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Trinity 15 09i20 Prov. 26:1-12; Ps. 15 (16?); Gal. 6:11-18; Mt. 6:24-34
What is Spiritual Warfare?
Spiritual warfare can be distinguished from military, intellectual, cultural or other kinds of warfare -- but in the end, all warfare boils down to spiritual warfare.
The "greatest generation", as we call those who fought World War II, did a magnificent job with the military war, coming from behind to defeat two brutally dictatorial cultures. But we (many of us lived through those days) made a terrible mistake -- when they "came home", we thought the war was over. We did not realize that all military warfare is just a subset of the larger and continuing spiritual warfare, going on all the time -- until the King of kings and Lord of lords returns. And so we relaxed and allowed Western culture to drift, and then sink into the wastelands of the 1960's, and the takeover of the civil rights movement by the very uncivil radical government centralizers, aiming at centralized control -- tyranny. All coming into fuller blossom today as we worship here today.
Even we Christians had gotten largely secularized in this respect. Very few preachers were warning of the spiritual warfare against the Lordship of Jesus Christ which was mounting in America all through WW 2. The spiritual war was largely still under cover --- but mostly because Christians had allowed themselves to be blind-sided.
Yes, we tipped our hat to God at appropriate public occasions, but we had bought into a secular understanding of Church and State long before prayer was (illegally) declared illegal in public schools and in the public square generally, and long before the Bible was banned from serious consideration, and before the smallest of our children became dispensable. And we rarely any longer appealed to the will of God as justification for public policy.
We Americans had been warned in the 1850's by the Speaker of the House that we would be ruled either by the Bible or by the bayonet, either by the law and grace of God (as given by our founding fathers), or by the arbitrary coercive force of civil government (from which the founders, under God, had delivered us). That Speaker of the House understood spiritual warfare, but the larger Christian community lost that vision, which was replaced by the secular vision of life, a secular understanding of law and morality, and a secular version of Church and State. The likes of Marx, Freud, and Darwin won the culture war of the 1800's, and Christians lost the war. In that secular vision, there was no spirit, and hence no spiritual warfare, only military war, culture war, and the like.
And, for the most part, the Church, outside the church walls, at least, especially after the evolution-monkey trial, spoke less and less publicly of spiritual things. They seemed far off and vague compared to the supposed "hard evidence" to which secular people seemed to appeal.
We MUST recover our spiritual integrity. But that will be done only as we also recover our intellectual integrity.
The intellect has been banned in many Christian circles as antithetical to faith and revelation. That is not the Biblical view of the matter. In the Bible, God is the reasonable one, not we, His people. He is calling us to a freewill covenant, which means that God must present a reasonable case for His calling us. We can say "No thanks!" There is no coercion, so God has to persuade us of the truth of who He is, and of His good intentions for us. Why else would people choose for God?
God, of all the beings in the universe, surely knows how to present His case understandably, persuasively, and honorably. God knows how to "live in the light" because it is into that light which God is inviting us. He shows us how to do that by doing it Himself. We see that most fully in the Incarnation.
It was not until the Incarnation, the personal appearance of God Himself among us human beings, that spiritual warfare began to be fought in earnest. Prior to the coming of Jesus, there is little sign of the people of God taking on Satan or his demons directly and face to face. The Hebrews had had little knowledge of Satan as the arch criminal of the cosmos until their Exile in Babylon. Their new understanding of the original source of evil in the cosmos helped them understand how to explain and deal with evil. But it was Jesus who taught us spiritual warfare. He taught His disciples how to exorcise demons from those possessed, how to go for the jugular vein of the Enemy.
God lives in the light because He is Himself the true light. Satan must necessarily live in darkness, because he is trying to subvert the Kingdom of Light. Light does not fight against light, only darkness fights against light. Satan's primary weapon is deceit, lies, confusion. Atheist Ayn Rand noted, "Clarity always favors truth, and unclarity always favors falsehood." Miss Rand was right about that, but sadly she did not understand that living in the Light of God is the only way to have that clarity. The Kingdom of God is reality in its fullness.
