Sunday, June 03, 2012

Spiritual Warfare And Our Role In It: A Brief Look

First of all, I'd like to thank my wife and a complete stranger that lives in England (who wrote me after stumbling upon my blog), for encouraging me to take the time to write again. Time is sure lacking these days but I hope to make the time to study and write again... often. 

I’ve been hearing a lot lately about the violent, spiritual Christianity where we seemingly taunt the enemy and then attack him, executing vehement war against all evil. I've had a season, perhaps several actually, where I’ve been in a similar place. I remember one such occasion vividly after I returned home from the hospital after my stroke in 2009. I was assisted into the house by my dad, walked into our study, reached onto the wall for a sword that hangs there and pulled it down. As my mother helped balance me, I lifted it high and did some spiritual warfare of my own for a few moments. What I had experienced the week previous was nothing short of supernatural, in a myriad of ways and I was, due to the circumstances, walking in a realm like I’d never known before. Many other times over the years, I’ve done my share of foot stompin’ and adversary wrestling. On occasion I’ve audibly addressed unexplainables that I’ve seen in the spirit with my physical eyes. I say all of that to clearly state that I fully embrace that spiritual battles are real and, more often than not, ongoing completely unnoticed by the lethargic eyes of most professing Christians. We absolutely need to awaken our spiritual senses to what is going on in realms often unseen.

All of that being said, these days I can't help but wander down somewhat differing paths of thought regarding our response to ongoing spiritual warfare. To me it seems imperative that I allow ever-changing circumstances to unfold as they may and address them individually. To clarify, one blanket response to all spiritual issues, activities and events is not the answer. For example, every time the enemy rears his ugly head, I don’t have to run home and get my sword off the wall, as I did several years ago, in order to secure victory in whatever the issue might happen to be.  

For many years, despite a dramatic lessening as I grow older, I’ve enjoyed what I’ll call “heavy” music. After I was born from above, I embraced a handful of bands that really focus on the themes surrounding spiritual warfare. Recently I’ve listened to a new record that is pretty much entirely focused on the topic of calling the devil out and putting our heel to his head in the name of Jesus. It’s lyrically intense (which I don’t mind whatsoever) but primarily Scriptural at the same time (which I love). I know that the Word is teeming with line after line regarding our being more than conquerors, wrestling with principalities and powers, ongoing battles, etcetera. I get that. I don’t wavier at all that this is absolutely the truth. Where I am though is this: Jesus, Son of God,  Son of Man, firstborn of many, the Beginning and the End, God with us, Victor over all that was, is and forevermore will be, the Living Word, the awesome God-Man, The Christ left His heavenly estate and entered this lowly earth in order to conquer sin, death and the grave and forever eradicate the consequences of the devil’s well-executed plan to defile, corrupt and separate God and mankind. When He came to earth, Jesus obviously knew His foe well. We must remember that the devil was originally in the highest heaven, with God Himself. Jesus knew more than any other the power and ability of this once mighty, yet now fallen angel.  Even He, when confronted by the devil when He was of flesh and bone, stood on Scripture and chose to abstain from an open discourse of reasoning. Likewise, we never see Jesus in His earthly life roaming about looking for ways to confront and eradicate the devil. Of course He did, with great frequency, do the latter, but I just don’t see where He searched it out. It would seem that we might glean some wisdom from this.

I think most evangelical Christians (the few who actually even discuss the matter anyway) tend to lean toward an assertive and forceful form of spiritual warfare as if it has anything to do with our own strength in the first place. They envision a military-esque infantry of Believers stomping around in fatigues, slaying the evil enemies of God. They have a hard time setting aside their carnal views that mighty Christian men of valor need to snuff out all evil from the face of the earth (“Onward Christian Soldiers” anyone?). Some might even say “But doesn’t the Bible say something about violently taking ‘something’ by force”? (Referencing Matthew 11:12, but never delving into what this Scripture is even saying, in context). The error with this mindset is that it’s all rooted in the strength of men and the patterns of this world. Remember, spiritual warfare and the “good versus evil” wars of men are not the same and should not be intertwined. I just don’t believe that Jesus is looking for “recruits” to lock arm-in- arm and criss-cross the globe in His name, turning over every rock, looking for the devil’s hideout. I fully believe that a little old lady who proclaims the Word of God into the atmosphere day in and day out would presumably have more impact in the spiritual realms than any yelling-at-the-devil-with-a-microphone man that enjoys getting all riled up about shouting militant-Christianity metaphors. I personally think that the militant mindset is very unhealthy when applied to spiritual warfare because it only conjures up earthly imagery and examples that really don’t correlate to spiritual battles. I could go on and on about this specifically, but we’ll move on.

