Kingdoms in Conflict
Basic Training in Spiritual Warfare: Lesson 4
In Lesson 3, The Keys to the Kingdom, we saw that Jesus has given us keys that give access to the peace and joy of His Kingdom on earth. These are divinely powerful keys guaranteed to work—but it is not so easy to get them to work. Someone is resisting us practically every step of the way! That's why we need "basic training" in spiritual warfare.
Satan’s name actually means “Adversary”—the one who “opposes” and “plots against” God and us. In a strange way it is comforting to learn this truth that we didn’t mess up our lives or the planet as a whole just by our own foolishness alone. We evidently had lots of help coming from an invisible realm that we may have had no idea even existed. There are plenty of people—including Christians—who don’t believe the devil is real or that knowing about him could have any relevance for daily life.
Watch these short videos about spirit world realities on our YouTube channel.
A Stunning Deliverance
An amazing reversal of fortune when a "drifter" got set free!
Support Group for Ghosts
If you have ghosts in your house, who are you going to call?
C. S. Lewis wryly commented upon this way of the world in his preface to The Screwtape Letters.
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.[i]
We certainly don’t want to fall into the ditch of error on either side of this truth. The great thing in the Christian life is our relationship with Christ—not with the enemy. Even so this very deceptive enemy must be exposed in order to be successfully resisted. We would be wise to learn from the elders of the early church who tell us that they took care to beware.
To keep Satan from getting the advantage over us; for we are not ignorant of his wiles and intentions. 2 Corinthians 2:11 AMP
An Introduction to the Battlefield
Did you know that you have a personal enemy, even legions of enemies? Did you know that they know your weaknesses and will stop at nothing to bring you down? How can you survive on a battlefield, if you don’t know that a war is going on? How can you fight back, if you don’t know who your enemy is, or how to recognize him or how to use your weapons?
We have been given free will in a real world that is besieged by an invisible enemy.[ii] None of us volunteered to be involved in this war—we were born into it. We can learn to fight in the great battle of our age, or be rendered ineffective, taken captive, or destroyed. We can even have a great love for God and still be defeated by a lack of knowledge[iii]
Therefore my people go into captivity for lack of knowledge. Isaiah 5:13 WEB
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Hosea 4:6 ESV
This invisible kingdom of the enemy was in the Garden, but it was kept separate from Adam and, before the Fall, could not interfere with his fellowship with God. Tragically, after Adam and Eve sinned, the nature of Satan—his way of feeling, thinking and believing—began to operate in them and seemed like their own reasoning process.[iv]
There are literally hundreds of references to evil spirits, fallen angels and Satan in the scriptures. Instances of demonic oppression abound. In the New Testament there is a linking of sickness and oppression, just as there is a linking of sickness and sin. There is not a shared identity of the two, but a relationship: Not every sickness required deliverance from demons: Not every deliverance from demons involved a physical illness. Nevertheless, disease and death come from the Fall, not the blessing of God. Hence, it is the enemy’s kingdom that is at work behind sickness and disease to enforce the curse of the law.[v]
Consider these examples:
They brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them. Matthew 4:24 ESV
Behold, there was a woman who had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and she was bent over, and could in no way straighten herself up. When Jesus saw her, he called her, and said to her, "Woman, you are freed from your infirmity." Luke 13:11-12 WEB
The spiritual realm of darkness is not inhabited by ethereal forces, but by intelligent beings with malignant natures. Evil spirits have personality, will and desire, but lack bodies through which to carry out their assignments. Jesus says evil spirits prefer to occupy our bodies and think of us as their “house.”
“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first.” Matthew 12:43-45 ESV
The evil spirits that have been cast out and sent into “waterless places” are in torment because they need a means of expressing their nature. They need our agreements with them and the use of our bodies so that they can sin through us.
Being in terror of their dark lord, they urgently desire to fulfill their mission by expressing themselves within us and to propel us by inward pressure (fear, anger, lust, shame, etc.) into outward sins as well. All the while they take an unholy pleasure in feeling inside of us the very feelings we don’t enjoy; hence, their primary goal is to return to the person they were cast out of.