So the primary weapon for the people of God is the Sword of the Spirit, truth spoken in love. The primary weapon of Satan is darkness, confusion, deceit.
That means that the first rule of spiritual warfare is to be a truth-seeker and a truth-speaker at any cost to ourselves, even the cost of the loss of our faith. The "at any cost" part is essential -- because if there is a point at which we abandon truth to protect our comfort, our reputation, our bank account, or even our faith, that is precisely the place where Satan has entry into our lives.
When we put truth-seeking first, then truth-seeking becomes the royal road to God, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. We will not know that at the beginning of our journey, because -- only if we are willing to pursue the journey, to risk being wrong, can we find out whether we are in fact right. The true God, as Elijah demonstrated on Mount Carmel, will show up and prove His own case.
Only if we are willing to open ourselves up to the truth, at any cost to ourselves, only if we are willing to risk that journey perilous for the real truth of the matter, can the Real Truth of the Matter, show up and rescue us from our errors and sins.
The decision to work for the truth, whatever it may be, opens us up to the grace of the living God, and neutralizes the acid effects of Satanic deception. This is not just an intellectual decision, though it is at least that, it is also at the deepest level, a commitment into that very personal Journey Perilous leading to the Throne of God Almighty, leading not only to a true idea of God, but even more, to the presence of the Living God.
Another aspect of Satan helpful to know -- he is a sort of cosmic spoiled brat, and should be treated like a spoiled brat. We give him much too much credit for his ability to do harm, because that ability to do harm rests chiefly on our being deceived about his power, and our ignorance or lack of skill in using the weapons of the Spirit. Like the Wizard of Oz, he can be very frightening. But that is because of our own low level of spiritual maturity, and our ignorance of the basis of his power.
Adam and Eve in the pre-Fall Garden had no need to fear Satan -- so long as they trusted and obeyed God. Satan has no power over the faithful children of God. That is why, no doubt, that God did not warn Adam and Eve of Satan, only to obey Him.
We are weakened also if we are not invested in a mature part of the Body of Christ. We need one another for prayer support and fellowship. The primary harm Satan and his minions can cause us is to convince us to do harm to ourselves. There is very little the dark side can do on its own. It has to convince us to do ourselves harm, to make ourselves vulnerable, to separate ourselves from the law and grace of God. That is the power of deceit. That is how Satan seduced Adam and Eve.
We have in our lessons three kinds of persons, the fool, the evil man, and the wise man. How is spiritual warfare relevant to each of these?
What are we to make of the fool spoken of in Proverbs? We can be fools because we are ill educated. We simply do not know what we are doing. But that is not really being the fool in this Biblical example. There is more to the fool than poor education. There is a kind of deliberate self-satisfaction, raising an impenetrable wall against correction. The fool comes into his own when he refuses to be corrected, when he insists on being right when he has no basis for it, and when he is not willing to listen carefully to others in open, candid discussion. The fool will not ask questions to explore a matter, to educate himself, he will make arbitrary assertions and not be correctable by any other testimony. He does not act this way with malice aforethought, but rather because that is the easiest way through a conversation. He has not the self-discipline to think things through carefully and logically. He is self-centered and lazy.
The Bible does not suffer fools easily. We are encouraged to be rather straight forward and sometimes rough with fools, speaking a clear word of correction. Or, "a whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the back of fools".
In our overly polite society, we tend to let fools have their way, especially when truth is thought to be "relative". Claims about relative truth are almost always covers for scams and hidden agendas which would not survive an honest contest in the light of day. And they can create a hesitation on the part of the wise to let pass contradictions and inconsistencies which should be challenged.
Is dealing with fools spiritual warfare? We are slow to think in such terms in our culture because we want everyone to "have their say", and to be "at the table". But tables not set up for truth-seeking and truth-speaking are tables vulnerable to the forces of darkness. So we must be discerning and courageous enough to find ways to challenge any table not set up for truth-seeking.
