Just a little more than two hundred years ago, soldiers in brightly colored red or blue suits marched in line to a drum. When they encountered one another, the skirmishes that proceeded consisted of each army lining up facing each other, taking a few turns firing muskets at one another, maybe a few cannons went off and then, after blowing a horn to announce their intent, they proceeded to charge! At that signal, both lines deployed, running at full sprint to somewhere in the middle for hand to hand combat…the casualties were many and the ground bloodied with wounded and dead men. A thousand years before that, men lined up, shouted and yelled a bit, let loose some arrows toward the other side then charged into the middle and started swinging and hacking away with swords, hammer clubs, spears and shields. There is a reason for the adage, War is Hell.
Good grief! Can you imagine living through even one battle much less surviving a war?
It was General Patton who once said (and I paraphrase)…
“The object of war is not to die for your country, but to make the other man die for his.”
If I remember correctly, the General was a little more colorful in his choice of words, but you get the point. Thank goodness some genius finally hit upon a significant change in strategy: Why not hide behind the rocks and trees rather than charge out in front of the enemy in open daylight? Good idea!
As weapons evolved, the tactics of warfare changed. At one time in history, bow and arrows changed the face of war and led to the dominance and occupancy of the world. Later, it was black powder. The progression of weaponry evolved, even moving on to today’s nuclear technology. The disciplines of science—physics, chemistry, engineering, and so forth—have combined with computer advancements to produce weaponry that one can scarcely imagine. The creation of both offensive and defensive weapons has impacted our physical world more than we may ever or care to know.
But perhaps even more astonishing than the evolution of physical warfare is this: our physical world is not the only environment where battles rage and creatures are engaged in war. In his second letter to the believers in Corinth, the apostle Paul reminded them of an important truth:
Though we walk (live) in the flesh, we are not carrying on our warfare according to the flesh and using mere human weapons. For the weapons of our warfare are not physical [weapons of flesh and blood], but they are mighty before God for the overthrow and destruction of strongholds, [inasmuch as we] refute arguments and theories and reasoning and every proud and lofty thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God; and we lead every thought and purpose away captive into the obedience of Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One).
2 Corinthians 10:3–5 (AMP)
Up until Jesus’ day, God-fearing men were on the defense, trying not to sin. But Christ changed the game. He changed the rules of engagement, and our side of the battle moved from a one-dimensional defense to an advancing position—offense.
The New Testament writings abound with references to spiritual battle.
Jesus talked about it (John 10:10; 12:31; Mark 4:15; Matt. 12:26).
Jesus engaged in it (Matt. 4:1–11, Luke 4:40–41).
Jesus trained His disciples in how to do it and how to live in it—victoriously. (Luke 10:17–19; Acts 16:16–18; 19:11–16).
Looking at key words and key passages, I’ve estimated a little more than 20 percent of the New Testament speaks to our Evolving Spiritual Warfare. The false self, the world, Satan, darkness, demons, the old nature, sin and all the other words that describe the characters, factors and ingredients that make up the Unholy Trinity: the world, the flesh, and the Devil have all evolved. Oh it is still the same mission, “Separate them from the one who loves them most.” It is the tactics that have evolved. Although we may hear these passages and subjects preached on from time to time, it is seldom in the context of Spiritual Warfare or the grander themes in the conflict of the Larger Story and its Two Realms, physical and spiritual, and Two Kingdoms, darkness and light.
And yet, the warfare theme is prolific in the Gospels, and Jesus encounters it often. The book of Acts also portrays the existence of spiritual warfare in the first-century church. And all the letters to the first believers and their churches give warning, instruction, and training on how to walk wisely and fight effectively in these battles over the heart, for that is what the spiritual battles war over… which kingdom can occupy the alliance, allegiance and affection of a heart?
In a war, what does one side do when the other side unleashes its new secret weapon? What are you to do whenever one side in a conflict brings a technology, a weapon, a skill, or a differently trained personnel into the fray? You either retreat, adapt, or you surrender. In the Bible, we find numerous accounts of people’s encounters with the demonic rebels, the fallen angels and their tormenting of men and women and children. The way the kingdom of darkness was present throughout the history of the scriptures was uninhibited, unchecked and unmerciful. These are stories of good people invaded or influenced with bad spirits. Until… Jesus showed up.
What was once open war in biblical times, “pre- Jesus” biblical times—demons brashly invading the territory of cultures and hearts—it all changes when Jesus gets his sandals on the ground. By the authority of Christ, darkness submits and seems to even flee. It doesn’t just stop with Jesus, He gives his authority to His friends, to His disciples. Throughout the book of Acts, the disciples regularly encounter the presence of demonic troops and address them as their training taught them… head on and with authority. By the look of the landscape the kingdom of darkness retreated and quietly went away.
That is exactly what they did. For a time.
First, we know the war can’t be over because that is precisely why Jesus is coming back a second time (Revelation 19). Is it wise or safe to assume the other army, forces of darkness, are hold up in some POW camp waiting for that day? Or is it more wise to assume that the enemy has changed its tactics, evolved and gone quiet and is very much alive? What would you do if you were a fallen angel, a demon, and the followers of Christ came upon you picking on a human being, bullying and infecting some image bearer with your poisonous words or staining presence? Like those red coats of the Revolutionary War, you wouldn’t be very difficult to spot, and if you were well trained, you wouldn’t be very difficult for them to handle. Used to, you could do whatever you wanted in open markets or the streets. Who would stop you from intimidating and threatening life? Who indeed. Then the Kingdom of the Son shows up. You got one real option. Going quiet, going underground, keeping a low profile in order to work and lay claim to the sons of Adam and daughters of Eve. It is far to risky to be open with your taunts, temps and torments. Subversive techniques evolve to advance your cause. It is still objective #1- Separate the Image Bearers from the Love of God. But quietly and almost un-noticeable. Think about it... if we don’t know warfare exists nor how it works, then how can we engage, activate the authority given to us… live victoriously?
I highly recommend we start exploring with God the ways in which the spiritual battle has evolved and the current way it is to be fought. Certainly not every thing wrong in this world is the cause of fallen angels, but what is? If Christ and His authority brought the advanced weaponry to the side of Christ’s followers, why hasn’t the tide of battle shifted? Why do we do more church but seem to keep losing more ground? There are some good answers to such questions and the books The Heart of a Warrior, Screwtape Letters, and Waking the Dead are filled with the answers to such questions. We ought not live naïve or ignorant. Informed and engaged sound far better, and wielding the weapons available to us rather than wondering where they are might just launch the fighting of this war to a whole new level. I hope so. The authority of Christ has been given to us. That means only one thing… we must gonna need it.
Time to get in the fight for your heart, the precious territory Christ died to save, and engage in the battle for the hearts of others, all those in which He ransomed from darkness and invites to live in the light.
Galatians 5:1 says…
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
It was General Dwight D. Eisenhower who once said…
History does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or the timid.