We of course know that Christ eventually returned to whence He came, entirely victorious. For me though, the speed bump shows up in the road when I meditate on how He did it – overcame the enemy that is. After all, God could have sent His Son down to earth as a muscle-bound, sword-wielding barbarian of a man. He could have spoken Him into being as flesh however He so chose. He could have come down in a bolt of lightning that lit up the entire earth as it cracked through the atmosphere causing fear and trembling in every demon that meandered about the fallen world. But, He came quietly as a sacrificial lamb at the tower of the flock, completely void of loud spectacle and pageantry. He could have later got in the face of the white-washed tomb Pharisees and called down fire to consume them as they led the masses in religious deception, under the guidance of their father, the devil himself (John 8:44). But Christ, the victorious King, laid down His very life as a lamb led to the slaughter.

Perhaps the issue at hand is this – we’re to lay down our lives, even for our enemies. We’re to love them as Christ loves us and gave Himself for us. We’re told by Christ to not even resist “him who is evil” instead of living by the “eye-for-an-eye” edict of eras long past (John 5:38 and 39). Is the key here that Jesus was speaking of men, as this text is clearly referencing man-to-man interaction? After all, mankind and demons are quite different. Every man should be regarded as redeemable by the power of Christ’s sacrificial blood, no matter what they look like in our limited, physical vision. This is where it gets tricky. I understand quite clearly that absolutely all evil that men carry out is instigated by and originates in the schemes of Satan. We’re all born into a sinful, fallen world that is ruled over by the devil himself (2 Corinthians 4:4, 1 John 5:19). The patterns of this world, that infiltrate every crack and crevice of this mess of humanity, have a strong grasp on mankind everywhere you look.  Until one is born from above and given spiritual eyes to see (John 8:12) he will remain in darkness, oblivious even to its existence and hold on their life. The Word tells us that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

With this in mind, there is obviously an ongoing battle that mankind has little to do with really (aside from his voluntary submission or resistance to this eternal conflict). We all daily choose to hand over our allegiance to darkness or to light. But getting back to the specifics of this article, how do we sort out our approach to spiritual warfare? What is our role and how in the world do we properly carry out whatever it is? A lyric to the aforementioned record declares, “I was born for battle. I was made for war.” I fully embrace the approach of being fearless as we move forward under the banner of Christ. I’ll admit, a certain part of me wants to stand up and yell “Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!” as I charge into spiritual battle, but am I just being too critical to also step back and feel the urge to state, “Wait. No. I was made to worship and live for the Lord.” Interestingly, I believe with everything that’s in me that the latter brings about the former.  Understand? My true worship, my being completely enamored, my whole-hearted adoration of my Father rises up and blazes through the ranks of the enemy faster than any sword or weapon that I could wield ever could. This is my weapon! This is what tears down the strongholds of every principality and power that opposes the will of my Father for my life and for others! This overwhelming love for my Victor takes down the schemes of the devil in an instant. I’ve seen it… I’ve lived it!

