"You Asked for It" 2009 part 1
The Reality of Spiritual Warfare
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
August 9, 2009



We’re going to talk about something this morning that can be very controversial, that does cause some confusion… something that’s misunderstood even by a lot of Christ-followers. We’re going to talk about spiritual warfare.

There, right with the very mention of the term, there’s a good chance you had one of two reactions. Either you started to salivate like Pavlov’s dog because you love to talk about spiritual warfare, or you started to think about certain terms… terms like kook, nutcase, whacko, weirdo, religious zealot… because your only exposure to the issue of spiritual warfare has been from people who would fit that kind of description. Or maybe your image of spiritual warfare has been painted by movies such as the Exorcist or Rosemary’s Baby. Perhaps not the best place to get your theology or demonology.

Because the truth is, even Christ-followers can get it all out of whack when it comes to spiritual warfare. In fact, we tend to gravitate toward one of two extremes. One extreme is that we deny it even exists. And the result is we end up believing that all that exists, exists in the physical world. There is nothing else. And even in the time of Jesus, there was a whole group of religious Jews called the Sadducees who denied in the existence of the spiritual. But the problem is, the Bible does paint a picture of an invisible spiritual realm and a battle going on there. So that’s one extreme – denying it even exists.

And then the other extreme is that we become obsessed with it. I know of people that this is all they ever talk about. They’re obsessed with spiritual warfare. It completely consumes them. It occupies and preoccupies their every thought. They see demons under every rock, every adverse thing that happens to them is a form of spiritual oppression… for them, all that exists is this spiritual warfare. And this is where the “nutcase” or “kook” labels seem to apply. Even C.S. Lewis talked about this in his book The Screwtape Letters…

“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.”
~ C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

Now, don’t get me wrong… I don’t mean to minimize the existence of spiritual warfare or the dangers involved in it. Because spiritual warfare is real, angels and demons do exist, and they do interact with this physical world. It’s very important, so I don’t want to minimize it.

Nor do I want to discredit the people who specialize in this area, because I think many of them are authentic and are doing some very important work. But then, there are also some who see spiritual warfare as being a cash cow. It can be a very lucrative business, so you’ve got to be careful when it comes to people who lay it on thick. Instead, I think we need to take a balanced, non-sensationalized look at it. So that’s what we’re going to try to do this morning.

Now, this is actually our first week in our You Asked for It series of messages. Back a couple months ago, some of you requested specific topics or themes to be talked about here on a Sunday morning, and this was one of the requested topics… spiritual warfare. And actually, another request I received was to talk about angels. And angels are obviously connected to spiritual warfare. So we’re going to talk about the basics of spiritual warfare this morning, and then next week we’re going to talk about who angels are and what their role is in this warfare.

Okay? So let’s get going. Let’s take a look at the first truth of Spiritual Warfare… and you can use the notes provided in your Sunrise Update to follow along and fill in the blanks.

Five Truths about Spiritual Warfare:

1.    There is a spiritual world, including forces of good and of evil

Around the world, people know this. There are places in our world where you can see the handiwork of Satan and his demons. In places like Haiti, for example, where Satanism is openly practiced, you can see the effects and you can see the demonstrations of real power. But in our society, there’s a large push to deny this. And people strive to reach any explanation for what goes on in our world, as long as it’s not spiritual.

For example, how about certain medical conditions? Bipolar disorder, Depression, Schizophrenia… Those are almost always described as some kind of psychological condition or a chemical disorder or the result of some traumatic event. And there could be some truth to that. Maybe that is all it is. In many cases, perhaps the majority of cases, that’s a perfectly adequate evaluation. And I’ll trust the doctors on that.

But is it possible, in at least some of those cases… maybe not many, maybe just a few… is it possible that there are demonic forces at work? I think it’s more than possible… I think it’s probable. In fact, there was one case mentioned in the Bible of a man who today would have been diagnosed with Schizophrenia and would have been locked up.

Luke 8:27-28,30,32-33 (NLT)
As Jesus was climbing out of the boat, a man who was possessed by demons came out to meet him. For a long time he had been homeless and naked, living in a cemetery outside the town.
As soon as he saw Jesus, he shrieked and fell down in front of him. …
Jesus demanded, “What is your name?”
“Legion,” he replied, for he was filled with many demons. …
There happened to be a large herd of pigs feeding on the hillside nearby, and the demons begged him to let them enter into the pigs.
So Jesus gave them permission. Then the demons came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the entire herd plunged down the steep hillside into the lake and drowned.

And there you have it… the origin of Deviled Ham.

You’ll notice that a bunch of demons… not just one…  started begging Jesus. Today, you might just pass it off as a case of multiple personalities. But here you have at least one example of it being demonic possession.

