Ephesians 6:10-17

            Today’s New Testament lesson has some densely packed verses concerning spiritual warfare.  We need some pegs to be able to hang all the ideas and concepts.  There are three major imperatives or commands for every believer and every church:  1) Be strong in the Lord because we are in an invisible war; 2) Put on the whole armor of God and make preparations for spiritual battle; and, 3) Take up your spiritual weapons and do battle.
 
            We are to be strong since Satan and his wicked spirits are highly organized for evil with devious schemes and stratagems designed to blunt our spiritual growth.  We are to put on the necessary armor of truth, righteousness, and peace to defend ourselves against the inevitable attacks.  We are to use our spiritual weapons of faith, salvation, and the word of God to advance against the darkness.
 
            These are non-negotiable commands given by General Paul.  He is serious about this because the spiritual forces we are up against are wicked, cunning, and they do not observe any kind of Geneva Convention rules when it comes to war.  Therefore, we are in need of some spiritual boot camp that equips us to engage the enemy of our souls. Each and every day we need the training that comes through careful, sustained and thoughtful examination of God’s Word and focused prayer.  Basic spiritual disciplines will help arm us for the certain attacks.  The goal is not simply to read and utter a prayer, but to take off the old street clothes and put on the armor provided by God.
 

 

            Holy God, I am your soldier.  I pray that words would be given me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ so that your ethical kingdom will prevail here on earth through the power of your Spirit.  Amen.

Spiritual Warfare and Prayer

 
 
When I think of the Apostle Paul, the man who wrote most of the New Testament epistles, I think of a guy who had a bucket-load of boldness, a man who did not sidestep or try and step out of situations, but who fearlessly stepped into the world with the good news of God’s grace in Christ.  Maybe Paul was that way because of prayer and the prayers of God’s people (Ephesians 6:18-20).  Maybe what stands in the way of people coming to know Jesus and the church maturing in the faith is not a lack of resources or programming, but a profound lack of intense, consistent, and sustained prayer.  Maybe too many of God’s people have been duped by the enemy of our souls to retreat in a bubble of fear, unable to effectively engage God’s big world and Christ’s church with confidence.
 
            The truth is that there is an unseen world all around us that cannot be observed with our physical eyes.  We serve an invisible God, and we have an invisible enemy (Ephesians 6:10-12).  Satan and his wicked spirits actually exist and they are organized for war with schemes, methods, and devious strategies designed to blunt our spiritual development and the expansion of God’s kingdom.  The devil seeks to render us ineffective in our walk with Christ, be unproductive for God, and be all knotted up inside in a broken mess so that we are weak, not strong.
 
            The names of our invisible enemy in Scripture tells us the kind of diabolical and methodical work he is doing to snare us:  Satan, the adversary; Lucifer, the shining one who comes looking like the light but only delivers darkness; Beelzebub, the lord of the flies, who is a false god promising protection and help apart from the one true God; the evil one, who seeks to have us engage in sin instead of righteousness; the tempter; the accuser; and, the prince of this world.  The unseen wicked spirits of this dark world pull out whatever technique they can to turn us from knowing who we are in Christ and how we are to really live.  They seek to distract us from our mission, to keep us busy fighting among ourselves, and to put our confidence in anything (i.e. particular ministries; certain people; good ideas) but Jesus Christ.
 
Prayer is to undergird everything we do.  The early church was effective and successful in many ways through prayer.  They all joined together constantly in prayer(Acts 1:14).  They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer (Acts 2:42).  After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken.  And they were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly (Acts 4:31).  The early apostles re-arranged their busy schedules so that they could give their attention to prayer and the ministry of the word (Acts 6:4).  Everywhere we go in the book of Acts, believers in Jesus are praying.
 
            As Christians, we might think of ourselves as people of prayer, but compared to our spiritual ancestors we are not engaging in the same kind of intense, sustained, and strategic prayer that pushes back the enemy and graciously talks about the good news of forgiveness in Jesus Christ.  If you do not believe this, just call a prayer meeting and see how few people show up.  We are too afraid to pray in front of others.  We are too fearful of saying the wrong thing or looking unspiritual.  Let me ask:  who wants you to think that way?
 

