The War

Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him

Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring—those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus.

Revelation 12:7-9, 17

Satan was cast out of heaven. But where did he go? He now creates havoc on the earth. That is why he is called the “prince of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). And with him came 1/3 of the angels (according to Revelation 12:4) who now operate under Satan’s command and control structure–not unlike the mafia. Paul calls the different levels of demonic entities “the rulers… the authorities… the powers of this dark world and… the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms“(Ephesians 6:12).

Just as the different angels had different roles and different levels of power and strength in heaven, when they were cast down to the earth, they retained a measure of that same hierarchy. Only now, out of fear, they answer to Satan–the former archangel.

So there are principalities of darkness that operate over entire geographical regions (see Daniel 10:13). These beings have retained more of their angelic presence and can deceptively appear as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). They also don’t seem to need to dwell inside people. They seem to have retained more of their spiritual bodies after their fall from heaven. People with spiritual discernment can even feel the shift when you drive through different regions of our own country. Different principalities operate in different regions and over different cities.

There are powers that operate under these principalities who are strong but are clearly evil. These powers retain more of an identity as their names are personal names. They often retain the name of a pagan god or an evil character from the Bible. I’ve personally cast out ones named Jezebel, Baal, Thor, Hades, Hermes, etc.

While they have some power and can be harder to cast out than lower level demons, they don’t have any authority (see Matthew 28:18). So they are constantly trying to usurp and steal a person’s own authority. The main way these powers try to get into someone’s life is through chronic sin (including unforgiveness), trauma, and using deception. They try to get the person to agree to the lies they are whispering in their ear. Once the person agrees with the lies, the door is opened.

Finally, there are demons in operation under the powers. Demons are weaker and need a “host” to cling to (Matthew 12:42; Luke 11:24). They don’t have much power or much of an identity. Their name tends to be what sin they try to tempt their host to do. So they tend to be named spirit of anger, spirit of hate, spirit of lust, spirit of death, spirit of suicide, spirit of despair, spirit of perversion, spirit of pride, spirit of doubt, spirit of unbelief, spirit of addiction, etc.

Like a gang or the mafia, the lower level spiritual forces of evil answer to higher level ones. And like a gang or the mafia they only work together for selfish reasons. They actually hate each other and are in constant competition with each other. Submission to the demonic entity above them doesn’t happen out of honor or love but out of the fear of pain and punishment.

While spiritual forces of evil hate each other, they hate humanity even more because we are created in the image of God. We remind them of all that they lost in their fall from heaven. They especially hate Christians because of the Spirit dwelling in us and our position as sons and daughters in the Kingdom of God. We are the royal heirs of the Kingdom they lost. Because of this, the kingdom of darkness wages war against all followers of Jesus everywhere around the globe.

If you are a Christian, you are in a war. It’s raging all around you. Ignoring it doesn’t make it go away. Pick up your weapons and your armor and fight (Ephesians 6:10-20), or you will be just another casualty of war!

Resist

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith… 

1 Peter 5:6-9

The enemy is real. Satan is not a fictitious personification of evil. On several occasions I’ve ministered to a demonized person and seen the demon take control of the person’s body, face, and voice. I’ve had demons talk to me through these heavily demonized people. And while I shut down their chatter immediately, these occurrences only verify the truth of scripture that warns of the reality of our enemy.

This passage clues us into areas that can come under attack by our enemy, the devil, who prowls around like a lion looking for someone to devour. Any area of our life where we haven’t humbled ourselves becomes an easy target. That’s why the exhortation to humble ourselves comes before the warning about Satan’s attacks. An area that we’ve not submitted to the Lord but have pridefully held under our own control becomes an easy target. It becomes a weak spot in the wall of our spiritual defenses.

Likewise, any area of anxiety becomes an easy target. Fear is like artillery that softens up our spiritual defenses before the enemy attacks. Any area of our life where we are full of anxiety, fear and worry will be targeted. This is why we must cast our cares upon Him because He cares for us.

If there is an area of our life where we are not “alert” and of “sober mind,” it will likely be targeted as well. These tend to be areas of addiction or ways that we indulge in escapism as a way to cope with pain and hurt we experience in our life. These become areas where we no longer operate with a “sober mind” because we are self-medicating with our favorite drug, pleasure, or form of escape.

We need to sure up these vulnerable areas in our life. We’re commanded to stand firm and resist the enemy’s attack. We need to strengthen these weak spots in our walls. We must remember that these words from scripture were written to Christians. Just because we have the Holy Spirit doesn’t mean that we’ve automatically surrendered every room in our house to the Lord. And any room in our heart, mind or body that hasn’t been given over to the Lord can be broken into and occupied by the enemy.

