Satan, Demons, and Spiritual Warfare (Part 5) – Engaging In Battle


Having learned more about Satan and demons over the past several posts, I now want to focus on spiritual warfare – that is, how are we to engage Satan and demons in battle. As noted in the introductory post to this series, we need to remember that spiritual warfare is not just for “elite” Christians, but for ordinary Christians; Satan is real and uses his demonic forces as well as our own sinful natures and the structures of the world to try to lead us away from following God. As I reflected on the nature of the war and various instructions in Scripture, I came up with seven “P’s” that will hopefully help us in this battle. (Some of these might be a stretch, but I wanted to make sure they all start with the letter “P”as I always find alliteration helpful in these contexts!)

1. Proceed with Caution (1 Peter 5:8-9)
The first step is to recognize that there is a war out there and we are living in the war zone! This idea of proceeding with caution is not that we should be afraid that  Satan is out there, but to be aware of him and recognize that he will seek to lead us astray. As Peter tells us, we are to  “be sober-minded; be watchful” as we know the devil is out there. Only if we are aware of him will we be able to “resist him” (1 Peter 5:8-9). We must live with an awareness of the victory won in Christ but also the reality of battles being fought.

2. Push Away and Run to God (James 4:7-8)
We read in James 4:7-8: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” We need to push ourselves away from the influences and work of Satan, and the best way to do that is to run to God. As Gregory Boyd says, we are called to live a revolting lifestyle – that is, a lifestyle that is revolting to Satan. We do this by clinging to God and not dabbling with things like anger and unforgiveness; we need to continue preaching the gospel to ourselves. 

3. Put On the Armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-20) 
In talking about the spiritual battle, the Apostle Paul tells us to put on the full armor of God, which really consists of the various truths of the gospel and things that Christ has accomplished for us. Since the “sword of the Spirit” is the Word – and particularly the spoken Word of God – we need to hear and listen to God’s Word and have that truth fit against Satan and his attacks (as his primary weapon is deceit and falsehoods). 

4. Pray (Epheians 6:17-19; Matthew 6:13; Mark 9:28)
Related to the armor of God is prayer, as it comes in the passage discussing the armor. We also see commands to pray, as Jesus says that certain kinds of demons can only be expelled through prayer and instructs us to pray that we enter not into temptation but are delivered from evil (with this reference to evil likely not just evil in general but rather the Evil One – Satan himself). As we pray, we should also call for the prayers of others – as Paul does in Ephesians 6 – and also know that Jesus continues to intercede for us as well (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25). Jesus may similarly be praying for us as he prayed for Peter in Luke 21. Let us remember that history is made by the intercessors (something Walter Wink wrote in his discussion of spiritual warfare); prayer is the weapon and tool of God’s spiritual warriors! John Piper helpfully points out that prayer is not a telephone to God – it is a walkie talkie from those in battle to the Commander!

5. Puncture False Thoughts (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)
Since a primary tactic of Satan is false teaching and we know that he is the “accuser” of believers, we need not only resist or avoid false thoughts, but “puncture” them or “pop” them like a balloon when they come our way. As Paul writes, “we destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” Let us resist false teachings and instead take all our thoughts captive to the truth of Christ and the gospel. We need to have the gospel transform our minds so these false thoughts have no place and we can identify them before they take over. 

6. Proclaim Christ’s Victory and Authority (Colossians 2:14-15; Hebrews 2:14-15; 1 John 3:8b-10; 4:7)
While we need to be aggressive to recognize and counter false truths, we also need to continually remind ourselves of the victory of Christ — Satan and the demons are losers who are trying to do the most damage they can before their final defeat. Let us remember Christ’s victory and know that sin and death do not have the grip over us. We need to proclaim Christ’s victory over the forces of evil to ourselves and each other!

7. Participate in Christian Community (Hebrews 3:12-13; 10:24-25)
Something we sometimes forget as we read the New Testament is that it was written to churches; much of the language of these writers is not “you” in the singular, but “you” as a plural noun. We need to help each other in this battle. Let us leave no man or woman behind or let no brother or sister wander away from our formation into enemy territory or without backup or cover. We need to pray for each other and recognize that when we are alone and isolated, we are most vulnerable. Let us gather together and encourage one another in this journey. In many ways, to be outside of the church community is to be in the hands of Satan (see 1 Corinthians 5:5; 1 Timothy 1:20). 

Final Thought
Not only is love a battlefield – the Christian life is a battlefield and we need to be ready for it. To be forewarned is to be forearmed. Let us remember that we are in this battle and the confidence we have is in the One who fights for us. He fights on our behalf and he fights to win us and have a relationship with us.

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