It has been said that doctors of old times tested the sanity of a mental patient with the following test: the patient was placed in a room with a sink. The faucet was turned on and a stopper was put in the drain until the sink overflowed. The patient was then handed a mop and the door was closed.
If the patient had enough sense to shut off the water, pull the plug, and then mop up the water, he was considered capable of going home. But on the other hand, if the patient mopped like crazy and never bothered to shut off the water and/or pull the plug, he was considered still insane and needed to be detained a little longer in the mental institution.
Well, when it comes to true freedom. Really grabbing holding of a lasting, enduring freedom, there are people in this world that are mopping like crazy, but the water is still running, and the plug is still in the drain. They’re not in mental institutions. Some are even people who we’d consider quite sane, but they are plagued by their own personal demons and they haven’t figured out how to stop the flooding in their lives.
Most of these people know there’s a problem they just haven’t figured out where to go to solve it. They’re like people who came and found the demoniac clothed and in his right mind. They see what Jesus can do in a person’s life, but then they send Him away. They just can’t seem to experience any form of lasting freedom in their life.
Maybe you can relate. If you have experienced temporary, but not enduring freedom. If you have a friend or loved one who seemed victorious only to once again be defeated. If you long to know if it is possible to ever really be free, this series is for you. Because over the next few weeks, we are going to take a look at a true “Operation Enduring Freedom.” An operation that can lead to the ultimate freedom – eternal freedom.
(Address issue of Topical versus Expository Preaching.)
As we launch this series on spiritual warfare, I want us to keep our focus in the right place. Let me share what I mean by that with a little story.
There once was a man who owned a record company. Anyone remember what those were? Vinyl disks. Black Frisbees. Besides running the operation, he also spent many hours in production listening to the “mother disc,” which was the record from which all subsequent records were pressed. Over the years his ears became adept at catching the “pops and sizzles,” the imperfections that had to be eliminated in the master disk or they would be on every subsequent record copied from that master.
One day someone remarked to him that working with music must be enjoyable. His response was enlightening. He said, “You know, I haven’t listened to music in years. When I turn on my sophisticated home stereo, no matter what recording I’m listening to, all I hear are the ‘pops and sizzles.’”
As we launch into a series on spiritual warfare and finding true freedom in Christ, it is important to remember and learn from this little illustration that a wrong focus will turn our thoughts continually towards the enemy. Suddenly, all you will see are demons. But understand that a true ability to see, or understand, or even discern spirits will be an ability that enables us to recognize at least as many angelic spirits as we do evil spirits.
Look at a passage with me. A remarkable story found in II Kings 6, beginning in verse 8 (read through verse 23). Victory. Without ever drawing a sword, or directly engaging the enemy. Victory by seeing God, and allowing Him to fight the battle.
You see, in spiritual warfare, in our true Operation Enduring Freedom, it is never a human battle limited to “us against them.” Paul says, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 3:12)
So it is not an issue of “us against them”, it is much larger than that. It is “those with us” against “those with them.” And rather than focusing on the enemy, as we are forced to do in earthly warfare, in our operation enduring freedom, we need to focus on our General, focus on Jesus Christ and the multitude of angels He brings to fight the battle.
Beginning today, at the very on-set of the series. I want us to help each other in the fight to keep our focus in the right place. So today I simply want you to remember two simple thoughts. Totally opposite of earthly warfare. Total contrast to what others often teach, think, and preach about spiritual warfare.
And one of the ways I want us to do that, to get our hands around these two simple ideas, is by remembering the following statement. We will say it over and over again throughout our series. Here it is – Freedom starts with the name of Jesus on our lips. It is completed with the nature of Jesus in our hearts.
Repeat that after me – Freedom starts with the name of Jesus on our lips. It is completed with the nature of Jesus in our hearts.
Let’s say that together – Freedom starts with the name of Jesus on our lips. It is completed with the nature of Jesus in our hearts.
Memorize that. Lock that into your mind. As we journey together towards true, enduring freedom, understand that God’s purpose for you, even in the midst of spiritual battle, is to make you more like Christ. Maybe not what you wanted to hear. “Pastor, I want to get delivered. I don’t want to hear about holiness, or sanctification, or having to become like Christ. I just want someone to fix me and free me.”
So many people miss this, and that is why they only experience temporary freedom. They find themselves in deliverance ministries, in bondage breaking ministries, in freedom from this, that, or the other ministries. And they find temporary peace in their lives as they go through, and come out of those ministries. But time passes, and they once again find themselves bound, oppressed, and defeated. Why?
Because God does not deliver us for the purpose of our just being delivered. Look at the example of the Israelites that we have looked at over the past few weeks. Was God delivering them from Pharaoh simply to get them out of Egypt? Was life anywhere other than in the bondage of Egypt cool with God? Was He just trying to set them free from an evil slave master?
No. Because God does not deliver us for the purpose of our just being delivered. He delivers us for the purpose of making us more and more like Christ. Conforming us to a greater and greater degree to His will. If you focus on getting free without becoming more Christ like, you will not experience freedom that lasts.
Jesus taught this very truth in Luke 11. Look at this passage with me. Luke 11:24 (read through verse 26). This is the picture of someone who has an unclean spirit. It gets cast out. Temporary freedom. The house is put in order. Still free. But the unclean spirit rallies the support of other demonic forces, come back against the man, and he ends up in a worse state than he started. No enduring freedom.
Why? What happened? Look at the next verses (read 27-28). The man got temporary freedom, but Jesus doesn’t say “Blessed are those who are delivered from demonic strongholds.” No. He says, “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it.” That is true freedom. Keeping the Word of God, obeying God’s commands, becoming more and more like Christ.
