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Entries in Devil (6)

Monday
Nov262018

Faith in the Lord Jesus for Life

Romans 1:16-19; Habakkuk 2:4.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on November 25, 2018.

Over 500 years ago a young, Roman-Catholic worried about how he could be truly right with God.  When lightning struck dangerously close to him, it scared him badly.  He then became a monk and spent his time in prayer and fasting, attempting to settle things with God.  Lacking peace throughout this whole time, the young man then heard the Lord speak to him one day.  “The just shall live by faith.”  As he contemplated Romans 1:17, young Martin Luther began to understand the truly wonderful truth of the Gospel for the first time.  He wrote later, “I felt born again like a new man.  I entered through the open doors into the very paradise of God.”  Until that day Luther lacked peace and rest in his spirit, but afterwards he had sweet relief.

Today we are going to transition from talking about how faith is necessary for salvation to the point that faith is necessary for living our lives on this earth.  Technically our lives on this earth are a part of our salvation, but it is a whole new phase of the work of God in our lives.  Let’s look at this passage in Romans.

The righteousness that we need is from God

In this passage, Paul clearly has salvation in mind, but for him salvation is not just a thing that happened at a point in the past.  It is also something that is lived out each and every day.  So before we get into how he uses the truth, the just shall live by faith, we will take some time to look at where this truth was first revealed in Scripture.

In the Old Testament book of Habakkuk, the prophet is questioning God about some difficult things that he sees.  It seems to him that God is not doing anything about it.  Anyone who begins to follow Jesus will quickly discover that we often have questions and do not understand the wisdom behind how God runs things.  God does not always protect the righteous from the deeds of wicked people.  As Habakkuk wrestled with that question, God tells him in Hab. 2:4, “Behold the proud, his soul is not upright within him, but the just shall live by faith.”  So we have two parallel statements that contrast each other.  The subject of the first is the proud.  The statement is that they are not upright within themselves.  Since this is a contrast we might expect the second statement to have “the humble” as its subject, but instead we have “the just,” another way of saying the righteous.  God could have said for Habakkuk to look at the humble and how their spirit is upright within them, but He doesn’t.  Think about the many other verses in the Old Testament that speak about the inner life of mankind (both proud and humble).  Isaiah 53:6, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”  The proud, whether religious or not, think that they are right or just.  They exercise all manner of faith in their own righteousness.   However, God sees through them.  On the other hand the just, i.e. those who are truly righteous from God’s perspective, will live by faith in God rather than themselves.  They are not even perfectly upright inside themselves and they know this.  The righteous are those who reject the arrogant tendency to trust our own mind and heart over the top of the revelation of God.

Thus the righteous see their failings and look to God in faith for their salvation.  They are declared righteous by God because of their faith in Him.  Of course now we are directed particularly to Jesus.  The Father has sent His Son and all who put their trust in Him are declared righteous.  In case you are not completely convinced, think about the first 3 chapters of the book of Romans.  In chapter one he shows how the gentile nations were lost and depraved in their thinking and living.  However, he then goes on to show how even the “righteous” Israelites had fallen short of God’s glory.  Romans 3:22b-23 compares the Gentiles with the Jews and states, “For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  There is not a single righteous person throughout this whole earth who is righteous in and of themselves.  If they are righteous it is because of their faith in God.  In Romans 1:17 Paul speaks of the “righteousness of God.”  Jesus is the righteousness of God and He offers this righteousness freely to those who will lay aside their own false righteousness.  He alone is truly right within Himself.

Thus Paul answers the question, “Who are the just?”  His answer is this.  It is those who have received the righteousness of God instead of clinging to their own.  Martin Luther and other early reformers actually called this “alien righteousness.”  This was to emphasize that the righteousness a true believer has is not their own.  It belongs to another, Jesus.  None of us has it in ourselves.  We must receive it from God Himself and God only gives it to those who lay down their righteousness and embrace Jesus in faith.

