Spiritual Warfare In The Better Covenant
As a leader, people often ask me about spiritual warfare. I have come to realize that I do far less spiritual warfare than most people do. I have an unusual perspective on warfare. I do believe that demonic forces are at work in the world, but not in the way that many think. Most true spiritual warfare takes place in the arena of truth versus lies. The devil is a liar, and he uses his craftiness to get us to lay aside our identity and authority. Our battle must be understood as a battle to maintain our identity, because the authority we have been given as believers is contained in our identity.
Many Christians have reached a point emotionally where they feel as though they have been stripped of their armor. They have been beaten to a pulp. They have been chained and are being dragged behind the devil’s chariot as his spoils of war. Churches are filled with people that feel like Samson in the bottom of the prison. It is time that we understand what the Bible says about our identity so that we can get our authority back!
The truth regarding our identity is that we have been put into Christ. “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). We abide in Him, and He in us (see John 15:4). We have been seated with Him in heavenly places (see Eph. 2:6). “Greater is He who is in [us] than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4 NASB).
We should experience the truth of being “more than conquerors” (Rom. 8:37). Christians should be able to truly declare: “I can do all this through Him who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:13). The Word tells us that we are one in spirit with Him (see 1 Cor. 6:17). Therefore, the authority that we see in the life of Jesus is the authority that we have been given. He gave us the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven (see Matt. 16:19).
If we understand that we abide in Him (which also means that we abide in His authority), then our spiritual warfare is very different: we are not fighting for victory; we are fighting from victory.
We are fighting from victory.
Many have continued to fight and fight, but it is time to realize that Jesus already won the battle—and then He put us inside of Him to share this victory! Every Christian is inside of Christ, regardless of whether they are behaving perfectly or not.
And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5:11-12)
With the foundation that we are in Christ and share in His authority over the devil, let’s dive deeper into examining how utterly defeated the devil truly is.
The apostle Paul wrote much on the subject of spiritual warfare in the New Testament. Yet because of cultural differences, we have overlooked some of his best insights.
For example, we miss a lot of the meaning in Colossians 2:15, which says, “And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” When Paul uses the word disarmed in this passage, he is making a first-century cultural metaphor. Paul is saying that Jesus totally stripped satan of all his power and authority. It was a term used for the disarming of a defeated foe.
The word triumphing is another cultural reference. When a Roman general had a notable victory, he was allowed to march his victorious armies through the streets of Rome. Behind his chariot were chained all the kings and leaders he had vanquished. They were stripped naked, chained, and pulled behind the conquering general through the streets. They were publically humiliated and openly branded as his spoils.
Paul speaks of Jesus as a conquering General enjoying a cosmic triumph (see John 12:31). In Jesus’ triumphal procession are the powers of evil, beaten forever, for every- one to see. And because we have been put in Him, we are also in the chariot with Jesus.
Satan is now naked and powerless!
While many Christians feel like they are defeated warriors being dragged behind the devil’s chariot, the truth is that the devil is being dragged behind their chariots! It is time for us to realize that we can maintain constant authority over the devil by remembering that we are in the chariot with Jesus! We have triumphed over satan!
We must learn to maintain our triumph over the devil. The Lord provided us, not only with total victory, but also with complete triumph. It is important to grasp the difference between these two words: victory and triumph. For example, at a soccer game, when the end of the game comes, the team with the most goals wins and achieves victory.
We must learn to maintain our triumph over the devil.
Triumph is what takes place after victory has been achieved. Triumph is the celebration in the streets, the pubs, and the workplace. Triumph is the jumping up and down, the yelling and the obnoxious, grandiose boasting that occurs in the face of the losing opponent.
We are not still fighting a battle against satan, and we are not looking for victory. We are enforcing and reveling in the victory that is already ours; we are triumphing in our King Jesus. He “...always leads us in triumph in Christ...” (2 Cor. 2:14).
