eliminated from our lives (Mark 9:29). The longer a behavior has been a part of our lives the more entrenched it will become and the longer it will take to effectively deal with it. There is a temptation for Christians to turn to worldly means to deal with spiritual issues. Christian counseling and coaching can be useful in helping us to understand why we do the sinful stuff we do and in keeping sinful habits broken. However, prayer must be our first line of defense when it comes to dealing with a sinful stronghold. 

Always choose obedience- 

In Luke 11:24-26 Jesus makes it clear that new habits and behaviors are the key to staying free of spiritual oppression and strongholds. Too often Christians who have been set free from life-controlling behaviors stupidly believe they can live any way they choose without spiritual consequences. Nothing could be further from the truth. Anytime we make the choice to willfully sin we invite demonic oppression into our lives (1st Peter 5:8, Ephesians 4:26-28). Making the choice to become increasingly more faithful and obedient to Jesus is absolutely necessary if we wish to stay free of demonic strongholds. Period

Immerse ourselves in a community of believers-

The Christian life is all about working out our brokenness after we receive salvation (Philippians 2:12). However, we were never meant to do that solo (Ecclesiastics 4:9-12). We all need a core group of people in our lives who will spur us on to better choices (Hebrews 10:23-25). 

Authentic Christians have a natural desire to make the world a better place.  However, for too long too many Christians have tried to skip over the necessary step of working through their own junk before they tried to assist the world with theirs.  This has been a miserable failure. It is time for the Christian world to face the hard reality that we can only help others with their sin after we have broken the strongholds in our own life. 

Five Ways Christians Can Turn the Tide of Church Culture-

 

 The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.  The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So, let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light- Romans 13:11-12 NIV

My week began on a spiritual high note.

  Sunday, I attended one of the most moving church services I have ever been a part of. It was a sweet reminder that God is and people are still being transformed by His presence in their lives.

 It was all kind of downhill from there.  

 The rest of the week was mostly just a series of weird and unpleasant reminders life is short, the world is still a dark place and there is no shortage of spiritual work to be done.

 One such reminder came via a long conversation with an individual who was, from a biblical perspective one of the most tragically ignorant people I have ever interacted with. The whole discussion was frustrating. However, the thing I found most maddening was how this person is fully convinced they already know everything they need to know about God and the Bible. In reality, all they really know is what other ignorant people have told them and precious little of it is accurate or nice.

 Sigh.  

 My heart is still broken for the lostness of that person. I was reminded once again that there is a battle raging—not a physical battle— we are not literally at war with anyone. Christians are, or are supposed to be fighting for the hearts, minds and souls of people who do not know Jesus (Philippians 2:25, 2nd Timothy 2:3-4, Ephesians 6:10-17). The shocking number of biblically ignorant individuals in the Western world indicates that we have lost more battles than we have won in recent years. 

 We are losing because EVERY professing Christian, regardless of age, gender or denominational preference is a soldier called to fight.  However, some of our soldiers appear to be woefully ignorant of their status. Others understand there’s a battle but are too busy arguing about stupid stuff to be of any use to anyone. Still others are simply not in any kind of spiritual shape to fight. Even more are so busy chasing worldly squirrels they don’t have the focus they need to fight even the tiniest battles effectively (1st John 2:15). 

 A course correction is desperately needed in our ranks. If we all commit to making a few changes in what we do and how we view the world Christians would become far more effective very quickly. It all begins with:

 Understanding the times we live in- 1st Chronicles 12:32

 Americans live in a culture that is rapidly becoming post-Christian. This is a complex issue but basically it means the gospel is irrelevant at best and stupid at worst to the majority of people in our culture. Furthermore, most churches have done a sloppy job of teaching people who already believe in Jesus what the Bible teaches about most issues. This means our primary responsibility as Christians right now is to help the world and the church to understand that individuals CAN choose to live their lives anyway they wish. However, there is such a thing as “best practices” when it comes to relationships and life choices. Those “best practices” are found in the Bible and begin with making a commitment to Jesus Christ and then choosing to live life the way the Bible calls us to live it. This means Christians must make a real commitment to self-education so we can teach others the truth of God’s word.  

 Getting in fighting shape-

 This means dealing with the sin in our lives decisively and doing our best to live a holy life (Matthew 5:29 Colossians 3, 2nd Peter 1:3-11, 1st John 4:9).  Getting in shape spiritually means committing serious blocks of time to prayer and learning as much as possible about the Bible and what it says about life. It means knowing ourselves. Every Christian should have a complete understanding of their own strengths so they can be used effectively for the Kingdom. Believers must also understand their own weaknesses so that they are not destroyed by them.

 Aligning yourself with the right people-

 Christians should love everyone but only align themselves with those who believe in inerrancy of the Bible and are willing to live out its principles.

 Putting your armor on-

 Every believer should study Ephesians 6:10-18 in depth and have the entire passage committed to memory. It should be a prayer we pray daily.  For a sample of what I pray click here-

 Engaging the right way-

 It is imperative Christians make a regular practice of getting into the world and interacting with the people in it (Matthew 5:13-16, John 3:17. It is equally critical we do it the right way. Christians should never bully, intimidate or make people feel like anything less than a person made in God’s image.  That said Christians should never be afraid to speak the truth of the gospel with passion.

 We are where we are mostly because too many of us have been spiritually complacent for far too long. It is time for all of us to set ourselves aside and get into the game.