Imagine if your friends came to you and asked, “We want you to build a bridge. We already have the materials you’ll need to build it. We already have the engineers, craftsmen for the stone and concrete, and we have plenty of construction workers available to you as well. Here are the blueprints to build it. All we ask you do it is to oversee the work. Will you do it?” You agree to build the bridge and you make plans to go out where the bridge is to be constructed. You begin to pack your things for the trip when you receive this text, “Oh, did we tell you we need you to build a bridge in the shark-infested waters of the Persian Gulf? You also need to be aware that the Iranian Navy have set up mines in the harbors and their fleet is standing by to destroy you.” That last bit of information makes a difference, doesn’t it?
For these next several weeks, I want to prepare you for the spiritual battle of your life. I’m excited to begin a series on the Bible’s teaching of spiritual warfare. It is needed as we are living in confusing and chaotic days. So I ask you to keep your Bibles open to Ephesians 6 with me (page 1163 in your pew Bibles). We begin with the classic passage in Ephesians on the armor of God.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak” (Ephesians 6:10-20).
Let’s jump right in because this is the mother of all battles.
1. Realize Life is a Spiritual Battle
“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11).
1.1 Pearl Harbor – Surprise Attack
It was a peaceful, quiet Sunday morning on December 7, 1941, at 7:55 a.m., when 353 Japanese aircraft attacked Pearl Harbor from six carriers. While many believe the attack was a complete surprise and came without warning, those in know tell us there were at least three separate warnings. On October 16, November 24 and November 27, the commanders of the military forces at Pearl Harbor were told this: “This dispatch is to be considered a war warning”; “Negotiations have ceased”; you should “execute an appropriate defensive deployment.” After being apprised of these, Admiral Kimmel allowed part of his personnel to go on shore leave. Then on the morning of the attack, Washington decoded a Japanese message to its ambassadors, asking them to set up a meeting with the U.S. Secretary of State at 7:00 a.m. Pearl Harbor time. The message took time to decode and it wasn’t delivered to the War Department until around 10:30 a.m. When the decoded message was delivered, Gen George Marshall was out horseback riding and didn’t see the message until about 11:15 a.m. This message was a clear indication that war was at hand. And if these warnings were not enough, the personnel at Pearl Harbor itself experienced two incidents that will raise the hair on the back of your neck. Four hours before the decisive bombing, a Japanese submarine was sighted by the minesweeper USS Candor. About 2:30 hours later, the commander of the destroyer USS Ward sent a message saying that he “had attacked, fired upon, and dropped depth charges upon submarine operating in defensive sea area” near Pearl Harbor. At this same time, U.S. Army Pvt. George Elliott noticed a large flight of planes on the radar screen. When he telephoned his lieutenant, he was told to disregard the observation, as a flight of B-17 bombers from the United States was expected at that time. Because all these warnings were dismissed, 2,402 Americans were killed and another 1,282 were wounded. The Pacific naval fleet was severely damaged as well as a result leaving us crippled. Sixteen warships were sunk along with another 188 aircraft were destroyed – all because no one thought the Japanese would attack.
Leave the tragic scene of Pearl Harbor for a moment.
1.2 No Filter
Go to the present day if you will where today’s cell phones have really powerful cameras. You can take a picture and place a filter to enhance the image in seconds. Maybe you alter the picture to make you look better or younger. Many of the most popular posts on Instagram say “no filter” beside them. When you look at your life, are you filtering out supernatural evil? Do you think life’s struggles are all against “flesh and blood?” Are you assuming there are no “rulers and cosmic powers” at work in your day? When you consider the events of the year 2020, are you seeing only human forces at work? Do you filter out supernatural evil from your thinking? You have to realize the attack you face.
Don’t fall for your personal Pearl Harbor moment.
1.3 Battle Awareness
The Bible says you are involved in spiritual warfare. The problem is most Christians don’t even realize it. Many of God’s soldiers are asleep in the barracks when they should be engaged in the battle. Many Christians are losing their battle day-by-day, because they’re not even showing up for the war. For those who have embraced Christ by faith, are you aware you are engaged in spiritual warfare?
