The scriptures are filled with wisdom and instruction on the topic of spiritual warfare, as all of the children of God who have gone before us have encountered struggles with the enemy. Believers desiring to submit to the will of the Father must recognize that we will also be called to face these battles.
Who is our enemy?
As we approach this topic, we begin by remembering the guidance we have from Paul in Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”
Believers should not be tempted to turn our attention intently towards the enemy and his schemes. God our Father is fully aware of him, and will be our guide as we meditate on His Word and learn to listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
However, neither should we ignore the reality of who our enemy is, particularly as we are sorting out issues such as unity in the Body, the building-up and sending-out of workers, and our own salvation.
Paul reminds of this truth in Ephesians 6:10-12, writing, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
The scriptures also provide us some guidance on the character of our enemy:
Revelation 12:9 provides a brief, but rich description: “The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.”
Note the wording here, describing Satan as the one “who leads the whole world astray.” It is important to remember that our enemy operates entirely through deception.
In John 10:10, Jesus tells us, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Let’s consider these points a bit more:
1- The enemy comes to steal.
John 1:3 gives us some information about Jesus Christ, saying, “Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.”
In Hebrews 1:2 we read, “but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through Whom also He made the universe.”
The scriptures are clear on this point: All of creation was created by God, through Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is Himself Heir of all things.
But the enemy is a thief. He deceives the world, claiming that the blessings of God’s creation actually belong to him. A few examples of the gifts of God, which the enemy attempts to claim as his own, include the arts, science, sex, numbers, nature, the human body, family, and even the Church.
Through these blessings of God’s creation, we have the possibility for revelation of the life and love and truth of our Creator. However, when we submit to the deception of the enemy, we develop instead a posture of defense and hostility towards these gifts, often resulting in a growth of fear and legalism.
2 – The enemy comes to kill.
He wants to kill you and me. Every single temptation or distraction into which he tempts us is meant for the purpose of taking from us the life we have been given through Jesus Christ.
We recall the story in the Garden of Eden, when God said to Adam in Genesis 2:16-17, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”
Shortly after this, we see man’s first encounter with the enemy, in Genesis 3. When tempting Eve to disobey God, the serpent said to her in verses 4-5, “You will not surely die… For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God…”
This is a common deception of the enemy: “You will not surely die, but you will be like God. That sin in your life is not killing you. In fact, it is leading you towards real, true life! You’ve worked hard. People have hurt you. You deserve this. And it will make you feel better. It will make you feel more powerful.”
But there is something else feeding the power of the deceptions of our enemy, which is that his temptations and excuses are exactly what our old, carnal nature wants to hear. Without the blood of Jesus Christ, we are naturally drawn to the things that lead to death. The enemy is simply providing the excuses we need in order to ignore the evidence of the death, which is consuming us.
But through all of this remains the steadfast, still voice of our Father God, speaking in His unfailing love for us, saying, “You must not eat from that tree, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”
Proverbs 7 – Take a few minutes to read through this image of the tempter in Proverbs. This passage provides a rich description of the enemy’s strategy for luring individuals into the snares of sin and death.
3 – The enemy comes to destroy.
As we consider this description of the enemy who comes to destroy, it’s good to begin by asking the question – what does he seek to destroy?
Jesus Christ addressed this question in Matthew 21:12-15: “Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. ‘It is written’, He said to them, ‘”My house will be called a house of prayer,” but you are making it a “den of robbers.”‘”
We have additional insight for this question in Ephesians 1:22-23, when Paul writes about Jesus Christ, saying, “And God placed all things under His feet and appointed Him to be head over everything for the Church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way.”
This target, which the enemy seeks to destroy, is the Church. The very body of Christ Himself. Note that this does not necessarily include the church buildings in which we meet. More precisely, the enemy seeks to tear down the unity and the love that signifies the true Church. He wants to destroy the Body of believers, the fellowship of the disciples of Jesus Christ.
The scars of division and conflict, which have resulted throughout the history of Church, are clear evidence of the war the enemy wages against the Bride of Christ. Further, in these attacks we see him using precisely the same strategy we have already discussed – the strategy of deception.
In this account at the temple, Jesus Christ reminds us of the words of the prophet in Isaiah 56:6-7, that those “who bind themselves to the Lord to serve Him, to love the name of the Lord, and to worship Him”, God has brought to His “holy mountain and given them joy in (His) house of prayer… for (God’s) house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.”
