Spiritual Warfare Day 4: Our Rationale and Readiness for Spiritual Warfare
We have established that we are, at this very moment, at war. Our rivals, the devil and his army of demons, are advancing swiftly and seeking means to knock down our defences. The Lord and His heavenly army are at our side to resist the devil’s schemes and strengthen us for battle. But now we are left with two central questions: 1) Why are we still at war? and 2) What do we do now?
The fact is that the Christian will remain in a lifelong war because we exist in a lifelong tension between who God created us to be and who we are. Since that fateful day our human parents ate the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, we were separated from the God who made us and left vulnerable to the temptations and accusations of God’s enemy who is set on destroying us, the world around us, and even God Himself. With sin in our hearts from the moment we took our first breath, the empty promises of evil held an undeniable appeal. However, once Christ set us free through the gospel, the Spirit within us lifted the veil over our eyes. The devil’s promises of pleasure and satisfaction are now revealed as the empty lies they are. The world’s value system which once made so much sense to us no longer fits with our understanding of God’s design. Our desires which once felt liberating are illuminated as chains of bondage.
There is no place on earth that we can escape to in order to avoid this conflict—we carry it with us and will do so until the day we die. That realization should be a wake-up call to arm ourselves every day with the truth of God so we will not lose ground. The evil one needs us to be unaware of his lies so we will believe they are true; it is our task to refute those lies with God’s truth. Our sinful nature needs us to let our guard down so it will have free rein over our desires and passions; it is our task to keep our guard up with God’s truth. Our world needs us to crave what it is promising so we will buy what it is selling; it is our task to desire, own, live out, and hold tightly to God’s truth.
We would do well to thoughtfully ask ourselves whose side we are truly fighting for—not whose name is emblazoned on our lapels, but whose mission we are serving and whose army we are standing with. Are we soaking in and standing on God’s Word, obeying Him, and trusting Him to grow us in holiness and courage? Or are we neglecting to listen to the Lord and instead consuming the messages of the world, our flesh, and the devil? Are we praying for His power or buckling under pressure?
You may ask, What impact can one person have in a final victory that has already been won for us at the cross? What impact can my little life have on the glory of God and the flourishing of the gospel? It may not seem like one individual’s success in battle is that important, but in reality it is critical. Think of how many stories you have heard in the press about another high-profile “Christian” walking away from the faith, abusing their power and position, or proving to be a hypocrite in one of countless other ways. Look at the number of articles that have been written, shows that have been recorded, and time that has been spent in discussing yet another downfall. In contrast, how often do we hear the testimonies of lives that have been radically changed by the grace of Jesus and lives well lived in the service of God and others? How many names do we know of the faithful men and women who pour out their lives for Christ’s sake despite the pain and pressures they face?
Darkness does not want to be exposed. The enemy’s victories are broadcast far and wide, whereas the Lord’s miraculous transformations are often made visible to very few; “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2) will capitalize on every misstep and scandal in the life of a resistance soldier. We must remember that we fight only for the approval of God, who sees every hard-fought victory even when it looks insignificant to ourselves or others.
When we succumb to temptation, we are increasing the devil’s opportunities to oppress us with further temptation and also with accurate guilt that he can twist into accusations and shame. Our failure to fight results in our rivals gaining ground. However, when we instead turn to God through prayer and the Word, we are allowing His Spirit to work in and through us to reveal God’s transformative power—even in our brokenness.
So, what do we now? The answer is simpler than we may expect, but also far more consuming and demanding than many of us have acknowledged. We pour out our hearts to God in prayer, we lean on Him for strength and courage, and we learn, apply, and proclaim the truths of His Word as much as we are able. We surrender our wills to God and patiently watch Him work in us and through us. These are easy tasks to write down but challenging to live out. This is how we fight alongside the heavenly resistance and display the supremacy of God over every enemy.
The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good…. 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! (Romans 7:10-12, 21-25, ESV)