If you are a Christian you are in a battle. The outcome of this battle depends the joy of your heart, the happiness of your marriage, the welfare of your children, the security of your home, and the influence of your life. True Christianity is a fight and it involves two wars.
1.4 Two Wars
Keep in mind that before your conversion you were fighting against God – this is your first fight. After your conversion God is fighting against the evil in you and around you – this your second fight.
All human beings were built to worship him and center their lives on him, and you centered your life on lots of other things. Because you centered your life on lots of other things, you experienced breakdown in your life. To live without God is like trying to pull a wagon without wheels. It kind of works, but it drags, and it scrapes. Your life before Christ kind of works for a while, but eventually, as time goes on, your life disintegrates. Eventually, life disintegrates.
The first fight (before your conversion) you have to lose. You were fighting God. But the moment this war is finished and you say “yes” to Christ, a second fight begins. Let me say that again: the very moment you become a follower of Christ, a second battle begins. The second fight is God fighting on your behalf against the forces of evil. So you’re either caught in the first war against God, or you’re in the second war, behind God. So which are you right now: against God or beside God?
1.5 Bridge Reprised
“Pastor, I am a nice enough guy and I’m religious. But I’m not in any kind of battle. There’s no war going on with me.” Go back to the bridge at the beginning that you were asked to build in Persian Gulf. Imagine if I went overseas to visit you and to see your progress. I arrive in the Gulf but there is no conflict, no one is opposing you at all. What would you conclude? If you were sent over into enemy territory to build the bridge, and we know there’s a whole nation arrayed against you to kill you and destroy the bridge. But when I arrive to proposed building site, I don’t hear any fighting, I don’t see any battleships, and I don’t hear any loud noises, I can tell you what’s happened. Either the enemy is dead or you’ve quit trying.
My Christian friend, if you profess to follow Christ and you’re not experiencing any kind of battle in your life, then you’ve quit trying. Since you’re not fighting, the enemy doesn’t even bother with you. If there’s no fight in your life, either you are not really a Christian or you’re asleep spiritually. If you are a real Christian, you are in a fight.
Are you filtering out supernatural evil from your thinking? Are you assuming there are no “rulers and cosmic powers” at work in your day or our day? Do you think life’s struggles are all against “flesh and blood?”
1.6 Do You Believe in the Devil?
I press you here for a moment and ask you a personal question: Do you believe in a real devil? Do you believe there is a real evil supernatural being ruining our world? One of the most fascinating interviews in recent years was with the late Supreme Court Justice, Antonin Scalia. Maybe you recognize his name? In the middle of the interview with the New York Magazine, Scalia leans in and whispers so everyone could hear him, “I even believe in the Devil.” The left-leaning reporter responds, “You do?” Scalia responds: “Of course! Yeah, he’s a real person.” The reporter: “Have you seen evidence of the Devil lately?” Scalia: “You know, it is curious. In the Gospels, the Devil is doing all sorts of things. He’s making pigs run off cliffs, he’s possessing people and whatnot. And that doesn’t happen very much anymore.” The reporter: “So what’s he doing now?” Scalia: “What he’s doing now is getting people not to believe in him or in God. He’s much more successful that way.” Do you believe in a real devil?
1.7 Jesus Believed in Satan
Before you answer, you should know that Jesus believed in the devil. Jesus talked to the devil, felt Satan’s presence, and even He commanded him to “get out of here!” Jesus even said, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18b). I believe in Satan because Jesus believed in Satan.
1.8 An Abundance of Evil
The second reason I believe in a supernatural being called the devil is because of all the evil in the world. How else do explain all the evil in our world today?
1.8.1 Closing of Churches
The city of Los Angeles has asked Grace Community Church to shut down from meeting together due to Covid-19. They further seek to hold Pastor John MacArthur in contempt for meeting in recent days. On the other coast, Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. filed suit against the District of Columbia as the sought to limit their church from meeting together for worship. A Washington DC judge allowed the church to hold outdoor services. The judge noted that there have been waves of protests in DC with the Mayor himself in attendance at a protest. It is obvious most of us can meet safely during this pandemic.
This is spiritual warfare right before our eyes.
