8-9-15 SPIRITUAL WARFARE
August 9, 2015
Christians today are much more apt to talk about peace, than about war. After all, Jesus promised to give us peace (John 14:27), and said "blessed are the peacemakers" (Matthew 5:9). When I give the benediction at the end of the service, it usually includes words such as "depart in peace". So why a sermon on warfare? Because while we are to strive for peace in this world, it will never become a total reality until Jesus returns, and satan is removed for a thousand years (Revelation 20:1-3). Until then he will continue to wage war on God and mankind.
Indeed, since the first two humans walked the earth, satan has been trying to do everything in his power to turn us against God, and thus drag our souls into hell for all eternity, where he knows his ultimate fate lies (Revelation 20:10). He is motivated primarily by his hatred for God, and his jealousy over God's love for us. On the surface one would think this would be an overwhelmingly difficult task. Why would anyone choose satan over God? And why would anyone choose hell over heaven?
And yet, it did not take long at all for him to convince Eve to commit the first sin, and Adam to quickly follow. In Genesis chapter 3, we read how satan, disguised as a serpent, caused Eve first to question what God had told her, and then secondly to question his motives. Adam and Even had everything. They lived in a beautiful garden with peaceful animals that they were given the privilege to name. They had no worries, no fears, no sickness, no death. They got to walk with God and talk to Him face to face on a daily basis, with no guilt or shame whatsoever because they not only never sinned, they never even knew what sin was. But satan used his own sin, of wanting to be God, as the bait to tempt mankind to sin. He told Eve that if she ate the one fruit in the garden that God had forbidden them to eat, she would 'be like God, knowing good and evil'. In addition, he called God a liar, saying she would not die if she ate it. But it was really satan that was lying, and it is satan that always lies. Never God.
That is the first thing we need to remember. God's Word is truth. But, as you heard in our Gospel reading for today (Matthew 4:1-11), satan can use God's Word. He was even so bold as to try and lead Christ (who is God incarnate) astray using God's own Word. Of course it did not work, but it has worked on many a human, who has believe a twisted version of Scripture, and a polluted interpretation of the Bible, that satan has lured them with. The apostle Paul warned Timothy with these words, "The Spirit clearly says that in the later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron." (1 Timothy 4:1,2) We must be like the Christians in Berea who "searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth." (Acts 17:11b) There are preachers today that will tell you what they think you want to hear. But if God's Word doesn't back it up, be wise and realize who is really speaking through them. They might promise all sorts of earthly blessings, but remember that satan also promised Christ earthly blessings, if only Christ would worship him instead of God. Earthly blessings in exchange for an eternal soul? As the Bible says, "And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?" (Mark 8:36)
And do not be deceived by disguises. 'Oh, but that was the nicest person I ever met! He must be a Christian - he knows the Bible so well!' 'She would never harm a soul!' Yes, satan originally appeared as a serpent, but remember that while today many people fear snakes, before the fall of man, there was no fear of snakes, or any other animal. They did not kill, they did not harm - they were man's friends. So Eve did not feel threatened in the least by the serpent whose form satan took. Today he is not likely to appear as a serpent. He will take on the form of something you are NOT afraid of. As the Bible says, he will appear as an angel of light, and so will his apostles (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). Just as that nice looking salesman who knocks on your door doesn't come dressed as a street thug, but is well-trained in the 'bait and switch' technique; so satan also knows what guise you will respond to best. He has done his research, and he has had thousands of years to practice his technique.
So how do we battle this archenemy of ours? First of all, we need to be on guard 24/7. The Bible tells us to "watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. (Mark 14:38) Secondly, have your armor on. As we heard in our epistle reading (Ephesians 6:10-19), our defensive weapons include:
SALVATION (If you aren't a Christian, you are an easy target. So if you haven't accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior, that is the very first thing you must do!).
TRUTH (The only thing that can defeat a lie).
RIGHTEOUSNESS (If you are engaging in willful sin, the devil already has a grip on you).
FAITH (If your faith is weak, so are your defenses).
THE GOSPEL (You must consciously accept that Christ has already defeated satan, as this gives you the courage to stand against him).
And finally, remember that the best defense is a good offense. Note that our epistle reading names only ONE offensive weapon. But that is all we need to wage war. It is the WORD OF GOD. The one weapon that satan cannot defeat is God's Word, which is the sword of the Spirit!
Besides all of this, we must pray; and as a church we must pray for each other. If you see another member struggling against the adversary, pray for them. Pray with them. Carry them if you must. Our military has the motto "Leave no soldier behind". We must also follow that motto! So let's put on our armor, grab our weapons, and march forward into battle together, "strong in the Lord and in His might power" (Ephesians 6:10).