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Basic Principles of Spiritual Warfare part four

14 Nov

We are working our way through some basic biblical principles regarding spiritual warfare.

First, the Scriptures are totally sufficient.
Second, God is in complete control.
Third, humans are fully responsible.

And now, the fourth – demons are presently active.

And I almost feel like this principle is too obvious to state, but I really want to be careful that while we try to avoid making the mistake of blaming demonic forces for everything we do that we don’t swing so far in the opposite direction that we end up making another equally fatal mistake and that is to think or talk as if demons weren’t real and as if demonic possession was just some silly idea that backward uneducated people believed in.

Because when we open up our Bibles and especially the gospels, it is very obvious that Jesus definitely did, believe in all this.

That demons were real.

That demons could even possess people.

In fact, one of the distinguishing features of Jesus’ ministry was his ability to cast out demons.

As one author has said, “In the ministry of our Lord on this earth, casting out demons occupied and important and marvelous position. Multitudes . . . are recorded as being freed from the terrible effects of demon possession by him, through which His great power and authority are magnified.”

Which means if we start denying the reality of demons and demonic possession, we really are messing with the person of Jesus as well because He believed in demons and He is magnified in the New Testament by His victory over them.

And what’s more, if we deny these realities, we are also messing with the rest of the New Testament as well.

Because the authors of the New Testament clearly believed in demons as well, and not just as something we read about in the past but as presently active.

This whole passage Paul writes for example about wrestling with spiritual forces in the heavenly places would be pretty silly if we didn’t believe demons were a reality and were presently active.

If demons weren’t real and weren’t active we would be wrestling with the air.

And I know you know all of this and that it is very familiar to you but I thought actually one helpful issue to discuss is this whole idea of demonic possession specifically. The devil is presently active, but is demonic possession one of his schemes?

And answering that question well may take a little longer than I have, but looking to the Scriptures, let me say two things about it.

The first is that demonic possession is real.

It is not the only way that demons and the devil attack people, but it is definitely if we look at the Bible, one way.

Now the Bible has two main ways of describing demonic possession and if we look at these two main ways, it helps us understand what demon possession is.

The first and most common ways it talks about it is of one having a demon (that is the language that is used) and one of the main realities that way of putting it seems to emphasize is the fact that the person who is demon possessed is being afflicted by the demon.

Demon possession is being afflicting or tormented by a demon.

In fact even that way of putting it, having a demon, is very similar to the way they might describe someone who had a disease or something like that.

And that’s because the basic purpose of demon possession, what the demon was after in possessing someone, was not so much to tempt them as it was to torment them.

I think I could miss that when thinking about demon possession, because demons do tempt but when it comes to demon possession the main emphasis in the New Testament has to do with them tormenting people.

This is why you see people who are demon possessed in the Bible where, well, you do not usually find them hanging out at bars and how are they behaving, they aren’t usually behaving in their right mind, but instead when we read about them, we see them acting in ways that seem crazy and we find them in places like the cemetery, maybe.

One example of that is the story of the demon possessed man who Jesus met after Jesus calmed the storm and got off the boat in the region of Gerasenes.

This is in Mark 5.

And you remember what that demon did to that man, it drove him away from people, out to the tombs, and what did he do when he got there, he kept cutting and slashing himself.

Or another example from the gospels, would be the child Jesus met when he came down from the Mount of Transfiguration. This is the one with the demon the disciples couldn’t drive out.

The story is found in Mark 9.

And what did the demon do there?

It made the boy unable to speak.

And then it seized him, threw him down to the ground, and caused him to foam at the mouth and grind his teeth as well.

The father said it even sometimes tried to throw him into fire and drown him in water.

These demons were doing what to people, they were hurting them physically and this is why when the gospels talk about people who are demon possessed it often lists them right next to people who were physically sick and when it talks about Jesus casting out the demons, it sometimes describes it in the language of Jesus healing them.

It’s not because back in Jesus day they somehow thought that every sickness was the same thing as being possessed by a demon or something like that.

They were smarter than that.

They made distinctions between sickness and demon possession. They even if you look at Matthew 4:24 made distinctions between people having seizures and people having demons.

The reason they described casting out demons as a kind of healing is because they saw demon possession as a kind of affliction.

That is the first big thing to understand from the way the Bible describes demon possession.