Paul states that it is in the Gospel that we are told these things.  In other words these things are what God has revealed in His Word.  We must not skip over this point lightly.  The Law of Moses does reveal a kind of righteousness, but it is a righteousness that none of us have (nor did any in the days of Moses).  Think on it.  Anywhere you have a set of laws, you will find no one who perfectly keeps them all, especially if you take in account what Jesus said about our inner thought life in Matthew 5:18.  What we actually find there are many people who are proud in their ability to look like they are in compliance.  That is why we always find law makers who don’t pay their taxes, etc.  The prophets pointed to the need for a man to be made righteous by God because they saw our inability to perform the law of God.  The Gospel, or good news, of Jesus Christ reveals to us this righteousness that none of us has in ourselves, but can obtain from God Himself by putting our confidence in Jesus and following Him.

The world today challenges believers to separate themselves from God’s Word, whether completely or only partially.  However, if we run from the Bible to any degree, we are only destroying ourselves.  Don’t run from the Bible because it is the only hope that we and this world have.  It points us away from ourselves and towards Jesus, who is the righteousness of God.

This enables us to live by faith

It is our own righteousness that tends to trip us up in this life.  When we jettison it and look to Christ we are suddenly enabled to actually please God and do the righteous things as He desires.  Verse 17 uses an interesting phrase to describe this faith.  In the NKJV it reads, “by faith from first to last.”  Literally the passage says, “out of faith into faith.”  I am not quibbling with the translation.  Notice though how it describes a person moving from a position of faith into another position of faith.  This is what it means to walk with God.  We walk by faith, not by sight.  Yes, God has given us some knowledge, but we still have huge gaps and struggles with where things are headed.  Like Habakkuk we don’t understand why we are seeing what we are seeing.  If we are going to follow God it will only be by taking one step of faith after another.  No matter how confident a saint may appear, or how long they have walked with Jesus, they never get to a place where they no longer have to walk by faith.  They too must trust God all along the way, often at the expense of what they see, feel, or think.  Our flesh does not like walking by faith and will always find things to complain about.  Faith is not a one-time step into salvation, but a continual step after step from that very first step of faith in Jesus Christ to that last step of faith as we leave this world.  For the righteous it is always a walk of faith in the Lord Jesus.

Faith in Jesus is the only solid ground that can hold up a righteous life.  Habakkuk knew these things to some degree, but we still see him struggling with them.  He struggles with why God has let so many wicked people in Israel rise to leadership.  When God tells him that the Babylonians will come and conquer Israel, then Habakkuk questions how God could use those who were more wicked than Israel to judge them.  You see if we fixate on the things of this world and how they are going, we will be robbed of our faith.  You too will have to struggle with your fears and thoughts in order to keep your faith in Jesus.   There is nothing in this world that will keep you strong, except putting your trust in Jesus completely.  Jesus Himself is the solid ground upon which we stand.  We feel like it is less solid, but it is the only thing that will hold when God begins to shake things up.  Your righteous works won’t hold.  The greatness and goodness of the United States of America won’t hold.  The promise and hope of a representative republic won’t hold.  Your favorite philosopher or biblical teacher won’t hold.  Only Jesus will hold because He alone is the righteousness of God.  When you have Him, you have a solid foundation for taking that next step and then the next and then the next.  He will hold us up until we reach our place in heaven beside Him.

Let me close by recognizing verses 18 and 19.  Paul transitions here to the wrath of God.  The proud will go on in their self righteousness and experience the wrath of God, but those who live by faith in Jesus will not be exposed to this wrath.  Oh, we do have a healthy fear of God.  However, we understand His offer of grace, and His offer of righteousness.  Thus we walk in confidence in Him.

What is faith?  Faith is a complete confidence in Christ to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.  Without Jesus I can’t be a good father, husband, pastor, or insert any part of your life here, but with Him I can become the righteousness of God.  When we humble ourselves to this very low place, we find salvation and God enables us to rise up and walk with Him day by day.   Yes, we have questions and we have days when our faith meter may not be so strong.  However, in those moments may we all understand that God is only teaching us to trust in Him rather than those things that are making us waver.  Let’s walk with Jesus and not worry about what the world may say.  Amen.