But again, just because someone catches a cold doesn’t mean they have a demon. Understand, I am not saying that demons are to be blamed in every case like this. A medical explanation may be the right explanation. But if a spiritual realm does exist, I think it’d be pretty foolish to completely ignore the possibility that there are spiritual influences at work in our world today.

Ephesians 6:12 (NLT)
For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

Here in North America, this spiritual war seems to be more covert. You don’t hear a lot about it. Demonic powers do show themselves from time to time, but most times they’re more subtle. Instead, they do a lot of work through the occult and the practices of the occult… astrology, fortune telling, horoscopes, Ouiji boards, séances, experiences in the paranormal, religious aspects of yoga and eastern mysticism… these are the types of things Satan uses in our society and we need to avoid them. Plus, he uses our own weaknesses and temptations to draw us away from God… pornography, gossip, slander, lusting, greed, pride, jealousy, rage, adultery and a whole array of sexual sins. Satan can use all kinds of temptation to manipulate us. So in that sense, all these are demonic.

Listen, just because demonic forces may be working in secret, that doesn’t mean they’re not real… they’re just hidden. Which is actually a pretty smart tactic. Because when you don’t know they are there, they can infiltrate into your life a lot deeper.

But thankfully, God does not leave us to our own devices. He offers to fight the battle for us. He offers to shield us and protect us from demonic attacks. He offers to free us from bondage to oppression. He is the almighty God who has no equal. He’s the God we gather here each week to honour and to praise and to worship. Just a couple weeks ago, I read a book that talked about how worship itself is a form of spiritual warfare. The Bible tells us that God inhabits the praises of His people… His power becomes known. So let’s praise Him right now with a couple songs…

Songs:
We’ll Make It Loud                        
There Is None Like You                    

So God is all powerful. He has no equal, there’s none that can compare. So you might think that means you don’t have to worry about something as anti-God as spiritual warfare, right? Wrong.


2.    Even Christ-followers can be influenced by demonic forces

A few generations ago, there was a Bible teacher and author named Merrill Unger. He had Doctorate degrees from both Johns Hopkins University and Dallas Theological Seminary. He also taught at Dallas Theological Seminary, so he was a theologian and a scholar. And he once wrote a book teaching that a Christian can’t be demonized… meaning that a Christian cannot be affected by demonic forces. He said this was just extremism. But then, a while later, he wrote another book saying, “I was totally wrong, they can be.”

And I think he got it right… the second time. I think we can be and I think we are influenced by demonic forces. As Christians, I don’t think we can become possessed, but I do think we can be affected and influenced by demons.

“Demons do trouble and torment believers—and sometimes oppress them with burdensome bondage. Clearly, it would be improper to describe this oppression as ‘possession,’ but with equal certainty it would be foolish to deny the reality of the bondage.”
~ Jack Hayford

Paul was writing to Christ-followers when he said…

Ephesians 4:26-27 (NLT)
Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.

In this case, Paul uses the example of anger. But it seems clear to me that even for the Christ-follower, it’s possible for the devil to gain influence and power in our lives.

And it doesn’t have to start with much. If you’ve ever gone rock climbing (and I have not), then you know that if you’re scaling a rock wall, then you don’t need much. You just need a small rock jutting out from the surface, and you can move toward your goal. Satan doesn’t need much. He just needs a foothold. He just needs small area in your life where you’re willing to compromise, and he starts to gain power.

Mark Driscoll is the pastor of a large church in Seattle, and he uses the example of that negative self-talk that so many of us experience. What does that little voice you hear tell you?

“You’re no good. You’re an idiot. God can’t love you. You’re a failure. You’ll never accomplish anything of value. You’re stupid. You’re useless. God can’t forgive you. You’re worthless. You don’t even deserve to live…” Driscoll talks about how Satan and his demons can use this kind of self-talk to whisper into our lives and to gain a foothold that way, even in the life of the Christ-follower.

Hey, Jesus Himself frequently came into contact with demons. He interacted with them, He spoke with them, He cast them out. It didn’t happen all the time, but it happened more than once or twice. In fact, early on in the Gospel of Matthew, we read how Satan assaulted Jesus with all kinds of temptations. And he pulled no punches.

Matthew 4:2-3 (NLT)
For forty days and forty nights [Jesus] fasted and became very hungry.
During that time the devil came and said to him…

And the devil went on to present Jesus with different temptations. But if Jesus could be assaulted by demonic forces, you and I can certainly be assaulted, too.

In fact, do you know when this happened to Jesus? It was right after He was baptized and right before He set out on his public ministry. I think that tells us something. I think that tells us that if we are living the way God wants us to live and we’re following Him and obeying Him, and especially if God is preparing us to use us in a powerful way… that’s precisely when we can expect Satan to attack. That’s why I believe church leaders are attacked more aggressively and more often than anyone else… because Satan wants to discredit them and destroy what God is doing through them.

