“Clothe yourselves with the full armor of God so that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens” (Ephesians 6:11-12 NET).
I want to get practical with you about evangelism (and we’ll do that in future posts). First, however, you need to be aware of something that will factor in at every step: we are at war.
The first rule for engaging in spiritual warfare is knowing that there is a spiritual war. In the war we wage with “the spiritual forces of evil,” here are some key elements that can help steer our mindset to consider the magnitude of the war and the real resistance we face from the powers of this darkness.
1. We Are In A Spiritual War
As in any war, there are at least two parties in opposition with each other. In the spiritual war at hand, there are several parties at play: rulers of darkness, spiritual forces, disciples of Christ, God the Triune, Satan the Devil, sin, righteousness, desire. Often times we might forget who, or what, our opponent is in this spiritual war–or worse, we forget we are even in a spiritual war.
Who is our opponent?
We can think the people we are snatching from the flames (Jude 1:23) are those we are at war with. No, all people are at war with the rulers of this darkness and the spiritual forces of evil, both disciples and otherwise. However, some are losing the war, because they don’t have God fighting with them.
The job of a Christian is to help those who are being corrupted by evil to see the spiritual war.
We should be sincere, and persuade them of the love of Christ as it pertains to their life. This might not all happen in one conversation, but we must think spiritually if those we interact with are to learn to think spiritually.
If we see through the lens of Jesus, then a person’s soul becomes the first priority. In Jesus’ mind, healing a person’s soul took priority to healing them physically; He was focused on the spiritual war, and the eternity of a person was the first thing on his mind (e.g., Matthew 9:2, Mark 2:5; John 6:26-27).
2. Wars Require Weapons
“For though we live as human beings, we do not wage war according to human standards, for the weapons of our warfare are not human weapons, but are made powerful by God for tearing down strongholds. We tear down arguments and every arrogant obstacle that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to make it obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5 NET).
What weapons do we require? Paul says we do not wage war the way the world has taught us to, but rather we wage war by “tearing down strongholds.” What strongholds are we tearing down?
Often the stronghold is the fleshly paradigm of the world and of those taken captive by it. Paul’s mindset is an excellent example. Because of God’s strength in him, Paul waged war with the worldliness he lived in, reconstructing arguments and captivating the audience with the “true and reasonable” (Acts 26:25) majesty of God.
We might consider this Scripture about taking thoughts captive to refer to our own thoughts, that we should take our thoughts captive when they aren’t Christlike. However, Paul writes here of his mindset for taking the thoughts of others captive. This is his way of “tearing down [or demolishing] strongholds.” Our aim is to fix our minds on the spiritual weapons we have, so that we are keen to the strongholds that surround us and oppose the glory of God.
3. We Are Soldiers
Some who are reading this may have studied wars in school, or perhaps you’ve fought in a war, or maybe you’ve lost loved ones to war. Wars are heavy and tragic, and the weight of a war cannot be quickly explained away with a small paragraph. For those who have been to war, there are often lifelong emotional or physical repercussions beyond explanation, some that a soldier can prepare for with training, and many that are impossible to adequately prepare for.
Fighting for a cause larger than oneself is heavy and respectable, and it’s something a soldier never takes lightly.
Basic training and specialization qualifies a soldier or officer to fight more tactfully, and prepare them to think, act, and live differently. It creates different living habits and destroys unhealthy habits. It renews the mind to respond to each circumstance situationally, and to do so quickly and effectively. The training of a soldier prepares them to continue preparing, and then they continue to train as they learn and they prepare as they grow. The process is endless.
We are soldiers in God’s army.
“Take your share of suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one in military service gets entangled in matters of everyday life; otherwise he will not please the one who recruited him” (2 Timothy 2:3-4 NET).
We need the constant reminder that we have enlisted into God’s military service. Though our battle is not always against what we can see, there is a very real war. In Christ, we are “more than conquerors” (Romans 8:37), and our faith is what carries us through to victory.
“For this is what love for God is: to keep His commands. Now His commands are not a burden, because whatever has been born of God conquers the world. This is the victory that has conquered the world: our faith. And who is the one who conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:3-5 HCSB).
The victory is ours who are in Christ. What courage this should bring! Our battle is not against the flesh and blood of the person we set out to save from the corruption of the evil darkness, but against the the evil darkness that wages war with their soul.
Without someone to snatch them from the flames, their soul is losing the spiritual war. Let’s have a spiritual focus so that we can help others to see through the spiritual lens of Jesus.
(For more from Daniel, see danielcberk.com.)