We Are In a Spiritual Battle
A recent movie caught my attention – it is called The Devil Insidewhich is about a daughter who is trying to figure out whether her mother is mentally ill or demon possessed.
Her mother confessed to brutally killing three people. 20 years later, her daughter Isabella (Fernanda Andrade) seeks to understand the truth about what happened that night. She travels to the Centrino Hospital for the Criminally Insane in Italy where her mother has been locked away to determine if her mother is mentally ill or demonically possessed. When she recruits two young exorcists (Simon Quarterman and Evan Helmuth) to cure her mom using unconventional methods combining both science and religion, they come face-to-face with pure evil in the form of four powerful demons possessing Maria.
Maybe some of you remember the movie the Exorcist which was based on a 1971 novel. The Exorcist was about a young girl that had become demon possessed and priests trying to cast out the demons. The movie impacted our society and culture. Many folks became enamored with Satanism and in the demonic presence in our world. This spiritual interest led many inquisitive individuals into the dark world evil spirits, including some Christians that have been lost for eternity.
Ask me if I believe in evil spirits / demons. Ask me if I believe that Satan exists. If I were texting you an answer it would be YES and YES. Am I losing my mind? No but Satan would like me to classified as a nut case.
Is there a spiritual warfare going on? Absolutely
Normally I don’t like to spend much time on the opposition but to win a game or a battle you have to know your opponent’s tactics. So this morning we are going to look at the adversary of all Christians - Satan. Listen as Carl reads from Ephesians 6.
Ephesians 6:10-12 (NIV)
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
C.S. Lewis wrote: There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They (the demons/devils) themselves are equally pleased by both errors… (Srewtape Letters)
- Barna Research Group, Ltd., of Oxnard, California conducted a poll in which they discovered the following. Nearly two out of three American adults (62%) agreed that Satan is not a living being but a symbol of evil. And even more alarming is that among evangelical Christians, 52% deny Satan’s existence! 72% of Catholics say the devil is non-existent. Barna’s Conclusion: One of the major spiritual battlefields is now taking place within the Church! Satan shouldn’t be winning this spiritual war but he is winning because we don’t take him seriously enough to even believe in him.
God’s highest priority is evangelism – winning others over for Christ. Satan highest priority is to stop Christians from sharing their faith and leading another person to Christ. His second highest priority is to discredit us.
One thing is certain. We cannot afford to be ignorant of this spiritual war because it is waged right here and now! The enemy of our souls wants to gain control of our hearts and minds. Look at verse 12 of our text. Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual powers.
I. I believe and I know for certain that we are in a spiritual war and the enemy is called Satan and he has a number of other names that he goes by. Who is Satan? We need to know who this biblical character is.
- There are 2 Old Testament passages that speak to who our opponent is that I like us to look at:
Ezekiel 28:12-18 (NIV)
12 "Son of man, take up a lament concerning the king of Tyre and say to him: 'This is what the Sovereign Lord says: "'You were the model of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. 13 You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone adorned you: ruby, topaz and emerald, chrysolite, onyx and jasper, sapphire, turquoise and beryl. Your settings and mountings were made of gold; on the day you were created they were prepared. 14 You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones. 15 You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you. 16 Through your widespread trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned. So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you, O guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones. 17 Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings. 18 By your many sins and dishonest trade you have desecrated your sanctuaries. So I made a fire come out from you, and it consumed you, and I reduced you to ashes on the ground in the sight of all who were watching.
- In verse 13 – it tells us that this creature was in the Garden of Eden – who was in the garden? It was God’s garden and we know that God had an intimate relationship with Adam and Eve. Main Characters: God Adam & Eve, the only one missing is the serpent / Satan.
- The rationale: the passage speaks of a being so complete that he possessed the seal of perfection. It can be referring to a human being. In verse 14 the writer said this creature was ordained as a guardian cherub who walked at one time in heaven.
- Then wickedness was found in you and the privilege of being one the holy angels host was lost. Dare we miss this – God designed an angelic network to carry out His bidding. Here was an angel of supreme rank created by God to be an anointed cherub. Before creation here on earth God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit created the spiritual being that we call angels.
- Many people think that Satan is an evil god. No Satan / Lucifer was created blameless by God and was angel but he had a spirit of rebellion against God (vs15). He became conceited over his beauty. He allowed his perfection to be the cause of his corruption. Isaiah gives us another account of Lucifer.
Isaiah 14:12-15 (NIV) 12 How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! 13 You said in your heart, "I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. 14 I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High." 15 But you are brought down to the grave, to the depths of the pit.
