Ephesians 6:11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.
The Occult. Of course there's a lot of quackery, superstition, and ignorance promoted by members of the occult. But, there are some inexplicable things that many returning Christian missionaries have seen first-hand. These inexplicable things include the pronouncement of curses by the village medicine man, voodoo healing practitioners who heal without even seeing their "patient", and so on. Added to this, many missionaries have gone into third-world countries and been afflicted by tormenting dreams, mysterious sicknesses, family breakdown, and serious depression. It might be naive to simply regard this merely as bad luck or coincidence. In the Third World (or more accurately, the "Two Thirds World") the spiritual realm is not some mere theory. It is very real and an active interplay with everyday life.
Ephesians 4:27 and give no opportunity to the devil.
Even as I write this I feel within me a deep concern that someone will misuse what I have said and justify either their own sin or foolishness which has brought them into some dire situation. So before those of you who are mature and gifted with some foresight point out to me that I could be fuelling irresponsibility and leading others into self-justification and blame-shifting . . . I know and I share your concern.
James 4:7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
When Christ died on the Cross He defeated the Devil (1John 3:8). The Devil is ultimately a defeated foe. His doom is certain. Unlike some Christians who promote a concept called "Middle Knowledge" (that God only knows the future rather than directs the future), the Scriptures do not paint spiritual warfare with a view to God needing our help to defeat the Devil and his minions. Instead, God's knowledge should be regarded as "Sovereign Knowledge" (God knows the future because He determines the future) and despite the fate of the Devil and demons being eternal damnation in the Lake of Fire, we still face his harassing, tempting, and doubting tentacles in this life. And what's even more annoying, there are times when God ordains that this be the case in order for us to toughen up and grow up!
Paul the apostle knew what it was to be engaged in spiritual battle. He described this battle taking place in his mind-
2Corinthians 10:3-5 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ
It appears that the Devil can sow thoughts into our minds which are contrary to the Word of God, against the Will of God and defiant to the Ways of God. The way we counter such attacks is familiarity with the Word of God. To become familiar with the Word of God we saturate our minds in it and strive to order our lives by it. There are times when the believer has to apply 2Corinthians 10:5 and bring certain thoughts captive to Christ. The Enemy can seek to bring doubt into our minds but we fight to fill our minds with the Word of Faith. The Enemy can lure us to think that God is unfaithful and therefore unreliable but we fight to remind ourselves of the Lord's previous provision and blessing. The Enemy seeks to sow discord into our minds but we fill our minds with the words of Christ to love, forgive, and serve others. This is how we fight. It is a different strategy to that of Charismatics who ironically get distracted by the Enemy by taking their attack directly to him. I say ironically because this is the very goal of the Enemy's attack: to distract us.
Revelation 2:10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.
Last Sunday night I sensed something foreign in our meeting. I don't usually. But I did then. I leant across to my two older daughters and said be very careful right now to stay focused on the Lord because the Enemy's presence is also in this place and he will attempt to distract us. No sooner had I finished saying this when my youngest daughter began screaming. I simply looked at my two older daughters and said See. Any attack of our Enemy is to distract us from loving God. He prowls like a lion, Peter tells us -
1Peter 5:8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
He is, of course, toothless (thanks to Christ). But he still looks intimidating. He is the consequences of yielded temptation that stares at you on your fridge everyday. He is the one who ensured that you never found the time to apologise and reconcile with the one who offended you. He lies. He cheats. He shortcuts. He gets at you in your weakest moments. He keeps you from your life source (time in congregational worship, time alone in prayer and study, and time being taught the Word of God) by ensuring that something more urgent will be on when church is on. And also seeks to make you so busy that you will feel worn out-
Daniel 7:25 He shall speak words against the Most High,
and shall wear out the saints of the Most High,
and shall think to change the times and the law . . .
How do combat the schemes of Satan? It will be difficult. It will require rare humility. It will require being teachable, submitted, and open to change. It will demand concentration and commitment. For, the Enemy will make our way seem right to us (Proverbs 14:12; 16:25). He will ensure that we take offence and because resentful and thus unable to be instructed. He will cue you on how to be self-justified when it comes to demanding and getting your own way. He will twist the words of God and superimpose his own words onto them.
Therefore, we must be people of the Word who hear and heed it together. This is one major reason why we all (together at the same time) going through the same passage of Scripture quickened to us by the Holy Spirit in our Kids Church, Bible Study Groups, and Sunday night meetings. This passage of Scripture, by the way, is a spiritual warfare passage - Romans 12:9-21 - that helps to not only define the spiritual hedge of protection, but to build it as well. I can guarantee you that the Devil does not want us to either apprehend or comprehend this powerful passage of Scripture. But if we can allow the eyes of our understanding to be opened then we will experience breakthrough like never before as a church. Undoubtedly, the Enemy will do all he can to keep us from studying and living out this passage of Scripture. (If you are not in a Bible Study Group which is studying Romans 12:9-21, then I urge you to join one.)
We must not be distracted from being fully devoted to Christ, His Church and His Cause. This is how we fight. For some time now I have been teaching that worship is much more than singing in church on Sunday. It is. But I am afraid that I have not fully presented the heart of God or His Word on this matter. I have come in recent weeks to understand that worshiping God through singing in church is one of the most powerful acts of worship I can offer. I apologise for diminishing is importance. We enter into offensive spiritual warfare when we sing our worship together to God-
Psalm 149:6 Let the high praises of God be in their throats and two-edged swords in their hands,
And finally, we engage in spiritual warfare when despite our situation we reach out with the Gospel to others. We may reach out like Saint Andrew who simply invited his brother to hear Jesus (John 1:40-41). We too can invite people to church to hear the Gospel. This is warfare. We can share God's plan of salvation with someone. Do this, and you'll be engaged in spiritual warfare. Refuse to be distracted, deterred, or discouraged, and you'll be fighting a good fight of faith (1Tim. 6:12). Fill your mind with the Word of God, refresh your heart by worshiping in congregational singing, ignite your soul with passionate prayer to God (rather than against Satan), and you'll be fighting a good fight in his spiritual battle.
Make no mistake about it. We are at war. There is a lot at stake. We are not just playing church. We are engaged in an intensely important enterprise that demands we be on guard. Let us commit ourselves to stand together against the schemes of the Devil and to advance the cause of Christ by seeing our church grow with new converts won out of the Devil's domain into the Kingdom of Christ!
Philemon 6 and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.