Spiritual Warfare: How to Win
How to win a spiritual battle
To human reasoning, it seems impossible for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ to accomplish great spiritual feat. To the Jew, the cross is a stumbling block. To the Greek, the cross is foolishness. But to God, it is powerful to rescue His saints from the clutches of the enemy.
The most powerful, mighty, dominating, significant event ever to have taken place in the history of Creation is the death of Christ upon the cross. Never has there been a more decisive battle fought. The crucifixion is a spiritual coup d’état accomplished by an army of One. The victory was so decisive; the Apostle Paul describes it as a spectacle to behold as Jesus disarmed the rulers and authorities; making a public display of them in His triumph. In other words, they suffered a humiliating defeat.
The victory of the cross is astounding considering how it was accomplished. Reflect upon the crucifixion battle strategy: be spit upon, mocked, scorned, whipped, stripped, pierced, crowned with thorns, your blood being poured out upon the ground. To be victorious, be the powerless sufferer. To overcome, be the one who is overcome. In His great spiritual defeat of His enemies, and our enemies, Jesus demonstrated true glory is found in humility. Strength is found in weakness. Spiritual battles are won with restraint and not by clamoring for rights and privileges. He revealed meekness and restraint as powerful traits. Jesus proved love, mercy, and compassion have no equal and reign supreme on the power measurement scale.
Even more amazing is how Christ could have won the battle. Jesus Christ is almighty, all-knowing, and has all-authority over every inch of the Universe. During His trial and subsequent scourging and condemnation, He could have answered every insult with knowledgeable retorts; revealing humiliating weaknesses of the soldiers who taunted Him. Jesus could have called one angel under His authority to wipe out the all Roman soldiers in Jerusalem. Jesus could have healed himself, come off the cross and established a new government and put Herod in prison. Jesus could have called in a torrential rainstorm to rain on the Pharisees self-righteous parade. His options were without limit. In doing all this, wreaking havoc on His opponents, He would be right and just and celebrated.
The entire crucifixion, from Gethsemane to Golgotha, reeked of injustice. Jesus was innocent. Put it this way, if the crucifixion was a Hollywood movie script, somewhere before the last breath would be the perfect time for the hero of the story to take control and snuff-out the bad guys to the cheers and applause of the audience. But, Jesus didn’t do that. He had a better, more righteous and noble way.
What are we to learn from this magnificent display of meek and humble prowess? What’s the point? The short of it is this, to win at spiritual battles we must die to self and hold fast to Christ.
The same forces Christ fought against, though they have been defeated, are still active today. We live in the “already-not yet” spiritual reality. It is a span of time between the already of “It is finished” on the cross and the not yet “It is done” destruction of evil prophesied in chapter 21 of the book of Revelation. In this church age, the gathering of the Saints and sanctifying of the bride of Christ, the enemies of Christ still strive against the power of the gospel and all things right and good.
The Apostle Paul tells us of this war, this fight. He says our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. These rulers and forces hate God and His ways. Their way is not the way of our Savior, but the opposite. Their way is to lift up revenge, self-exaltation, ambition, and exploitation as the means to success. The rulers of darkness teach if your enemy has mudslinging insults, you return the insults with even more mudslinging, hitting them where it hurts. “Fight for your rights,” they say, “get what you deserve.” Their way is to rattle the saber and then shock and awe the opponent. Never let the enemy see your weakness. Pursue your dreams at whatever expense, amass a fortune, and cultivate prestige. Our enemies propagate a way which is opposite of the way of the cross.
We are faced with spiritual battles every day. We are assaulted by the slick, seductive teaching of modern culture. Live large. Take pleasure in worldly ways. What God? The powers of darkness tempt us to be selfish, proud, and self-seeking. We are told “the loving thing to do” is to let people live as they want to live. But for those who are in Christ, we know people are destroying themselves with unrighteousness, and they will only find fleeting pleasure. We are demanded to stop interfering and just let people indulge.