Faith for Life audio

Saturday
Nov242018

Faith in the Lord Jesus for Salvation

Ephesians 2:1-10.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on November 18, 2018.

Today we are going to begin a new series that focuses on our need for faith in this life.  Faith is an interesting thing because it is not essentially a religious thing.  I know that statement sounds sacrilegious.  To have faith is to put your trust in something or someone.  Thus everybody lives in some way by faith, but the question is this.  What do you trust in?  What do you have faith in?  We sometimes call this the object of our faith.  Even an atheist put their faith in the material things of this world and the ability of science to understand everything eventually.  However, God’s Word calls all people everywhere to put their faith in the Lord Jesus that they may be saved from this wicked and adulterous generation.

Once we were spiritually dead

In Ephesians Paul is writing to people who were not always followers of the One True God.  There are many metaphors used for people in this condition: to be blind, to be a slave, to be sick, to be lost, and here to be dead.  It is clear that we are dealing with a spiritual death in which that most vital part of us, our spirit, is separated and unable to connect with the most vital being of the universe, God.  Even though we are physically alive, even somewhat morally and ethically alive, we are not animated by God and His Word.  Rather, we are animated by the things of this world that are not of God.

Now, as an analogy, we should not put more weight upon this statement then it can biblically bear.  How can a person who is dead to God and His Word, quit being dead and start being alive?  How can a dead man believe?  The analogy does not tell us everything about the thing it analogizes.  It only gives us a glimpse.  Somehow the truth of God’s Word can put a dead man in a position to come to live again if they believe.  Similarly a blind man can see, a slave can be set free, a sick person healed, and a lost person found because of the grace of God.

Verse 1 describes this spiritual death as being “in trespasses and sins.”  The life of a person who is spiritually dead becomes filled with things that can be described by these words.  “Trespasses” refers to the many ways in which our actions and life cross the line of what is acceptable to God. The word “sins” refers to the fact that our actions, thoughts, and desires are in error, or miss the mark in regard to the things that God would have us do.  A life that crosses the boundaries of God’s will and falls short of the good that God has for us to do begins at a very young age within ourselves.  Even when kids are taught right and wrong, they naturally gravitate towards all manner of selfish desires and actions.  By the time a child becomes an adult their life is increasingly filled with these things.  This is the natural effect in those who are spiritually dead.  In this sense we are our own worst enemy.

Verse 2 says that we were walking according to, or following, the course of this world.  The course of this world could be translated as the system of this world and gives the picture of a herd mentality of the spiritually dead society.  When a child is born they drop into a system that pulls them along by the sheer force of its magnitude and the reality that the child knows nothing else.  It is as if you are plunged into a river that is following a course.  This becomes the second part of our problem.  Yes, we are our own worst enemy, but we are also caught up in a world that is leading us away from God.  This world has a great pull on our hearts and minds, pulling us away from Jesus and towards something else.

Verse 2 also says that we and the world we are in were being led by the prince of the power of the air.  The phrase that is used here refers to malevolent, spiritual powers.  Jesus referred to them as “the devil and his angels,” as well as “demons.”  These spiritual powers operate as a single force because they have a ruler over them whom Scriptures generally name as the devil or Satan.  1 John 5:19 says, “We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.”  Also 2 Corinthians 4:3, 4 says, “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.  In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”  The “god of this world” is referring to the one who is acting like a god over the lives of mankind.  He is not truly a god.  The dark sinister forces that he oversees are the enemies of all humanity.  Thus we have the final list of all our enemies: self, the world, and the devil (and his evil spirits).  Many people don’t understand that there is a malevolent, spiritual force behind all the junk that is going on in the world.  This does not absolve mankind, but it does impact how we respond to the problem.

Verse 4 starts with the phrase “but God.”  In this condition of lostness and deadness, God still loves us.  Despite the error that we embrace in our lives His great love richly offers mercy to us.  This does not mean we are okay.  Yes, God loves us and is rich in mercy; however, He will not overlook our sin as if it is okay.  Paul speaks to the Ephesians in a way that it is a done deal, but he knows that they have done what they need to do in order to receive that mercy.  While they were in a spiritually dead state, God sent His grace to them and they responded in faith, which made them spiritually alive!

