Below is a helpful “Spiritual Warfare” synopsis written while in seminary (if you don’t have the time available to read the book). The book is a helpful guide (VERY exhaustive; a thorough study of the subject and not for the faint of heart). As the days get more trepidatious, I have benefited from these Biblical insights; it has cultivated a more ardent passion for warring against these realities…. This study can, as it did for me, help discern attacks/stratagem stemming from spiritual realities of life, political climate, societal norms, etc. as they unfold. This course answered many of my personal questions…and raised others. (My caution to you: godly people DO/WILL suffer persecution. YOU CANNOT BE GODLY AND NOT SUFFER in some way. 2Tim 3:12. In time, expect to face spiritual warfare on all 3 battlefronts: world, flesh, and the devil. My advice comes from scripture: “take unto you the WHOLE armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, having done all to stand.” Eph. 6:13)
“….We wrestle against two tendencies: (1) the denial of spiritual warfare realities and (2) the unhealthy infatuation with it. There is a ditch on both sides; it is important to hear the Word of God, abide within its parameters, and be silent where the Bible is silent. Calling this out ahead of time helps a great deal and lets us know where this is going! There is a definite tendency to fall into either of these ditches. Dr. Cook was quick to point out that just as ignoring weeds in a garden doesn’t make the garden healthier—we do not do ourselves any favors, in our sanctification, by ignoring the battle raging around us.
It struck me that Spiritual Warfare carries significance in the process of sanctification! The more the concept was unpacked the more it becomes quite evident, to the believer, that you can’t fight a war without being acutely aware of your opponent and his schemes. (How useless we would be on the field of battle if this were the case.
The three “fronts” that Satan has been using from the beginning (and has been quite effective with) is: (1) the world, (2) the flesh, and (3) the Devil. These are employed in any combination and work in concert with one another. Where the devil seeks to concentrate his assault is against the Church. Satan has a high view of the Church; therefore, his stratagem and bow will be bent consistently toward her. Just as a war is not necessarily waged on just one battlefield or front, he occupies himself (his demons) with the demise of the saints that persevere. It is amazing to think of how uncreative (yet cunning) the devil really is. The employment of the three vices: sex, money, and power—all have proved to be the devil’s most effective and devastating tools. Uncreative; yes, but cunning in his delivery? Absolutely!
To be talking as if we are always on the defensive (which will truly occupy much of the time), we are wrong to forget the offensive position we must also take. Evangelism and the perseverance of the people of God (the offense) will warrant the above schemes to be deployed by the devil. While the devil is content with the idleness of the Church, he will not allow the advancement of the Church to go unchallenged when it is obviously doing so. It seems to be an immature realization now, but we can minimize the association between the two: Evangelism and its connection with Spiritual Warfare. We can become so focused on what spiritual warfare is not that we miss truly what it is. Evangelism is the battleground where we will be met with the fiercest opposition. If you are not involved here, the devil has little reason to tamper with a believer’s apathy—because it is in his favor that we remain in that state.
Although the trajectory of evil may seem skewed, or even appear in Satan’s favor; there is a thrill to know that the Kingdom of our God has been inaugurated through Jesus Christ (Matt. 12:28). The outcome of this cosmic battle is not unclear to us (as believers), it is not in Satan’s favor, and it’s not a fair fight—though the devil would prefer it to appear that way! Believers are amidst a great conflict: The Kingdom of God is not here in its fullness, but it has invaded, nonetheless. People often talk about living in the light of eternity, and yet; by implication, eternity is now!
If this Kingdom is now, we should not buy into the lies that seek to undermine the reality of the supernatural: the good or the evil. The struggle is vividly real when we survey the decline of culture, the family, and the Church. By using his medium of culture, the devil can infiltrate family, and in turn, subjugate the Church to the weapons of His warfare. While we can go overboard in our “demon hunting” it is downright foolish to think that spiritual forces are from a bygone era—that science explains it all away—or that we shouldn’t talk about these things because it creates unhealthy thinking—even experiential living.
Since the Devil has his weapons, God has given us ours, “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh (carnal/the devil’s) but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” (2Cor. 10:4) Because “the weapons of our warfare” are of divine origin (God); by that power alone can we cast down the strongholds. It all starts with the origin of the weapons: we must be filled with the Spirit to do battle. Dr. Cook states that “how we are doing battle with known sin is an indicator of our being filled.” Strengthening the inner being is rooted in: prayer, knowing God (His promises, character, greatness, and calling), and, through worship with thanksgiving (Eph. 5:18-19). We must strengthen the inner man day by day through the prescription of the Word, then act on it.
