Sunday, July 16, 2017

Spiritual Warfare Part 1

Shock and Awe

We’ve probably all watched a movie or at least a commercial for a movie dealing with the occult.  The scenes are terrifying.  People are contorted, screaming, and utterly defenseless.  Then there are the books – supposedly Christian books – that can be just as horrifying if not even more so.  You probably even have friends with scary stories.

I have seen demonic activity attributed to things purchased at a thrift store.  People I know have had their health issues blamed on demonic activity.  I have been told amazing stories that people I know have said to have experienced at the hands of the Devil and his minions.  I could tell a few of them myself.

All of these things contribute to what I call the Shock and Awe of the occult.  In the face of all of this stands our triune God who created the heavens and the earth.  Our understanding of this activity needs to come from Him.  Our experience and doctrine need to be understood and determined by His revelation in the scriptures alone.  We have no other guide in these or any other matters.  Our brains do not get to invent the interpretive grid.  It is our duty as believers to, in the words of Cornelius Van Til, “Think God’s thoughts after him.”  We need to say what he says and think in the ways he has told us to think.

There is an amazing scene that is presented to us in scripture where Jesus is with his disciples.  He has just reminded them of his coming death and of the fact that it is really close.  They are very worried.  The greatest act of spiritual warfare is about to commence.  He then speaks these words:

Joh 14:1 "Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.

We need this attitude when we approach spiritual warfare.  War is not pretty.  There is always damage.  Yet we have read the end of the story.  We know that Jesus wins.

Back to where we live – the World, the Flesh, and the Devil
You may have heard people speak of “The world, the Flesh, and the Devil.” That terminology comes from Ephesians 2:1-3:

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins,
in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.

These are the basic categories of spiritual warfare.  The phrase “course of this world” refers to the wide path that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 7:13-14 during the Sermon on the Mount.  The majority of people live their lives in a manner of fulfilling whatever desires they have without any reference to or thought of God[i].  They prefer to suppress or hold down the knowledge that the do have[ii].  They plod down the wide path toward their own doom.

The “Flesh” refers to our basic physical appetites and desires – our wants.  Believers have the Bible as a guide to discipline our wants.  We have the work of the Holy Spirit applying scripture in our hearts and minds.  We have the example of Jesus, his commands in Scripture, and the environment of his Church and its means of grace[iii] to help in living a life that points to Jesus.

And Now, Introducing (in my best announcer voice):

·       The Prince of the Power of the Air
·       The Deceiver
·       The Adversary
·       The Angel of Light

– ladies and gentlemen I give you

“The DEVIL!”

It often feels like the beginning of a boxing match when we talk about the Devil.  We hear of his titles and of his deeds.  We fear. 

Certainly, a little fear seems to be in order.  He did tempt our first parents in the garden and thus introduced Sin into the world. [iv] He and his demonic hordes have waged war for thousands of years against our God – even to the point of trying to destroy Jesus in his crib[v] and crucifying him.[vi]  He accused Job directly to God’s face[vii] and sifted Peter[viii].  He is currently in the business of being “your adversary the devil” who “walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”
1Pet 5:8 

However, in this case Fear is the “Theology of the First Glance.” Scripture says so much more about Satan.   Consider this:

Luk_10:18  And He said to them, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.

Rev_12:9  So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

Rev 20:2 He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years;

Jas 4:7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

I want to deal with the Devil first. We often walk around afraid of a fallen foe.  We do this in spite of the verses above that indicate his power has been significantly limited.  We will see later how we are to do battle with him.  I like to think of him as a scary dog on a chain and that I have a sword.  I think that is the picture we are given in scripture.  Even more than that – the closer we cling to God the less of a threat he becomes because God draws near to us. [ix]

The scriptures describe the Devil working in a number of ways:

·       He is our accuser before God.  We see this on at least 3 occasions.[x]
·       He is involved in many of our temptations as he was when he tempted Jesus.  [xi]
·       He puts unbelievers into the church. [xii]
·       He can have a good deal to do with the situations in which we find ourselves.  [xiii]

The World

The world is the place we live.  It is a fallen place.  I think Romans describes it best:

Rom 8:19- 23 “For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope;  because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.  Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.

The entire earth is fallen.  We have essentially converted it to a replica of Pinnochio’s Pleasure Island.  It has become a place where we “conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath.”  It is said in James that:

Jas 4:1-4  “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?  You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.  Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

The Ephesians passage was referring to how we lived as unbelievers.  James is telling us that this often describes us a Christians! 

The Flesh

This is where we live.  It’s our body.  It has various needs and wants.  In the early chapters of the Bible we learn of both the creation and of the fall of man into sin.  We were created to need food.  God placed our first parents in an amazing garden with plenty to eat.  There was but one restriction.

          Gen 2:7-9  “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the
ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. The LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed. And out of the ground the LORD God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”

Gen 2:15-17  “Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.  And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat;
but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die."

One little command – do not eat from a particular tree.  We all know the rest of the story.

Gen 3:6  So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.

This was an act of idolatry.  A want was placed above the need of a right relationship with the Creator.  The satisfying act had effects on all of history.  It is the same pattern we see in the book of James.

          Jas 1:14  But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his       
          own desires and enticed.

The desire to satisfy our own wants is the origin of our temptations. These temptations come from the World, the Flesh, and the Devil.  These are the objects of our spiritual warfare.

