Myths about Spiritual Warfare

Spiritual Warfare  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Myths about Spiritual Warfare
Text: Acts 19:13–20 (KJV 1900)
13 Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists,
Luke 11:19–20 (KJV 1900)
19 And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your sons cast them out? therefore shall they be your judges. 20 But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you.
took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth.
14 And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so. 15 And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye? 16 And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.
17 And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. 18 And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds.
19 Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.
20 So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.
* I have chosen these passages of Scripture for our text this morning because they illustrate what I would like to deal with this morning.
* This morning I would like to deal with some of the false myths about spiritual warfare.
* What is spiritual warfare? A war of universal proportions pitting God and His truth against Satan and his lies.
* It’s a battle of wills between God and Satan.
* It’s a cosmic conflict that involves God and the highest creature He ever made and it filters down to every human being.
* Satan and his army of demons are fighting Christ, His holy angels, the nation of Israel, and believers. The battle lines are clearly drawn.
* Spiritual warfare is as old as the Garden of Eden. Spiritual warfare, war between God and his angles and Satan and His fallen angles, began in Heaven, before the story of Adam and Eve.
* Spiritual warfare came to mankind in the Garden of Eden when Lucifer came to Eve and tempted her to doubt the Word of God.
* We have our supreme model of spiritual warfare is found in the account of Jesus when He is tempted by Satan in the wilderness. There Jesus uses the Word of God to overcome Satan.
* This morning I want you to understand that the key to winning the battles in spiritual warfare is the Word of God.
* We live in a day of confusion about how we are to conduct spiritual warfare.
* Spiritual warfare is one of the most popular topics in theological discussion today, but it is also one of the most misunderstood and misrepresented teachings today as well.
C.S. Lewis wrote:
There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They, the demons, themselves are equally pleased by both errors, and hail a materialist or magician with the same delight.
(The Screwtape Letters [New York: Macmillan, 1961], p. 3).
* In our text we read about some men who, in Paul’s day, had a false understanding of spiritual warfare and attempted to deal directly with demons by confronting them directly like Jesus and the Apostles did.
* As you saw in our text, things didn’t go so well for them. These men were religious men, priests of the Jews, but did not have the authority that Jesus and the Apostles did to cast out demons.
* Much of what we hear taught about Spiritual warfare is not Biblical at all, but conquered up by Satan. The Devil has transformed himself, and his fallen angles, into “messengers of light” in order to hide from view his methods of warfare and his power to subvert the Word of God.
* There is nothing more necessary than to distinguish carefully between true and false experiences in religion; to “try the spirits whether they are of God.”
* And in making this discrimination between what is taught by the spirit of God, and what is taught by a false spirit, there is no other test but to compare the teaching to the infallible Word of God;
* Every thought, motive, impulse, and emotion must be compared to the Bible to establish weather if is of God, or of a false spirit.
* Spiritual understanding sees what is actually in Scripture; it does not make a new meaning for it.
* Making a new meaning for Scripture is equivalent to making a new Scripture! It is adding to God’s Word, a practice God condemns (Proverbs 30:6). . . .
* A large part of the false religion in the world is made up of peoples experiences and the false notions that are created from these false notions.
* Non-Christian religions are full of these “experiences” by which they create false teachings.
* The history of the Church is full of these false teachings as well.
* These experiences captivate people so Satan transforms himself into an angel of light, deceives multitudes, and corrupts true religion.
* Church leaders must be constantly on their guard against these delusions created by people’s so called experiences.
* The apostle Paul spoke of these false spirits, or teachers, in II Corinthians 11:13:
2 Corinthians 11:13–15 (KJV 1900)
13 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. 14 And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. 15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.
* Many times, these false teachers can be believers. Let me share with you an example of a believer who wanted to lift himself up in the eyes of others by possessing the powers that the apostles had:
Acts 8:9–24 (KJV 1900)
9 But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: 10 To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God. 11 And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries.
12 But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.
13 Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done.
14 Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: 15 Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: 16 (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) 17 Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.
