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Spiritual Warfare: What is it?

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Many people are confused about what spiritual warfare is.

Is it marching around a neighborhood hollering at satan to get away?

Is it hands-on involvement in demon-deliverance activities?

Is it “claiming dominion” over dreams?

It’s none of those things.

The Bible shows us and tells us what spiritual warfare is.

First let’s look at what the Bible shows us on the activity of satan and how to handle it. Jesus is talking with the disciples at the last Passover. He’s instituted the ordinances, settled an argument about who is the greatest, and now he begins to foretell Peter’s denial. He says,

And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: (Luke 22:31a KJV)

When you think of sifting like wheat you might think of a grandma in her apron sprinkling wheat into the bowl as she bakes cookies. Sifting wheat was not at all like that in ancient times. It involved a pitchfork, hurling stalks into the air, grinding, pressing, and shaking the wheat. Ouch. Job was sifted like wheat.

Now before we go much further, let’s realize that most of us are too small fry to be bothered by satan himself. Maybe we are troubled by a demon now and then. Mainly, satan lets our own flesh and sin nature do his work for him.

Secondly, notice that Jesus said ‘satan has asked’ as it says on some versions, or ‘satan has desired’. Satan has been given dominion over this world for a time, until Jesus takes it back during the Tribulation, but by no means is satan a free agent. There are limits set on satan’s activities, and those limits are set by Christ. So if you are being harassed by a demon, God is allowing it. And if God is allowing it, it is for your good and His glory.

So whatever satan is doing at a particular time or place (because satan is not omnipresent and is only ever in one place at a time), he is doing via God’s authority. There is no need to act like like Pokemon maniacs scooting around neighborhoods trying to find and bind an elusive spirit figure.

Here is the showing part. I mentioned that Jesus told Peter satan had wanted to sift him like wheat. And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat:

But that was only part of the verse. Jesus continued with His answer:

But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not (Luke 22:31b KJV)
but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail (ESV)

Jesus is praying for us!! Think about that. Here He is in all His intercessory glory, praying for us as we go through whatever it is God has set before us. Jesus doesn’t say here He decided to keep Peter undisturbed. We know that satan tempted Peter and Peter did deny Jesus three times, once with a curse. While we are going through it however, spiritual warfare involves interceding prayer from above.

And for how the Bible tells us spiritual warfare is to be conducted, it is clear. It does not involve seeking out the underworld, hurling claims and oaths upon it. It involves standing. Just that. Stand.

Wearing our spiritual armor (Ephesians 6:10-12), we then stand.

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. (Ephesians 6:13).

and having done all to stand; or having overcome, having routed the enemy, stand as conquerors; or rather, having took and put on the whole armour of God, in order to stand, and withstand the enemy. Gill’s Commentary

Can you picture it? We wear the armor. We submit. We stand. We resist. We are sober-minded and alert (1 Peter 5:8). We fight. And when all’s said and done. we are still standing. We started with a stand and we finish standing. Jesus  keeps us, doesn’t He?! And while all that is going on, He is praying for us too.

Again we read that we are to stand.

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. 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 the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 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, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. (Ephesians 6:14-20)

My main points are, satan operates within God-given limits; and Jesus is praying for us. We are proactive in the passive sense. Rather than marching all around seeking satan to devour (as the soldiers of spiritual mapping try to do), we stand in faith upon the Rock.

Further Resources

Essay: 10 Ways to Resist the Devil

Audio sermon series: Spiritual Warfare; Fighting to Win

Audio clip, 1-min: Spiritual Warfare is real

Spiritual Warfare: Truth or Territory? by Jim Osman

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