- Morning star = Lucifer and son of dawn = Satan. Lucifer became Satan when god cast him out of heaven.
- Look at how Lucifer repeated “I will” five times in these verses. It reveals his pride and arrogance and that pride produced discontent. He was satisfied with being top angel anymore – he wanted to be like God Himself.
- When Satan fell he didn’t fall alone in Rev. 12:4 John wrote “His tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth…” In verse 9 it tells us that Satan has an army of angels. “The great dragon was hurled down--that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him” (Rev. 12:9)
II. Satan, the fallen disobedient angel has the mission to rule where God rules and targets that he goes after. Terrorists have targets, Satan is no different; he is just a spiritual terrorist. These are his targets: Christ, Righteous Angels, Israel, and Believers.
- Christ is Satan’s primary target. Why? Because his goal is to destroy God’s desire to be in relationship with us. He wants to damage or destroy God’s plan for salvation through Christ. He wants to sit on the throne of God. He tried to defeat the plan of salvation in a couple of different ways:
- At Christ’s Birth: he used King Herod to send troops to kill the Child King – Matt. 2:16-18. Herod had all boys 2 years and under in Bethlehem and surrounding area put to death so that Messiah would never reign.
- After Fasting: Satan tempted Jesus after He had fasted for 40 days in the wilderness. Satan attempted when Jesus was physically weak to have Jesus worship him. Jesus used scripture to counter Satan’s attacks – let’s remember that approach for it will also work for us.
- In the garden and at the crucifixion: Satan figured he won finally when Christ was arrested, scourged, crucified, laid in the tomb and then went into the lower parts of the earth / hell. He killed God – that exactly what he thought. But that was part of God’s plan to defeat Satan and death so on the third day Christ arose – alive and well.
- There is a cosmic battle going on. Satan and his army of demons are constantly attacking God’s holy righteous angelic army. The books of Daniel, Jude and Revelation speak to these battles. If you want more information on this I would be happy to do a Bible Study on Angels.
- Throughout history the powers of darkness have tried to wipe out the nation of Israel. Why? Because it is crucial for the fulfillment of prophecy. Remember I said that Satan wants to damage the message of salvation and Jerusalem plays an important part in Christ’s return.
- Fourth Satan attack us - Christ’s believers are the other target of Satan. Revelation 12:10 (NLT) Then I heard a loud voice shouting across the heavens, “It has come at last— salvation and power and the Kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters has been thrown down to earth— the one who accuses them before our God day and night.
- Satan has access to the throne of God where he is constantly bringing vicious accusations against us 24/7. He wants to destroy our relationship with Lord.
- But we have an Advocate – Christ Jesus who forgives and cleans us up.
III. What are his tactics? What is the devil’s mode of operations? In the passage we are looking this morning Paul tells us to put on all of God’s armor so that we stand firm against the devils schemes (Eph. 6:11). What are some of his schemes?
- Distraction: Satan likes to distract / sidetrack us.
- Satan seeks to distract us by getting us to focus our attention on the material instead of the spiritual, on methods rather than the message, on men rather than God.
- If Satan can he will get us to major on the minors and to minimize the majors.
- How many read the scriptures that are put in the bulletin – it will take us completely through the Bible by the end of the year. Ever notice that when you are about to dig into the Word the phone rings, the dog wants out, a kid hollers can’t find his clean socks but he hasn’t checked the sock drawer. I have discovered that even music in the background bothers me when I am trying to study the Word. What sidetracks you?
- Satan seeks to get our priorities out of kilter. Colossians 3:2 (NIV) 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
- Discouragement: The devil loves it when we become discouraged. Satan figures if you are becoming discouraged then you might get discouraged with your walk with the Lord.
- The Devil wants you to believe that things are worse than what they really are and that you are the only one who cares.
- Sometimes it is people that discourage us – in fact there I believe there are people that have a spirit of discouragement – they are people who love to tear you down so they feel built up.
- One of my dad’s favorite authors is Oswald Chambers – he writes in Studies in the Sermon on the Mount; “A man who is continually criticized becomes good for nothing; the effect of criticism knocks all the gumption and power out of him…”
- And sometimes it’s circumstances that discourage us and they may not be easy circumstances but God promises us that He will never leave us.
- Discouragement is faith in the devil. Galatians 6:9 (NIV) 9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
- Discontentment: Discontentment is being unhappy and miserable in the circumstances we are in. The Apostle Paul writes from a prison cell, “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:11-13 (NIV)
- Satan loves it when we are discontent. Because we put all our efforts into making ourselves feel better. When we are miserable we want others to be miserable with us. My mother use to say, “misery loves company.”
