Thursday, June 14, 2012

Spiritual warfare: there is a right way and a wrong way

[Updated to add two photos]

I'm still thinking about my last post about the fallen angels and satan flooding the earth. It will be a time of potent evil.

The Christian is always engaged in spiritual warfare, it is a fact of life. The bible tells us in many ways and in many books that we are to be vigilant. The most famous of these warnings is when Peter said,

"Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour." (1 Peter 5:8- ESV).

There is a lot of truth in there. Let's unpack it for a moment before we go on. Be sober-minded, and then he emphasizes again, be watchful. The word for sober literally means to be not drunk with wine, and figuratively, be free from the drunken influences that sin causes, so that you may keep your wits about you. You don't want a drunk person driving you around in your car, do you? A drunk babysitter? A drunk security guard at your store? A drunk sentry at the barracks? No, of course not. When we are drunk with alcohol or sin, we cannot act in a responsible manner.

Be watchful means just that, as well: watch, be vigilant. The literal Greek word translated to English means "stay awake." Too many of us fall asleep on our Christian walk. The figurative meaning is also obvious, stay on the alert.

Then Peter said "your adversary the devil..." Devil means adversary, (and slanderer) so using both adversary and devil in rapid succession drives the point home. The word adversary also has a legal connotation. Satan acts as such an adversary, "bringing the (law)suit of darkness against believers for their eternal damnation." He is the opponent at Law.

The word prowls connotes constant, sneaky, quiet motion. But the Greek word is peripateo, from which we get peripatetic in English. A peripatetic person is someone who walks around constantly, a wayfarer, a traveler.

A roaring lion...why did Peter use the Holy Spirit's inspired word "roaring"? Doesn't that contradict with prowling? Why would satan sneakily prowl but then announce his presence by roaring at his prey? Well, did you know that in real life, "resident males only roar when they are on their own territory. So the first thing we can say about roaring in males is that it is a display of ownership that is only given by residents on their own territory." We know that satan is god of this world, (2 Corinthians 4:4) given authority and power on earth (Mt 4:7-9).

Wiki Answers explains the lion's roar: "They roar to communicate with each other and they roar to proclaim where their territory is, they do this every evening. Roaring is also one of their strategies for catching prey - they creep up on the prey and when they are close enough, they will let out a roar that confuses that animal(s) and strikes fear into the lion's prey. The prey then cannot "think" or react correctly out of fear and so is trapped and caught by the lion."

Seeking whom he may devour...the Greek word means "swallow, devour, destroy, consume."

It is clear: we have an enemy we must always vigilantly be on guard from. But now here is the point of the essay.

People engaged in misguided spiritual warfare fancy themselves as warriors brandishing swords, going out deliberately and purposely engaging with demons. This kind of wayward spiritual warfare uses "spiritual mapping." The proponents go to a territory or neighborhood and try to uncover the demonic obstacles that are hindering spiritual growth in that location. Through spiritual mapping they attempt to discover the specific hindrances to the Gospel message in an area, such as divination, or fortune telling, and then, through persistent intercession performed in various ways, remove them. They believe that if they know first that it is a spirit of fortune telling that is blocking the flourishing of the Gospel in that neighborhood, they pray in that direction, then they can share the Gospel and God can do His work.

The seminal book on this type of warfare is James Dawson's 1989 book Taking Our Cities For God in with the subtitle: "How to Break Spiritual Strongholds". C. Peter Wagner is the next generation carrying this kind of spiritual warfare forward. In the book Mr Dawson stated, "To overcome the enemy we must resist temptation ourselves and then continue in united, travailing prayer until we sense that we have gained authority and that God has broken through." The approach is man-centered, with conditions that must be met before God can be effective. You see how wrong this approach is.

On its face this is unbiblical. Not that there aren't hindrances to the Gospel. We read up above that satan is the god of this world. Earth is his territory, all of it. Not that we are supposed to succumb to temptation. Not at all. But one can simply acknowledge that there will be hindrances to the Gospel and get on with sharing it. Paul didn't spend two weeks at Mars Hill walking about the area spiritually mapping it, learning the history of the city, discerning its moral weaknesses, deciding which demon was working where. After the scales fell from Saul's eyes, Saul, now Paul, "At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God." (Acts 9:20). At once.