As disciples of Christ, we desire and are bound to imitate His humility, meekness, and gentleness. Our battle is a battle of character. We are to destroy speculations and every lofty thing raised up against what God calls good and right. It is our task to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. When the enemy says, “make much of yourself,” we take that thought captive and say, “wrong thought, make much of Christ.” When the enemy says, “get even,” we say, “wrong thought, correct thinking says ‘vengeance is Mine’ says the Lord.” When the world teaches us to be self-promoting we remind ourselves we are to do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than ourselves. Instead of “looking out for number one” we know we are not to merely look out for our own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve. We are not above our Master.
Seeking success in spiritual battles? You will find the road to success is paved with a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. The road to success is the Calvary Road.
If you haven’t already, it may help to read the first installment of this post. You can find it here.
What does a Christian look like if they are truly a Christian? In other words, how are they different from the rest of the people in the world? How should they be different? To continue following the Mack Truck analogy, what changes to the person take place after impact by the Mack Truck Gospel? Is it how a person dresses? Is it how they talk? Is it what they don’t say? Is it what they don’t do? Does the Mack Truck Gospel change them to become moral people? What image does a Gospel impacted Christian portray? Are they bandaged, bruised, or healthier and stronger (or both)?
These are important questions. For the past few decades, it would seem the face Christians have put on to the rest of the world is a face which aligns itself to specific causes and societal concerns. By this I mean it seems Christians are most outspoken and very concerned about abortion, marriage, alcohol, gambling, and right-wing politics. As we read the mainstream media, we read and hear stories of Christians who appear to be the group standing in the way of other people doing whatever they would like to do. Some Christians protest against liberal political causes. Some Christians militantly stand for the right to own a gun. Some Christians frown upon the use of alcohol, tobacco, and drugs. Some Christians lament against sexual immorality. The list goes on. Basically, it appears as though Christians infringe upon the rights of the liberty of others while prudishly standing by with their nose in the air. It seems if you want to do your own thing, you can bet a Christian somewhere is against it. This is the perception of non-Christians. If you don’t believe so, ask them. Or, read comments posted on blogs written by non-Christians. Is this the impact made by the Mack Truck Gospel?
Is this Christianity? Is this how the “Body of Christ,” the universal, collective group of people who claim to have faith in the Gospel wants to be known? Or, is there something better and greater?
It seems from the writings of the Apostle Paul there is something greater and more important than trying to change the morality in the society around us. Society was wicked during Paul’s time. Wretched. Yet, we don’t see Paul trying to overthrow the government or unfair legislation. He never complains about bad Roman politics. We don’t see Paul trying to change the immoral behavior of unbelievers. Paul didn’t try to change society or the course of politics because he knew life events and circumstances happening all around him were part of God’s purposes and plan. Paul has a confidence in God working all things for good. Paul’s aim is greater. Paul is a minister of the Gospel first and a citizen of Rome last.
As a minister of the Gospel, Paul’s focus is the heart of the believer. Paul knew those who know Jesus hear His voice and respond. Paul had one focus, one aim, one glorious object of his ministry. Paul spoke to the Gospel-impacted and Holy Spirit-indwelled heart of the believer; his own heart and the heart of fellow Christians. It is there, in the heart of the Christian, true change takes place. Paul understood with the heart one believes and is made right before God (Romans 10:10). Paul knew God promised to give His chosen people a new heart and a new spirit. God promises to remove the heart of stone and give replace it with a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 11:19).
But, what kind of change takes place? What should we expect to be different about Christians? How does a changed heart impact our lives?
For too long in America, and other parts of the world, Christianity has focused on outward appearance of righteousness. “Don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t swear, and don’t watch bad movies. Do read your Bible, do go to church, do pray, do be a good citizen.” I think you know what I mean when I say these things. Our mantra needs to change. Our outlook needs to change. Our understanding of Gospel impact needs to be aligned with Scripture.
More to come.
We should have never let the government get into the marriage business!
Marriage is not the government’s business. Marriage was originally an institution of religion, accepted from the beginning of time by virtually every society and culture known to man (and virtually every religion as well). While it was accepted by society (and its governments), it was not defined by society or government.
This acceptance of the institution of marriage by society and government has always been predicated on two very simple interrelated facts that are affirmed by nature. First, marriage is between a man and a woman. Second, one of the primary purposes of marriage is the propagation of the human race, which can only be done naturally through the union of a man and a woman. Anything else is “unnatural.” In other words, it goes against nature. Two men (or women) can’t reproduce, plain and simple.
