30 Jul Spiritual warfare, part 6: fighting back
What are the weapons of our warfare? How can I fend off the enemy and fight against the tactics he uses against me?
In spiritual battle, Paul spoke of weapons for our war. Some are offensive, for the forward progress of the kingdom of God through the advance of the gospel and church of Jesus Christ. Some are defensive, for protection from our enemy and his attacks on us.
As Christians, we are victorious warriors of Christ, and our lives are to be focused on being on Jesus’ kingdom mission to help set other captives free. People are not ultimately our enemy; rather, they’re held captive by our enemy, and they need to be set free. Jesus doesn’t leave us to our own devices to fight this war. He leads the charge through his defeat of Satan, sin, and death and equips us with powerful weapons.
The enemy is a liar and the “father of lies.” All he ever does is lie. If you believe his lies, you will disbelieve the truth God gives. The truth is found in the Bible, and it always leads to the glory of Jesus Christ. You must know the truth, believe the truth, and share the truth, even when it costs you dearly. When dealing with people, always get both sides of the story to ensure you know the truth before you render a verdict. If you struggle with believing Satan’s lies, get a journal, write a line down the middle of the pages, and write, “Lies” at the top of one column and “Truth” in the other column. Every time you hear a lie, write it down in the “Lies” column, and next to it, in the “Truth” column, record a refuting truth from Scripture. As you do, you are engaging in spiritual warfare.
When you say no to sin and yes to righteousness, you win a spiritual battle. When you say yes to sin and no to righteousness, you lose a spiritual battle and need to quickly repent to Jesus, renounce your sin, and press onward in Christ’s righteousness (Rom. 3:21–22, 5:17, 21, 8:10, 10:4).
3. The gospel
The good news of the person and work of Jesus Christ is the most powerful weapon we have. Use it for yourself, and share it with everyone. You’re part of God’s ground war, and Jesus sends you every day to tell others about your King and his kingdom so they may be freed from captivity. Who Jesus is and what he has done is the proclamation of good news about his victory over our enemy.
Faith is an internal conviction that leads to an external action. For example, if you believe that Jesus rose from death, you’ll not die gripped by the fear of death but rather holding on to faith that you’ll be with him on the other side of death. It’s this very faith that took a coward like Peter, who denied Jesus three times before Christ died on the cross, and turned him into a courageous warrior who died for Jesus, hanging upside down on a cross according to church history. He saw the living Jesus and in faith no longer feared death. It should be the same for us. In this life, the enemy sends “fiery darts” (Eph. 6:16), but faith is your shield. Repent of your sin, trust God and his promises, command your enemies to leave in the power of Jesus’ name, and you’ll be safe.
Paul says that salvation is like a helmet. A helmet guards our minds so we’re not damaged in such a way that we can no longer think clearly and cogently. You must never forget that you’re saved and assured victory in Christ. Remind yourself daily. You’re saved from Satan, sin, death, hell, and God’s wrath. Never forgetting or doubting your salvation will protect you in all spiritual battles.
The Bible is like a sword for defending ourselves against the attacks of the liar and his false teachers. It’s also an offensive weapon for boldly spreading the truth and setting captives free. The Bible is not just a book of pithy statements and children’s tales, it’s a weapon for war.
In every field of combat, communication is key. King Jesus is always available to hear from you and speak to you. Pray offensively about everything and anything. Pray before trouble comes. Pray to God both in your personal prayer time and corporately with fellow Christians regarding the enemy’s attacks. Pray offensively for protection and wisdom before the demonic attacks come. Too often, Christians pray defensively only when trouble comes. To help teach you how to pray this way, the book of Psalms is filled with offensive prayers. Some of my favorites include Psalm 18, Psalm 27, Psalm 31, Psalm 35, and Psalm 83. I would also suggest that you follow Jesus’ example in Matthew 4:1–10. When Satan attacked him, Jesus fought back by quoting Scripture that perfectly applied to the lies and temptations of the enemy. Then, Jesus used his authority to command Satan to leave him. This is the same authority that Jesus has delegated to Christians so that we, too, can command Satan and demons to depart from us. I implore you out of great love to live continually in light of the great, final defeat of Satan and demons and their servants, works, and effects at the white throne of Jesus (Rev. 20).
When you believe you’re being attacked by demons, you might pray something like this:
Lord Jesus Christ, I acknowledge that this [name the specific area of sin] may be empowered by demons and evil spirits. If it is, I want nothing to do with them. I confess that you triumphed over these demons and evil spirits by the power of your shed blood that purchased forgiveness for all my sins and by your death, burial, and resurrection that provided my new life in Christ. I ask that you send any demons and evil spirits away from me. Demon, in the name and authority of Jesus, I command you to get away from me now. Lord Jesus, I thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Please fill me anew with your Holy Spirit so I will be empowered to live in obedience to you and in freedom from sin and harassment.
There are many books and videos that teach that we need to know a demon’s name in order to cast it out. But neither Jesus (Mark 1:23–27 is the first of many places where he did his work without appealing to a name) nor Paul (Acts 16:16–18) needed a demon’s name to cast it out. Similarly, such teaching commonly argues that sin gives a demon the right to inhabit a Christian, so until we confess the sin, we cannot force the demon to leave. Because these teachings go against the Bible, however, such books must be read critically by constantly asking the question, “Where does the Bible say that?”
