Spiritual Warfare

The following article was excerpted from Bill Rudge's book, "Spiritual Warfare and Victory in Christ."

Arena   

As soon as you give your life to Jesus Christ, you enter the arena of spiritual warfare. Your former peaceful coexistence with the forces of darkness terminates. Colossians 1:13,14 states ––

For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son ....

Picture this scene which occurred during a mission trip to Haiti ... Jacques, the former witch doctor (who is now a Christian), sits nose to nose with Pierre, another notorious witch doctor, and shares the Gospel with him. They are sitting in the same arena where the cockfights occur.

The background for this setting: A Salvation Army pastor invited me to speak at his church. Before the evening service, we heard the commotion of a nearby cockfight. Men using drugs and alcohol were betting on the roosters. We invited them to come to church. Some came inside. I said that "Just as one of the roosters had to shed its blood so some of you could win money, Christ shed His blood and died for our sins so that we could gain eternal life."

After the service someone asked if I wanted to meet the voodoo witch doctor. The young man led me (followed by several team members) down a dark path to where the cockfight was held. I soon discovered the man who was in charge of the cockfight and the gambling arena was Pierre, the witch doctor. He had some of his men put chairs in a circle in the middle of the pit for us to sit on — where the cockfight had occurred just a few hours before. Many people sat to listen. As I shared with him he listened intently. Then Jacques came in. When Pierre saw him, his face lit up. Pierre had great respect for Jacques because he had heard about him. The two of them were in the middle of our circle (just as the roosters had been previously), debating back and forth as Jacques shared about Christ and Pierre responded why he could not give his life to Christ.

After we finished our meeting I had everyone stand in a large circle to have prayer that the Lord would protect Pierre and bring him to salvation. Pierre indicated that what we were saying was true, but he was in so deep with Satan (voodoo rituals to perform, gambling and cockfight arena, alcohol and drugs, etc.) that he couldn't give his life to Christ yet. With downcast eyes his words were, "I owe the devil too much." I trust he will one day give his life to Christ since he had been so receptive to hear the Gospel.

The writers of the New Testament frequently used military terminology: soldier of Christ, armor of God, shield of faith, fiery darts, sword of the Spirit. These and many other such terms describe the spiritual warfare in which the believer is engaged.

I believe we are in the midst of the most intense spiritual warfare in history. There is a growing spirit of occultism and rebellion in the world, as well as apostasy and deception in the Church. Satan knows his time is short and is intensifying his efforts to seduce the world and wage war against the saints. God's Word indicates that we will see increased and unrepentant sorcery and demonic activity as we draw closer to the Lord's return.

Know Your Enemy

Victory in spiritual warfare is realized by committed believers who know their enemy, are aware of his objectives and strategies, and understand how to exercise the authority and power delegated to them by Christ.

First, let us discover who our enemy is. The Bible clearly reveals that there is a devil. We meet him in Genesis 3 and continue to read of him all the way to Revelation 20. He was endowed with beauty and wisdom and a superior position of authority in God's creation. Pride and rebellion resulted in his fall and his becoming Satan (the adversary). The once harmonious universe fell into disharmony. Satan and the angels who joined his rebellion (known as evil spirits or demons) now attempt to oppose the plan and purpose of God.

We can learn a great deal about who Satan is by looking at some of the different names and descriptions of him throughout Scripture, such as:

accuser (Revelation 12:10)
adversary (I Peter 5:8)
deceiver (Revelation 12:9; 20:3)
devil (slanderer - Matthew 4:1)
dragon (Revelation 12:3,7,9; 20:2)
god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4)
murderer (John 8:44)
roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8)
Satan (adversary) (Zechariah 3:1; Matthew 4:10; Revelation 12:9; 20:2)
and tempter (Matthew 4:3; 1 Thessalonians 3:5)

The devil is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44). He and his cohorts are full of deceit. They are enemies of all righteousness and make crooked the straight ways of the Lord (Acts 13:10). Some of Satan's strategies, techniques, and abilities are revealed in the following verses:

he has power and the ability to perform false signs and wonders (II Thessalonians 2:9);
he will deceive the whole world (Revelation 12:9);
he disguises himself as an angel of light (II Corinthians 11:14);
he twists God's Word (Genesis 3:1-5);
he prowls about like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour (I Peter 5:8);
he can cause physical sickness (Job 2:7; Luke 13:16);
he hinders believers (I Thessalonians 2:18);
he tempted Jesus (Matthew 4:1);
he desired to sift Peter like wheat (Luke 22:31);
he put betrayal of Christ into the heart of Judas (John 13:2);
he entered into Judas (John 13:27);
he filled the heart of Ananias to lie (Acts 5:3);
he cast some into prison (Revelation 2:10).

But he can be resisted (James 4:7) and overcome (I John 2:13; Revelation 12:11). Through His death and resurrection, Jesus Christ triumphed over principalities and powers (Colossians 2:15) and rendered powerless him who had the power of death — that is, the devil (Hebrews 2:14). After Satan is bound and thrown into the bottomless pit for 1,000 years (Revelation 20:2,3), he will be released to deceive the nations one last time (Revelation 20:7,8). He will then be thrown in the lake of fire to be tormented day and night forever and ever (Revelation 20:10) in the eternal fire prepared for him and his angels (Matthew 25:41).