- Philippians 2:14 (NIV) 14 Do everything without complaining or arguing…” Christians are like autos--when they begin to knock, there is something wrong inside.
- The secret Paul discovered was that contentment came through relying on Christ’s strength.
- Discord: My Christian mentor & friend Uncle Jack who I quote a lot said that “anytime you see division in the church Satan is at work.
- There are four ways the devil brings about division in the church. He uses Selfishness, Favoritism, Narrow-mindedness, and Lack of Fellowship
- Selfishness says do it my way or no way.
- Favoritism says our way is better than your way.
- Narrow-mindedness says we’ve never done it that way.
- Lack of Fellowship says you go your way and I’ll go my way.
- Romans 12:3-5 (NIV)
3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. 4 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
- What amazes me is that I find people so stuck on themselves that they never listen to what the other person is saying, In fact they are forming what they say while the other person is talking. What a tragedy that is – we miss golden opportunities to share the good news.
- Christians should never be competitors but rather we ought to co-workers in the kingdom. I marvel at how many churches are leery and will have nothing to do with Christian efforts like Young Life because they might lose a kid to Young Life. Whatever happened to the priority of believer to make disciples – Matt. 28 doesn’t say go make Methodist – it says go make disciples. Satan just loves it when we are not focus on building the kingdom
- Disassociation: We play right into Satan’s hand when we say that we don’t need to be in church – or we do not need to in fellowship with other Christians. Satan thinks it is interesting that we think we can be a fruitful disciple without the church. WRONG!
- The writer of Hebrews tells us “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching” 10:25 (NIV)
- The devil loves when believers do not fellowship: he loves it when we distance ourselves from each other. We are the weakest when we are not bound together.
- Billy Graham said, “Churchgoers are like coals in a fire. When they cling together, they keep the flame aglow; when they separate, they die out.” (Men of Integrity, Vol. 1, no. 1)
- Community ... means people who have to learned how to care for each other.
Story: If I were the Devil – Paul Harvey
I would gain control of the most powerful nation in the world; I would delude their minds into thinking that they had come from man’s effort instead of God’s blessings; I would promote an attitude of loving things and using people, instead of the other way around; I would dupe entire states into relying on gambling for their state revenue; I would convince people that character is not an issue when it comes to leadership; I would make it legal to take the life of unborn babies; I would make it socially acceptable to take one’s own life, and invent machines to make it convenient; I would cheapen human life as much as possible so that the life of animals are valued more than human beings; I would take God out of the schools, where even the mention of His name was grounds for a lawsuit; I would come up with drugs that sedate the mind and target the young, and I would get sports heroes to advertise them; I would get control of the media, so that every night I could pollute the mind of every family member for my agenda; I would attack the family, the backbone of any nation. I would make divorce acceptable and easy, even fashionable. If the family crumbles, so does the nation. I would compel people to express their most depraved fantasies on canvas and the movie screens, and I would call it art; I would convince the world that people are born homosexuals, and that their lifestyles should be accepted and marveled; I would convince the people that right and wrong are determined by a few who call themselves authorities and refer to their agenda as politically correct; I would persuade people that church is irrelevant and out of date, and the Bible is for the naïve; I would dull the minds of Christians, and make them believe that prayer is not important, and that faithfulness and obedience are optional; I guess I would leave things pretty much the way they are.”
Blessed are those who are too tired, too busy, too distracted to spend even an hour once a week with their fellow Christians – they are my best workers.
- Blessed are those Christians who wait to be asked and expect to be thanked -- I can use them.
- Blessed are the touchy who stop going to church – they are my missionaries.
- Blessed are the trouble makers -- they shall be called my children.
- Blessed are the complainers -- I’m all ears to them.
- Blessed are those who are bored with the minister’s mannerisms and mistakes -- for they get nothing out of his sermons.
- Blessed is the church member who expects to be invited to his own church – for he is a part of the problem instead of the solution.
- Blessed are those who gossip -- for they shall cause strife and divisions that please me
- Blessed are those who are easily offended -- for they will soon get angry and quit.
- Blessed are those who do not give an offering to carry on God’s work – for in stealing from God you steal for me.
- Blessed is he who professes to love God but hates his brother and sister -- for he shall be with me forever.
- Blessed are you who, when you read this, think it is about other people and not yourself – I’ve already got you!
Please click here for slides to accompany the sermon.