I realize those concepts (‘unnatural,’ ‘against nature’) are not embraced as truth by many who disagree with the traditional definition of marriage. For instance, this article at slate.com, which is decrying the approach of including procreation as part of the gay marriage debate simply says, “Supporters of gay marriage aren’t questioning the biology of procreation. They’re questioning its relevance. Reducing marriage to intercourse isn’t scientific.” Of course, no one is “reducing marriage to intercourse.” Procreation is only ONE purpose for marriage, among many. They have created a straw-man, easily blown over by the huff and puff of their “science.” You cannot say, however, that sex, procreation and biology have “no relevance.” It ought to be part of the discussion, even if it does not define or solve the issues at hand.
My intention in this article is not to stir up the debate about whether tendencies toward homosexuality are caused by “nature” or “nurture.” I have actually pointed you to information about this topic before (here is the link). I believe homosexuality, like every sin, comes very “naturally” for some—and even more so as it is nurtured. It comes “naturally” not in the sense of biological or genetic determinism. But, “naturally” in the sense that the human race is corrupt, and are all sinners by nature. I have some “natural” tendencies toward laziness and indulgence. That does not mean I cannot choose to work hard and be self-controlled. Natural doesn’t demand necessary.
But I’m off track. I want to talk about DEFINITIONS.
If the discussion with your homosexual friend or “gay marriage” supporter begins by questioning the social, political or moral basis for banning “gay marriage,” then you should wave the white flag. Just as the media and abortion rights activists have reframed that debate in terms of ‘choice,’ the categories and discussions about this topic have already been irreversibly reframed. The traditional definition of marriage has been assaulted. There was an attempt to salvage it on a social and political level — the Defense of Marriage Act, defining marriage as a union between a man and woman. Despite clear legislative direction to actually DEFINE the term marriage, culture and popular opinion have won the day and a broader definition is almost universally accepted. Universally accepted, however, does not mean it is true!
“Gay marriage” is a bogus term, a misnomer, there is no such thing!
Look it up in the dictionary (quick, before they change it). It still says, “(a) the social institution under which a man and woman establish their decision to live as husband and wife by legal commitments and religious ceremonies.” Ahhh…but now it also says, “(b) a similar institution involving partners of the same gender.”
Wait a minute. Is it the same institution? Or, is it just a similar institution?
Of course, our dictionaries are all going to be rewritten eventually to include both (a) and (b) as “marriage,” and not just “similar institutions.” The definition of marriage is going to change (in popular opinion it already has, to be realistic). Language and definitions are always changing. But this is the very reason why the federal government passed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), defining marriage as a “union between a man and a woman.”
To suggest, as many have, that DOMA is a “ban on gay marriage” is to miss the point. It doesn’t ban anything. It only affirms the traditional definition of marriage (for the purposes of federal law).
I think the question that many have not been asking is, “When did marriage become simply ‘any union of two persons in a committed relationship?’” When (and why) did definition (b) get added to the dictionary? And why must I accept this new definition?
In practice, no one seems to understand that this new concept of marriage as simply “any union of two persons in a committed relationship” has usurped the age-old definition of “between a man and woman.” Because there has been a shift in the assumptions of what defines a marriage, it is impossible to discuss it using the same logic and reasoning we have used in the past. This partially explains why Christians seem seem unable to refute the arguments of those who support “gay marriage.” We have unwittingly embraced their assumption that “marriage is a union of persons,” and in the process lost sight of the fact that marriage—by definition, until now—has always been understood as intrinsically and inviolably between a man and woman. The newly assumed definition makes much of what we believe and say about love, marriage and intimacy sound selfish and narrow. That is because we have a different definition in mind. Once we unknowingly embrace their new definition, much of our logic about love, the purposes of marriage, and the nature of the marriage union itself no longer carries much weight.
And for those who don’t think changing the definition creates problems, this slate.com article states what logically follows — polygamy!
The definition of marriage is plastic. Just like heterosexual marriage is no better or worse than homosexual marriage, marriage between two consenting adults is not inherently more or less ‘correct’ than among three (or four, or six) consenting adults.