1.8.2 Child Abuse
We have child abuse, pedophilia, and people looting and rioting in the streets in our day. Debbie was fourteen years of age and attending a Baptist church in nearby Sanger, TX when she was first molested by her pastor. Yes, I said her pastor. He would assault her many times over and eventually she was pregnant at eighteen years of age. He was more than twelve years older than her and a married man. This man knew right from wrong and yet, he tore up the lives of so many people. I believe in Satan because of the abundance of evil in our world today. This is spiritual warfare right before our eyes.
Abortion is defended by whole group of people in our day who tell us it’s a women’s right to do whatever with her body. Protected by misreading the fourteenth amendment of US Constitution, abortion rages on in our nation unfettered. Court after court protects what a sonogram and science tells us is a person. You don’t need a Ph.D. in ethics to look at a sonogram and say, “That’s a child.”
Aren’t we being lectured about science during this pandemic. When it comes to abortion, I believe the science. If we are concerned with women’s rights, what about the little girl inside you? Where are her rights? Doesn’t she have the right to be born? How do you explain the killing of so many little girls and boys in our educated nation?
This is spiritual warfare right before our eyes.
1.8.4 Worldview Conflict
There are two worldviews in conflict in America as seen in the potential confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett. I believe there is a supernatural evil being called Satan who influences our moral reasoning. Many in America would deny and even defy what we believe about the authority, infallibility, inerrancy, and the sufficiency of the Holy Scripture. That is why many believe truth does not come from the Bible, but truth is doing whatever is right in their own eyes. This is why America is in a major crisis.
1.8.5 Rodney King
It seems like ancient history now, but nearly thirty years ago civil unrest settled over south Los Angeles. Four officers were because they severely beat Rodney King on video. King had been drinking and was afraid to go back to prison so he led the officers on a high speed chase throughout the streets of LA. He had resisted arrest when two officers forced him to the ground, two officers beat him with nightsticks, and a third officer kicked him in the head. When the four police officers were acquitted of wrong-doing, the South Central section of LA rioted. More than fifty people were eventually killed, 2,000 people injured and nearly 10,000 people were arrested for rioting. The damage was estimated to be around $1 billion in property damage at the time. In an effort to stop the rioting, King spoke via a public appearance saying his famous quote, “People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along? Can we get along?” And the answer is a resounding NO! Satan is at work to whisper lies in our ears so that we shout it from the rooftops.
There is a supernatural evil one who is tearing our cities apart. He will do anything to tear apart unity. It’s not just black and white but even the generations (young and old) are separated from one another. The devil’s method is to always produce chaos and confusion. Chief among them is this: there is a supernatural being called Satan who works silently to get us to fight one another.
I believe in Satan because Jesus believed in the devil. And I believe in Satan because of the abundance of evil in our world today.
1.9 Two Mistakes
Now, there are two equal and opposite errors that people tend to fall into when thinking about the devil. One is to not believe in the devil while the other is to have an excessive and unhealthy interest in him. Some of you dismiss demons out of hand because you don’t believe they exist – you filter supernatural evil out of your thinking. While others believe there’s a demon behind everything. Like when your car’s tires are flat, you automatically think it’s a demon. Instead of reaching for the spate, your neighbors are watching you bind Satan in your driveway. Satan is pleased by both errors.
1.10 A Spiritual Battle
The Bible says you are engaged in a spiritual battle “for we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places…” (Ephesians 6:12). We live in a time where Satan doesn’t even hide anymore, and you still don’t see him.
This isn’t a political battle though it does impact politics.
This isn’t a physical battle though it does impact you physically.
This isn’t a perceived battle though it does impact your perception.
This is a personal battle. You didn’t ask for the fight but the fight has to come to you! This is a SPIRITUAL battle raging beneath the surface in places where eye cannot see. You must realize the attack you face. You must appreciate the attack we face right now. Don’t fall for your personal Pearl Harbor moment – too much is at stake.
1. Realize Life is a Spiritual Battle
2. Understand the Source of Your Strength
This year really feels like a battle, doesn’t it?
2.1 Life Demands Extra Power
Real life is a fight, it’s a battle. Life is demanding. Life demands from you when you don’t have in you. You need strength from outside of you for life’s battle – an external source of power. If you’re engaged in a life and death struggle, you are going to need strength for the battle ahead. Where do you turn for personal strength?
