The term spiritual warfare implies that we are in a fight. It is a hard fight, but a good fight. Don’t let anyone tell you that everything will be roses and sunshine when you become a Christian. The storm comes on the just and the unjust alike.
A good fight is one that we win, and yet a battle we are incapable of fighting on our own. We must partner with God, acknowledge Him as King, and submit to His leadership if we are to fight a good fight and lay hold of the promises of God.
1 Timothy 6:12 (NKJV) Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
We see many examples of Israel’s physical battles in the Old Testament and how the Lord brought them to victory when they obeyed God and followed His instructions. We also see what happened when they did not follow God’s instructions or stepped out presumptuously to fight in their limited strength and understanding. Israel’s physical battles are types and shadows of the spiritual battles we must fight today. They are full of instruction and insight we must glean to wage effective warfare.
We will first explore aspects of the good fight that are foundational to being effective at spiritual warfare, helping us focus our attention on the battles that matter most. Being a good soldier requires maintaining specific lifestyle disciplines. Each chapter will focus on a particular discipline or understanding that will keep us in a state of readiness and constant awareness of the spiritual battles we all face.
Many self-professing Christians live without an awareness of the supernatural struggle between light and darkness. They do not view Christianity as warfare nor engage in the effort to live out the gospel. These are not good soldiers; they are no threat to the enemies’ kingdom and no help to the kingdom of God. They are fruitless branches that will be cut down and thrown into the fire. A good soldier lives his life engaged in spiritual warfare and bears much fruit.
Picking our fights
Not all fights are good fights, and not all fights are faith fights. We struggle to enforce the victory that has already been won for us by Jesus Christ. It is a fight to overcome darkness, destroy the works of Satan, and establish the kingdom of God and His government on Earth.
Israel fought to defend and expand a physical kingdom in the Old Testament. In the New Testament, our battles are for acquiring and developing an unseen realm, a spiritual domain. The kingdom of God is in the heart of every born-again believer. Spiritual warfare is all about stewarding the kingdom within us and allowing the kingdom to expand and overtake our entire being until it begins to flow out of us and impact the world around us.
Luke 17:20-21 (NKJV) Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; 21 nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”
Matthew 11:12 (NKJV) And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.
Luke 16:16 (NKJV) “The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it.
Spiritual warfare, like any warfare, requires fighting. Fighting people is undoubtedly not a good fight. If we find ourselves fighting against people, we are in the wrong battle and fighting for the wrong kingdom. One of the enemy’s many strategies is to trick us into fighting against other people so that we neglect or simply miss the spiritual battle around us, expending our energy, resources, and time on fights we should not be engaged in brings confusion, division, weakness, and discouragement. The enemy is relentless in his efforts to keep us fighting against one another.
Spiritual warfare occurs in two arenas: the internal and external.
The first arena is the battlefield of self. We fight to tear down strongholds of carnal thinking and wrong beliefs in our hearts and minds. We fight this battle by renewing our minds through exposure to God’s word and fellowship with other believers. As we pursue a relationship with the Father, we find our calling and grow in the faith. We mature in Christ, becoming more prepared to fight in the other battle arena.
The second arena of spiritual warfare is against spiritual beings in our fallen world. In this arena, we fight primarily through prayer, intercession, and demonstration of the kingdom of God. As we mature in Christ, our authority increases, and we become more effective at fighting in this arena and skillful at destroying the works of the devil.
Ephesians 6:12 (NKJV) For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
We don’t fight for victory; we fight from a place of victory. We must believe that our fighting bears fruit. Most of the time, we cannot immediately see the impact of our efforts in spiritual warfare. We must trust in God’s commandments, believing that our obedience is a partnership with His completed work.
Victory has already been won through the blood of the Lamb. Our faith in Jesus Christ as our savior has won the battle for our eternal salvation. We did not fight to get ourselves saved. Jesus did the fighting for us. All we had to do was acknowledge His victory and His lordship.
1 John 5:4-5 (NKJV) For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
Why are we still in a fight if the battle has already been won? While we remain alive on the earth, a raging battle continues. Satan resists the growth and expansion of God’s kingdom within us.
Galatians 2:20 (NKJV) I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
We fight to keep the faith, exercise our faith, and grow in faith until we have mastery over our flesh. We fight daily by picking up our cross and following Him.
Luke 9:23 (NKJV) Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.
We now have the great honor of dying for the King. Once we die to ourselves, Christ shines the brightest in us, and we become the light of the world we were created to be.
Matthew 5:14-16 (NKJV) “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
Others will see the light of God in us and desire what we have. Some will see the light and be offended. Regardless of their response, we should keep on shining.
1 Peter 1:7 (NKJV) so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Warfare tests our faith. The testing of faith is the only “good fight” available to us. All other fights are distractions and deceptions of the enemy to keep us from dying to self and growing up into Christ in all things. Hebrews 12 uses the analogy of running a race to describe our spiritual battle.
Hebrews 12:1-2 (NKJV) Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Running a good race is fighting the good fight. Paul gives us further instruction in 1 Corinthians 9.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (NKJV) Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. 25 And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. 26 Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. 27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.
Notice in verse 26 that Paul calls this race a fight. He tells us that we run this race to win by disciplining our body and bringing it into subjection. He speaks of temperance and implies that confidence and skill are necessary. Paul is talking about our flesh, the fallen nature we were all born into under Adam.
When we discipline our bodies by fasting, prayer, denying our sensual impulses, and making no provision for the flesh, we limit the voice of our fallen nature and leave little room for Satan to have a voice. It is only through our carnal self that Satan can gain entrance into our lives.
Here is further instruction from the New Testament:
Romans 13:11-14 (NKJV)And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. 12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.
Matthew 10:38 (NKJV) And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.
James 4:4 (NKJV) 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.
Friendship with the world is spiritual adultery! Let that sink in.
Mark 8:38 (NKJV) For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”
From the strong language in the above passages, we see the mandate of God to separate from the world and die to our selfish desires. We should never candy coat this. We must wake up daily and present ourselves before the Lord, laying our lives on the alter.
If we buy a house and pay for it in full, but the previous owner refuses to move out, we have a breach of contract, a violation of the covenant. We are His house. We are His temple. He will not fully move into His temple until the carnal man dies and is removed from the premises. He will not share space with anything unholy. God is very particular about where He abides. We can see this clearly from the Old Testament Temples and the tent of meeting.
However, God is gracious. He is patient and kind. He gives us time to move out, time to die to ourselves, and time to grow spiritually. He has given us the Holy Spirit to dwell in us and His word to help us remove everything in His temple that is not pleasing to Him.
Thanks be to God!
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NKJV) Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore, glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which is God’s.
Romans 12:1-2 (NKJV) I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
We find a valuable truth in Exodus that will help us fight to keep the old man crucified. In Exodus 33:18, Moses said to God, “please show me your glory.” This was God’s response:
Exodus 33:20 (NKJV) But He said, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live.”
Intimacy with God and exposure to His word is our carnal man’s face-to-face encounter with the Lord, and no man can see God and live. Approaching God daily with an unveiled face and beholding His glory crucifies the old man while at the same time transforming us into His image from one degree of glory to the next.
2 Corinthians 3:18 (NKJV) But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
God paid the ultimate price to restore the broken relationship caused by Adam’s sin. The sacrifice of Christ has provided the way back to the Father. It is a narrow road and one that the carnal man cannot walk. Let us nail our fallen nature to the cross and no longer live for ourselves. He is worthy of our life, and He is worthy of our death.
May God give us understanding in all these things.
2 Corinthians 5:15 (NKJV) He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.
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