If there is a consistent and systematic subversion of truth, you are in spiritual warfare. Subversion of truth is the first sign of spiritual warfare. That does not mean an occasional mistake, error, or stubbornness. But when the behavior is consistent and systematic, then you almost for sure have spiritual warfare, and might think about prayer for discernment, and advice from others who might be more practiced in such matters.
An evil-minded person is different from a fool. An evil-minded person is at some level of his being deliberate about his behavior. He has a hidden motive, a plan, an agenda, which he hides so that he can insert his agenda under cover, but which can be spotted by a wise man who has had sufficient experience with human relationships.
These kinds of deceptions are used routinely today in politics, commerce, advertising, education, and every other aspect of public discourse. They are taken almost for granted and most of them never challenged. It is thought to be OK, and acceptable behavior. That is a culture in advanced state of decay. It is testimony to the ignorance or cowardice of those who should be fighting the battle, mostly in our culture, the so-called conservative leadership, including in the Church.
Spiritual warfare should not be thought of as limited to casting out demons in the traditional sense, though we ought constantly to be on the alert for such, and praying in that direction (a lesson on that some other time). We are in spiritual warfare whenever the forces of darkness are advancing. Most of it we meet at first on the human level. So we must be ready with a word of truth, a word of open challenge, spoken with love and grace, to refocus the conversation back on the truth of the matter, and to cut through the rabbit trails and other diversions from truth-seeking.
If you know ahead of time that you are will be dealing with hard issues, it would be well to know how to pray against demonic forces which might be intruding themselves into the situation.
Several years ago when I gave testimony against the consecration of Gene Robinson as the first openly homosexual bishop, the Lord showed me very graphically the spiritual dark forces I was to pray against -- dark swirling clouds in the auditorium.
Demonic forces are very real, but they are neither omniscient nor omnipotent. They are very limited and circumscribed in their abilities -- and, like Satan, spoiled brats. But even a demonic fool can wreak havoc if he has an open field. We can prevent that -- if we are also wise men and women.
We also have the wise man. Paul tells us, "But far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world."
And Jesus tells us, "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon."
The wise man will serve God, not mammon. Jesus did not say that we ought not serve both God and mammon, but that we cannot do so. It is an impossibility to do so. We will always be forced to choose between them because they are contradictory masters.
And then follows that beautiful passage about trusting God for the provisions for our lives. The wise man will not be anxious about food, drink, or clothing. Why? Because God, our Father, knows already that we have need of them. "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well."
Most of the devastation, poverty, and famine in the world has been due, not to natural disasters such as drought, but rather to evil-mined government which has wanted to enslave and plunder the poor. Famines almost never happen in nations which have a Biblical moral consensus and a Biblical form of government -- which is genuinely the servant of the people.
What has this to do with spiritual warfare? There are powerful forces at work in the world to keep us, to prevent us, to openly bar us as nearly as they can, from seeking His kingdom and His righteousness. We see them massively at work in our world today, right here in America, in California, in our schools, and local towns and cities. They are, among others, the forces of secularism, the forces which mock the Bible and the Church, which tell us, as "the fool" says, that "there is no God".
This war involves the intellectual front, the military front, the cultural front, the political front, and every other aspect of society. But behind it all is the spiritual war of Satan and his demons, along with their human supporters, against the Church of God.
I take a couple of hours every Friday, normally a day of special prayer and fasting, to walk around praying for the world. My prayer is primarily that God would raise up truth-seekers and truth-speakers, especially among those who call themselves Christians. As that begins to happen (and I think it is), the whole spiritual warfare landscape will begin to change. As we regain our intellectual credibility, we will also regain our moral and spiritual credibility. We will become a force to be respected. We will begin to succeed, and the other side will begin to persecute us.
That is the way of the cross. And it is the way the King of kings and Lord of lords wins His battles. So, letís get on with it.
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