Some look away – they take a vacation for the needed strength to face life’s battles. I love a good vacation but a vacation cannot supply you with the strength you need for your child is addicted to drugs.
Some look around – they go shopping to calm them from the stresses of the week. Shopping is fun but no amount of shopping will supply you with the strength you need for 32 year old biker son returns home to live on your couch and your wife is hospitalized with a nervous breakdown. When your child steals car and is lying about her addiction to drugs, where do you turn for strength to batter the forces of evil arrayed against you?
Some look inside – Mediation and yoga may center you when life’s anxieties mount. But the only thing you’ll find inside you is your naval is lint.
To find real power for life’s battles, you cannot look INSIDE you or AROUND you but ABOVE you.
2.2 God Supplies the Power
You are commanded to draw strength from the Lord’s power: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might” (Ephesians 6:10). Get your strength from Christ for life’s battle. Do what David did in his day of distress: “And David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul, each for his sons and daughters. But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God” (1 Samuel 30:6). David needed a power transfer at this moment of crisis. Do you need a power transfer to face the battles ahead of you?
When life is overwhelming we need overwhelming strength. God’s overwhelming strength can be transferred to you.
Picture how electricity gets to your house. Like power coming from a substation over the powerlines, God’s strength can be moved from Him to you. Only God’s power moves wirelessly! The Holy Spirit empowers you and supply you with strength for the batter.
But, the power for the battle isn’t automatic. If you’re going to be strong, you’ve got to tell the Lord, “Lord, I need a power transfer.”
2.3 Cell Phones
We charge our cell phones all the time. We realize that unless they receive power from an outside source, the phone is useless. The keypad is still there and the computer inside is functioning properly. The network is operating and all the cell phone towers are in place. Yet, fundamentally the phone doesn’t work unless you plug it in. The phone needs power from an outside source. And so do you, my Christian friend. You are a dead cell phone without the power of God in your life. So how do I “plug myself” into the Lord?
Here two facts for plugging into Christ’s power for spiritual battle
2.4 United to Christ by Faith
First, you must unite with Christ and only with Christ: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might” (Ephesians 6:10). Notice the little word “in” there in verse 10. You have to be “in the Lord” or “in Christ.” Earlier in the letter, Paul wrote these words: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Faith links you and unites you with Jesus Christ. Becoming a believer in Christ, isn’t like voting on Jesus. Believing in Christ is more than casting a vote for Jesus as if you entered the voting booth. Instead, you are united with Christ. There is vital life link between you and Christ, the Lord. If you are serious about engaging the Invisible Enemy, you have to unite with Jesus Christ by faith. Again, you are in one of two fights: the first fight is against God and you must surrender this fight. Place your faith in Christ. Once, you are believer, you the Spirit’s power available to you.
2.5 A Power Transfer
Recognize Paul prayed for believers to receive strength: “that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being…” (Ephesians 3:16). Again, if you’re going to be strong for the battle ahead, you’ve got to tell the Lord, “Lord, I need a power transfer.” “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). God supplies you with the strength you need. “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
You do realize don’t you that the guy who wrote this letter was in prison when he wrote Ephesians? He was in jail for spreading the message of Jesus throughout the Roman Empire. He didn’t murder, steal, or abuse anyone. He was jailed because he tirelessly spoke about Jesus and the gospel. So Paul writes Ephesians while in jail.
Think about this for a moment. If you were in jail through no fault of your own, what would you write behind prison bars? If I were in jail and were given pen and paper, I would write a protest about the evil people who placed me behind bars. I would write about how innocence I was of all charges. If you gave me pen and paper behind bars, I would write every mayor, congressman, senator, and President I could find an address. Not Paul – he didn’t write for the purposes of his liberty or his comfort. We don’t have one letter he wrote to secure his liberty but we have this letter for you to stand firm in your liberty.
In a day when we are inundated with entertainment options, the Bible frames all of life as a warfare. In a day when Disney is but hours away by a plane ride and Netflix offers hours of movies on demand, the Bible resolutely tells us life is a battle. There is no cease fire in this battle until the end of your life or history itself ends.