When the Word of God is spoken into people’s lives today, it brings with it the hope and power to make them spiritually alive.  The Word of God is by definition the Word of Life, and where the Word of Life is there can be life, even life so powerful that it brings the dead back to life.

In all of this we should be careful not to confuse God’s love and mercy with a lack of judgment.  If God is truly good then He must deal with the trespasses and sin that is going on in this world.  In His goodness God has set a date in which all will be judged.  Until then His rich mercy pleads with all people, through the words of the Bible and those who share it who have been made spiritually alive, to believe in Jesus and put their faith in Christ.

Now we are spiritually alive

Let’s begin to focus on the spiritually alive part.  A person who is spiritually alive is no longer animated by their flesh, or the world around them, or any evil spiritual forces.  They are connected to God through the Lord Jesus Christ.  It is His Word and His Holy Spirit that motivates and leads us.  Of course this involves remaining vigilant against those three enemies and exercising self discipline by the help of the Holy Spirit.

Verse 5 states that our spiritual resurrection is connected to the physical resurrection of Christ.  Jesus was always spiritually alive.  There was never a point that he was spiritually dead.  He did not figure the way out of sin and show us the way.  Rather, He is the source of Life and He is the way to the Father.  This spiritual life that we enjoy today could not exist without Him and His resurrection.  Our connection to Him will eventually lead to our physical resurrection, but for now it has created a spiritual life in us that could not exist without Him.  As we put our trust and faith in Jesus, His life lives in us.  He is the object of our faith, not just an example of it.  We do not just believe things about Jesus, but we are even more trusting His Words, commands, and the way that He shows us to live.  If we reject these things then we reject the life that He wants to give to us.  To separate from Christ is to separate from life itself.

In verse 6 Paul reminds us that we are not only made alive, but that we also are enabled to sit with Christ in the heavenly places.  Right now Jesus is at the right hand of the Father in heaven.  When we die we will go to be with Christ there, but while we are alive we are already spiritually seated with Him.  His Spirit within us is the guarantee of our right to sit with Christ.  It is the place that has been reserved for those who put their faith in Christ.  It is our destiny to reign with Christ in eternity, but that identity belongs to us already.  We have already been raised up from a dead position of lying under the power of the wicked one, and we are enabled to walk in this first stage of being seated with Christ.

Verse 7 tells us that we are the recipients of God’s kindness in Jesus.  The first coming of Christ was a kindness of God.  He did not owe us salvation.  However, in His kindness, He makes a way.  We can receive this kindness and walk in it today.  That said, the full measure of God’s kindness will not be seen until this age comes to an end and the return of Christ occurs.  Today the world will mock the idea that we are kings and priests of God, that we are seated with Christ in the heavenlies, and that we are spiritually alive.  At times we may even have our own doubts.  However, in the ages to come (verse 7) the full kindness of God will be made evident.  There will be no question as God demonstrates it before the whole universe.

Now verses 8 and 9 are the classic salvation verses for all evangelicals.  We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  The two-point qualification is important.  We need the grace of God.  Without it no amount of faith could save us.  It is only the grace of God that accepts anything, even our faith in Jesus.  This gift from God is freely given.  Yet, we must employ faith or trust in Jesus to accept this gift.  Grace has been given, but it is within Jesus.  There is no other means of grace and there is no other way to take hold of Christ but through faith in Him.  Even this faith isn’t from us.  If it wasn’t for the revelation of God in the Bible opening our eyes to the reality around us, and the help of the Holy Spirit, we wouldn’t have a clue regarding how we can be saved.  When we trust Jesus for salvation, it becomes the channel by which God’s grace of salvation comes into our life, making us alive.

As we close, let’s look at verse 10.  Here we see that we have been saved for the purpose of doing those good works that God has for us.    No amount of good works can save a person.  Instead we were saved in order to do good works, even more than that, to become the righteousness of God.  Thus we are God’s workmanship.  We are the good work that He has done in this day and in this generation.  May God encourage us in our faith in Christ, and may that faith lead to many good works out of thanks for the salvation of God and out of joy for the life of God that we now have!

