Category Archives: Spiritual Warfare

The Two-Edged Sword

Image result for two edged sword picture

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  Hebrews 4:12

I have talked a lot about the power of the Word and the necessity of being in it, so I just want to testify of what the Bible has done in my life.  As I have also previously mentioned, I became a Christian through two ladies who came and taught Vacation Bible School in my little farm community.  They taught the Word of God apologetically, persistently, and clearly.  I sat on the edge of my seat as I listened to them each summer.  They came from hours away, so this was the only time I heard teaching like this.  They quoted verses as they taught and in conversation, they sang songs with verses in them, and they simply stood on the truths of the Bible.

Through these two dear ladies, Miss Evelyn and Miss LaRue, the two-edged Word sword did its work in my life.  I learned that you don’t need a lot of props, you just need the Bible.  Through their encouragement I memorized hundreds of verses.  It is what changed my life, and I saw it change other people’s lives in the same way.  

When I went away to college, I joined Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship, a campus Christian group.  Through them I was taught how to study the Bible inductively and many other things that took this love for the Bible and the passionate belief that we must base our lives on it, eat, drink and sleep with it.  I have kept Bible study journals for almost 40 years now.

I worked my summers throughout college and beyond in camping ministries.  In each of these places, I saw God use me in other kids’ lives as I taught the Bible and told them the good news about Jesus’ life, death and resurrection to pay the price for our sins and to purchase salvation for us.  I prayed with hundreds of kids to find this Jesus in their lives, just like Evelyn and LaRue did for me.

Since then, I continue with the same conviction.  I know if I teach with the Bible in my hand, God works.  I don’t get carried away with emotional or funny stories, just this living and active sword of the Spirit that changes lives.  In 2 Corinthians 4:1-2 it says that we are not to resort to manipulation or clever schemes, watering it down or panhandling it for profit.

God moved my audience from children to an evangelistic ministry in our County jail.  For over 17 years I have had the privilege of being the first person, in many cases, to introduce these dear women to Jesus and to the Bible.  The living and active word of God is doing its work in their lives.  Isaiah 55:10-11 says, “it will not return to Me empty but will accomplish that which I purpose.”


Fight the good fight!

…Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.  Fight the good fight of the faith.  Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.  1 Timothy 6:11-12

So we are to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness and gentleness.  What does it look like to pursue those things? We have to run after them, like we would pursue a dream, or a love relationship.  If we love something or someone, we’re going to pursue that person or thing.  In the midst of running after righteousness, godliness and the rest, the key is to run after God.

Some questions to ponder today: Does God have your heart?  Does He capture your affections, your time, your energy, and even your daydreaming?  What does capture your affections, if it’s not God?  And what do you need to get rid of that is stealing away your attention and devotion?

boxing glovesHere’s the fight part:  It is a fight to drive away the competing attention getters and to be able to flee sin, bad company and bad habits.  I was just talking with four women in jail about this.  They know about Jesus and want to follow Him, but the difficulty for them is to abandon the old life, especially because they don’t have the resources to just move to another community and to start all over.  We talked about Hebrews 12:4 that states: “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”

We also talked about Matthew 5:30 where it says, “If your right hand causes you stumble, cut it off and throw it away.  It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into Hell.”  Now that’s a fight.  Jesus’ call on our lives is a radical one, not ho hum.  For some people it is really a big switch to go from walking like a child of darkness to one of light.

We are at war with the world, Satan, and our own flesh.  The ‘world’ belongs to this world, and Satan is the ruler of it, according to John 14:30 where Jesus says, “The ruler of this world is coming.”  Satan is the father of lies and our enemy.  He seeks to steal, kill and destroy, according to John 10:10.  We can’t just “go with the flow” because the world’s flow goes the opposite direction of godliness and righteousness.  Finally, Peter writes in 1 Peter 2:11 to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.”  Have you ever felt that civil war?