8. The strength to stand
No fewer than four times in the closing of his epic letter to the Ephesians, the Holy Spirit, through Paul, commanded us to “stand.” This is a military term for holding the line. One way we do this is, as Jesus did in Matthew 4 when resisting the temptations of Satan, is to quote the truths of Scripture in the face of spiritual attack, rebuking the devil and commanding him to go away. In this spiritual battle, don’t retreat; run to Jesus. Don’t surrender; move forward in the assurance of Jesus’ victory. Hold the line for Jesus, empowered by his Holy Spirit, in your life, family, church, and community until you die and see Jesus face to face and hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” or see him return in glory (Luke 19:17; Matt. 25:21–23).
9. Godly Christian community
Continue in fellowship with faithful Christians who love Jesus and who will speak with you as honest friends. You will be a blessing to them as you share the things that Jesus has taught you, and they will be a blessing to you by speaking loving truth into your life and praying for you. It is no coincidence that Jesus was most tempted by Satan when he was alone nor that he sent his disciples out two by two. If you become isolated from God’s people, you are leaving yourself open to spiritual attack. Therefore, remain actively involved in Bible-based, godly, lovingly honest, accountable relationships, because it is indeed not good to be alone.
What hope do we have, seeing that we have such a powerful enemy? How would you encourage a Christ follower who is experiencing spiritual warfare?
- First, facing spiritual warfare often means you are serving Jesus faithfully, and that’s why you’re being attacked.
- Second, simply acknowledging the spiritual warfare you are experiencing for what it is, and realizing that it may stem back to previous generations of your family, is a great step forward in fighting against it. In Christ, God intends to bring it to an end before it continues in the lives of your children and grandchildren. Perhaps God has recently opened your eyes to see this because you are at the point in your walk with Jesus that, for the first time, you are able to join Jesus in his battle for your life.
- Third, God intends to work in your life as he did in the life of Joseph, as recorded in Genesis 50:20. There we learn that even evil that is intended to destroy us is used by our sovereign God for good and the saving of many lives. No enemy can stop God’s ultimate intent to do good.
- Fourth, the lessons we learn about Jesus’ victory over Satan and ways to live practically in light of his conquest will not only encourage our own personal growth in faith, but also enable us for greater ministry to others, helping them to experience the full freedom of life in Christ, and the joy of liberation from our shared enemy.
- Fifth, just as he began his letters, Paul closed them with two words that are pregnant with meaning: “peace” and “grace.” He wrote, “Peace to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen,” (Eph. 6:23–24). The question is not whether or not you live amid a spiritual war. The only question is what side you’re on. For those who have peace with God through Jesus Christ, we’re not only saved by grace; we’re also empowered by grace to victoriously live out our new identity in Christ in the face of a real enemy.
In Adam, a war was lost. In Jesus, a war is won. Satan tempted our first parents to sin, and they did. In so doing, they implicated all of us in their tragedy and misery. We’re all born sinners by nature and live as sinners by choice. As a Christian, you were once a captive in this war until Jesus gave you grace from him and peace with him (Luke 4:18).
The theme of freedom from captivity to Satan and sin is woven throughout the tapestry of Scripture. The first promise of Jesus freeing us from captivity is found shortly after the first humans sin in Genesis 3:15. This theme of redemption then runs throughout the rest of the Old Testament in the stories of Noah, Abraham, and Moses, in the Psalms and the Prophets, and more. Its fulfillment is seen in the Gospels through Jesus and taught deeply in the Epistles.
Unless a spirit submits to and honors the Holy Spirit, it is an unholy, unhelpful, and unclean spirit.
Jesus then went to the cross and died the death we should have died. Practically, this means that every single sin you have committed or will ever commit was forgiven, and every sin that was committed or ever will be committed against you was cleansed in full without exception. As 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” You are free from captivity, redeemed by Christ to live in him. In Christ, you are victorious and given a new identity and new power to live a new life with a new destiny for all eternity.
Lastly, do not be deceived into thinking, as many sadly do, that spirituality is in and of itself a good thing. Spirit beings, just like human beings, are not all trustworthy, true, and good. In the name of spirituality, many people have unknowingly opened themselves up to the world of the demonic, not understanding that unless a spirit submits to and honors the Holy Spirit, it is an unholy, unhelpful, and unclean spirit. This is a great problem in our day when everything from workforce training to relaxation techniques and storylines across music, film, and publishing in pop culture treat the entire spirit realm as an equally safe place for us to enter into which is in fact just part of a great deception.
I have other questions about Satan and demons. What else can I read to learn more?
For a theological summary, we recommend Powers of Darkness: Principalities and Powers in Paul’s Letters by Clinton E. Arnold. For a practical understanding, we recommend Three Crucial Questions about Spiritual Warfare by Clinton E. Arnold, Precious Remedies against Satan’s Devices by Thomas Brooks, The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis, and Lord Foulgrin’s Letters and The Ishbane Conspiracy by Randy Alcorn.