18 And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, 19 Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.
20 But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. 21 Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. 22 Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. 23 For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity. 24 Then answered Simon, and said, Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me.
* It is popular in many circles today to preach a different message that what the Bible teaches. Some preachers and teachers have actually turned the Gospel into a promise of prosperity, and like Simon, they use the lure of what appears to be “spiritual magic” to gain a following for themselves.
* They promote the notion that God desires all believers to be healthy and wealthy.
* An unhealthy preoccupation with Satan and demons goes hand-in-hand with that their theology:
* The presence of demonic activity in the lives of Christians is an important part of the prosperity gospel.
* These teachers assume that manifestation of demonic opposition today is the same as it was in the first century A.D.
* The tendency is to attribute anything out of the ordinary or not readily explainable to the influence of demons.
* “When a doctor says there is no cure, our spiritual antennas pick up the fact that it is a spirit.”
* They conclude that all incurable diseases are caused by evil spirits.
* In their teaching, demons inhabit not only people, but also homes, cars, and other mechanical devices.
* This produces great confusion for the believer who wants to experience blessings promised to him.
* The process of casting out demons solves this “demonic dilemma.”
* They teach that in the procedure for casting out demons, Satan is bound by the authority of Jesus so that he cannot render aid to his evil associates.
* Then the demon is addressed, commanded to name himself, and cast out.
* They teach that since demons can do such things as planting seeds of disease and stopping the flow of financial wealth, the casting out of demons is necessary to insure continued health and prosperity.
* Without question the prosperity movement is characterized by an obsession with the demonic activity.
* The false gospel of prosperity holds that evil spirits inhabit and control both animate and inanimate objects.
* Faith healers in the prosperity gospel movement have more in common with witch doctors than medical doctors or ministers of God either one.
* Advocates of today’s spiritual warfare movement claim that we as believers are to confront the powers of darkness. One pastor wrote of this confrontation he had with a demon:
Pastor: “Claiming my full authority over you through my union with the Lord Jesus Christ, I command you to reveal how you were able to gain control in this person’s life. I hold the blood of Christ against you and command you to tell me.”
Demon: “She is afraid. We made her afraid. She’s full of fear.”
Pastor: “Is that the ground you claim against this child of God? Are you able to torment and work this destruction in her life because of fear?”
Demon: “Yes, she is afraid all the time, and we can work through her fear.”
This conversation is reproduced as nearly as I can recall it from memory and from notes taken during an aggressive confrontation against the powers of darkness troubling a believer’s life
Mark I. Bubeck, The Adversary: The Christian Versus Demon Activity
* This author speaks of rebuking demons with phrases such as, “Satan, I bind you,” commanding them, and verbally casting them out. His understanding of spiritual warfare is extrapolated from a few passages of Scripture that detail incidents in the ministry of Jesus, who healed the sick and cast out demons.
* Frank Peretti’s recent best-selling novels This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness have added fuel to the fire of today’s spiritual warfare movement.
* His stories tell of Christians fighting with packs of demons who take over towns and infiltrate the government, educational system, and churches.
* Unfortunately, many leading advocates of the spiritual warfare movement seem to take such fiction as fact. They assert that believers are to seek out and confront demons associated with specific cities, neighborhoods, and other specific areas and locations. They call this “territorial warfare.” One advocate wrote:
Dealing with territorial spirits is major league warfare and should not be undertaken casually. I know few who have the necessary expertise, and if you do not know what you are doing, Satan will eat you for breakfast (C. Peter Wagner, “Territorial Spirits and World Mission,” Evangelical Missions Quarterly [July 1989] :286).
* Can we simply name the streets in our city and evict a demon from his geographical dominion by invoking Jesus’ name? Certainly not. Those kind of incantations have no biblical basis.
* Does that kind of aggressive encounter with demons represent what you and I should be doing in spiritual warfare?
* Are we to talk to demons like that and give them orders?
* Absolutely not! God’s Word makes it clear that such confrontations with supposed demons have no warrant or authority.
* Jude says, “Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, ‘THE LORD REBUKE YOU.’