Christians have unwittingly let the other side of the discussion REDEFINE marriage. How? Why? Who gave them the right to redefine our religious institution?
A friend of mine (a somewhat tepid supporter of “gay marriage”) answered this question for me recently. He said, “I think that the State usurped the Church’s authority to marry people [and define marriage] when it allowed them to be married in courthouses by city clerks rather than in churches by pastors. This move completely took the church out of the equation and made marriage not only a religious institution but also a legal one. Because the ‘State’ marriage can be done without the consent or involvement of the Church, the State has the right to change the definition of a ‘marriage’ it recognizes.”
I’ll say it again: “We should have never let the government get into the marriage business!”
I would change his explanation in one way, however. The State, in recognizing marriage, did not “completely take the church out of the equation” at that point. It was certainly true, however, that it “potentially” took the church out of the equation. And today we are seeing the unfortunate consequences of that potentiality.
No one could have foreseen that marriage would end up being a watershed test case for why there should always be a separation of church and state. But, having let the state put their foot in the door of the religious institution of marriage, the Church has unfortunately and irreversibly given away the exclusive right to define it.
For many years I have included this language in every marriage ceremony I have officiated: “We are gathered here in this place of worship because marriage is an institution created and established by God, and which, therefore, is only properly regulated by His commandments.” I am making the point that the government has no right to regulate (or define) an institution that it did not establish and create in the first place. While I believe this and will continue to say it at every wedding until I die, the time has sadly already come where the implications of that truth will likely never again be possible. What used to be a “sacred union” between a man and woman is now (or soon will be) a “secular union” because it will be allowed to exist between any two people (or maybe multiple people soon—polygamy will be next!). There isn’t another way to see it. It isn’t sacred anymore when you take God and morals out of the definition.
But what about the implications of allowing the definition to change? How can we take this fact of a changing definition, and help people see that changing definitions has serious implications?
I have increasingly seen the discussion and debate revolving around the “gay marriage” issue boiled down to a matter of personal rights, or denying others the same basic human rights or privileges afforded to others. If it isn’t hurting you, then why do you care? As a person called to have compassion and concern for my fellow man, I have no problem understanding why homosexual partners want certain legal rights (hospital visitation rights, inheritance rights, etc.). In fact, I would consider it lacking compassion and grace for a healthcare professional to deny visitation to a homosexual partner because they “are not related.”
But that does not mean they should be allowed to redefine marriage. Nor does it mean that allowing this changed definition “does not hurt anyone.”
I went down this road in my discussion with the friend I mentioned earlier, by using an illustration of another potential “definition change.” I suggested we take the time-tested, and universally accepted definition of “United States citizen,” and redefine it to be more inclusive and accepting of others who want to have this relationship with the state. He had complained about those who oppose “gay marriage” by saying this:
I believe STRONGLY that the government was created to PROTECT the rights of the individual, not to restrict them. The government shouldn’t be in the business of enforcing the morality taught by one religion over another’s. The government should ONLY step in and take action against a person when that person is taking away the rights of another. Simply put: your rights end where another’s rights begin. Until someone can prove to me that two people of the same sex getting married is somehow taking away someone else’s rights, then I don’t see how it’s still an issue. If you’re against gay marriage because of your morals then don’t marry someone of the same sex as you. It’s that simple. Stop trying to force your morals onto someone else.
In an effort to show how changing definitions has definite implications regarding the rights of all people involved (not just the ones gaining new rights), I took his statement and reworded it with the topic of citizenship in view. I used a new definition of “citizen,” one not everyone would accept or embrace: “I believe you should have the right to be a called a citizen, and receive all the benefits of citizenship, if you have been in the U.S. for more than one year.”
Here was his paragraph re-written:
I believe STRONGLY that the government was created to PROTECT the rights of the individual, not to restrict them. The government shouldn’t be in the business of enforcing the CITIZENSHIP LAWS taught by one LEGAL SYSTEM over another. The government should only step in and take action against a person when that person is taking away the rights of another. Simply put: your rights end where another’s rights begin. Until someone can prove to me that a FOREIGNER getting CITIZENSHIP is somehow taking away someone else’s rights, then I don’t see how it’s still an issue. If you’re against FOREIGN CITIZENSHIP because of your DIFFERING DEFINITION then don’t BE A CITIZEN in the same COUNTRY. It’s that simple. Stop trying to force your CITIZENSHIP STANDARDS onto someone else.