The Holy Spirit has infinitely more power than the demonic invaders, but we must hand the Spirit the keys to that room. We must give the Holy Spirit permission to take over and revoke the right of the enemy to be there. Otherwise, we remain a house divided.

Grow Up In Your Salvation

Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.

1 Peter 2:1-3

Getting a taste of the goodness of the Lord causes us to crave more spiritual food. This process of going between hunger and satisfaction is something we physically experience through out the day. We eat and then we get hungry for more. This same dynamic happens spiritually.

And we must continue to feed our souls the spiritual food that it needs because salvation is only the beginning. We are called to “grow up” in our salvation. Maturity was never meant to be an optional part of the Christian life. Salvation is not the finish line but the starting line in our development into a person who looks and acts more like Jesus.

This discipleship, this development and growth in our spiritual life, is vitally important because we were born into a war. We are living in enemy territory and we’ve been commissioned to take ground for the Kingdom of God. Peter goes on to say:

Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 

1 Peter 2:11

Growing up in our salvation not only means we grow closer to Jesus, but it also means we become more equipped for the battles we face. We get better and better at recognizing the vulnerabilities in our own heart and our own tendencies toward temptation. We get better at recognizing the schemes of the enemy and how he tries to exploit our weaknesses. We train in warfare, learning not only how to defend ourselves but also how to advance and take back ground for the Kingdom of God.

If we never pursue maturity in Christ, we leave ourselves vulnerable, like a newborn baby who never grows up. Instead, we must “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…”(Hebrews 12:1).

Wrestling in Prayer

Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.

Colossians 4:12

Epaphras was a fellow servant of the gospel with the apostle Paul and was considered to be one of the Colossians. So when Paul concluded his letter to the Colossians, he was sure to let them know that Epaphras was always wrestling in prayer for them. The word for “wrestling” here in the Greek is the word agonizomai. I’ve already mentioned in a previous post that Paul used this word to describe his own ministry in Colossians 1. It means “to labor, struggle, fight, or contend like someone engaged in an intense athletic contest or warfare.” It’s where we get our English word agonize.

This passage shows us that sometimes in prayer we must contend for what we are asking for. We must fight for it in prayer. There is warfare going on around us and we must wrestle in prayer for others. We are not wrestling something out of God’s hands, but we are contending against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms and prayer is one of our weapons, our spear. God is not resisting us but the enemy is, so we must contend.

Paul makes this clear in Ephesians 6:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Ephesians 6:12, 18

So who are you wrestling for in prayer? Who are you contending for in your daily prayer life? Answers may not come instantly, but know that your prayers will affect the war raging around us in the heavenly realms (Read Daniel 10 if you need reassurance of this, especially verses 12-14).

Plumed Helmet

Take the helmet of salvation…

Ephesians 6:17a

Ephesians 6 isn’t the first time we read about a helmet of salvation in Scripture, and it won’t be the last time. The prophet Isaiah delivered a prophecy about how the Lord couldn’t find anyone to bring about salvation and justice in Israel, so He had to do it Himself.

He saw that there was no one,
    he was appalled that there was no one to intervene;
so his own arm achieved salvation for him,
    and his own righteousness sustained him.
He put on righteousness as his breastplate,
    and the helmet of salvation on his head

Isaiah 59:16-17

Jesus was the arm of the Lord that achieved salvation for the people of God. In other words, Jesus was the original wearer of the breastplate of righteousness and helmet of salvation. When Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father, He left behind His armor for the Body of Christ to put on.

The helmet of salvation protects the head, the mind, the thought-life of the believer. But we shouldn’t just think that “being saved” is enough. Paul clarified the purpose of this helmet in 1 Thessalonians 5:8 when he said, “But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.”

The helmet of salvation is chiefly about the hope of salvation. It is this hope that keeps our thoughts protected from despair, self-condemnation, and defeat. Romans 8:24 says, “For in this hope we were saved.” 1 Corinthians 15:19 says, “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” And Paul prays this prayer for the Romans in Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

The hope of our salvation–of our eternal future with the Lord–is what protects our mind today. It gives us a clear head about the present moments that can be difficult. It gives us perspective on the “light and momentary troubles” that are “achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all”(2 Corinthians 4:17).

Pick Up Your Shield

In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.