The devil wants the Church to think that we are fighting him, because he does not want the Church to understand that he has been defeated. Since his defeat was already accomplished, the Church is not on the earth to try to win a victory. Our starting point is victory, and from there we move forward. We are currently on Earth as ambassadors (see 2 Cor. 5:20; Eph. 6:19-20) enforcing and advancing the application of Jesus’ victory.
Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. (Hebrews 2:14-15 NASB)
This verse is absolutely stunning, and yet it is rarely quoted in the modern spiritual warfare circles. The devil has been rendered powerless by the cross of Christ. That is an amazing truth worthy of meditation.
His Only Weapon
Remembering that we are in the chariot with Jesus and our defeated foe, satan, is being dragged behind us, we can see that the ongoing battle of spiritual warfare is simply a matter of resisting our enemy’s voice. Even as he is dragged, defeated and pathetic, behind the chariot, he continues to taunt with lies, manipulations, temptation, and accusation, as well as intimidation. These are the only weapons he still has.
According to Scripture, lies are satan’s stock and trade:
Why is My language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:43-44)
If we allow ourselves to listen to his voice and then come into any form of agreement with him, we are essentially stepping out of Jesus’ chariot, stripping off our royal robes, and chaining ourselves beside satan.
This is the position of defeat to which many Christians have unnecessarily submitted themselves. The battle with the devil is a mind game in which he speaks to us and tries to lure us into agreement with him. One of the main mind games the devil uses is to plant thoughts or temptations in our minds. Then he tells us that these ideas are coming from the evil inside of us. This in turn causes us to condemn ourselves.
Many times I have asked Christians that are struggling with all their might against temptation if they want to sin; invariably the answer is no. Yet the thoughts continue to come. I would suggest that those thoughts are sourced in the voice of a demon that sounds like the old flesh nature they used to walk in.
This explanation is likely true for many of us. That is why we must capture these thoughts and be aware of where they are coming from.
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete. (2 Corinthians 10:3-6)
We must be on guard against satan’s lies. The apostle Paul said that the devil and his schemes should not outwit us, because “...we are not unaware of his schemes” (2 Cor. 2:11). Paul also told Timothy that demons have a theology that we Christians must be aware of. These doctrines of demons are subtle and convincing enough to lure Christians away from the faith. Paul wrote: “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons” (1 Tim. 4:1). Other translations use the term doctrines of demons.
While it is true that the devil goes about like a roaring lion, he is only able to devour those who buy into his lies. If we are aware of his schemes and do not allow him to outwit us, then we never have to end up in the lion’s mouth.
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith... (1 Peter 5:8-9)
According to the apostle John, we are literally untouchable to the devil. “We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them” (1 John 5:18). This is the reality that comes through knowing who we are in Christ, and refusing to agree with satan’s lies.
Since lies are what the devil uses to put people into bondage, truth is the tool that God uses to set people free. As the Bible says: “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).
For us to remain fixed in our triumph over the devil, we must remember two important words: resist and stand. The devil is already defeated, he has already lost, and there is nothing we can do to add to what Christ accomplished on the cross. So our current strategy is to resist and stand firm against the devil. We are standing and resisting the devil’s lies, since they are the only weapons he has left.
Resist him, standing firm in the faith... (1 Peter 5:9)
...Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)
Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. ...Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then... (Ephesians 6:11;13-14)
According to Ephesians 6, we have one strategy: stand against, stand our ground, stand firm. Once we understand that Jesus has already taken all of the devil’s authority, we realize that our objective is not obtaining victory, but maintaining victory. Jesus obtained all authority, and then gave it to His followers. Now we are to stand and resist the devil to maintain our position of authority.
We must identify these lies and begin to stand and resist them with the truth so that we can experience the victory Christ purchased for us.
As long as we continue to believe these lies, we will remain in bondage. If we become aware of the lies that we have agreed with, we can break these agreements, step into the truth, and be set free!