1 Peter 5:8 (NLT)
Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil.

Can I tell you why you need to stay alert? Not just because he’s dangerous… and he is… but because he might attack in unexpected ways. Often people described Satan as being red with a horns and a pointy tail and a pitch fork… kind of like “Hot Stuff” from the comics. Others describe him as being scary looking and being darkness.

But did you know that Satan and his demons try to deceive you so you won’t recognize them? Obviously if this scary beast show up in front of you, you’re going to resist. You’re going to cry out to God to help. But check this out…

2 Corinthians 11:13-15 (NLT)
These people are false apostles. They are deceitful workers who disguise themselves as apostles of Christ. But I am not surprised! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no wonder that his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness.

Satan disguised himself as an angel of light. He’s also called the Day Star or the Morning Star. He makes himself look appealing. He makes his ways seem right. He lies to you. He deceives you.

About a decade ago (1999), there was a movie that came out starring Elizabeth Hurley as the devil (Bedazzled). I kind of scoffed at it at the time, and I don’t think it’s an accurate portrayal of Satan. But I think it does get at least one thing right… Satan knows how to tempt you. He doesn’t want to scare you away; he wants to lure you in. So stay alert. Watch out for Satan and his followers.

And actually, in that passage we just read, Paul makes reference to some of the followers of Satan. He says there are even false apostles and prophets… people who seem authentic and make it sound like they’re serving God… but in fact they’re leading you away from God. There are preachers who are in it for the fame and are drawing attention to themselves. There are those who begin new religions and form cults and devlop new doctrines that twist the Truth just enough to make it seem right, but really it’s not. The Bible even talks about those who will use counterfeit powers and perform signs and miracles. They’ll seem to be operating by the power of God, but they’ll actually be servants of Satan. So be alert. Watch out for people like that. Guard what you accept as Truth… what you watch, what you read, what you believe.
 
Because Satan is at war with God, He’s at war with Jesus, and if we align ourselves with Jesus then He’s going to be at war with us, too. But the good news is, that’s the winning side. God has no equal, and ultimately He is in control.


3.    As a Christ-follower, I can withstand and overcome any spiritual attacks

Let me ask you this… Who is the devil to you? Who do you believe he is? Does he even exist? Does it even matter? Somebody actually went onto the streets and asked people questions like that. Take a look…

VIDEO – SERMONVIDEOS.COM – DO YOU BELIEVE IN THE DEVIL?

There are a lot of views and opinions about Satan. And what really amazes me is the number of people who say, “I don’t know… maybe there’s a God, maybe there’s a devil… maybe there isn’t,” and who don’t seem to think it matters. Because let me tell you, it matters.

So let me tell you about who Satan is and what he’s like. Satan goes by several names and descriptions. You saw some of them on that video. Names like…

•    Destroyer
•    Accuser
•    Adversary
•    Deceiver
•    Enemy
•    Evil One
•    Father of lies
•    God of this World
•    Great Dragon
•    Lawless One
•    Liar
•    Murderer
•    Ruler of this World
•    Prince of the Power of the Air
•    The Serpent
•    The Tempter

He goes by lots of names… lots of titles… and they really describe how he works. He’s not a nice guy who’s just misunderstood. He is evil, and he’s out to destroy you.

Ephesians 2:2 (NLT)
[The devil] is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God.

But here’s the thing… God made Satan. Satan was originally an Angel who serve God, but his pride got the best of him and he convinced a third of the angels to side with him and led a rebellion against God. He was defeated, and he along with those angels that we call demons were cast out of Heaven. (Ezekiel 28, Isaiah 14) God is Creator, Satan is part of creation, so in no way are Satan and demons equal to God.

Colossians 1:15-16 (NLT)
Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him.

Including Satan. Satan is a created being who rebelled against his Creator. Satan is not an equal to God. Nor does Satan share the attributes of God.

God is all-powerful. Satan is not. He is powerful… more powerful than you or me… but he is not all-powerful.
God is all-present, meaning that He can be everywhere all at the same time. Satan is not all-present. He doesn’t have that ability. So anytime you say Satan is attacking you, you’re probably wrong. It may be one of those fallen angels, but it’s probably not Satan. I expect he’s probably focusing all his attention on the Billy Graham’s, Rick Warren’s, and Bill Hybels of the world.
Also, God is all-knowing. Satan and demons are not all-knowing. They do, however, have a keen insight into humanity, they’ve learned our tendencies, they’ve been watching us for a long time, and they can make some pretty accurate guesses as to how we’ll behave under certain situations. But they’re not all-knowing, they can’t read our minds like God can… all they can do is make educated guesses based on their observations.

So we’re not talking about equals here. And it’s unfortunate that so much teaching on spiritual warfare gives you the impression that God and Satan are locked in a war with neither side having the advantage, and we need to join into the battle so we can tip the scales on the side of God. That’s simply not true. God does not need us to defeat Satan.