I guess you could just say that I’m just not personally in a place where I run out looking for the enemy. Am I lacking confidence or spiritual vigor? Maybe. I am after all still in this human skin. Do I question that Christ within me is fully capable of confronting and overtaking whatever darkness comes my way? Absolutely not. I’ve had far too many encounters and occurrences to disprove all doubt. I guess I’m just not sure it’s spiritually wise to stand up and look for trouble. I know, especially in the Western tough-guy mindset that’s so prevalent in the United States, that it’s enticing to be the brawny overcomer, even “in Jesus name”. But are we exploring the facets of winning spiritual battles by laying our lives down in humility and tearing down strongholds of darkness in the spirit by submitting ourselves to others and ultimately to the Lord? Do we grasp the power that submission to the lordship of Christ releases? Is that enough or is there more we’re to pursue and chase after? (I’m truly asking.)

Perhaps in the end what I’m discussing is two different topics entirely. One spiritual, one natural. Who knows? Surely not me. So I end this piece without any conclusions… an odd ending at that, for me. I don’t claim to have all the answers but I’m sure learning to embrace the questions.  What about you? Where do stand on the matters of spiritual warfare? One thing’s for sure, you’re right in the midst of it right now, whether you realize it or not. So, with that in mind, I encourage you to spend some time discovering where you stand as it rages on about you in realms unseen.

All of this being said, the battle is the Lord’s and all that I want to be is found seated beside Him in heavenly places, under the shadow of His mighty wing.

7 comments:

Richard B. said...

Christ left Heaven and entered this earth in order to conquer sin, death and the grave and to eradicate the consequences of the devil’s plan to defile, corrupt and separate man from God. Our fight is with our self-serving flesh and with the messengers of Satan the buffet our minds with solicitations. When we war against the spiritual realm it is with the victory that Jesus has already obtained. Whether we wield a literal sword, stomp on the floor, raise hands high, proclaim a shabach, or march around the city walls, we should war as the Spirit leads. That puts the battle into the Lord's hands. As God's children we must promote His greatness, not ours . . . Great article, Joel. I see love, peace, and patience. Pray that many meditate on the truths to be gleaned from what you have stated.

Joel Spencer said...

Richard: You stated, "war as the Spirit leads". That does sum it all up doesn't it? Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

frank said...

You said
"Likewise, we never see Jesus in His earthly life roaming about looking for ways to confront and eradicate the devil."
Mmmm? Seems to me that that was the whole basis of his ministry!
Jesus said that the devil is the God of this world, and Jesus clearly came to destroy the work of the devil.
Repeatedly we see that Jesus went out of his way to confront the devil. Crossing the sea to Gadara just to set one man free from massive demonic control is a good example. The fun in that example is that he also badly offended the locals when 1000s of pigs drown.
Entering the temple and tipping the tables is another confrontation. Although it may seem to be that it is flesh that Jesus is offending, its purpose was to directly confront Satan's hold. Satan's control was always manifest through men.
Again, consider Elijah vs the prophets of Baal. There has probably never been such a clear and direct public provocation of Satan in the history of the world, yet Elijah did it entirely under the leadership of the God of Israel.
I like what you have written, but can't really see the problem you identify.
Lastly Jesus came proclaiming that the Kingdom of Heaven is nigh, ie. here and now, not just after we are dead. He also said, "if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then has the Kingdom of God come upon you."
Spiritual warfare is about regime change.

Joel Spencer said...

Frank: Thanks for sharing your input. Our disagreement, should there be one, is not regarding Jesus' motives and purpose ("The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil." 1 John 3:8) but rather HOW He went about it. Jesus ultimately destroyed the enemy by laying down His very life in surrender to His Father's will, not by executing a milatarian assault upon principalities and powers.

There is no greater victory than one that is ushered in by such an act. We too, those who have surrendered our lives to join in the victorious Christ-life, now join in such spiritual warfare, directed soley by the Lord Himself. We, as Jesus taught us, only do what we see our Father do.

Of course many a man LOVE to chase after dreams of annihilating the enemy in blood-strewn, spiritual battlefields. That's easy. That can also be easily entertained by our flesh. However, the greatest victory over sin, death, the grave and the devil himself came through One Man's act of laying Himself down unto death for His Father's will.

As Richard stated within the first post, we must be aware of what the Spirit is saying. Whatever the Lord speaks goes - period. No matter what you and I think on the matter.

networkace said...

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jessy said...

I really like your blog it's really nice.

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