 

            The business of Christ’s church and all its leadership is prayer, and we need to re-arrange our lives to make it happen so that we give God our focused attention.  When prayer takes a back seat to everything else, we end up fighting the wrong battles and the result is a lot of friendly fire where people get spiritually and emotionally hurt because we are not in touch with God.  Our battle is not with flesh and blood human beings; it is with Satan and his wicked spirits (Ephesians 6:12).  Fight them, not each other!

Victory Over Satan

 

 
            The big three enemies of every Christian are:  a sinful world system (1 John 2:15-16); the inherent sinful nature (Ephesians 4:22); and, the devil, who seeks to exploit the world and the sinful nature to tempt and move us into rebellion against God (1 Peter 5:8-9).  The good news is that Jesus Christ has obtained deliverance and freedom for His people from each of those enemies.  However, for this deliverance and freedom to be a practical reality in daily experience, each believer in Jesus must know and practice the truth.
 
            In the original Fall of humanity there was a passive response to the temptation of the serpent, an acceptance of doubt concerning God’s Word, the acceptance of insinuations concerning God’s goodness and wisdom, and a deliberate choice to follow the suggestions of Satan and disobey the only true and living God.  The seriousness of that Fall into disobedience cannot be overemphasized.  The Fall introduced the dimensions of sin, lust, depravity, slavery, ignorance, death and every form of evil into the human race.  In short, people became alienated from God and enslaved to the devil.  The final effects of this sinful bondage will not be completely severed until the final judgment.  The hold of the devil is so profound that it took the death of Jesus Christ and his resurrection to break that hold and make it possible for humanity to be redeemed.
 
            The descriptive titles given to Satan indicate his activity and what he is up to:  Tempter (Matthew 4:3); Deceiver (Revelation 12:9); Accuser (Revelation 12:10); Adversary (1 Peter 5:8); Murderer and Liar (John 8:44); the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4); and, the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2).  Holy Scripture indicates that a Christian can be significantly influenced by the machinations of Satan through:  giving the devil a foothold (Ephesians 4:27); lying (Acts 5:3); physical and spiritual attacks (Job 1-2; 2 Corinthians 12:7); deception (Revelation 12:9-10; 2 Corinthians 11:3); temptation (1 Corinthians 7:5; 1 Thessalonians 3:5); pride (1 Timothy 3:6); corruption (2 Corinthians 11:3); accusations (Revelation 12:10); hypocrisy (Acts 5:1-11); and, “fiery darts” (Ephesians 6:16).  In other words, the Christian ignores the activity of Satan at his/her peril.
 
            Satan’s purpose and aim is to keep each and every believer in Jesus from spiritual progress and maturity, and from the daily experience of living in the fruit of the Holy Spirit.  Unfortunately, the evidence of Satan’s success is all around us, and even in the church.  All Christians are under the attack of the enemy of our souls in some way, shape, or form.  When well-meaning Christians experience difficulty in prayer, in reading Scripture, in witnessing to the truth of Christ, in overcoming sins, and in maintaining right fellowship with other believers, then this is a tangible reminder of the subtle and powerful effect that Satan has in the church, not to mention the world.  Such a situation requires that we know and understand the provision we possess in overcoming the evil one.
            The most basic truth to know and practice is that in the crucifixion and resurrection the Lord Jesus Christ defeated Satan (Colossians 2:15).  Jesus has through his death and rising from death destroyed the power of death and delivered those held in bondage (Hebrews 2:14-15).  In fact, Jesus, the Son of God, came to this earth so that he might destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8).  What is more, through the Ascension Jesus was seated in triumph over Satan and this tremendous victory has been given to each and every believer in Christ (Ephesians 1:19-21; 2:5-6).
 
            In order for this incredible access to become a reality there must be a complete and honest confession, repentance and renunciation of past and present sins.  “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).  There must be a complete and honest practice of the truth in the obedience of faith and love through standing with the truth (Ephesians 6:10-18).  There must be a complete and honest as well as aggressive resistance of the work of Satan through constant vigilance and standing firm (1 Peter 5:8-9).
 