Faith for Salvation audio

Tuesday
Dec062016

Do not Test the Lord Your God

Matthew 4:5-7.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on December 04, 2016.

Today we continue our study of the temptation of Christ that we see in Matthew 4, and look at the second one presented to our Lord.  If the first temptation was to satisfy and sustain yourself with material things, then the second temptation is to promote yourself and make things happen by your own wisdom.  Another way to categorize these three temptation is to use the phrases that are given in 1 John 2:16, “For all that is in the world- the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life- is not of the Father, but is of the world.”  The first temptation appealed to the lust of the flesh (make bread for your stomach).  This second one seems to be more about the pride of life.

All of us deal with issues of significance and often desire situations in which we are exalted above our fellow man.  Satan loves to play off of these desires and mislead us into a path of destruction.  For some this path leads them towards religion, but twists it with human pride.  For others the path may lead them away from religion out of a wounded pride.  Either way he wins because there is no other solution for the hearts of mankind than the Creator Himself.  So the first are walled off to Him by the self-delusion that they are acceptable, and the second wall themselves off to Him out of their pain.  May we all learn to lay our pride at the foot of the cross of Jesus and thereby remove from Satan’s arsenal a very powerful, spiritual lever that he loves to employ against us.

 We are tempted by pride

It is often said that Satan fell through pride in his own wisdom and beauty.  Thus it would stand to reason that he would seek to enamor us with his own prideful reasoning.  The Bible does not make it completely clear whether Satan knows he was wrong and is operating out of sheer spite, or whether he still thinks there is a play here where he actually “proves his case” and wins.  Regardless we must expect to be tempted in this area of pride.

We see in verse 5 that the devil takes Jesus up to the highest point of the temple.  It is not really important the mode of this travel, though many can speculate.  The setting is a place that no one may see immediately (while he is being tempted).  But if he listens to the devil there will be a very public spectacle.  How could jumping from of a height that was as much as several hundred feet be tempting?

It starts with being reminded of his relationship with the Father.  The first temptation tries to paint the Father as not taking care of Jesus.  “God doesn’t care about you as much as you think.  Make your own bread.”  However, this temptation does the opposite.  It plays on the pride of such a close relationship with the Father.  “Since you are the Son of God make a public show of God’s love for you.  There is no way He would let you die.”  Of course the devil makes no mention or shows no regard for what the Father’s plan might be.  Jesus loves the Father and has been in a relationship of unity with Him since the beginning.  So He is not only concerned with what the Father wants, but already knows that what Satan suggests is not the plan. 

So what does Satan hope to accomplish?  It is tough to say.  Perhaps he hopes to try and thwart any spiritual help that would come with his own angels, so that Jesus would die.  Clearly he seeks to kill Jesus because of the cross later.  Let’s get one thing clear.  Satan is not interested in promoting Jesus and he could care less about promoting you.  In the end his only aim is to destroy your life.  If he can do that by inflating your pride in your relationship with God, then he will.

Notice that this time Satan backs up his temptation by quoting Scripture.  His first temptation was pushed aside by Jesus reminding him of Scripture.  So he tries to reverse this tactic back on Jesus by quoting some Scripture himself.  One thing is clear in the Bible; the devil always twists the meaning of God’s Word.  He is only capable of abusing Scripture for his own ends, which are contrary to God’s.  An illustration of this can be seen in politics.  Every word of an opponent is generally twisted out of context and used against them by the other side.  Finding a truly, objective treatment of the person is rare.  As Christians we must flee this kind of activity in our own life.  2 Timothy 2:15 says that we must “rightly divide [handle] the word of truth.”  We can see that the devil does not do such a thing but twists the meaning of Psalm 91 by skipping phrases and leaving out the context.  So let’s look at this section of Psalm 91.