              Three things to think about in the fight that counteracts the world,                                         the flesh and the Devil:

  1. The Word renews our mind, and so does the Holy Spirit (Romans 12:1-2 and Titus 3:5).  Get into the Bible and stay in it.  Call on the Holy Spirit to empower you and to fight the flesh battle for you.
  2. Take your thoughts captive.  That’s 2 Corinthians 10:3-5.  Don’t be lazy about it.
  3. Learn and remember who you are in Christ.  Ephesians 2:3 says that we once were children of wrath, but that’s not who we are anymore.  We are children of the King and His Spirit lives in us.  1 Corinthians 6:11 tells us we used to be swindlers, drunkards, revilers, etc. but now we “have been sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

Fight the good fight of faith.  Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called.

 


Let peace be your umpire

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.  umpire safe.jpgAnd be thankful.  Colossians 3:15

The first thing to notice here is that it reads that the peace of Christ should rule in your hearts. That suggests that the peace of Christ should be the ruler collectively in the body of Christ, not just in our own lives individually.  When there is a dispute in the body then, the prevailing rule of the thumb should be figuring out what will benefit peace and not cause strife, conflict, or division.  Sometimes it is so easy to get fired up about what truth is at stake that peace loses out.  Ephesians 4:3 backs this up.  Paul writes, “(be) eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. “

The word for “rule” is the only time it is used in the New Testament. What it refers to is an Olympic judge; the guy that would award a medal or disqualify an athlete from his prize. This guy was the umpire. You can argue all you want but the umpire is the one that gets to make the call.  (cited from http://www.mikeleake.net)  Peace is the umpire.  If peace is sacrificed, then drop it.

You may think important things might get diminished, or compromised.  But yet, it seems like most rifts aren’t about whether or not Jesus is the only way to God or other crucial doctrinal tenants.  Most conflicts are over hurt feelings, pride, jealousy or matters of preference.   If I am growing in the Lord and able to look beyond my own interests, then I should be able to let someone else’s opinion or preference win out.  Keeping peace is so much more important than me being right or getting my way.  That’s the more mature option.

It is easier to take that option if you have learned to let the peace of Christ rule in your own life.  James 3:14-18 reads, But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.  This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.  For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.  But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.  And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

There are some Christians that have chaos ruling their lives, not peace.  It could stem from having jealousy and selfish ambition that are not surrendered to God.  There is most likely bitterness and pride that needs to get renounced.  Those people are difficult to be around because they aren’t  aware that the real problem isn’t what everyone is doing to them, but what their own bitterness and jealousy is doing.  Disorder results.

And be thankful!  Thankful people are hard to bring down.  They are quick to point out the things we have in common, rather than to focus on the dividing points in the body.  Thankful people are the opposite of those who have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition. Are you thankful?

Take a look inside and see if you have surrendered all of your bitter jealousy and selfish ambition to the Lord so that the peace of Christ can be the umpire in your heart.

 


Go Wield Your Sword

shield and sword

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 sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  Ephesians 6:16-17

Paul’s picture is one of a Roman soldier, and the armor that he would wear.  We’ve already looked at the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness and the shoes of peace.  Today we’ll look at the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit to be battle ready.

The shield of faith is there to extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one, Satan.  I did an Awana council time on this from the theme night “Bean Bag Barrage.”  I had a bigger metal garbage can lid, and I had given about 50 bean bags to kids and adults in the audience.  On cue they pelted them at me, while I fended them off with my trusty lid.  You could hear the “zings” but not one hit me.   That was a pretty good picture of what Paul was talking about.

There are plenty of  faith verses we can call out when under attack, like “I will never leave you or forsake you,” Hebrews 13:5; “God is my refuge and strength in trouble, a very present help in trouble, therefore we will not fear,” Psalm 46:1-2; “The name of the Lord is a strong tower.  The righteous run into it and are saved,” Proverbs 18:10.  Know them by heart, call them out and stand with the strength that God provides.

The helmet of salvation is to guard our heads and our minds.  We can relate to that, as we are a helmet society (not like when I was a kid).  In Proverbs it talks about guarding our hearts, but we also need to guard our minds.  Don’t subject yourself to garbage on TV and the computer, or even Facebook.  Shut it off.  Our thoughts need to be kept in line with the holy life that God wants for us, so even being around certain people might have to be on the “no” list.  Immerse yourself in the Word so that you won’t be deceived and tossed around by every wind of doctrine.