* Michael appealed to the Lord Himself. Unlike so many “experts” in spiritual warfare today, Michael did not rail at the devil or rebuke him. He invoked the Lord’s name.
* The epistles never instruct believers to cast out demons, whether from a believer or unbeliever.
* Christ and the apostles were the only ones who cast out demons, and in every instance the demon-possessed people were unbelievers.
* I’m not sure what people mean when they talk about “taking authority in Jesus’ name.”
* A study of the concept of authority (Gk. exousia) in the New Testament reveals that word often describes a special status belonging only to Jesus Christ and His apostles.
* Christ had authority because of His divinity (Matt. 28:18; John 5:27) and the apostles had authority derived from Him because they were His special representatives (1 Thes. 2:6; 2 Cor. 13:10).
* Christ and His apostles were privileged with supernatural ability—including the power to expel demons and disease (Mark 6:7; Luke 9:1–2; 10:19)—so that those who heard them would realize they spoke on God’s behalf (2 Cor. 12:12; Heb. 2:3–4).
* No one today has authority over demons and disease like the apostles did.
* In fact, 2 Peter 2:10–11 and Jude 8–10 imply that believers are below demonic spirits on the “authority ladder” and need to implore the Lord when dealing with them.
* So “taking authority” over demon spirits or negative circumstances is not a biblical concept.
* Our method of dealing with Satan is to resist him, firm in our faith (James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:8–9).
* We have in our day who teach the same kind of mentality as those men in our text who suffered a beating at the hands of a demon possessed person- these men did not understand the true nature of spiritual warfare.
* The trouble is that these exorcists had developed a confrontational mentality. . . . Instead of seeing the spiritual warfare as it is presented in the Bible, where the devil is fought with the weapons of :
-prayer, preaching, witness, godly living, obedience to Scripture and faith in the promises,
these would-be exorcists want to engage in hand-to-hand combat, sensing, seeing and hearing the powers of darkness and striking them with dramatic words of authority.
* In the day in which we live the air is thick with teachings about spiritual warfare that range between superstitions and the pagan religions.
* Resisting the devil is not a matter of speaking to him or rebuking him.
* Scripture clearly describes the armor we are to use in battle, and it consists of divine provisions we are to rely on.
* In Ephesians 6:11 and 13, Paul puts it in this way: “Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. . . . Take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.”
* We are not instructed to directly confront demons in the Bible.
* Our understanding is inadequate for this task. It is God alone who knows your enemy, and He knows exactly the provision that is essential to you if you are to continue standing firm against the wiles of the Devil.
Every single part and portion of this armour is absolutely essential; and the first thing you have to learn is that you are not in a position to pick and choose
In verses 14–17 is a list of the combat equipment that the Holy Spirit issues to every believer at the moment of salvation:
1. The belt of truthfulness
2. The breastplate of righteousness
3. The shoes of the gospel of peace
4. The shield of faith
5. The helmet of salvation
6. The sword of the Spirit
* This spiritual weaponry is not man-made, for Paul wrote:
2 Corinthians 10:3–6 (KJV 1900)
3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: 4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) 5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; 6 And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.
* “Weapons” refers to instruments of war. But these weapons are special. They are not designed or manufactured by human intellect or ingenuity.
* Neither are they mystical weapons. They are divine weapons, effective at tearing down Satan’s massive strongholds—incredibly effective, for the verses picture an army moving against a city and tearing down everything in its path.
* Our spiritual weapons can be summed up in one word: obedience. Obedience comes by having our minds controlled by the truth of God’s Word. By obeying God’s Word, you will stand firm “in the evil day”
The Sufferings of Job
* The typical counselor today would probably advise Job to say, “Satan, I bind you!” But though Job was the choicest of God’s servants, his sufferings were part of God’s plan.
* This is also true of many who suffer today. Can today’s spiritual warfare “experts” simply bypass the Lord’s sovereign purposes and rebuke Satan? Of course not.