"When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues." (Acts 13:5). Did Paul walk around for a few weeks, gather a focus group, and discern which spirits were were hindering the word of Jesus? No. He simply walked in and told them about Jesus. Preach the gospel, witness, disciple.

How did Jesus engage in spiritual warfare? When satan tempted Jesus in the desert, Jesus answered with the Word. He said, "It is written." Jesus didn't go into the desert and say "Satan, come out come out wherever you are so I can bind you before I do this work here!"

The problem with this kind of spiritual warfare is that the soldiers take their eyes off Jesus. They wind up looking for demons instead of looking at Jesus. They get so wrapped up in searching out the demonic that they go off on tangents when it is Jesus they should be looking to all the time.

The other unbiblical aspect of this kind of offensive warfare, as opposed to defensive, is that the verse in James 4:7 states: "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." Every translation says the same.

The verse does not say "Engage the devil and he will flee from you."
The verse does not say "Charge at the devil & he will flee from you."
The verse does not say "Bind the devil and he will flee from you."
The verse does not say "Locate the devil and he will flee from you."

It says resist. It is the Gospel that has the power to make the spirits flee. The Gospel has the power to bind the devil's work. The evil spirits are not scared of us. They are scared of the power of Jesus. Even the angel Michael did not rebuke satan in his own power. (Jude 1:9). It is defensive action, not offensive.

The seven sons of Sceva were going around binding spirits. One day, "the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?”" (Acts 19:15). The Sons of Sceva were relying on a methodology, applying it uniformly in every town they went. So it is the same with the methodology of spiritual mapping and offensive spiritual warfare as opposed to the biblical method of defensively resisting, sharing, witnessing and discipling.

Be mindful of the schemes of the devil and his spirits, rebuke when you come across them in Jesus' authority. We always seek a balance. We don't underestimate them and we don't overestimate them. They are not under every rock, but they do exist. They are not the root cause of every failed neighborhood, but they do love to cavort in ruined waste places.

Our best defense against satan is knowing the word and being ready to apply it when satan does come, as Jesus showed us in his handling of spiritual warfare.

"Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world." (1 John 4:4)

1 comment:

  1. Hi Elizabeth, thanks for another great study on man´s fallacies. Having been a part and around the third wave, Vineyard movement and having acquaintances and friends related to Kingdom now, Triumphalist, Neo-Pentecostals steeped in flawed theology and doctrine adherents, I am glad to see that you broach the subject with your usual good dose of appropriate Scriptures.

    These days it´s all we can do to resist the constant attacks. I love that Scripture: May your love and your truth protect me.

    Thank you for your encouragement and your balanced and relevant presentation of the Scriptures. I also appreciate your emphasis on Jesus and Paul´s examples to follow and the written Word as our guide and final authority.

    1 John 2:6: whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did. It would entail speaking the Word like he did to resist the devil.
    Man in his pride is enamored with his own rituals and methodology. Isn´t enough for the disciple to obey and follow his master/teacher? Somehow we forget that the blessing comes not in simply, listening and knowing what Jesus says but in doing what the things that he teaches us. See John 13:15-17.

    I encounter the same thing on another level in my teaching students how to speak a foreign language. I always model the right pronunciation and tell the students to repeat after me. Once in a while I get a student answering: OK, when his or her turn comes. I understand it´s just a defense mechanism to cover up their feeling of fear or inadequacy.
    So I tell them jokingly: thank you, I am glad you approve of my good accent, but I am the one who knows how to speak the language and it´s not helping you just to say OK, you have to imitate me, repeat and practice if you are going to learn and improve.

    I have heard it said: "Pragmatism is the worst enemy of truth and I am afraid that in the US and elsewhere this philosphy has infiltrated the church and we think that we can improve on what God has said and done.Remember after 9/11 the bumper stickers and the posters in Lowes stores: The power of pride?! Jean-Louis.

    ReplyDelete

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