Satan quotes from verse 11, skips the second part of it, quotes verse 12, and leaves off verse 13.  It is always important to pay attention to what is left out.  Notice that God’s angels would be commanded to watch over the righteous “to keep you in all your ways.”  The way of a person is a huge theme in the Bible.  In fact the righteous are known by their determination to walk in the “way of the Lord.”  Thus the passage is about a person who is in a trusting relationship with God and living as God has taught us.  When God’s ways are our ways then the devil will find little within us that he can manipulate.  Now verse 12 points out that God’s protection is upon the righteous.  But verse 13 shows why.  We are protected in order to tread upon the lion and the cobra.  Now this is not a passage about handling literal lions and cobras, although God is more than capable of delivering the righteous from such.  There is never a case of people “treading” on lions and cobras in the Bible so that should be your first clue that something deeper is going on here.  The lion and cobra are metaphors for our spiritual enemy, the devil.   1 Peter 5:8 says, “Your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.”  God doesn’t necessarily protect us from ever falling down literally.  But He does offer constant protection so that we may never fall to the schemes of the devil and be devoured by Him.  Similarly, in Revelation 12:9 it says, “So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world.”  The “serpent of old” is an allusion to Genesis 3 and the Fall of Adam and Eve.  Adam and Eve fell before the Serpent (Satan) because they were tricked into distrusting God.  Clearly Satan doesn’t want to quote this part of the passage and highlight that angelic protection is so that we can tread on the devil, not cooperate with his plans.

However, Jesus does not go into Psalm 91 and point these things out to Satan because there is an even greater context to these verses.  All Scripture is context to any one verse.  A very powerful thing about Scripture is that its proper understanding will not contradict any other part.  If it seems to then you know there is an error in your understanding.  So, dig deeper.  Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:16.  Yes, God will protect you along your way.  But we also, must not test Him in this.  Now, God is gracious and many of us have been in times of weak faith and have asked God to give us a sign of his love.  If we do so without the threat of walking away from Him then He sometimes graciously responds.  But, if you lay down something as a test that God must pass or you are walking away, then beware.  Such actions are not born out of a loving relationship with God, but out of selfish love for yourself.  Beware of those who trumpet on Scripture to the detriment of the rest of Scripture.  This is classic cult leader stuff.

We must not put God to the test

So let’s develop that last point that Jesus makes to the devil.  The Holy Spirit had not led Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple; the devil had.  In our own lives it is not always so clear who is leading us.  Thus we must be careful to recognize anything that smacks of trying to force God’s hand, or trying to speed up things.  This is manipulation of the relationship that God wants with us.  Now, a parent loves a child, but would be foolish to allow the child to fall into the habit of trying to manipulate them.  Of course, kids are learning how to love.  They don’t understand such deeper concepts.  It takes a parent who loves them too much to let them get away with it, a parent who disciplines them in such times, in order to help a child grow in love.  Just as your flesh desires material things, so it desires the pride of life: public success, and the accolades of those around us.  Satan plays off of these things.  Yet, Jesus did not operate in such a way as to lift himself up, or try to out think the plan of God.  In fact, Jesus often did the opposite of what self-promoters would do.  Jesus pointed us to the Father and for such a blessing he was crucified.  That was to be his public moment of demonstrating the love of the Father.

But it goes deeper than just crass manipulation.  We cannot force God to demonstrate His love as we dictate.  When a person lays down an ultimatum to God, “either you do this or I walk,” we step out onto shaky ground.  God in His grace does work with our weakness.  Gideon was given a sign by God.  Yet, we must always have as our foundation, “Nevertheless, Thy will be done.”  In fact, God gave the greatest demonstration of love possible when He gave His One and Only Son to become a man and do for us what we could not do for ourselves.  All this is so that whosoever would believe on Jesus would have everlasting life instead of perishing.  It is easy for us to do this to one another.  We can be angry and made that someone didn’t show their love in a particular way.  We can even do the politician thing and twist everything that they do or say into “not love.”  But when we act this way we actually destroy the very love that is being given to us.  Too many people say, “If God would only do such and such, then I would know that He exists and that He cares about me.”  The problem is that you are trying to control God and refusing to deal with the countless ways that He has demonstrated His love for you.  So we can push aside 1,000 ways of love and complain that we did not receive a particular 1.  This is folly and not the path of love.  Love is a discovery of the uniqueness of another and how we can uniquely love them back.  How can we demand more than that?  Love doesn’t dictate how another person loves.  Rather, it receives it freely and with Joy.