In trying to be like the Most High, one of Satan's main objectives is to receive worship. During his temptation of Jesus, Satan unsuccessfully attempted to entice Jesus into worshiping him (Matthew 4:9,10). Scripture reveals that during the last days Satan will be worshiped by the whole world. The Antichrist, who receives his authority from Satan, will proclaim himself to be God and seek control over and worship from every human being on earth (II Thessalonians 2; Revelation 13).

Satan gives superficial blessings, temporary pleasures, and counterfeit power to some, while for others he uses fear and intimidation. His basic motivation, however, is always the same: to enslave, control, and receive worship.

Revelation 9:1-11 is a vivid description of unrestrained demonic activity on the earth in the last days. Those who are involved in sorcery, magic arts, idolatry, occultism, and New Ageism would do well to consider this account of the demonic beings released from the abyss. The true intent of Satan and his demonic cohorts is to inflict harm, torture, and destruction on human beings –– even those in allegiance with them.

Some of Satan's and his cohorts' activities are intended to advance and build his kingdom, while at other times his operation is designed to sabotage and disorganize God's kingdom. In order to accomplish this, he tries to hinder people from following Jesus Christ and being conformed to His image. When that fails and they refuse to deny the Lord, he attempts to cause believers in Christ to dishonor the Lord and rebel, thereby rendering them powerless and neutralizing their effectiveness. His strategy is to make them weak and vulnerable by luring them into compromise –– usually sexual immorality or false teaching. He hopes believers will give up in fear and defeat and not achieve the purpose and potential God has for them.

Lure of the World

Satan's main focus and relentless attack is against our personal integrity. He seeks to tempt, entice, and lure us from pure devotion to Christ. He knows that a compromised believer is an ineffective tool for the Lord. His main device is sexual enticement, but he knows all our vulnerabilities and past weaknesses. He will use any vice we have to seduce us. He waits for the right opportunity to entice us or create circumstances that will lead to our demise. Only by submitting to God and resisting Satan's alluring, yet often seemingly innocent temptations, can we avoid untold misery and walk in victory.

While Balaam could not curse Israel, he told the King of Moab to entice them with sexual immorality and idolatry and thereby have the hand of the Lord against them (Numbers 31:16; 25:1-3).

The lure of the world through television, movies, videos, the Internet, music, magazines, and books is a prime means to infect believers with worldly philosophy which is often diametrically opposed to God's revelation of truth.

When his attempts to compromise your thoughts, attitudes, and lifestyle are unsuccessful, he targets your family or workplace and provokes and raises up people and circumstances to oppose and undermine you. Maintaining personal purity before God and the world and standing strong in the midst of the storm are crucial in overcoming the strategies of the enemy.

Scripture Condemns Sorcery

Several years ago one of my staff and I met with a man who was pastor of an occult-oriented church and was also recognized as one of the top ten psychics in the eastern U.S. He was certain his "gift" of divination and fortune-telling was from God. After an hour-long meeting, I strongly cautioned him that his beliefs and practices were not of God, but were the occultism condemned in Deuteronomy 18:10,11 and throughout Scripture. I believe the Lord sent us to him as his final warning and to call him to repentance. In spite of the Biblical evidence we shared with him, he refused to discontinue his occult involvement. A short time later, he died of a heart attack at a young age.

A sad indictment against the last days generation is a refusal to repent of sorcery, worshiping demons, and idolatry –– which means occultism and demonic phenomena will be very prominent (Revelation 9:20,21).

All forms of sorcery and occultism are condemned by God (Deuteronomy 18:9-13; Leviticus 19:31; II Chronicles 33:6,9 ...).

Early in our ministry my wife and I learned a valuable lesson. A mother brought to me various items her teenage son had used during Satan worship. She wanted the items out of her house and did not care what we did with them.

I immediately threw out the black candles and other objects which were obviously intended for occult purposes, but we thought it would be wasteful to discard the crystal bell and brass cup. We reasoned that we could give them away or sell them and give the money to the ministry.

During my Bible study a few days later I read Deuteronomy 7:25,26 —

The graven images of their gods you are to burn [destroy] with fire; you shall not covet the silver or the gold that is on them, nor take it for yourselves, lest you be snared by it, for it is an abomination to the Lord your God. You shall not bring an abomination into your house ... you shall utterly detest it and you shall utterly abhor it, for it is something banned.

Just as I was on my way to destroy the items, my wife mentioned to me that during prayer she felt strongly led of the Lord that we should get rid of them. I shared with her what the Lord had just shown me through Scripture and we immediately destroyed these items.

It is crucial not to possess or participate in anything directly or indirectly associated with the occult — books, movies, music, games, jewelry, healing techniques, and so on. Do not give the enemy opportunity to afflict or harass you because you are compromised in forbidden practices. By foolishly identifying and associating yourself with his regime, you give him opportunity to claim that you are still yielded to him so he has the right to oppress.