Church History

In searching through a number of the creeds produced by the Church over many centuries, I have yet to locate a statement of faith regarding casting out of demons.  It may be that I have missed a reference but I did in fact search a number of them.  The Devil has certainly been around.  We know that from scripture.  Yet, The Church, as the Church, has never made a definitive statement regarding the casting out of demons.  It has spoken quite eloquently of spiritual warfare. 

What saith the Scriptures? (What is spiritual warfare?)

Today we have at least 2 radically different interpretations of Spiritual Warfare.  Most people in both camps acknowledge the importance of the principles laid out above.  The big difference comes in the area of dealing with what is thought of as casting out the Devil and his demons.  The importance of casting out often tends to overshadow the other aspects of Spiritual Warfare.  Given that the creeds of the church do not even speak of this practice it should come under some suspicion.  We need to search the scriptures to understand the role of casting out demons in God’s word and it alone must be our authority.  The Bible is to interpret our experience.  To interpret what God says in light of our experience turns His revelation on its’ head and makes man rather than God the final interpreter.

We do see a good deal of the Activity of the Devil and his minions in the Old Testament.  Satan tempted our first parents in the garden.  This certainly shows the Devil to be an actual being.  The section above goes into this – the Devil is real.

What we do not see anywhere is people casting out demons.  It simply does not occur in the Old Testament.  We know that it did happen historically in other cultures:

“Many cultures and religions contain some concept of demonic possession, but the details vary considerably. The oldest references to demonic possession are from the Sumerians, who believed that all diseases of the body and mind were caused by "sickness demons" called gidim or gid-dim.[2] The priests who practiced exorcisms in these nations were called ashipu (sorcerer) as opposed to an asu (physician) who applied bandages and salves.[3] Many cuneiform clay tablets contain prayers to certain gods asking for protection from demons, while others ask the gods to expel the demons that have invaded their bodies.” [xiv]

Demonic activity had become pretty common by the time Jesus was born. It is found throughout the gospels.  We find the disciples/apostles and sometimes those closely associated with them involved in this ministry.  On at least one occasion we see someone not identified with the apostles casting out demons.[xv]

Old Testament prophesy pointed to the time of the Messiah being a time of miracle working.  John the Baptist was in prison and had some doubts.  Jesus pointed to his ministry to answer John’s question as to Jesus’ ministry:

“Mat 11:2  And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples and said to Him, "Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?" Jesus answered and said to them, "Go and tell John the things which you hear and see:  The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.”[xvi]

These were things that John would be familiar with.  There were prophesies of the Messiah and His work.  That work included these signs and wonders that would authenticate his message.  They were done for people to see that he was the Messiah.  The people of Israel knew that these would be done in their midst and Jesus performed them for that purpose.

Jesus gave this same power and authority to His apostles and a few others.  Paul alludes to this in 2 Cor. 12:12 when He says: 

“Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds.”

The signs and wonders were for a particular time in history and given to a particular group of people.  They had as their purpose the job of pointing to Christ.  It is interesting that by the time to book of Hebrews was written that these signs had pretty much died out.  See this from chapter 2:

“Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.  For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?”  Heb 2: 1-4

This confirmation of the message by signs and wonders was done prior to the time of the writing of the book of Hebrews!  These things – including the casting out of demons – were done at the time of Christ and those He commissioned during his earthly ministry.  They are not to be done today.  We are never told to speak to the devil and his demons or to cast them out.  That was for a different time and place. 

There are many occult types of practice in Massage Therapy today.  You can read my previous 2 article series entitled Energy Healing and the Christian part 1 and Energy Healing and the Christian part 2 to see how those practices specifically can be understood in a massage therapy practice and the principles can be applied to other types of occult practices as well.  In the post to follow we will focus more on how we should practice spiritual warfare today.

[i] Rom 1:28  And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting;

[ii] Rom_1:18  For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,

[iii] Q. 88. What are the outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption?
A. The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption are, his ordinances, especially the Word, sacraments, and prayer; all which are made effectual to the elect for salvation.
[iv] Genesis 3
[v] Matthew 2
[vi] Matthew 27
[vii] Job 1
[viii] Luk_22:31  And the Lord said, "Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat.
[ix] Jas_4:7  Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
[x] This is clearly seen in Job chapter 1.  We also see it in Zech. 3 where the High Priest is directly accused before God.  We see in Rev_12:10  “Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, "Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down.”  This accusing activity activity is constant.  On the other hand we have a mediator/counselor – Jesus.
[xi] Matthew and Luke in chapter four of their respective gospels both record the temptation of Jesus by the Devil.  Satan is shown tempting us:  Act_5:3  But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? 1Co_7:5  Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 
[xii] Mat_13:39  The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels.
[xiii] Luk_8:12  Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. 
1Pe_5:8  Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 
Rev_2:10  Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.
Rev_12:9  So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. 
Luk_13:16  So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound—think of it—for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?"
Luk_22:3  Then Satan entered Judas, surnamed Iscariot, who was numbered among the twelve.
Luk_22:31  And the Lord said, "Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat.
Joh_13:27  Now after the piece of bread, Satan entered him. Then Jesus said to him, "What you do, do quickly."
Act_5:3  But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself?
[xv] Mark 9:38-38, Luke 9:49-50  Most interpreters think this was a disciple of John the Baptist who was not in Jesus circle but was still in the group who followed John and knew of Jesus.
[xvi] Matt 11: 2-5

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