We need to clean our “house” and keep it filled and guarded. Evil spirits gain dominion over us by tempting us to agree with the sin they represent (i.e. a “spirit of fear” promotes fear). Christians cannot be possessed by the enemy, since they are the Lord’s possession.[vi] However, they can be and often are oppressed from the inside and/or the outside by this infernal kingdom.
Discernment Is Key to Our Freedom
The enemy seeks to veil his work with darkness and deception—that’s why discernment is one of the four keys to freedom (see The Keys to the Kingdom). If we can recognize the working of this kingdom, we can overcome it for light drives out darkness.[vii] If we do not discern the spirits, their position and power continues unchallenged.
We enter into agreement with the evil spirit whenever we let it express itself through us. When that happens it is no longer sinning by itself—against us—its sin has become our sin—within us. Sin is an agreement with the enemy—with his ways, his perspective and his desires. Until we fully forsake a sin, we are still in “secret” (unrecognized) agreement with it at some level deep inside our heart.
Because the evil spirits so thoroughly believe in the “rightness” of their demented perspective, we have to learn how to break our agreements with the compelling power of their entrenched beliefs.[viii] We will have to work hard at believing God’s truth instead. This is war and war is never easy, but our freedom is well worth the effort it takes.
Consider this in relation to the negative emotions. Every negative emotion has had its source in this kingdom all your life. These evil beings have been sinning against you from birth. We could all easily share David’s complaint that an enemy has hated us and laid snares for us “without cause.”[ix]
The kingdom of darkness is the true source behind all of your pain and suffering as well as your own sinful ways, but you didn’t know this in the beginning. You looked around and all you could see was other people and the injustice coming through their sins against you. You were blinded from seeing these three things with enough understanding to stay free, but these truths can liberate you now:
1) The real enemy was the evil spirits who had attacked those people first and were using them against you.
2) In unintended reaction to your pain it was your own sinful reactions and ungodly beliefs that bound the pain to you.
3) The loving and faithful God was always there with you, preserving your life, just as He is with you now to heal your life.
Now, God is saying to you: Forgive people for everything—let Him deal with them—and concentrate on the real enemy. Confess your own sins (including any unforgiveness), resist Satan’s kingdom and let God restore your life as you leave justice to Him. All the while, keep your focus on the Lord. Our primary objective is not to crush the enemy, but to love God with our whole being.[x] In terms of spiritual warfare, this translates into trusting and obeying God no matter what the enemy is doing—to surrender and stay surrendered to God.
Consider this well: There is no peace without surrender. Yet, even believers often find themselves living without the peace of Christ capturing their hearts. The truth is that whenever we begin to move away from the place of total surrender, we are, to that degree, joining the Great Rebellion that began when the enemy used his free will to move away from the will of his Creator and go his own way.
Since our ongoing surrender to the Lord is the key to victory, we will surely have to learn how to face the cross of our embattled times and say with Jesus, “Nevertheless, not my will, but Yours, be done.”[xi]
The Importance of a Fighting Spirit
The language of spiritual warfare can be found throughout the New Testament, but it is in the Hebrew Scriptures especially that we see the importance of
maintaining a fighting spirit. The children of Israel could visibly see their enemy coming to steal, kill and destroy and they responded accordingly!
Our battle is not against flesh and blood as theirs was for they were called to be examples to us (in the visible and natural realm) of things that we would experience in the invisible realm of our own spiritual warfare. We have to learn how to “see” by means of faith to win our battle.[xii]
Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 1 Corinthians 10:11 ESV
One of the things which caused the Israelites to stumble was a great fear about going up against the giants in the land that the Lord had promised to them as their inheritance. They were very reluctant warriors!
However, in the battles to come, it was Joshua and Caleb who saw an opportunity for the people of God to grow stronger, just as fresh bread strengthens and revitalizes a hungry person. These men had faith that the God they believed in was capable of helping them gain the victories they needed against the giants, boldly saying the giants would be “bread for us.”[xiii] Ultimately, it was only Joshua and Caleb of that generation who ended up enjoying life in the land promised to all of those who Moses led out of Egypt.