* Can afflictions from Satan actually benefit the true believer? Yes! Job, for example, came away with an increased awareness of God’s greatness and his own sinfulness (40:4–5). He also learned the necessity of submitting to God’s sovereign purposes no matter what the cost might be (42:2–6).
Paul’s Thorn
* The Lord also permitted Satan to afflict the Apostle Paul.
* On three occasions Paul received a vision of the resurrected Christ. He evidently struggled with pride, for he said, “Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me—to keep me from exalting myself!” (2 Cor. 12:7)
* Since Paul’s painful thorn was hindering him, three times he asked the Lord to remove it (v. 8).
* Note that Paul didn’t attempt to bind, rebuke, or cast out this satanic messenger. He simply prayed to the Lord for its removal. Certainly God was able to do as Paul prayed, but He chose not to (v. 9)
* Paul willingly accepted God’s design for his life: “Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (vv. 9–10).
* If it were possible to remove the thorn in the flesh by saying, “Messenger of Satan, I bind you,” God’s plan could have been foiled. In the end, Paul was glad for this affliction because it helped him grow spiritually.
* Paul was considered a criminal and treated like one. When he wrote his Second Letter to Timothy, he probably was in the Mamertine prison in Rome. It was a pit without normal sanitation and jammed with people awaiting execution.
* How did Paul respond to his imprisonment? Did he say, “Satan, I rebuke you and command you to set me free”?
* Did he bind the demon of Rome? No, his attitude was opposite to that.
* His awareness of God’s sovereignty helped him to endure adversity.
* His life reflected the conviction that God was causing all things—even including imprisonment—for his ultimate good (Rom. 8:28). He knew that no one could incarcerate God’s Word and that death would usher him into Christ’s presence.
* Seek to imitate Paul’s attitude and be willing to endure affliction for the sake of Christ. The motivation for doing so is God’s promise that you will reign with the Savior in glory (2 Tim. 2:12). Until then, trust God to supply you with all the divine strength and power you need (2 Peter 1:3).
The Sifting of Peter
* In Luke 22:31–32, Christ said to Peter, “Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”
* Satan wanted Peter because he was crucial to the early church’s development. When Peter heard that Satan was after him, he responded, “Lord, with You I am ready to go both to prison and to death!” (v. 33)
* Later that same evening, Peter denied Christ three times. Afterward he “went outside and wept bitterly” (v. 62). That was evidence of his repentance and restoration to God.
* What did Peter learn as a result of Satan’s sifting? That he could not stand on his own. It also made him a more useful vessel for God because Christ told him to strengthen others after his repentance (v. 32).
* Peter well knew the value of the refining process, for years later he wrote this to persecuted believers:
In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:6–7).
* God used Satan’s afflicting hand for the spiritual benefit of Job, Paul, and Peter. None of them sought to command, rebuke, or bind Satan. For them the real issue was not the activity of Satan, but the accomplishment of God’s sovereign purposes. Our attitude should be no different.
* Our part in spiritual warfare is not to confront, but to “stand.”
Ephesians 6:10–20 (KJV 1900)
10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
* We are to stand in His power, not match our own wits and experience with the demons.
11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; 15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
* We are not to confront the Devil, but resist the devil by standing.
18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
* We are not to confront the devil, but to call on the power of God to confront the devil by prayer.
* Spiritual warfare is accomplished on our knees before God, not in a convention center, or faith healing meeting.
Myth # 1—Spiritual Warfare Is Unreal And Unhistorical In Character.
Myth #2—Spiritual Warfare Must Be Carried On In Public In Order To Inspire The Church And Humiliate The Devil.
Myth #3—Spiritual Warfare Can Be Waged Only By An Especially Gifted Person.
Myth #4—Spiritual Warfare Is Seen In Terms Of A “Power Encounter.”
Myth #5—Spiritual Warfare Must Be Visible And Dramatic.
Myth #6—Spiritual Warfare Is Personal. It Drives Demons From New Testament-Style Demoniacs.
1. Prayer Must Become A Significant Activity Of Our Lives.
2. Saturation With The Scripture Is Essential.
3. Confront Satanic Influence With The Truth Of God’s Word.
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