“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:11 ESV)
Today is Memorial Day, a day when we remember those who have paid the ultimate price for our freedoms. Both my grandfather and his brother, my great uncle, served in World War II and lost many friends. For that reason, they always held this day in high regard and that left a lasting impression on me. So as we fire up the grills today and gather to enjoy food and fellowship, let us remember those who died to make our freedoms possible. But let’s also consider, at the outset of this national holiday, the far more important war being waged all around us: the war for our souls.
Oftentimes, we are uncomfortable with the subject of spiritual warfare. Given the abuse of this topic, I sympathize deeply with this discomfort. Whether it’s the TV preacher telling us about “demons of poverty,” or the friend who talks about nothing else, excess with respect to this doctrine can make us forget about spiritual warfare altogether. But that would be a fatal mistake. Let’s look briefly at the Biblical teaching regarding spiritual warfare and how we can fight the good fight of faith in our daily lives.
First, the Bible makes it clear that spiritual warfare is a daily reality for the believer. Satan is compared to a relentless adversary (Zech 3:1), a roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8), and a slanderous accuser (Job 1:9ff.; Rev 12:10). He is powerful (Eph 2:2) and constantly schemes against Christians (2 Cor 2:11). His minions, demons, do his bidding throughout the earth, causing untold spiritual and physical harm (Rev 9:3ff.). Nevertheless, we must always keep in mind that, though spiritual warfare is a daily reality, the devil is not a demi-god. He is not all-powerful, all-seeing, or all-present. His power is limited by God’s sovereign decree (Job 1:6; Rev 20:2). Put simply, Satan can do nothing apart from God’s permission (Matt 12:29).
Second, spiritual warfare is primarily a battle for our hearts and minds. Satan’s chief goal is to stir up strife in the church by false teachers (Acts 20:29, 2 Peter 2:2, Rev 9:3ff.). He blinds the minds of unbelievers, causing them to believe lies instead of the truth of the gospel (2 Cor 4:4). This is why Paul tells us to be renewed in our minds (Rom 12:2) and Peter tells us to prepare our minds for action (1 Peter 1:13). What we think about matters, for what we think about is really just an expression of what we love in our innermost being. Our minds tell us what’s in our hearts, which inevitably plays out in our lives.
Therefore, as Christian men, we are to protect our minds and hearts by the gospel. We do this by faith, putting on the whole armor of God daily (Eph 6:11-14). We remind ourselves of the truth that Satan has no power over us, for greater is the Holy Spirit in us than Satan (1 John 4:4). We preach the gospel to ourselves, holding on to the promise that the blood-wrought obedience of Jesus has forgiven us of all sins, past, present, and future (Rev 1:5, 12:11). In short, God’s grace alone has saved us, God’s grace alone keeps us, and God’s grace alone will give us victory in spiritual warfare.
We also protect our minds by studying, memorizing, and applying God’s word. Daily bible study is crucial for waging the spiritual battles that rage around us. In Paul’s list of armor in Ephesians 6:10-18, the only weapon which can be used to attack is the sword of the Spirit, the word of truth. In this passage, God tells us through Paul to take up the shield of faith, which will extinguish Satan’s flaming darts (v.17). What feeds our faith? The word. How do we express that faith, first and foremost? By believing prayer (v. 18). Thus, we are called to what seem like mundane tasks: bible reading and prayer. But, when we stop to think about it, what could be more thrilling? We get to hear from God whenever we want and talk to him whenever we please. What amazing privileges we have as God’s adopted sons! Therefore, take heart: the spiritual war is over, because God wins in Jesus. The spiritual battles may continue, but Jesus has already won the war.
Recently, my wife and I watched a documentary on WWII. The last episode detailed the surrender of Japan. One fact which fascinated both of us was that in some of the outlying jungles on the Japanese-held islands, many Japanese soldiers did not learn of the August 1945 surrender. Hence, they kept fighting and fighting fiercely. Satan is like the Japanese army. He was forced to surrender at the cross of Jesus. But he still fights as though the surrender hasn’t taken place. Therefore, we face a fierce, but defeated, enemy. With that in mind, let us undertake our calling to spiritual warfare with joyful bible study, fervent prayer, and a firm conviction that the grace of Jesus wins every time!