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Spiritual Warfare
Knowing Your Enemy

F. Earle Fox
St Luke's REC, Santa Ana, CA
Audio Version

Trinity XXI - 10/10/24
Is. 59:15b-21   Psalm 76   Eph. 6:10-20   Jn. 4:46-54

Spiritual warfare is a subject which grows and matures over time, as the Hebrews and then Christians get a better grasp on the nature of this warfare.

A war assumes an enemy. Part of any successful war is knowing your enemy, knowing what makes him tick, and knowing his weak spots. You have to understand that the enemy is looking for your weak points in the same way. So successful war requires an adequate preparation on our part, an adequate defense against the enemy, and a more than adequate offense.

Napoleon was not right about much, so far as I know, but he was right about one thing. He understood military warfare, and said that "The logical end of defensive warfare is surrender." In other words, if you do not have a good offensive, you will always be fending off the offense of the other side. You will not take the initiative against the enemy, and he will have an advantage of momentum and often of surprise. And, in the end, he will win the war.

Western Christendom has been on the defensive for several centuries, except in small pockets here and there. We have lost our reputation for being "dangerous" to anyone, and are routinely mocked in public today. We are considered "dangerous" only by our stupidity, not because of our wisdom or aggressiveness.

That has been changing gradually over the last several decades, but we are a long way from impressing those with whom we contend that we are much of a threat to their belief system. The problem is that we do not contend very much. We mostly have "ain't it awful" discussions, wring our hands a bit, and then go home. Very little action emerges out of the discussions which most Christians have about the ills in or out of the Church.

There is a lack of leadership which is acknowledged among many, but little done about it. There are many very good assessments of this or that problem, but almost never a strategy for winning back the lost ground. No offense.

The Enemy, of course, is Satan, the devil. But how many Christians take him seriously today? Growing up, I thought that Jesus casting out of demonic spirits was really just the healing of some psychological disturbance, not a real demonic spirit. It bothered me that He might make such a mistake, so I thought that perhaps He knew that there were not real demons, but chose to talk in the language and understanding of the times.

But as I grew, the intransigence of evil, the terrible pressure is puts on us, and our difficulty in overcoming evil convinced me that there is more to evil than merely human ignorance plus ill-will and rebellion. There are entities who are dedicated to evil, and know how to go about entrapping the rest of us in their deadly web.

I also began to be aware of the presence of evil entities, demonic entities which hated me, and were trying to draw me into their circle of hate and of lust for power and pleasure. Satan became both a theoretical and practical reality for me. I could feel the hate coming from evil entities. So I learned how to pray against them.

It is significant that God did not warn Adam about the presence of Satan lurking in the forbidden tree. I suppose that God did not do that because He did not need to. God warned Adam about all that Adam needed to be warned about -- not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good & Evil. That is all he needed to know.

If Adam had obeyed that one command, he never would have found the serpent to be a threat. Satan is the prince of "this world", i.e., the fallen world. That is the world of those who have separated themselves from God, and so who have lost some or all of the protection of God. They have compromised their two fundamental stabilities -- their power of being, and their moral stability. The serpent has no power in God's world where we have fully those two stabilities. We become vulnerable to Satan only when we fall into that corrupted world, as Adam and Eve did when they disobeyed God. They lost their own stability from God and so became dependent upon what Satan and other fallen creatures seemed to be able to supply.

As St. Paul points out in Romans 1:18 ff., we will worship something. If we do not worship the Creator, we will end up worshipping some creature. We are inherently dependent beings, so we cannot worship nothing at all.

By worship, I mean depending on something outside of ourselves for our two stabilities. That being from whom you receive those stabilities will be God for you. We come into the world worshipping our parents -- but that is by design of God. We are to grow in spiritual perception and awareness to where we worship God as the source of our selves, not our parents or anything else in the world. We no longer fear our parents because we no longer receive our life from them. We transfer our fear, in the good sense, to God Himself.

Salvation thus means coming to resting securely on the Hand of God, and listening to, and obeying, His Voice, His Word, His intention and direction for our lives. That is the reversal of the Fall.

 

So what sort of being is Satan? He is a creature, just like all beings other than God. That means that he too, like ourselves, is a dependent being. He does not, and cannot, give himself those two stabilities. He is not ontologically self-sufficient. He is not I AM.

But since he has confirmed himself in rebellion against God, he cannot receive them from God. He cannot give them to himself, so, like us, he must scrape what he can together in his relationships with other creatures.

Satan has powers beyond other creatures because he began as the highest of the angels. His name, Lucifer comes from the Latin Lux+fero -- meaning the "light-bearer". We read in Isaiah 50:11, "Behold, all you who kindle a fire, who set brands alight! Walk by the light of your fire, and by the brands which you have kindled! This shall you have from my hand: you shall lie down in torment."

Satan wanted to kindle his own fire, his own light, and to walk by that light and bear that light to others, no longer the Light of God. The light he would bear to others would attract them to himself, to worship him. His ability to mimic God would be very persuasive to persons who had lost touch with the true God. He would tempt them, just as he did with Adam and Eve, to "be like God". He would promise them universal knowledge, knowledge all the way from good to evil, all the way from a to z. It would look like they would be able to do anything they wanted.

