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May 28, 2019, 9:00 PM

Spiritual Warfare - Know Your Enemy


You all know I coached a kid’s soccer team this past season. Loved it. Gotta say I missed being in the center of 200 – 300 kids, but those 6 I had were a handful and an absolute blessing. For a couple of weeks we focused on the idea of transition, switching our mentality on the field. In soccer that means moving from offense when we have the ball to defense when the other team has it and then back again and how we have to do that continually throughout the game.

The idea is to make that switch quickly and seamlessly. So they learned the concept through the drills we did and it translated to the field pretty well. It was so much fun watching them develop.

Now transition also means moving from one idea to another, maybe not quickly, but at least somewhat seamlessly. Well you remember last week was mother’s day and we talked about Esther and the courage she showed in freeing her people from the king’s death sentence. But the week before that was our conversation on the Holy Spirit.

 

Now that was actually a week that we were wrapping up our Easter series and getting ready to move on to the next and the Holy Spirit is a key player in both series. We’ll talk a lot about Him in this one. So while the transition may not have been completely seamless, because Mother’s day fell in the middle, I don’t think we’re going to skip a beat as we move into this area of Spiritual warfare.

 

I want to start out with our Scripture, Ephesians 6:10-20. This Scripture is really the foundation for the entire series. Paul makes this whole concept of Spiritual warfare a reality; the cosmic battle between the forces of heaven and hell; the struggle between good and evil; the powers of light and darkness, God and the devil.

We’re going to dig into this Scripture for sure, because it’s our call to arms in the battle for Truth. But just like a good coach is going prepare for his opponent by knowing their strengths and weaknesses, the only way we can be fully prepared for this spiritual war is to know our enemy. And that’s going to be our focus in these first weeks.  Let read Eph 6:10-20.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,

and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one;

and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,

and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

 

Paul’s words here are an effort to stimulate his listeners into action. He’s inciting and stirring everyone up with metaphors of battle, which were common for the time. The Old Testament and Revelation are filled with this kind of imagery intended to describe God’s work, whether in defense of, or judgment against His people.

 

Now there’s no indication of extreme persecution at that time in the city of Ephesus. At that point in history it was a magnificent seaport with a theater that seated 20,000 plus spectators and a temple dedicated to the goddess Artemis, as well as, several other ‘imperial cult temples.’

 

I think you can hear from all that, the challenges Christians faced to stand firm in their faith and avoid the pitfalls of the world. But as for the city itself, after centuries of silt build up clogging the harbor and earthquakes that devastated the structures, all that exists today are archaeological ruins.

 

But Paul wanted the church there to be aware of his imprisonment, how he was doing and that he was always thinking about them. He wanted to call them to an awareness of the gravity of Satan’s pull on their lives and the very real battle they were facing every day on their home turf.

 

Paul used three powerful imperatives to set the tone for this Scripture. He opens in verse 10, “be strong.” And then in 11 and 14 he exhorts them to ‘stand.’ To be strong in the Lord, to stand firm means to know His strength and to draw closer to Him every day. We can only stand strong through the Lord’s power. We can’t do it on our own. We can’t. We have to align ourselves fully with Christ in this battle for Truth.

 

Paul warns them of the enemy they’re up against and it comes across intimidating to say the least – rulers, authorities, cosmic powers over the present darkness and spiritual forces of evil. But he tells them, don’t get weak in the knees, don’t cave. Your strength is in Christ, and He’s more powerful than all those forces you’ll face. Remember, He rose from the grave. He conquered death. Nothing can oppose Him.

 

Then verse 11 & 13, “put on or take up the whole armor of God.”  And Paul doesn’t fall short in describing exactly what that armor consists of: the belt of Truth, breastplate of righteousness; shoes of peace, a shield of faith, a helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit. We’re ready to step into the fight!  

 

 

Paul’s message has us ALL suited up and ready for battle. But this isn’t intended as a one time quick fix. It’s not a struggle that’s going to be won in a single day or week. This a lifelong, lace em up every day, let’s have at it kind of war.

 

Remember we talked about Muhammed Ali’s corner man? Taught Ali to float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. Ali could dance all day avoiding opponent’s punches and throwing a jab at the same time. Ultimately he’d just wear them down. Master of transition, moving from offense to defense to offense, all in the same motion.  

 

That’s exactly what this battle looks like. We think of armor, we picture a knight from Middle Ages klunking along, almost immobile except to swing his oversize sword or battle axe. But with the armor of God, we’re never on our heels. The best defense is a powerful offense – alert and ready for the enemy armed with Truth grounded in Scripture.

 

Think about it. When Christ was tempted by Satan in the desert, He combatted all three temptations with words from the Torah. Satan told Him to turn stones into bread to fill His hunger. Jesus responded, “It is written, man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Straight from Deut 8:3.

 

Satan then quoted Scripture himself, challenging Jesus to test God by throwing himself off the temple. Jesus responded, “It is written, “you shall not put your Lord God to the test.” Almost a direct quote from Deuteronomy 6:16.

Then ironically Satan offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and He responded, “Be Gone Satan. You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve.” That’s drawn from Deuteronomy 6:13. I say ironically there because nothing is Satan’s to give. He has nothing. Everything belongs to God! So it’s almost a joke he even made that offer, because He was talking to the Creator himself. And what did Jesus say? He didn’t even acknowledge Satan’s offer. Be gone Satan.