For as many times as I have read about our need to crucify the flesh, this material/class awakened/uncovered a depth to the concept—what crucifying really means. (It is crucial to spiritual warfare.) Crucifixion, in its own context, was a laborious and prolonged way to die! Carrying that over to Galatians 5:24 gives us the intended picture of active suffering. Denying our flesh is painful, intensive, and intentional; however, it affords us a greater spiritual maturity and strength that we cannot have otherwise. Many times, I have presupposed the text to mean victory over sin when it should really be (understood contextually) as choosing obedience over sin. Until we become active in crucifying the flesh, we are easy prey and ineffective to fulfill the call of our mission.
Evangelism is the mission to which every believer is called. There can be many components/”members” that work to make this happen—and (hopefully) in the context of relationships outside of the Church’s four walls—it should happen in the world too. In the end, evangelism is a decisive assault against the enemy and a direct threat against his kingdom. We gain a better perspective of how this intersects with spiritual warfare when we observe the parables that Jesus provides us (in Matt. 13:19, Mark 4:15, and Luke 8:12). In the parable of the sower the seed is cast—but the devil snatches it away before it can have any root. Much like people who hear the gospel repeatedly (and bear no fruit), we are to recognize that there is a battle going on that is unseen to us—but it is raging nonetheless! And, more than just taking the defensive position against the gospel, Jesus informs us of Satan’s retaliation: Satan goes so far as to sow tares (Matt. 13:25-30)—people planted for the sole purpose of causing trouble among the brethren.
The signs of demonic influence are hard to pinpoint; however, this course has made it abundantly clear that this is not the point. The point is we are to fight the battle; whether it emanates from the flesh, world/culture, or direct demonic opposition. There are many “points” that were talked about; the few that stood out were that of inward focus, personal isolation, and a life of prayerlessness. The three of these seem, in themselves, to work together to pull sheep away from a life of holiness. By becoming so introspective and preoccupied with our sin, we flagellate ourselves to a level of scrutiny that is downright sinful. This attitude bears a fruit of isolation and results in a “pulling away” from the flock—where Satan is roaming for easy prey! And lastly, Satan succeeds in having us to set down our greatest privilege: our desire to commune/pray with the Father. The tactic of the devil can be summed up in the words attributed to Julius Cesar: “Divide and conquer.”
The reason that these three points are so impactful is because they resonate deeply with myself. I want to be holy, annihilate sin, and scourge it out! While this “zeal” can resonate from within, the devil is great at exacerbating a known problem and playing “touch and go” with it. It’s amazing that he can take that which is good and turn it around for his own devastating uses. That is why God has given us prayer and the Holy Spirit—He groans on our behalf when we do not know how to pray (Rom. 8:26-27).
We would like to think that demonic forces limit themselves only to picking on the wandering sheep, and—while that is true to a point—it becomes very apparent that leadership is where the enemy wishes to strike definitively. Taking out the shepherd will cause the sheep to scatter. Not only are Pastors a painted target, but anyone who has a level of spiritual maturity and is active in “taking ground” for the Lord. It is a hard task, but as believers our calling has no recourse! Just as an Ethiopian cannot change its skin, or a leopard cannot change its spots (Jer. 13:23), neither can those that are called according to his purposes change what God has called you to be and do—for His glory!
While it can sound as if we are giving Satan more credit than he is due (at times), it should encourage us (a little) that the demonic realm should see us as a threat! If we don’t make his list, then there is a problem between the Lord and us—the responsibility landing square on our shoulders. Desiring to live a godly life will result in persecution (2Tim. 3:12). The awesome part about that; Satan does not get to walk away with victory in any regard. Satan’s assaults fit into the story that God is unfolding!
The reason that the disciples could rejoice in their persecution, for “being counted worthy to suffer” (Acts 5:41); it is because they knew who was holding the leash to the “dog”. Nothing can harm us, persecute us, or demean us without the consent of our Omnipotent God. While some can find this understanding/theology utterly distasteful, God will not be mocked about his level of authority. He is not in a “dualistic war” where God will eventually get the upper hand! Satan is not his equal. Even God is the one who directs Satan’s attention to the righteous (Job 1:8). For in this understanding, it is comforting to know that God doesn’t have to flex a muscle—by the word of His mouth victory is established.
This particular book/study helps to build a systematic framework; helping to explain some of the supernatural entanglements that Christians can and will be expected to face. There are many believers that wrestle with the subject of spiritual warfare when they are faced with situations that they can or cannot explain—this course provides a “hermeneutic” on how to read the battlefield with Biblical strategy. The strict exegetical and exhaustive scripture referencing throughout the course has helped “mine” the Bible for what it does and does not say. Not only are we able to “see” spiritual conflict for what it is and where it is coming from—we are better equipped and can use more effectively the weapons of our warfare.””