But Satan cannot offer what God offers, a relationship of freedom. Satan knows that every one of his entourage was climbing up the pyramid to be king of the mountain, or at least wanted to. He knows that he must keep them under his control or be toppled from the top of the mountain. He is vulnerable.

But he is stronger than the others, and has something they need, approval, acceptance, attention. He is able to draw them into his circle because they lust for his power and pleasure. He himself glorifies both power and pleasure, and so appears to justify the lust for them among his followers.

The relationship between Satan and his followers is the essence of what we call co-dependency in the worst pathological sense. Satan is dependent upon his followers to worship him because that gives him the illusion of being a Somebody, with his power over them and others. His followers are dependent upon him and each other because they feel liked, accepted by the "Somebody" -- much like the dynamics which might go on between (for example) a rock star and his audience. It is often mixed with sexual innuendo, or explicit engagement. The attraction could be power or pleasure in any of their forms -- but not open, honest relationship -- which they fear and avoid at all costs.

Satan is the cosmic spoiled brat, he is not any sort of truly heroic model. He is absolutely self-centered, and knows how to brainwash the gullible into submission. Satan either never grew up, or somewhere compromised his maturity and fell into gross immaturity.

But that is also his downfall. His whole kingdom is based on lies, deceits, manipulation, and raw power. That makes it inherently unstable. The thing he fears most is someone who is a truth-seeker and a truth-speaker.

So that is why we have the list of spiritual armory given by St. Paul in Ephesians 6.

"Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all , taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints..."

 

Old Testament spiritual warfare was less sophisticated, and generally took the form of destroying the manifestations of evil, killing those people and tribes or nations which were sunk into evil behavior. You did not seek to convert them, but to destroy them.

In the passage from Isaiah, we see God pictured as the warrior, literally setting out to destroy His enemies. This passage from Isaiah gives Paul much of the language with which the spiritual armor is described, but Isaiah pictures the contest as God in a literal war with flesh and blood enemies.

The lack of spiritual warfare, taking on spiritual powers, in the Old Testament times was perhaps related to their not seeing Satan as the arch-criminal of the universe. The early appearances of Satan, as in the Garden and in Job pictured him not so much as the cosmic arch-criminal, but rather as a kind of clever and maybe vicious prankster, as in the Garden of Eden, or as a nasty heavenly chief prosecuting attorney, as in Job. One hears of Satan only a few times apart from these occasions.

It was apparently not until New Testament times that the people of God began to take on Satan directly, confronting demonic powers face to face, casting them out -- rather than killing those who followed Satan. Paul says that, "We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of he darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." Jesus took on Satan directly, but with surprising calmness and directness, as in the temptations in the desert, or casting out various demonic spirits.

One might say, "Well, that was Jesus, the Son of God. You might expect Him to do that." True. But Jesus expected His disciples to do that, as when He came down from the Mount of Transfiguration, and found that they could not cure the boy of the demon which possessed him. When they asked why they could not cast out the demon, Jesus replied that this kind can be cast out only by fasting and prayer, suggesting that the disciples had not yet matured in their spiritual discipline. They had not yet dealt with their own spiritual immaturities, and perhaps unconfessed sin.

In other words, they were themselves still too immersed in the fallen world, not yet having shifted their own dependency and obedience sufficiently from the world to God Himself.

Likewise, the seven sons of Sceva were beaten up by the demons they were attempting to cast out, who said to them, "Jesus I know and Paul I know, but who are you???" The demons did not see any spiritual power or authority in them. They had not yet found their two stabilities in God, but were still finding them in the world. So the sons of Sceva had no solid authority of the Word of God, and no solid ground of the Holy Spirit upon which to stand against the force of the demons. So the demons had no fear of them.

 

Christians often take Paul's passage on the spiritual armor in a mechanistic manner. They symbolically "put on" the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness, or take up the shield of faith -- perhaps acting out those motions.

But that is not how one puts on the armor of God so that the enemy will see that he has something significant confronting him. The way to "put on the breastplate of righteousness" is to live a righteous life. One wields the sword of the Spirit, not by symbolically waving one's hand in the air, as though holding a sword. One wields the Sword of the Spirit by in fact speaking the truth in love. It was probably that kind of actually living the life of God, living in the light of God, which the disciples still lacked when they could not cure the boy.

But they began to mature as Jesus drew them to His side on the Way of the Cross -- teaching them how to live the cross life. So when He had sent them out two by two to the various cities of Samaria to which He Himself would be going, when they returned, reporting, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name." And Jesus replied, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven."

Then Jesus adds, "Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."

In other words, their authority and power over the demons came from their being rooted in heaven, having their dependency shifted from the world to God Himself.

Jesus came precisely to accomplish that. He drew the disciples to Himself, to become dependent upon Him, and obedient to Him, because those who receive Jesus receive the Father who sent Him, and receive the Holy Spirit whom Jesus sends to them. They have, to a substantial degree, moved their dependency and obedience from the world to God Himself.

That is the meaning of our salvation and thus also of our spiritual effectiveness in the world.

Audio Version

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Date Posted - 10/24/2010    -   Date Last Edited - 07/07/2012