 

Where else do we hear those words or something similar? In the Gospel of Matthew and Mark both Jesus calls out the efforts of the evil one preying on the thoughts and words of the apostle Peter, “Get behind me Satan. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

 

            You see that’s the piece that we have to grasp and it comes out so clearly in these temptations. Satan isn’t the FATHER of anything. The only thing he can create is chaos, which comes from our belief in the lies that he spews. Our only Father is God and He is the Author of Truth.

 

            Satan brings us to the edge and offers us the world and delivers nothing. He’s the great deceiver. He knows our weaknesses and he preys on them. He knows our strengths and he avoids them. He tells us what we want to hear; what we want to believe. He convinces us that all we see can be ours. He takes us to the edge and then instead of telling us to jump, he pushes us over and we fall. And he’s never the one there to catch us. Only God is there to break our fall.

 

            To understand Satan’s lies and deceit we need to go all the way back to the beginning; to Genesis; to the Garden and his cunning nature exposed as a serpent. We know the story of Adam and Eve, so we’re not going into those details here.

 

But truth of our failure and weakness comes through the Fall. Now before we get into this heaviest of subjects, I’d like to start with the ultimate solution to it all. Would’ve solved a lot of problems, now wouldn’t it. You can all thank Stan for that little gem.  But on with the Fall. “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made (3:1).” Hear those words, right there… “that the Lord God had made.” God made that serpent Satan. He made him. Satan isn’t even in the same ball park with God. He has nothing to give… nothing but lies. Listen to what the serpent said.

 

“Did God actually say, You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?” You see what he’s doing. He’s manipulating God’s Word to confuse. Twisting it to deceive. How many evangelists or preachers or speakers of the Word do we hear of or maybe even listen to ourselves that sound really good. They make a lot of sense and we get drawn in to the flashy words or the antics on stage.

 

Then all of a sudden they take a dramatic left turn away from Truth. And we’re kind of shaking our heads and saying how can he be so right on some of it, but so far of on that? Prosperity gospel sounds good and it attracts, but it’s not Truth. That’s the distortion. That’s Satan manipulating God’s Word, slowly reeling us in and then pushing us off the edge. That’s why it’s so vital to our soul to know God’s Word. That doesn’t mean we have to have every very verse memorized. But to know it, means to live it; to abide in it and let it consume your life.

At first Eve got it. She had it right, pretty much. She understood what God had said.  “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but [He] said you shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die (3:3).” But even then she was just a little off. God was specific stating to Adam that he would die if he ate from ‘the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.’ Satan preyed on her weakness, it’s the same one we all have that drives our sin –arrogance and pride and he went straight to her core. Now, think about it. Where’d she miss the train? Listen to his lie. 

 

“You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God knowing good and evil (3:4-5).” So she understood then that it would make her wise like God and suddenly the only thing she desired was of the world. Completely ignored God’s Word.

 

What should she have said, “get behind me Satan. Be gone!” But what did she do instead? In complete disobedience, she took the apple and ate. And good old Adam was just standing there, leaning up against a tree, passively minding his own business. Just as caught up in the desire for self-righteousness and worldliness as Eve. We all know the rest of the story. And if you don’t it plays out in the 66 books of the Bible. Read it.

 

All our pain, suffering, everything began with the Fall. God made the earth and it was good. But we messed it up in our disobedience. The Old Testament is fraught with disobedience by the Israelites, all because of that single act in the garden.

But what was the serpent doing in the midst of all that goodness?  Why did he even have a voice? We’ll get to that later. But we can get a taste of why he’s here and the cosmic nature of this spiritual warfare in Revelation. So we go from the first book of the Bible to the last.

 

Reading from Revelation 12, “Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.”

 

Now I’m gonna leave it right there for today. We’ve set the stage. In the most complex book of the Bible due to its prophetic nature, Satan and his angels were clearly cast out of heaven in a great cosmic battle.

 

This whole concept of Spiritual Warfare can be overwhelming and scary and so incredibly supernatural in its effects. Yet somehow we see it as distant, because we tend to think of it in terms of galaxies far, far away. But what we need to understand is this. The battleground for this war is no longer being waged in heaven. Satan and his legions were cast out of heaven a long time ago. And where’d they go? … right here. God cast them out of heaven and threw them to earth.

 

 

This spiritual war is being waged here, on this earth. But it isn’t in some foreign country that ISIS or the Taliban is terrorizing. It’s not in a neighboring state or even another town. The battleground is right here… and it’s right here… and its right here. That’s where the enemy attacks, each and every one of us. All around us and in us. We are the battleground.

 

And the enemy, he’s not some red demon with horns and a pointed tail and a pitchfork. You know that. He’s the epitome of evil in the world. He’s the snake in the garden. The great deceiver. He is anyone or anything that opposes God’s Word. And when we begin to listen to his words, give him any credibility whatsoever, we become lost in his lies.

 

He has nothing to offer any of us. Nothing. Only God can save. Only Christ can rescue us from the sin and confusion Satan creates. Don’t give him one speck of control in your life. Satan be gone. All our hope is in Jesus. Give Him complete control today. If you have anything in your life you need to let go of, change or find a new direction, I’ll be down front and I’d love to pray with you.

 


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