“God’s house will be called a ‘house of prayer'”. The instruction for the Church here is really quite simple. Yet, we are currently witnessing an epidemic in the Church of leaders and workers who are exhausted, consistently giving all of their time and energy, while struggling to find any free time for prayer.
Some of the deceptions of the enemy against the Church and God’s children:
– Deception that we are unwanted and are unloved by our Heavenly Father (so that we must “prove” to Him that we are worthy of His love).
– Deception that the wisdom and strategies of the world are more relevant than the wisdom of the Holy Spirit.
– Deception that the glorification of men saves us.
How do Believers Respond?
Whether we are in the midst of an attack of the enemy in our own lives, or we are in an intercessory prayer session with someone needing deliverance, the scriptures give us clear guidance on how we can be prepared to respond to and resist the devil.
1 – Learning the voice of our Father God.
In John 10:1-5, we have the words of Jesus Christ, when he said, “Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”
In this passage, Jesus provides for us the 2 primary means for confronting the deceptions of the enemy in our lives:
a. Become intimately, passionately familiar with the voice of our Heavenly Father.
b. Flee from/ignore all other strange and unrecognizable voices.
True intimacy with and trust in the voice of our Heavenly Father is a primary line of defense against the deceptions of our enemy. This kind of familiarity with our Shepherd is achieved through a rich, committed life of prayer.
2 – Absolute submission to the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ.
In Matthew 28:17-20, Jesus tells His disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”
As with every aspect of our reconciliation to the Father through Jesus Christ, we start by recognizing that in our own strength, we have no authority to defeat the deceptions of the enemy. If we attempt to fight these battles without falling on our faces in repentance and humility before Jesus Christ, and allowing Him to cover us with His blood and fill us with the Holy Spirit, then we will fail.
In Acts 19:13-16, we have an example of this reality in the account of the seven sons of Sceva:
Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, ‘In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.’ Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. One day the evil spirit answered them, ‘Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?’ Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.
An interesting point of this story is found in verse 15, when the evil spirit answered the sons of Sceva by saying, “Jesus I know, and Paul I am acquainted with, but who are you?” It is important to note here that not only did the evil spirit know who Jesus Christ was, but he also knew who Paul was.
As our relationship and intimacy with Jesus Christ deepens, the whole of the spiritual world comes to recognize us as His followers, who are covered by His blood. It is our transformation in Jesus Christ, and our submission to follow Him, by which the enemy must submit to us when we speak in our Lord’s name.
3 – Denying worldly wisdom, submitting only to the wisdom of God, through the Holy Spirit.
In Acts 8:9-19, we have the account of the meeting of the apostles with a sorcerer from Samaria, named Simon. The author tells us that Simon was well-respected in his community, and that people from all classes followed and honored him because of his skills in sorcery.
Then we have the account of the apostles coming to Samaria, in verses 14-19:
But when (the Samarians) believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw.
When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money and said, ‘Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.’
Simon’s request for the gift of the Holy Spirit here provides a good illustration of the error of reliance on the wisdom of man. Note that his desire for the gift of the Holy Spirit is not wrong in itself. The things we must consider – those things which God our Father considers – come from the condition of Simon’s heart:
a. Simon coveted the authority of the apostles, and he wanted that authority for himself. He sought the gift of the Holy Spirit out of a desire to see himself justified – so that he would be considered “righteous” and “honored” by the people of his community.
b. Simon attempted to gain for himself the authority and power of the Holy Spirit in his own life not through intimacy with the Lord Jesus Christ, or through submission to the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. He attempted to gain the gifts of the Holy Spirit through the quickest and most efficient means he knew – money.
Reliance on human wisdom has become a tremendous temptation for the Church today. Believers must humble themselves before the Lord in prayer, and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to us the areas in which He is calling us to turn our ears away from the wisdom of the world, and to wait on the wisdom He gives through the voice of the Holy Spirit.
4 – Meditation on the Word of God
In Ephesians 6:10-18, the apostle Paul gives specific guidance for believers facing spiritual warfare. In this account, he provides a detailed list of the elements of what he calls “the full armor of God”.
We have that list in verses 14-17: “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
Each element of the “armor” described by Paul here is meant primarily as a weapon of defense against the attacks of the enemy, with the exception of one: The sword of the Spirit, which Paul identifies as the Word of God.