Ephesians 6:16

Flaming arrows are more insidious than regular arrows. With regular arrows, one only has to worry about the small area hit or wounded by the arial projectile. But when a flaming arrow lands, its damage starts spreading to anything flammable. You don’t have to be all that accurate to create a lot of devastation with flaming arrows.

And so it is with the evil one, our enemy, Satan. His flaming arrows are deceptions, lies, thoughts that fly into our mind that are not ours but that he tries to convince us are our own. His flaming arrows are temptations, dangling carrots, sweet smelling death. And if we allow any of these to “land,” the damage spreads. Deceptions and temptations never stay in one spot. They are like a white, puffy dandelion head that, once rooted, spreads seeds of sin far and wide into our lives. They are flaming arrows.

But we don’t have to let these flaming arrows land. We have a shield that prevents any and all damage. As soon as the flaming arrows of the evil one hit this shield, they not only stop in their tracks, but they are fully extinguished. Their destructive fire can no longer spread into our lives. The name of this powerful shield is faith.

Sometimes, I think we are busy asking God to protect us, and He looks at us on our knees praying, our shield collecting dust on the ground beside us. Again, we see in this passage the Greek word meaning “to take up.” Our faith, just like our armor (verse 13), is something we must pick up and put on.

Faith is another word for obedient trust. It means doing the things we are told to do by the Lord even when we don’t fully understand them. It means trusting that God is good. It means trusting we are who He says we are. It means rejecting the lies of the enemy in favor of the truth of Scripture.

“Oh, Lord, please protect me!”

“Sure. Pick up your shield.”

“But, Lord, would you help me with all of these attacks in my life?”

“Yes. I love you! Pick up your shield.”

“Oh, God, I need you to come and rescue me from all of this!”

“Okay. I’ve already given you everything you need. Pick up your shield.”

“God, where are you? Why haven’t you protected me from all these flaming arrows?”

“I have. Please. Pick. Up. Your. Shield.”

New Shoes

…and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 

Ephesians 6:15

Literally in the Greek this sentence reads, “and having bound under the feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace.” The imagery here is someone taking the leather straps of a sandal and wrapping them around their feet until the footwear is firmly in place. But instead of the leather of a sandal, it’s the preparation, readiness and firm footing of the gospel that secures the traction of a Christian.

It is significant that Paul describes the gospel not as the gospel of salvation or the gospel of Jesus or the gospel of grace (though it is all of those things), but instead the gospel of peace. It is the peace of the gospel in our lives that prepares us for battle and secures our footing.

Another way of saying it is that fear and anxiety undermine our footing when we try to stand firm against the enemy. Fear trips us up in battle and anxiety makes us stumble.

We know from boxing that in any kind of hand-to-hand combat, the one with the secure footing is the one who wins. The power of a punch starts in the footing, travels up through the legs and hips gaining momentum, and is released as the shoulders rotate and the arm extends. The balance and footwork of any fighter is 90% of the battle. This is true for us as well.

Our balance and footwork in the battle against the enemy starts with being prepared with peace. Philippians 4:7 says, “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Speaking about Jesus, Ephesians 2:14 says, “For he himself is our peace.” And if we still doubt the power of peace, Romans 16:20 says, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” Make no mistake, peace is a weapon!

How do we get this peace that sends fear and anxiety running?

Paul teaches the Philippians, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you”(Philippians 4:9). In other words, live out the gospel, put it into practice, and you’ll find peace following you everywhere.

The writer of Hebrews puts it this way, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it”(Hebrews 12:11). The disciplined life of following Jesus produces not just a little peace, but a whole harvest of peace.

Colossians 3:15 says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts…” This necessarily means we are not letting other things rule in our hearts like anxious thoughts, fears, and worries about the future.

All of this points to the fact that peace must be pursued. It is a fruit of the Spirit, the fruit of a disciplined life in Christ, the fruit of a life that refuses to give fear or anxiety an inch in their heart or mind. “For God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control”(2 Timothy 1:7 NET).

A Matter of the Heart

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place…

Ephesians 6:14

Having addressed the need for their lives to be enveloped in truth, Paul admonishes the Ephesians to stand firm against the enemy with the “breastplate of righteousness” in place. This body armor protects the most vital organs of the body, but especially the heart.

If you want to learn something about the heart, read through the Psalms and the Proverbs. They are chalked full of wisdom about the power and passions, evil and righteousness that can flow from the heart. The Psalms are themselves the heart-cries of the psalmists. The Proverbs are wisdom born from the heart. Here’s an example:

The path of the righteous is like the morning sun,
    shining ever brighter till the full light of day.
But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness;
    they do not know what makes them stumble.