Next we have the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  It is the only offensive weapon that we have, outside of prayer.  Hebrews 4:12 says that “the Word is living and active, sharper than any two edged sword…”  We use it by quoting it to ourselves, out loud to Satan (“Resist the devil and he will flee from you, James 4:7), and filling our prayers and talk with Scripture.  Corrie Ten Boom was talking to an evangelist in India who said he wasn’t seeing many people come to the Lord.  She asked him if he was wielding his sword, meaning ‘was he using Scripture in his messages.’  He thought and said that he really wasn’t.  About a year later she saw him again and he quickly told her how he went back to using more Scripture and how people were coming to the faith.  My husband calls that out to me every time I leave to go do jail ministry, “Go wield your sword.”

I pray through the armor when I feel the battle closing in.  I also call out loud, “Satan I resist you in the name of Jesus.  Leave me alone.”  We have a defense, the armor of God.  Now use it!


Pray at all times in the Spirit

prayPraying 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.  Ephesians 6:18

I would call prayer the walkie talkie that goes with the armor of God.  It is not an intercom, a one-way communication tool, but a walkie talkie for two way communication.  That’s why Paul writes to pray in the Spirit at all times.  What does praying in the Spirit mean?

In Romans 8:26-27 we find that “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness.  For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.  He who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”  Here are some of the things the Holy Spirit does to help us in prayer:

  • The Holy Spirit searches the deep things of God.  He knows the mind of Christ and the will of God.  Then he He takes the things of Christ and reveals them to us.  
  • The Holy Spirit teaches us how to pray and what to pray for.   When I enter into praying ‘in the Spirit,’ I am asking the Holy Spirit to tell me how to pray and what to pray for so that I am praying for people against Satan’s strongholds, devices, and schemes and am effective in my prayers–not just babbling words or phrases learned from someplace.
  • The Spirit in my spirit prays with groanings that cannot be expressed in words, working in us to will and to do the will and good pleasure of our Father.  “Put on my heart what it is You want me to pray for and to yearn for.  Stir my spirit with Your Holy Spirit to intercede and to speak according to Your will.”

The prayer of the Spirit is the inner meaning of prayer.  It is more than just sitting down and asking God for a list of things–it is communion, fellowship, cooperation and identification with God and Jesus by the Holy Spirit.

Samuel Chadwick, a preacher in the 1800’s from England said, “The most important part of prayer is not what we say to God, but what God says to us.  It is no place to hurry (the place of fellowship with God).  The soul must be still and wait before the Lord.” (From the Collection and Works of Samuel Chadwick, Beacon Hill, 1943).

Ephesians 6:18 commands us to pray at all times, with all prayer and supplication.  Pray when you don’t feel like it, pray until you feel like it.  Pray for little deals and pray for big deals.  Pray for yourself and pray for others.  Prayer is a weapon.

Finally,  our power verse with tells us to be alert and to persevere.  Don’t be content with seasons of prayerlessness.  Break through whatever wall it is that keeps you from communing with God on a deep enough level to know that your spirit is communicating with the Holy Spirit.

“The prayer of a righteous person has great power.”  James 5:17

 


Having Done All, to Stand Firm

Beltoftruth

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.  Ephesians 6:13-15

God has given us His resources to stand against the principalities and evil forces that want to eat us for lunch.  It’s call the whole armor of God.  Somehow the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness and shoes of peace, to start with, are parts of what will enable us to withstand the day of evil and to stand.  It is invisible to us, but perhaps it is fully visible in the spiritual realm.

Let’s start with the belt of truth.  2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that Scripture is inspired by God and is what thoroughly equips us for every good work.  In John 17:17 we find, “Your Word is truth.”  Don’t leave home without it.  We put on our belt of truth by studying the Bible, applying it, obeying it and speaking it.  We don’t speak lies, we don’t manipulate, but as Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:2, “by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God,”  or, “by plainly setting forth the truth.” NASB If we live according to the truth and speak the truth of the Word into situations, it is our weapon.  It must be an important one, because that’s the first one Paul mentions.