One of the most memorable examples of the authority of the scriptures to defeat the enemy is found in Matthew 4, the temptation of Jesus Christ in the wilderness. After spending 40 days and nights alone in the desert without eating or drinking, Jesus was hungry.
It was at this time that the devil came and waged attack after attack on Jesus. With each attempt, Jesus came back at the devil with the Word of God:
Vs. 4: Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”
Vs. 7: Jesus answered him, “It is also written, ‘Do not put the Lord you God to the test.'”
Vs. 10-11: Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord you God, and serve Him only.'” Then the devil left Him.
The Word of God is nourishment for His children. We must commit to prayerfully meditate on His word. As it is opened up to us by the Holy Spirit, and as it is written on our hearts, we will be much better equipped when we are confronted with the devil.
The authority of God’s Word is also important during our intercessory prayers for others, particularly those needing deliverance. Very often, simply speaking the Word of God over a person can be very effective in seeing the authority of satan break in a person’s life.
Following are a few examples of scriptures that are very powerful when prayed according to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and in the name of Jesus Christ:
– “Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.'” Matthew 28:18
– “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life.'” John 14:6
– “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in My love.” John 15:9
– “O Lord, you have searched me and you know me… If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’ even the darkness will not be dark to You; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to You.” Psalm 139:1-12
– “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4
– “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus… he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:1-4
– “And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies, through His Spirit, Who lives in you… For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.” Romans 8:11-15
– “We know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like Him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear…” 1 John 4:16-18
Some Thoughts on Deliverance
It is difficult for us to fully understand, but there are circumstance in which individuals become particularly vulnerable to the deceptions of the enemy – perhaps through trauma or addiction, for example. In these cases, individuals may submit themselves to the authority of the enemy (or be handed over to the authority of the enemy in the case of children), resulting in a need for them to be “delivered” from the evil that has assumed a sort of control in their lives.
In these cases, it is often necessary first to address the source of the pain or deception, which originally led the individual to submit to the control of the evil spirit in their lives. This includes praying for God to reveal and to heal:
– deceptions of worthlessness,
– issues of terror, rage, or unforgiveness regarding others who may have abused the person for whom you’re praying,
– areas of addiction and sin, which make the individual vulnerable to the influence and control of the enemy.
Once these authorities of sin, pain, and deception have been broken, it may be necessary to directly address the evil spirit or darkness, which has taken control in the person’s life, and to command it to leave in the name of Jesus Christ. We have examples of Jesus Christ doing this during His times of prayer ministry with others:
– “‘Be quiet!’ said Jesus sternly. ‘Come out of him!'” (Jesus Christ directly addressing an evil spirit.) Mark 1:25
– “Jesus said to him, ‘Away from me, Satan! For it is written: “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”‘” Matthew 4:10
Deliverance ministry can be quite intense. When possible, prayer ministers should engage in this type of prayer ministry with the support of a prayer partner or prayer team.
However, believers should not be intimidated or fearful about engaging the enemy in the name of Jesus Christ, recognizing that the breaking of authorities of darkness and deliverance of evil spirits are natural parts of the declaration of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
As you sense the Lord leading you more deeply into spiritual warfare or deliverance ministry, consider researching other sources of information on these topics. I recommend the book Deliverance from Evil Spirits by Francis MacNutt as a place to begin (Chosen Books, 1995).
Week 7 Meditation
This week, set aside 40 minutes on 4 different days, for spending time in prayer and meditation on God’s Word. The focus of the prayer time this week will be spiritual warfare, and seeking revelation on the places where the enemy is maintaining a sort of authority in our lives. With this topic, it is a good idea to reach out to someone whom you trust and know to be spiritually mature, and who will be willing to meet with you to talk and pray through some of the things the Lord reveals in your time of prayer.
Day 1 – Psalm 23
Day 2 – Psalm 139
Day 3 – Isaiah 43:1-7
Day 4 – Hebrews 4:12-16
Things to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you (Jot down in your journal the things you hear Him speak to you, and share them in your time with your prayer partner):
– Any places in your life where you are struggling under the deception and authority of the enemy.
– Scriptures for you to begin to pray in the name of Jesus Christ, which will work to break down the authorities and deceptions which have gained some control in your life. (You may find some examples above under the subsection, “4 -Meditation on the Word of God.”)
– Revelations of the truth of God’s Word for you, which He desires to write on your heart, setting you free from the deceptions and lies of darkness.