Do not Test audio

Tuesday
Apr232013

The Holy Spirit in Spiritual Warfare

Today we are going to look at how the Holy Spirit is involved in Spiritual Warfare.  We are going to start in Ephesians 6:10-12.  When we look at this passage the work of the Spirit doesn’t readily jump out.  But in truth, He is all over the place in this passage.

Now before we begin let’s keep in mind that spiritual warfare is not some kind of mental video game where we visualize slashing demons from behind every tree.  The truth is found in this passage and understanding just how we fight the enemy.

 

He Helps Us Stand Against The Devil

These two verses emphasize the need for believers to lean upon God’s strength and His armor.  Since it is by the Holy Spirit that we know the Father and the Son, it stands to reason that the main way God’s strength and protection come to us is through His Holy Spirit that lives within us.

Now the reality is this, there are evil spirits in this world.  Now the occult world has tried to minimize this by saying that there are also good spirits that we can tap into and be protected.  However, the only spirit in the Bible we are given the green light to seek and approach is the Holy Spirit.  Thus the idea, that the spirit of long dead Grandpa being summoned to give us wisdom is actually a spiritual trick that the enemy uses to trap people.

Notice, that this passage lets us know that without the help of the Spirit of God we are not going to be a match for these kinds of tricks.  The Bible is an excellent source for studying the methods and schemes of the devil.  He employs many different “cons” on people in order to get them under his control.  However, the Holy Spirit within us-who was also directly involved in the writing of Scripture, can also give us warnings from within us.  This is where we need to truly be in prayer and sensitive to what God may be saying.  Anything short of complete dependence upon God and His wisdom will cause us to be entrapped by these demonic schemes.

Another thing to notice in Spiritual Warfare is that our enemy is not a physical enemy.  We are not fighting against people or nations even when they are treating us as their enemy.  In fact, demonic ideas and beliefs always lie behind those who mistreat us.  We don’t “see” them or sense them.  Rather, we recognize their influence through teachings, beliefs, lies, sinful lifestyles, and attitudes, whether they are religious or secular.  Thus we need the Holy Spirit to help us see how the enemy uses others to try and promote ungodly lies to us and to see through this.  The people themselves may not be even aware of this dynamic.  Thus our problem is not generally with someone who is possessed by a demon, but rather with someone who has been tricked and trapped into an ungodly mentality.  Recognizing this will go a long way to helping us keep from getting angry with people and avoiding the pitfalls the enemy sets for us through them.

He Helps Us Advance Against The Devil

Now the next verses in Ephesians 6:13-18 lay out the “Armor of God.”  Paul uses the armor of a Roman soldier to help us recognize the reality and seriousness of the battle around us.  We need to be spiritually prepared.  It will not come by dreaming about slaying demons.  It comes from listening to God’s Word, doing it, getting knocked down, getting back up, and repeat over and over again.

Though much of this armor seems defensive, many of them also have an offensive aspect as well.  Just as the battle is not physical, so our protection and weaponry are not physical as well.  So let’s look at the list.

The belt of Truth points the believer to live their life based on the Truth of God’s Word, especially the Truth about Jesus.  We should be truthful and receive a love of the Truth that the Holy Spirit is seeking to give us.  In fact in John 16:13 The Holy Spirit is called the “Spirit of Truth.”  Thus, we should have an intimate relationship with the Scriptures and spend time in prayer understanding it. We need to make truthfulness the basis of all our relationships.  This is not only a protection, but it is a weapon that God uses to set us and others free.

Next is the Breastplate of Righteousness.  Foremost we are to understand the need for the righteousness of God.  My righteousness falls short without Jesus.  Within the covering of His righteousness then we can embrace doing the right thing.  In fact part of the work of the Holy Spirit is to convict the world of righteousness.  How much more can he lead the believer in living out the righteousness of Christ is this world?  As we lean on Him, He will help us to live righteously and treat people as God would have us.