Next we put on the breastplate of righteousness, of Jesus’ righteousness, to stand clean before God.  It is not our own righteousness that we put on.  If that were so, it would be a Swiss cheese breastplate.  We can never stand clean before God, because as Isaiah 64:6 announces, “all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.”  When Satan accuses us, our defense is Jesus’ righteousness and Jesus is our defense attorney.  But still we must confess our sins and renounce sin habits so that Satan does not have legal ground to mess with us.  1 John 1:9 is true: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  Just as you take a shower regularly to get clean, take a spiritual shower each day by confessing known sins.  Then rest in Jesus’ righteousness.

Lastly, we put on the shoes of readiness that is given by the gospel of peace.  Romans 10:15 calls someone’s feet who goes to tell the good news of Jesus “beautiful feet.”  If we seek to come to people with peace, reconciliation and with grace, it goes miles further than if we are confrontational, have unresolved conflicts that mark our lives, and a contentious spirit.  When you go into a situation that could be a fight, consciously put on Jesus’ shoes of peace.

Romans 8:37 proclaims, “In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”  We are on the winning side, and we have the winning weaponry.  Those weapons are not of this world, but are divinely powerful in this spiritual battle we are in.


Our Clear and Present Danger

battle

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.  Ephesians 6:10-12

There is a battle going on for our hearts and souls.   Sometimes we feel it and know what’s going on as it plays out.  Other times we don’t realize that we are fighting a real war until after we’ve just been defeated in some way.  The fight is in the heavenly realms, a place we can’t see.   Heaven, Hell, God, angels and demons reside in this spiritual world.  Our spirit        interacts somehow with this spiritual world, like when we pray and quote Scripture and speak the name of Jesus.

Know this: Satan is after us.  In Luke 22:31-32  Jesus told Peter, “Satan demands to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.”  Satan wants to pulverize our faith, but Jesus fights for us.  Satan uses people, but our battle isn’t against people, though at face value that’s what it seems like.  There are spiritual forces of evil that are at work in this world and are at work against us.  They demand to have us.

In Revelation 12:10 it says that Satan accuses us before God day and night.  He looks for our weaknesses and pounces on them.  He is a roaring lion wanting to devour us, as 1 Peter 5:8 warns.  We can either underestimate our opponent, Satan, or we can overestimate his powers and abilities.

Let’s start with what happens when we underestimate Satan’s power and influence.  Peter the disciple brashly declared, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death,” in Luke 22:33.  And then, not much later, he denied Jesus three times.  Perhaps he overestimated his own moxy, or he underestimated what Jesus said about Satan wanting to sift him like wheat.  At any rate, he denied Jesus and learned that he wasn’t as strong as he thought he was and that Satan was stronger than he thought he was.

Self confidence is good to have, but it’s not enough to withstand sifting from evil forces.  The good news for Peter and for us is that even when we fall, is that Jesus intercedes for us, He fights for us, and it is He who keeps us from falling eternally, according to Jude 24.

We can’t overestimate Satan and underestimate God.  Some people give the devil more power than he has, allowing him to control them by fear, much like a bully does.  1 John 4:4 triumphantly states, “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for He who is in you is greater than He who is in the world.”   Colossians 2:15 announces that Jesus “disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them at the cross.”  Jesus is stronger and He is on our side!

Stand in Jesus and what He has done for us, and for the protection and strength that comes from Him.  Our flesh and self confidence may fail us, but Jesus never fails.  He gives us spiritual weapons and spiritual armor.  Make it your goal to learn how to use them.


Destroying strongholds

breaking-strongholds

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.  2 Corinthians 10:5

This verse is about destroying arguments.  Another word for arguments is strongholds.  Strongholds are belief systems, attitudes, ways of thinking, or opinions that are not of God.  They are from Satan and they keep people away from God or in bondage even as followers of Him.  Paul was dealing with opponents of Jesus and of the Gospel.   He was demolishing their secular or pagan world views and then taking their defeated thoughts captive for Christ so that they could understand the Gospel and obey God.

