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Spiritual Warfare Part 1

The apostle Paul warned the church of Ephesus about a spiritual warfare that was raging around them. This war was taking place behind the scenes, in the spiritual realm. As such, this is a war to control the mind in order to create doubts regarding the truth. In advising the church to “put on the full armor of God,” the apostle argued that wearing God’s armor is the only way we can “stand against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). Christians have used this verse many times to encourage each other to strengthen themselves against the attacks from the devil, and Paul wanted us to encourage each other with his words.

While Paul’s words, that God’s armor is the key to spiritual victory, have encouraged Christians for two thousand years, I believe the apostle was sharing a much deeper truth. Let me share three truths Christians must remember in getting ready for battle. First, Christians must never forget their mission, which is to make disciples. A disciple, from Paul’s perspective, is someone who follows Jesus because he believes in Jesus’s teaching and wants to become just like the Master. Second, Christians must also remember that the battle the devil is waging against the Church is a spiritual war, which means that the Church is never, ever, fighting people. The apostle clearly stated that “our fight is not against flesh and blood” (Ephesians 6:12a). When Christians focus their attention on people, they are being distracted to fight the wrong enemy. Our war is “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 6:12b). Third, Christians must also remember that secular and worldly tactics are always a losing proposition for the Church.

One thing I have noticed is that many Christians are uninformed regarding the schemes of the devil. What are we missing, you may ask? Well, I am glad you asked. Even though the apostle Paul said that we know the schemes of the devil, the reality is that most Christians do not have a clue as to how the devil’s schemes play out in real life. That is, most followers of Christ do not have a basic understanding of warfare, in general, or about spiritual warfare in particular. A basic knowledge of warfare include: (1) designing a coherent strategy, and (2) developing an effective tactical plan. I want to consider these two elements of warfare one at a time. Let’s talk about strategy first.

During my military career, I participated in numerous simulated combat training exercises. Those training events had three major objectives. First, every commander was required to know the fighting doctrine or tactics of the enemy to almost the same level they knew their own. During those days, we considered the Russian army as the most likely enemy we would face on the battlefield, so we studied Russian tactics. Commanders had books, manuals, and different combat doctrinal documents that described how the Russian army deployed his forces during a time of war. If a commander did not know the enemy tactics, he would be at a tremendous disadvantage in getting his own troops ready to confront the enemy.

The second purpose for the training was to practice how to anticipate, respond, or react to the enemy’s tactical movements. This aspect of the training was crucial to win any combat engagement, for if we did not know what the enemy was doing or why he was doing it, we would be walking blindly into enemy traps and deception. The need to be well-trained in our Christian tactics cannot be underestimated.

The third purpose was to become familiar in developing tactics that took in consideration the conditions of the terrain upon which the battle was being fought. If a commander developed a strategy that did not consider the conditions of the terrain, he could find his unit stuck in mud, delayed by rocks, or worse, stopped by lakes or rivers. If the Church wants to succeed in this spiritual battle, we must know the terrain in which we are facing the enemy. Our failure to account for the terrain's influence on the combat tactics will ensure a defeat, or at least a much harder fight to win. (Next: the first level of developing a coherent strategy)

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