My son, pay attention to what I say;
    turn your ear to my words.
Do not let them out of your sight,
    keep them within your heart;
for they are life to those who find them
    and health to one’s whole body.

Above all else, guard your heart,
    for everything you do flows from it
.

Proverbs 4:18-23

So much of our life flows out of our desires, so we must protect what influences our desires. We get the picture in this Proverb of our heart being the headwaters of a river. If we allow our heart to receive polluted influence from any and every source, we will find our whole life contaminated.

What our eyes, ears and thoughts absorb will pour directly into the headwaters of our heart. If we absorb what is good, holy, righteous and loving, we will find that same fruit in our lives downstream. If we absorb what the rest of the world absorbs, our life will look just as chaotic, angry, bitter, and harsh as everyone else’s. This is why our heart must be protected with a breastplate of righteousness. There are consequences to the condition and purity of our hearts.

Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God”(Matthew 5:8).

He also said, “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of”(Luke 6:45).

We know that God is a heart-reader not a lip-reader. Jesus said to the Pharisees, “God knows your hearts”(Luke 16:15). And we all know the famous story of how David was chosen as the next king of Israel:

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

1 Samuel 16:7

This is why God has given us armor to protect our hearts. We are to “put on” righteousness like a garment, like a breastplate. This is why Paul wrote to the Romans, “clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh”(Romans 13:14). The righteousness of Christ is something we must choose to put on.

We are to filter out the things that pour into our heart, the headwaters of our life, so that downstream is full of purity, life, hope and love. Paul said it this way to the Philippians:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Philippians 4:8

The Truth–The Whole Truth

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist…

Ephesians 6:14a

Truth is what keeps us from being caught with our pants down. Our culture has become so accustom to lying and to liars that people can’t tell anymore when they are bending or shading the truth. It has become a habit for many to tell “little” white lies. Yet, we are told here–unequivocally–that one way we stand firm against the schemes of the enemy is to have the belt of truth buckled around our waist.

The word in the Greek that communicates this idea of having the truth “buckled around your waist” is a compound word that combines the word “to gird” with the word “all around.” We get the idea here that Paul is saying the truth should be wrapped around us on all sides until we are fully encompassed by it.

Truth is an exposing light. This is why the enemy is a deceiver and a liar. He hates the light. Truth is sunlight, bringing life, warmth and light. But when our eyes have been so accustomed to darkness, light can be scary at first. This is how Jesus explained it to Nicodemus:

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

John 3:19-21

Truth not only brings light, but it also brings freedom–freedom from darkness, from sin, from deception. “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free‘”(John 8:31-32).

Paul gives us a picture of what can happen when we have a constant dose of loving truth spoken into our lives:

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 

Ephesians 4:14-15

My 9-year-old son helped me see something a few days ago about the armor of God that I had never seen before. We were talking about the sword of the Spirit and how it is the word of God (Ephesian 6:17). And then, in passing, he mentioned that it must hang on the belt of truth. This blew my mind! I had never thought of this before.

Swords are sheathed on a soldier’s belt. Our sword, the word of God, hangs on the belt of truth. Our source of truth is not our opinion; it is not what our culture is saying at the moment. Our source of truth is the word of God. Every word God speaks hangs on truth.

To Stand

1Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 

Ephesians 6:13

The full armor (all the weapons) of God must be “put on,” or literally in the Greek, “taken up” or “raised.” It’s not just that we must put on the helmet of salvation, breastplate of righteousness, belt of truth, and boots of the gospel of peace, but we must also take up the sword of the Spirit and our long spear–prayer in the Spirit on all occasions–and raise the shield of faith. This not something that passively happens. We must actively engage in doing it. Our weapons are offensive just as our armor is defensive. We need to actively take up both.

The purpose of taking up our weapons is to stand our ground when we face those days that are really rough, those days we feel like we’re getting attacked–the day of evil. The Greek word for “stand your ground” is a compound word that puts together “against” and “stand.” This isn’t just a word that describes standing upright. It means actively standing against your enemy. This word comes with it the idea of refusing to be moved. The imagery here is a soldier who just took ground and is enduring a counterattack, leaning forward, resisting it with everything he’s got.

The last word in this passage “to stand” is not the compound word mentioned above. It is simply the word “to stand.” In other words, we strongly resist the counterattack, refusing to be moved, so that after we have fought the battle, we can stand tall with our heads held high.