Listen to these words by Francis Frangipane, “The Father is more concerned with the coming forth of His Son in our lives than He is in defeating Satan. Who is the devil, that he can defy the Living God? Jesus defeated Satan in Gethsemane and the cross, not by directly confronting the devil but by fulfilling the destiny to which He had been called at Calvary.” Don’t miss this part. “The greatest battle that was ever won was accomplished by the apparent death of the victor, without even a word of rebuke to His adversary!”
Did you hear that, “The greatest battle that was ever won was accomplished by the apparent death of the victor, without even a word of rebuke to His adversary!”
You have heard me say it before. I am not big on praying prayers of rebuke against Satan. God doesn’t need me talking to the enemy. Reminds me of my pet peeve of people who say they are just playing “Devil’s Advocate.” Satan doesn’t need any more advocates.
And God doesn’t need me talking to Satan. He needs me talking to Him. I need to be talking to Him. Listening to Him. Becoming more and more like Him. That will produce an enduring freedom for my life.
So our focus in the fight is not on Satan, but on Christ. Say it with me again – Freedom starts with the name of Jesus on our lips. It is completed with the nature of Jesus in our hearts.
That is our first contrast to earthly warfare. Down here. On the front lines. You keep your eyes on the enemy. In “Operation Enduring Freedom” you keep your eyes on Christ.
(Examples: Split focus of Jamie at catcher. The Church & The DaVinci Code.)
In spiritual battle, to experience true freedom, you keep your eyes on your commander. Split focus will cost you your freedom. Our focus is to be on Christ and becoming more and more like Him.
The second contrast to earthly warfare is equally as opposite. The mindset for truly enduring spiritual freedom and victory over the enemy is peace. It is not confrontation. It is not aggression. It is not calling out this spirit and that. To truly experience spiritual freedom and victory in our daily warfare, your mind must be filled with peace.
(Example of fallen charismatic leaders versus Billy Graham/Bill Bright.)
The mindset for victory over the enemy is peace. Not confrontation and aggression. It is not calling out this spirit and that. To truly experience spiritual freedom and victory in our daily warfare, your mind must be filled with peace.
Look at Romans 16:20 with me. Begin back in verse 17 (read through verse 20). Did you see verse 19? Be wise in what is good. That’s awareness, a pursuit, a study of Christ likeness. And what is the approach to Satan, and those things which are evil? Be simple concerning them. Don’t over complicate this. Don’t make them bigger than they are.
(Example of Little Leaguers baiting runners & play #1.)
Paul says if you can focus on the Christ like and not get all wrapped up in the evil, then the God of “peace” will give you victory over Satan.
Many Christians today are not living in true, enduring freedom. Their lives are filled with fear, worry, and doubt. Those things are not from God. His Word even speaks against them. Those are weapons of Satan’s armies.
I want you to think about this for a moment. Maybe jot down a few thoughts there on your worship folder. In what places of your life are you fearful? What are you worried about? Where do you doubt God?
Come on. You know you have some. What are they? In what arenas of your daily life are you afraid? What are those things that constantly cause you to worry? Where are those places where you doubt God can fix things?
You see, those are your battlegrounds. Those are the places where you must begin the fight for enduring freedom. Because those are the places where the weapons of our enemy, rather than the peace of God is ruling our lives. Those are the places where you are not truly free. And those will be the places that God desires to move in, and work on your life to make you more and more like Him.
Such a famous Scripture, but look at the 23rd Psalm with me. (Read verses 1 through 3). What a peaceful, serene picture. This must be someone totally free from their enemies, right? This must be somebody who has been completely delivered and victorious over the demonic, right?
Verse 4 (read). Whoa! The valley of the shadow of death. Sure doesn’t sound like walking the streets of gold surrounded by guardian angels to me. Verse 5 (read). “In the presence of my enemies.” You mean the enemies are still right there? Some have survived? How can that be victory? How can you be free in the presence of your enemies?
Verse 6 (read). This is peace in the midst of the battle. Not because the battle is over. Not because the demonic attacks on our lives have been defeated. But because our focus is in the right place. Our focus is on becoming more like Christ while surrounded by the peace of God.
I read this quote the other day. Really like it, “It is not you that the devil is afraid of, it is Christ in you!” Isn’t that good. I think so. So much so I’m going to say it again, “It is not you that the devil is afraid of, it is Christ in you!”
So if you want Satan to be afraid. If you want him to flee and leave you alone. Then you want to fill up your life with that thing he fears most. . .Christ. Then you can have the peace of knowing that God is fighting for you, and those who are with you, are more than those who are against you.
H.B. London writes, “The battles you engage in are His battles. The circumstances you face are familiar to Him. The burdens you bear may be placed on His shoulders with His permission. The weapons formed against you are, in a real sense, formed against Him, and they will not prosper.”
Frangipane writes, “Peace precedes power. Do not seek to rule over the devil until you are submitting to God’s rule over you. The focal point of all victory comes from seeking God until you find Him, and having found Him, allowing His presence to fill your spirit with His peace.”
Man that’s good stuff. I just read it, and pass it on to you.
Freedom starts with the name of Jesus on our lips. It is completed with the nature of Jesus in our hearts. In spiritual battle, you keep your eyes on your commander. Split focus will cost you your freedom. Our focus is to be on Christ and becoming more and more like Him. And the mindset for truly enduring spiritual freedom and victory over the enemy is peace. To truly experience spiritual freedom and victory in our daily warfare, your mind must be filled with peace.
Those are the primary principles. Over the next few weeks, we’ll look at how to live them out.
(Significant inspiration for this series taken from "The Three Battlegrounds" by Francis Frangipane.)