Next is the Gospel of Peace.  Paul ties this in with the feet particularly because in the Old Testament the prophet says, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of them who bring good news.”  The Gospel of Peace with God through Jesus needs to be the flag of every believer’s life.  Thus our feet are prepared to walk tough roads, whether to distant places or across the street, in order to share the Gospel.  This too is aided by the Holy Spirit as He leads and directs us in this endeavor.  Part of our preparation to share the Gospel is knowing the Word.  2 Timothy 2:15 tells us to study to show ourselves as approved workmen.  Yet the other side of it is to recognize that because we have studied and internalized the Word, the Holy Spirit comes along and directs us in what to say.  In fact Jesus promised His disciples in Matthew 10:19-20, “Do not worry about how or what you should speak.  For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.”  Wow, what a promise for those who take this spiritual battle seriously.

Paul goes on to mention the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the Sword of the Spirit, Prayer of all kinds and in the Spirit. The Spirit is involved in bringing us to Faith and Salvation.  Also the Sword of the Spirit implies that though we may quote Scripture and share it with others, it really is the Holy Spirit who is using it like a spiritual knife to cut through the layers down to the tender part of their heart.  Prayer becomes important for us and for those that we battle.  In all kinds of prayer and praying in the Spirit we present our needs and also present ourselves for strengthening.  When we live a life filled with these things we combat the enemy in our life and the lives of those around us.  No wonder the enemy spends so much time undermining our faith in God’s Word.

Now I do want to take some time to talk about demon possession because it is a real phenomenon.  Though it seems common place in Scripture we do need to realize that our culture exists upon the foundation of the Christian ethic.  In countries that do not have a biblical foundation demon possession is not rare.  Today anti-spiritualists try to explain everything away as mental illness and of course mental illness does exist.  In fact, Jesus didn’t cast demons out of everyone, some he simply healed.  So, even the Bible recognizes that sometime the problem is merely physical.  However, sometimes a spiritual element exists beyond the physical.  Most likely we will see more and more of this in our country as we continue to cast off Biblical guidance and wisdom.

If you look at the passage in Acts 19:13-17, you will see Paul in the city of Ephesus.  God was doing unusually powerful miracles through Paul there.  Part of that was the deliverance of those who were demon possessed.  It caught the attention of many in Ephesus.  They had tried to deal with the demon possessed people in the past without any effect.  In this passage 7 sons of a Jewish chief priest named Sceva try to copy what Paul was doing.  Thus they go up to a demon possessed person and say, “we exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches.”  The Bible says that the evil spirit responded, “Jesus I know and Paul I know; but who are you?”  Then the man jumped on the 7 guys and proceeded to overpower all of them until they ran from the house naked and wounded.

Here we see that without a true living relationship with Jesus himself, we are not prepared for spiritual battle.  No “magical” phrase will make demons come out of a person.  In fact demons don’t always manifest brutally.  Sometimes they come on sickly sweet.

Jesus told his disciples that some demons are harder to cast out than others.  In fact we need to pray and fast as we approach such serious business.  The demon has invested a lot of work to get control of a person and they will try every trick to remain.  The key is that Jesus has all authority over all spirits, both good and evil.  Thus as long as we are anchored in Jesus and take the situation seriously, we can grow in learning how to combat such unseen enemies.

Final Thoughts

Living for Jesus and sharing the Gospel is God’s plan against the enemy.  This doesn’t need to change because we are closer to the end times.  It is simple and yet serious.  When we have the Holy Spirit in us we become a light in a dark world.  How important it is for us to work with Him to take down any strongholds in our life and to take that light into the lives of those who are bound under ideas and philosophies of demons.

When you speak to the lost, pray for insight in how the enemy has trapped them and how to use the Truth to set them free.  Sometimes we can be saying true things, but they are the point that attacks the lie that they have believed.  Take time in prayer and in asking questions and simply listening so that then you can truly be a warrior for God in this life.