            When you are made to feel guilty but do not know what you have done or why you should feel this way – then be aggressive about rejecting it.  When you are accused (i.e. “If you were really a Christian you would not be thinking a thought like that…”) – then be aggressive about refusing the guilt.  When your thoughts, emotions, and desires threaten to get out of hand – then take charge of them and bring them into subjection to Jesus.  You have all the authority of Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension behind you to reject and refuse error and satanic whispers.
 

 

            Know the enemy’s lies and deceptions and be aggressive about dealing with them according to the truth of the gospel.  Always attempting this alone is somewhat like trying to be an army of one – it would go much better with the help of the church as we share, pray, and practice the truth together in the context of community.  May the kingdom of God come in all its fullness as Christians learn to know and practice the truth.  Soli Deo Gloria.

Warfare Prayer, Part 2

Being assailed with negative thoughts eventually leads to discouragement, and discouragement leads to inaction.  In this second half of Victor Matthew’s warfare prayer, it is clear that the antidote to most of the obstacles and problems that we face is through a vigorous prayer life and that biblical prayer is itself an action.  Like the Hulk, we must smash the strongholds of Satan that are formed against us and our churches.    Let this prayer be prayed often, and let its truth seep into the marrow of your spirit:


          Heavenly Father, by faith and in dependence upon You I put off the old person and stand into all the victory of the crucifixion where the Lord Jesus Christ provided cleansing from the sinful nature.  I put on the new person and stand into all the victory of the resurrection and the provision He has made for me to live above sin.

            Today I put off the old nature with its selfishness and I put on the new nature with its love.  I put off the old nature with its fear and I put on the new nature with its courage.  I put off the old nature with all its deceitful lusts and I put on the new nature with its righteousness, purity and honesty.
 
            In every way I stand into the victory of Christ’s ascension and glorification, in which everything was made subject to Him.  I claim my place in Christ as victorious with Him over all the enemies of my soul.  Holy Spirit, I pray that you would fill me.  Come into my life, break down every idol and cast out every enemy of my soul.
 
            I am thankful, Heavenly Father, for the expression of Your will for my daily life as You have shown me in Your Word.  I, therefore, claim all the will of God for my life today.  I am thankful that You have blessed me with every spiritual blessing in Christ.  I am thankful that You have given me new life into a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.  I am thankful that You have made provision for me so that today I can live filled in the Holy Spirit with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control.  I recognize and affirm that this is Your will for me and so I reject and resist all the attempts of Satan and his demons to rob me of the will of God.  I refuse today to believe my feelings and I hold up the shield of faith against all the accusations, distortions, and insinuations that Satan would put into my mind.  I claim the will of God for my life today.
 
            In the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ I completely surrender myself to You, Heavenly Father, as a living sacrifice.  I choose not to be conformed to this world.  I choose to be transformed by the renewing of my mind.  I pray that You would show me Your will and help me to walk in Your ways today.
 
            I am thankful, Heavenly Father, the weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world, but have divine power to demolish strongholds, arguments, and every pretention that sets itself up against the knowledge of God.  I take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.  Therefore, in my own life today I tear down the strongholds of Satan and smash the plans of Satan that have been formed against me.  I demolish the strongholds of Satan against my mind, and I surrender my mind to You, Holy Spirit.  I affirm, Heavenly Father, You have not given me a spirit of fear but a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline.  I break and smash the strongholds of Satan formed against my emotions today.  I give my will to You.  I choose to make right decisions of faith.  I smash the strongholds of Satan formed against my body today.  I give my body to You and recognize that I am Your temple.  I rejoice in Your mercy and grace.
 
            Heavenly Father, I pray now and through this day You would strengthen and enlighten me.  Show me the ways Satan is hindering, tempting, lying and distorting the truth in my life.  Help me to be the kind of person that would please You.  Help me to be aggressive in prayer and faith.  Help me to think rightly, and actively practice Your Word.  Help me to give You Your rightful place in my life.
 
            I cover myself with the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ and pray that You, Holy Spirit, would bring all the work of Christ’s crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, and all Your work of Pentecost into my life today.  I deliberately surrender myself to You, God.  I refuse to be discouraged.  You are the God of all hope.  You have proven Your power by resurrecting Jesus from the dead, so I claim this victory over all satanic forces in my life.  I pray in the Name and through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ with thanksgiving.  Amen.