Whether you want it or not, one of the ultimate battles of life lies right before you—to subdue the interior landscape of your own heart by fighting to fully believe and do what God’s Word declares to be truth.[xiv] What a conundrum it is that we have to be willing at times to fight to live in the Kingdom’s peace and joy. Hebrews calls it laboring to enter the promised place of rest.
Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. Hebrews 4:11 KJV
In the fourth and fifth centuries many noble souls “fled” the lukewarm Christianity of the converted Roman Empire to the deserts of Egypt in order to live more totally for Christ. They discovered that like Jesus they were to face some of the stiffest temptations from the enemy in their wilderness. They quickly discovered that it was easy to get the monk (the spiritual athlete, the God chaser) out of Rome, but far harder to get “Rome” out of the monk!
Here are a few nuggets of wisdom gleaned by Henri Nouwen from the writings of the desert fathers:[xv]
The chief task of the athlete is to enter into his heart [and do battle there]. - Macarius the Great, Desert Father, ca. 300-391.[xvi]
The great work of a man… [is] to expect temptations to his last breath. - Saint Anthony of Egypt, Desert Father, ca. 251-356.[xvii]
You should realize that as soon as you intend to live in peace, at once evil comes and weighs down your soul... But if we are vigilant, all these temptations fall away. - Mother Theodora, d. 490.[xviii]
Even so, the great thing is never the battle, but the “resting in the Lord” and the “flowing in the Spirit” times that lie on the other side of each fresh victory.
We have to fight to stay surrendered to the Lord!
Father, thank You for the Blood of Jesus, the Name of Jesus, Your truth, Your Spirit and Your armor—my weapons for the “right hand and the left” for offense and defense.[xix] You have truly equipped me for fighting the spiritual battles that lie ahead! I place the helmet of salvation over my mind and the righteousness of Christ over my heart. May I always be girded about by Your truth and may my feet remain upon Your path of peace. I take up faith as a shield against the Accuser and wield Your Word as a sword to cut through the darkness so that I can keep walking in Your light, praying always for Your Presence and power to guide me!
Take It to Heart!Don't just give these truths a "head bob"! For further study and for help working these truths into your heart and life, see Kingdoms in Conflict part 2 (Head to Heart Guide 4) and "work out" with exercises, discussion questions, review of main points, digging deeper, more scriptures, model prayers, renunciations/affirmations and practical steps of life application.
Scriptures and Foot Notes
[i] Preface, THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS by CS Lewis © copyright CS Lewis Pte Ltd 1942, 1943, 1944, 1952.
[ii] Ephesians 6:12
[iii] Romans 10:2
[v] See also Mark 9:23-29; Luke 4:40-41; Luke 8:1-2; Luke 13:11-12
[vi] 1 Corinthians 6:20; Ephesians 1:14
[vii] John 1:5
[viii] “We have to learn to fall out of agreement with the compelling force of the spirit’s own belief system and believe instead what God’s Word declares to be true in situations that trouble us.” From Pastor Ed Kelly, Be In Health® teaching and materials, Dr. Henry W. Wright, Thomaston, Georgia, seminar notes, October 2000.
[ix] Psalm 35:7
[x] Matthew 22:37
[xi] Luke 22:42
[xii] Ephesians 6:12
[xiii] Numbers 14:9
[xiv] Proverbs 4:23
[xv] Henri Nouwen, The Way of the Heart (New York: Seabury Press, 1981), pp. 77, 70, 70.
[xvi] Macarius the Great, cited in Irenee Hausherr, The Name of Jesus, trans. Charles Cummings (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, Inc. 1978, p. 314.
[xvii] Benedicta Ward, trans., The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (London & Oxford: Mowbrays, 1975), p. 71.
[xviii] Ibid. p. 71.
[xix] 2 Corinthians 6:7