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Do you recall the events surrounding the golden calf of Exodus 32? Moses had ventured to the top of the mountain, at God’s request, to get the law for the people. While Moses is on the mountain the people despair that he has deserted them, and they petition Aaron to “make us gods that shall go before us” (Ex. 32:1). He obliges by fashioning their golden jewelry into the form of a calf, to which they offer sacrifices in false worship. In vs. 7 God tells Moses to return to the camp because the people had corrupted themselves. On the way down the mountain he rejoins Joshua, who makes an interesting comment about the camp of Israel. Exodus 32:17 – 17 And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, “There is a noise of war in the camp.” Of course, Joshua was mistaken about what was happening back at camp. The people were not preparing to go to war with any enemy. They were living it up in celebration of their newly made god. Fighting was the last thing on their minds.
- But in a real, yet ironic, sense Joshua was hearing the sounds of war. It was not the sounds of a physical conflict or enemy. But Israel was being attacked by their greatest adversary. Satan had infiltrated the camp of God’s people, and he was waging war against them.
Our study of spiritual warfare in 2011 requires that we properly define and assess the nature of the battle between good and evil. No generation has been exempt from this conflict, and every moral decision that we make is a part of this eternal struggle. Can we see it? Is it possible to be in the middle of a battle and not know it? Physically that seems improbable, but not when the battle is spiritual. It is possible for us to not see the war raging around us.
The spiritual warfare of the Bible is viewed in two distinct ways in scripture:
1) The spiritual battle within each person between the desires of the flesh and the words of God’s Spirit. This is the inward battle between good and evil that manifests itself through the temptation to sin. 1 Peter 2:11– Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul,
- Paul vividly describes this inward battle in Rom 7:19-23 – For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. 20 Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 21 I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. 22 For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. Even Jesus Himself fought this inner battle with the desires of the flesh, but He did not succumb.
2) The spiritual battle outwardly against the forces of Satan in the world. The Christian fights this external battle as he teaches the truth in opposition to error. Eph 6:12 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. The word of God reveals to us a scene we could not know about or understand apart from revelation. The spiritual battlefield is beyond our physical view, but God’s word makes it known.
I. The Elements of the Spiritual War: The events of Genesis 3 not only describe the beginning of actual sin, but the nature of an eternal conflict. Gen 3:1-6 – Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; 3 but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.'” 4 Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. It is important for us to see the players involved and the nature of the contest.
A. The advent of sin is revealed in a personal encounter between Eve and the serpent. Sin is a personal choice and the conflict is individually engaged. The serpent introduced here is Satan, later described by Jesus as a murderer and the father of all lies: John 8:44 …He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. That characterization of Satan is important. The spiritual conflict between good and evil centers on the existence of objective truth and falsehood.
1. Satan’s approach was not simply to suggest to Eve that she eat the forbidden fruit. But rather he first attempted to get Eve to doubt the veracity of God’s words themselves. (“has God indeed said…?”) What was at stake in this encounter between the Serpent and Eve was the truthfulness of God’s words. Evil is born out of the lie. (“you shall not surely die”). If Eve could be convinced to serve herself through disobedience to God, it would come at the expense of her trust in God’s words.
B. Notice how the apostle describes this spiritual warfare in 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 – 3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, 6 and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.
1. First we can notice the type of war we are NOT engaged in. We do not war “according to the flesh”. Our Weapons are not carnal. That phrase can be understood in two ways:
a. We are not called to use physical weapons (of the flesh) such as guns, knives, spears, etc. Although these types of weapons can gain control over the body, they cannot subjugate the mind or spirit. (Matt 26:52 – Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.)
b. We are not called to use weapons that appeal to the flesh or outward person. These carnal weapons would include the revered philosophies of our day (how-to-seminars), the assumptions of our culture and pop psychology; the trappings of recreation and social pleasures that permeate so many church agendas today. (job fairs and health clinics are impotent weapons in the battle against sin)
2. But the weapons that we are to utilize are “mighty in God” – divinely and spiritually powerful; The power comes from God, not ourselves. Although Paul uses the plural “weapons” here, he seems contextually to only have a single effective weapon in mind – the truth. After concluding that the religious leaders of His day had been taken captive by their own sin, Jesus told them it was the truth that would make them free. (John 8:32) Truth is realism; and as such is the only answer to the deceit and illusion of Satan.
3. What can the truth do? Paul mentions three things that are accomplished through the truth in the spiritual battle we are in:
- “pulling down strongholds” – The picture is of a well fortified city wall being breached and overthrown. That which seemed impenetrable is vulnerable to the power of the gospel. Certainly pagan idolatry with all its superstitions was a formidable fortress in Paul’s day. Do you recognize the strongholds of our day:
- Naturalism, evolutionary origins, subjective morality, freedom of the individual, materialism, denominational religion, faith only salvation, …etc. How formidable are these institutions of thought?
- “casting down arguments” – The word for argument here is also translated as reasonings or imaginations. The word points to elevated and prominent thoughts that seem to lend credibility to evil. These are the answers we get back when we attempt to persuade people with the truth.
- One writer speaks of seeing a recent pamphlet put out by the homosexual community in San Jose. CA. to defend their right to public acceptance of a homosexual lifestyle. It was headed with these words, “Dare We Lose Our Right To Love?” – A right to love. What could be wrong with that? We have to be ready to attack such “reasonings” with the objective truth of the scriptures, not being intimidated by the imaginations of men.
- Jesus cast down the arguments of Satan through the proper interpretation and application of O.T. scripture. Matt 4:2-11 – And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. 3 Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” 4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'” 5 Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.'” 7 Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.'” 8 Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.'”11 Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.
- “bringing thoughts into captivity to the obedience of Christ” – The truth has the ability to so capture one’s thinking that life conduct is completely changed. The progressive picture of the battle consummates here: the strongholds of cultural thinking are breached, the arguments for evil are cast down, and the will of the individual is taken captive by the authority of God’s word. The victory of this battle is viewed in the obedience of the heart to Christ alone.
- The triumph of the truth over evil is comprehensive. Not in the sense that evil is never practiced or imagined again. But in the ability of the truth to change the person from within. The Christian serves God willingly, and suffers for Christ cheerfully. This complete subjugation of the spirit of a man to God is the objective of the battle.
- “Every thought in obedience to Christ” – how difficult is it to be pure in our thoughts, and to direct our thoughts always towards obeying God’s words?
- What does it mean to win this battle? ( Lila mentioned a fiery furnace- Brady & Brice told us the story of Daniel’s three friends – Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. When music plays you must bow down. (That music was “the noise of war”)
- Dan 3:4-7 – Then a herald cried aloud: “To you it is commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, 5 that at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, you shall fall down and worship the gold image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up; 6 and whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.” 7 So at that time, when all the people heard the sound of the horn, flute, harp, and lyre, in symphony with all kinds of music, all the people, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the gold image which King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
- Dan 3:14-18 – 14 Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the gold image which I have set up? 15 Now if you are ready at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, and you fall down and worship the image which I have made, good! But if you do not worship, you shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?” 16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. 18 But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”
Conclusion: The war is real. The stakes are high. If we are unwilling to fight, we will lose everything. Our success is dependent on our submission to our Commander, who has led into battle. Put your confidence in Him and what He did at Calvary. Listen carefully to His words.