Acts 19:17-20 records the following account –– ... and fear fell upon them all and the name of the Lord Jesus was being magnified. Many also of those who had believed kept coming, confessing and disclosing their practices. And many of those who practiced magic brought their books together and began burning them in the sight of everyone; and they counted up the price of them and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the Word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing.

Scripture clearly reveals that God has zero tolerance for sorcery and idolatry. He alone is our Creator and He must be the only One we seek for supernatural knowledge, wisdom, and power. To Him alone do we bow down, submit our will, dedicate our heart, and offer our praise.

Balance is Crucial

I had an opportunity to do a ride along with my son-in-law of the California Highway Patrol. The Sergeant who was briefing the officers introduced me. He informed them that I signed a form releasing the state of California from any responsibility or liability and therefore they could "have at me" and shoot me or whatever since I have no rights. Although he was only joking, the sad reality is that when through disobedience and rebellion we step outside of God's will and protection, Satan can "have at us."

It has been said that human beings are defended castles and have a wall of protection sheltering us from the demonic realm. However, dabbling in the occult lets down the drawbridge and opens the door to the spirit world. Those who step outside God's protection and willingly violate and disregard clear Biblical truth concerning this had better repent.

Christians who purposely or ignorantly dabble in practices and techniques forbidden by Scripture or fill their minds with occultism are no more immune to demonic oppression than Christians involved in sexual immorality are immune to pregnancy, venereal disease, or AIDS.

A woman who was supposedly led to Christ by a pastor gave him all her occult books, Tarot cards, and other occult paraphernalia. He in turn gave them to our research director. A short while later this woman estimated these items to be worth hundreds of dollars, so she asked for them back. "Besides," she said, "many of them were given to me by very special friends."

We warned her not to take them back because they would ensnare and destroy her, but she refused to listen. She attempted to justify her decision by promising not to read or use them.

Within a month she started reading the occult literature again, and shortly thereafter she began doing seances and reading Tarot cards. "Like a dog that returns to its vomit is a fool who repeats his folly" (Proverbs 26:11). She had been very active and vivacious, with a youthful appearance, but from this time on she quickly degenerated physically, mentally, and spiritually.

She died a few years after returning to her occultism. A pastor visited her about a month before she passed away and said she was in complete bondage. Unable to talk or respond, she just wildly stared about. He said she ended up being physically debilitated, mentally deranged, and spiritually degenerate.

While it is true that demonic beings can be responsible for some physical, emotional, and spiritual problems, they are not necessarily always the direct cause. Many problems are the result of people reaping the consequences of what they have sown.

It should not be surprising that many people like to blame everything on Satan. Since the beginning of human history, we have been blaming others for our problems. After Adam ate the forbidden fruit, God confronted him, but Adam blamed it all on Eve. Eve blamed it on the serpent. Both were blaming God indirectly, for He had created them.

Many today blame their smoking, drinking, gluttony, lust, sexual immorality, tempers, and other such behavior on Satan. We must, however, assume responsibility for our actions instead of blaming everything on the devil. Galatians 5:19-21 indicates that immorality, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, envying, drunkenness, and things like these are "deeds of the flesh."

In most cases what is needed more than instant deliverance from demonic influence is a consistent life of discipline and self-control. While most people would rather have quick and easy solutions to their problems, God's way often requires time, effort, and obedience.

On the other hand, we must not ignore clear Biblical teaching concerning the reality of Satan and evil spirits. Ephesians 6:12 states ––

The Arena

For 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.

So while I must warn against the overemphasis and extreme sensationalism concerning demonic activity and deliverance that occurs in many circles, and while in my opinion many of the phenomena attributed to the demonic are done so inaccurately, I also must acknowledge the reality of the demonic realm. Thus, I attempt to have a balanced perspective by taking into consideration the physical, emotional, and spiritual dimensions. This enables me to discern Biblically whether I am dealing with actual spiritual warfare or merely physical or psychosomatic behavior.

One extreme is attributing all problems and phenomena to demons. The resulting confusion and fear can be disastrous. The other extreme is allowing demonic activity to occur without recognizing it or effectively dealing with it.

Equally wrong is how many are sensationalizing unbiblical beliefs and techniques and passing them off as powerful principles on spiritual warfare. Many today have popularized techniques and beliefs that do not even resemble Scriptural truth concerning spiritual warfare nor the example of Jesus, His disciples, and the Apostle Paul.

The real spiritual battles are being lost while powerless believers are diverted into showy displays of force and erroneous unbiblical strategies which may appear impressive, but which are totally ineffective in truly tearing down the strongholds of the enemy and advancing the kingdom of God.

Boldly and accurately proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the best way to identify and deal with genuine demonic activity. Satan is threatened by the powerful and accurate proclamation of God's Word. He, therefore, is compelled to oppose and undermine it. This reveals his associates — those who fight against the work of the Gospel. Continued proclamation of Biblical Christianity through the anointing of God's Spirit is a powerful and effective tool in exposing and extinguishing demonic strongholds.