Warfare Prayer

This week, as every week, I anticipated coming to my pastor’s study on Tuesday morning intent on crafting a draft of the upcoming Sunday sermon.  Preaching my way through the Gospel of Matthew, the text for this Sunday is one of those healing narratives in which Jesus confronts and rebukes a demonized person.  I was feeling pretty good, and was ready to get the day going.  However, just as I was ready to go to the church building, I was suddenly overcome with nausea and an extreme mental fog.  As I sat down to gather myself, irrational fears and thoughts began to pummel my brain.  “If you preach on that story, they won’t be happy with you.” “How can you even think of preparing a sermon on faith when you are so unfaithful!?”  “You don’t make a difference in this church; why even go to work?”

If this had been the first time I ever had such an encounter, I may have totally freaked out.  But it was not the first time, and probably won’t be the last.  I immediately texted my wife and said, “preaching on a demon-possession on Sunday – let’s cover ourselves in prayer.”  We both knew we were in for a strange week.  Demons are not just something for Christ’s time and place, but are a very real presence in this day and age.

My favorite theology professor in seminary, the late Victor Matthews, taught me as much about the demonic realm as anyone.  Decades ago he wrote and published in tract form the “warfare prayer.”  In those times when I realize I’m in a spiritual battle, the warfare prayer is my companion throughout the day.  I have edited and updated it for my own purposes, and for the people I counsel.  It is solid theology put into prayer form.  I offer you the first half of it here, and the rest in a later blog.  Use it often in order to remain aggressive in faith and prayer.  I recommend praying it out loud with some flavor:

             Heavenly Father, I bow in worship and praise before You.  I cover myself with the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ as my protection.  I surrender myself completely in every area of my life to You.  I take a stand against all the work of Satan that would hinder me in my prayer life.  I address myself only to the True and Living God and refuse any involvement of Satan in my prayer.
 
            Satan, I command you, in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, to leave my presence with all of your demons.  I bring the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ between us.
           Heavenly Father, I worship You and give You praise.  I recognize that You are worthy to receive all glory and honor and praise.  I renew my allegiance to You and pray that the Holy Spirit would enable me in this time of prayer.  I am thankful, Heavenly Father, that You have loved me from eternity past and that You sent the Lord Jesus Christ into the world to die as my substitute.  I am thankful that the Lord Jesus Christ came as my representative and that through Him You have completely forgiven me; You have adopted me into Your family; You have assumed all responsibility for me; You have given me eternal life; You have given me the perfect righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ so that I am now justified.  I am thankful that in Christ You have made me complete, and that You have offered Yourself to me to be my daily help and strength.
  
          Heavenly Father, open my eyes that I might see how great You are and how complete Your provision is for this day.  I am thankful that the victory the Lord Jesus Christ won for me on the cross and in His resurrection has been given to me and that I am seated with the Lord Jesus Christ in heaven.  I take my place with Him and recognize by faith that all wicked spirits and Satan himself are under my feet.  I declare that Satan and his demons are subject to me in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
  
          I am thankful for the armor You have provided.  I put on the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the sandals of peace and the helmet of salvation.  I lift up the shield of faith against all the fiery arrows of the enemy; and I take in my hand the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God.  I choose to use Your Word against all the forces of evil in my life.  I put on this armor and live and  pray in complete dependence upon You, Holy Spirit.
   
         I am grateful, Heavenly Father, the Lord Jesus Christ disarmed all power and authorities, triumphing over them by the cross.  I claim all victory for my life today.  I reject all the insinuations, accusations, and temptations of Satan.  I affirm that the Word of God is true and I choose to live today in the light of God’s Word.  Heavenly Father, I choose to live in obedience to You and in fellowship with You.  Open my eyes and show me the areas of my life that do not please You.  Work in me to cleanse me from all ground that would give Satan a foothold against me.  I do in every way stand into all that it means to be Your adopted child and I welcome all the ministry of the Holy Spirit in my life today.  Amen.