But we do need God. You and I on our own do not have the power or the ability to resist let alone overcome Satan or his demons. We need the protection and the power of God. We need Him to equip us with what we need to prevail. As Lynn read earlier…

Ephesians 6:13-18 (NLT)
Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion.

I was sitting the Food Court this week working on this message, and one of the janitors that I know here was walking by. And his greeting to me was, “How’s the battle going?” I kind of chuckled to myself… he had no idea how relevant that question was to what I was working on.

So let me ask you, “How’s the battle going?” Are you winning it or losing it? Because if you’re trying to fight it on your own, you’re going to lose. But if you’re turning to God, and you’re relying on the spiritual armour He provides, and you’re worshipping Him and you’re praying to Him for strength and courage and protection, then you’re going to win.

1 John 3:8 (NLT)
…The Son of God came to destroy the works of the devil.

Romans 16:20 (NLT)
The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.

Because God has no equal, and not even Satan can overcome God.

Song:
God of This City                        

Here’s number four… and we have to remind ourselves of this from time to time because it’s easy to forget while we’re still battling day to day, but…

4.    The war was already won at the Cross, though skirmishes persist

This happens all the time when it comes to war. In a war, there is often a decisive moment of victory… the war has been won… but there are still skirmishes for a period of time. The outcome has already been decided, it’s not going to change… one side has won, the other side has been defeated… but there are still outbreaks of conflict here and there.

Well, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ broke the hold of Satan’s power. Satan was defeated. In the moment Satan thought he had won, he was defeated. Jesus’ victory was assured. The war was over. And even though there are skirmishes still going on now, and we still experience the results of this spiritual battle, the outcome is not in question. The war was already won at the Cross.

Romans 6:10 (NLT)
When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God.

2 Timothy 1:10 (NLT)
He broke the power of death and illuminated the way to life and immortality through the Good News.

One song writer (Horatio Spafford) who himself faced extreme tragedy in his life, and who faced spiritual warfare, penned these words…

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
~ Horatio Spafford

Horatio Spafford knew that the war had already been won. Jesus achieved the victory with His own blood, and He assured the victory with His resurrection.

We’re going to take the time right now to celebrate the Lord’s Supper together, commemorating the victory that Jesus won for you and for me. And it really is a celebration. You know, we celebrate days like D-Day… we remember the cost but we also celebrate the victory that it represents. It’s that way with Communion. We remember the sacrifice of Jesus… what He went through because of His great love for you and for me… but we also celebrate that because of what He did, we can live in victory today.

Communion

Prayer


5.    Someday, Satan and all his followers will face their final judgment

Here’s something you may not know… The Bible teaches that right now, Satan is not in Hell. We tend to think that He’s already there, that it’s his home, his domain… that he rules from there. But that’s not true at all. Hell is a place of punishment… a place that is prepared for Satan and his followers, not as a place for him to rule, but as a place where he will be a prisoner for all of eternity.

And he’s not there yet. There’s debate about what the Bible teaches about this, but it seems that right now the Devil is roaming the earth seeking out people that he can destroy. He’s aggressively working against God in this world. He’s not in Hell right now, but someday that’s where he will be.

The New Testament book of Revelation is understood to be a description of a vision that God gave to the apostle John about what will happen at the end of time. And it talks about a coming judgment…

Revelation 20:10,15 (NLT)
Then the devil, who had deceived them, was thrown into the fiery lake of burning sulfur, joining the beast and the false prophet. There they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. … And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire.

And Jesus, talking about Judgment Day, said…

Matthew 25:41 (NLT)
“Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons.’ ”

That hasn’t happened yet. That’s still in the future. And it’s not a happy thing. It’s necessary, but it’s not happy. Because it’s not just Satan, it’s not just the demons… it’s all who choose to reject the authority of God. That means that there are people that you know and love and there are people that I know and love who on that Judgment Day are going to be sentenced right alongside Satan.

And that’s why it’s so imperative that you and I be about the business of telling people about Jesus… about what He’s done for them, about what a difference He’s made in our lives, about His crucifixion and resurrection and how that gives you the assurance of a future home in Heaven. We want to help as many people as possible avoid the fate awaiting Satan and his followers.

That gives us reason to tell others about Jesus. But it also gives us reason to celebrate. Because this is what we’re saved from. Jesus through His power and the work of the Holy Spirit has set us free from our bondage to sin and death, and in fact He can set us free from all demonic bondage. And He has guaranteed us a future when spiritual warfare will no longer be a factor we have to face. It will end, and we will be free to enjoy everything He has waiting for us in Heaven.

Songs:
Amazing Grace (with My Chains are Gone)        
Jesus, Come                        
Rock of Ages You Will Stand                

Prayer

 

 

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