When we encounter people that are stuck on their philosophy, religion,  pet theory, or mental blocks of some sort  we can pray it down.  Pray and name the ideology that you are hitting up against specifically in prayer, asking God to demolish it in the heavenly places.  That would give you the Heavenly power you need to see that lofty opinion brought down.  Practically applied, if the person you are praying for is influenced by atheism, secular humanism (I can save myself), narcissism (stuck on self), evolution, or Eastern religions of some sort you can pray that down by name.  You can also pray against the addictions that bind people, breaking the power that it has over them–or over you if you have addictions in your life.

Praying specifically against the contrary mindset or thought pattern is one weapon.  The second is using Scripture.  The Word of God, the Bible, is the sword of the Spirit.  In Hebrews 4:12 we find that the Word is living and active and sharper than any two edged sword that can pierce through to thoughts and intentions of people’s hearts.  That means that if we use Bible verses in our persuading of people, the verses penetrate in ways that our own words don’t.  A third weapon is the Holy Spirit.  Ask Him to show you how to pray, to give you power in your words that are God inspired, and to do a work in others’ hearts and lives that you can’t do.

You can apply this to yourself too.  As you get into the Bible and it gets into you, you may encounter things in your life that contradict God’s ways.  Are you willing to ask God to destroy, demolish or dismantle any world view, opinion, or habit pattern that is in your life?  That would be called surrendering to the Lordship of Jesus.  It is telling Jesus that He is more important than the coping mechanisms and belief systems that you hold about life, and asking Him to destroy anything that isn’t pleasing to Him.  Ouch.

We need to guard, strengthen and renew our minds because that is where lofty opinions and things that raise up against the knowledge of God begins.  In other words, the battle against sin starts in the mind.  We can have attitudes that are ungodly, or have worry, guilt, fear, resentment, insecurity and a host of other things take up residence that need to get kicked out in the name of Jesus.  Maybe the reason people live defeated and ineffective Christian lives is because they don’t know how to fight this battle for the mind.

But if you take this to heart, you can fight the battle for others’ minds as well as your own.  Use the divinely powerful weapons that are ours in Christ Jesus.


The Weapons of our Warfare

weapons-of-spiritual-warfare

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh.  For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.     2 Corinthians 10:3-4

We have weapons available to us in the spiritual realm that have the divine power to destroy strongholds.  That’s what these verses tell us.   Do you know what our weapons are?  I can think of a few.  Let’s take them one at a time:

  • Prayer.  In Ephesians 6:18, at the end of the armor of God description, Paul includes this: “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.”  Prayer is calling out in faith to the One who can move mountains, part seas and change events and people.
  • The Word of God.  In Ephesians 6:17 we are told to “take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”  Hebrews 4:12 tells us that “The Word is living and active and sharper than any two edged sword…”  Jesus rebuked Satan in the wilderness with “It is written,” and we must do the same.  Get to know verses by heart to call them out when and where you need them.
  • The Holy Spirit.  In Luke 4:1 we find, “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness.”  And in Luke 4:14, “Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee…”  Are you full of the Spirit?  He is our power, our guide, our helper and our strength.  Don’t leave home without Him!
  • The Name of Jesus.  In Acts 3-4 there is the account of Peter and John healing in the name of Jesus.  Peter turned and preached to the crowd about how by faith in His name the lame man was made well.  When the rulers and elders demanded to know by what power they healed the man, they again let them know it was the name of Jesus.  In His name demons have to flee.  Call out the name of Jesus when you are in the midst of a spiritual battle and watch Him work.
  • Praise and worship.  Psalm 149:6,8 reads, “Let the high praises of God be in their throats and two-edged swords in their hands… to bind their kings with chains and their nobles with fetters of iron.”  Praise is lifting up the name of Jesus and worshiping  the God of the universe who comes to our aid.  In Acts 16, Paul and Silas were singing hymns at midnight while chained in a dungeon.  Suddenly there was a great earthquake and their bonds were unfastened.  I don’t think it was a coincidence that the earthquake hit while they were singing hymns.

There are more weapons to name, but this is a start.  They have the divine power to battle against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.  They are for all believers to use to be able to stand in the day of evil.