I realize it is a crazy hypothetical, and sounds a little silly. Government does have the right to define and enforce citizenship laws. And a private citizen or lobby does not have that right. But the logic is the same. A small minority has demanded that the government change a standard definition, and grant them the same rights and privileges of others.
Redefining citizenship changes things. Redefining terms has implications. To simply change the definition to, “Any person who has been in the country more than one year,” and then proceed to give those encompassed by that new definition all of the benefits and privileges of citizenship would be an outrage (reference the current immigration debate, if you don’t believe me—the word “amnesty” gets many people fired up). You can’t do that because the definitions of citizen, and the rights and benefits of citizenship are defined by law. People would correctly object to changing that definition, because extending those benefits and rights would cost a lot of money, which actually does take resources away from others. How? Because the tax code, social security system, welfare programs and the insurance industry have all based their rates and eligibility standards with a different definition in view. The laws, standards and rates would all eventually adjust. But people who disagree with the new definition will be forced to submit to whatever consequences, tax increases, or rate changes that new definition creates. In that sense alone, they will have certain “rights” taken away from them in the form of potentially higher taxes, higher insurance rates, or decreased benefits (as the pot is spread thinner among those who did not pay in as a young worker). I hesitate to use the term “rights” here, but I think you get the idea. Change would be an economic certainty, and I must pay in whether I agree with the new definitions that will cause the potential increases or not.
This is the same logic and argument that would cause most people to strongly object to any kind of automatic citizenship (an exaggerated hypothetical), or even amnesty. This is why there is such a huge debate going on about immigration reform and temporary amnesty for illegal aliens.
I am not even discussing the moral side of the “gay marriage” debate here. Of course people disagree with our moral arguments (as Albert Mohler points out). I am actually addressing the pragmatic issue that when definitions are changed it has implications in the public arena. People’s rights and relationships change.
While most would acknowledge there is validity to these logical points as they apply to the immigration issue, the same logic is quickly dismissed in the “gay marriage” debate because the homosexual lobby is simply stronger and more powerful than the lobby of illegal aliens.
I concluded my discussion with my friend by reminding him that the issue I was expressing concern about was the redefining of marriage — not the benefits so much (as money/taxes mean little to me). The government has wrongly usurped the authority to define what has always been considered a religious institution (not even strictly a “Christian” one; almost all religions have believed marriage to be between a man and a woman until recently). They usurped this “defining authority” because they granted this institution a legal status, and a loud minority has demanded that they be given the same legal status, even though they are ineligible for the religious institution itself–INELIGIBLE BY DEFINITION; not because of bias, or hate, or a desire to deny them certain “rights,” or because we passed a “ban on gay marriage.”
Gay marriage is a contradiction in terms, unless you redefine marriage.
Sadly, I realize there is little chance of winning this battle or of maintaining a proper definition of marriage in the public arena. I believe it is now a foregone conclusion that marriage has already been redefined; if not technically or politically, it has been redefined for all practical intents and purposes in the minds of the masses. Our dictionaries will reflect it soon. The true Church and Scripture will not. What are the implications of that?!
Will this redefinition of marriage create a situation where churches and pastors like me are going to have to say, “‘gay marriage’ is just a legal status; it is not real, it is not true, and it is not recognized by God or the church. The Bible defines marriage as between a man and a woman.”
Will saying such things be considered illegal one day? Will it be a hate crime, or a violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment, to publicly declare that we believe someone’s ‘marriage’ is invalid (and immoral)? Or will I be allowed my right to religious freedom in the first amendment to publicly disagree with and contradict the legal definitions and the legislative mandates that are almost certain to be law soon? Will some cantankerous homosexual with the financial backing of the ACLU decide to sue me, or the church, for refusing to officiate at their ‘marriage’ ceremony or allow them to use our facility? Would they do this simply to make a point, or even to maliciously destroy our ministry?
It is going to get sticky. And it all starts with definitions!
We should have never let the government get into the marriage business!