And now if you are wondering how they could tell it was demon possession and not an ordinary sickness, one thing is they could always tell, by the way, there weren’t secretly demon possessed people that we read about in the New Testament, but exactly how could they tell?

One pastor named Geoff Thomas identifies four common features of people who were suffering from demon possession. (And I think he’s actually quoting Martyn Lloyd Jones at this point…)

“One,” he says, “there was a change in their personalities. When we are ill with convulsions, deafness and dumbness or whatever, our personalities don’t change, not even when we have a mental illness. But during the life of Christ when there was demon possession there could be a dramatic change of personality. The poor possessed person began to act in a strange or unusual manner and was no longer able to function as he normally did.

Two, there was a failure to conform to any known pattern of symptoms for a disease. Today, when a doctor examines a person, he has certain symptoms that go along with certain diseases, but when you look at the case of demon possession, it can never be put into one these clinical descriptions that go along with particular diseases.

Three, there was given people unusual knowledge and information. In the New Testament, it is striking how those with an unclean spirit were able to recognize our Lord. The woman with the spirit of divination in Philippi had the insight to recognize that Paul and Silas were servants of the Most High God. So this demonic influence also gave a person a capacity above their own insight and knowledge.

And four, there was always a debased element, an element of uncleanness that was not seen in ordinary illnesses people had but it was present through the influence of an unclean spirit.”

And the main point is that when we read about demon possession in the New Testament, the first thing we see is that we are pretty much always reading about someone who is being physically tormented in some way by a demon.

The second way the Bible talks about demon possession is with a word that basically means demonized and when the Bible uses this word it is emphasizing the fact that the demon was exercising control over the person and that it physically indwelt him.

A person who is demon possessed is afflicted and indwelt.

This is why we use the language of casting out a demon, because the demon was in there, the demon has physically invaded the victim’s body and is physically living in the person (inhabiting the person like you might a house) and the demon is taking control over that person’s actions from within which the victim cannot successfully resist. It is not that they are tempting them from the outside or even oppressing them from the outside, but they are taking control from the inside.

And that kind of demonic activity, it is real.

It happened and it may still happen. I can’t think of any reason from the New Testament as to why it would have completely stopped happening after the resurrection of Jesus.

But a second thing we need to know about demon possession from the Scriptures is that it seems to be somewhat rare. If someone asks me do I believe in demon possession, I would answer first that I do believe it is real, meaning there are situations where people are physically tormented by indwelling demons and second, that I also have reasons to believe that it is fairly rare, at least in areas where the influence of the gospel is strong.

This is something where good men might disagree with me about, but let me tell you some reasons why I think this isn’t perhaps something as common as we might think.

One reason is because it is not something we read a whole lot about in the Bible actually.

We can think there are a lot of stories about demonic possession in the Bible because we are really familiar with the gospels, but when you stop and think about it a little more carefully, you see that pretty much all the clear stories of demonic possession are either in the gospels or Acts, and only four times in Acts.

In the Old Testament, probably the closest we get to the idea of demon possession might be with King Saul. There are only four times we read of something like this in the Old Testament, three of them have to do with Saul, and yet when you look a little more carefully at what the demons were doing with Saul, there are several reasons to think he wasn’t actually possessed, one the actual language that is used seems to indicate that they were terrorizing him and frightening him and assaulting him more than actually physically indwelling him, two the evil spirit is said to have come from God, three it departed when music was played by David, and Saul later on in his life at a good moment takes responsibility for his actions and doesn’t blame it on a demon.

So in the Old Testament there is basically no talk about demon possession and in the books after Acts, the epistles like Ephesians don’t really talk about it either. Casting out of demons is not even listed as one of the spiritual gifts. That doesn’t mean that demons aren’t active, it just means that it seems there was like this explosion of demonic activity and demonic possession that is being recorded when Jesus appears on the scene.

Now think about that, think about why that might be.

If there were an election in Democratic Republic of the Congo, where one man won over another, and he was going to that other man’s hometown to declare his victory, what do you think might happen when he showed up? There would be all kinds of supporters of the other candidate who would show up at the rally, maybe there would even be more supporters of the other candidate who would show up and try to make a huge riot in order to disrupt and protest that man’s victory speech.

So, one possible explanation as to why there was so much more of this demon possession being recorded and seen in Jesus’ day, might be because as one author puts it, Jesus was here, the Lord of glory, the Son of God, who had sentenced these fallen angels to hell, had arrived, on earth. And as someone has written when the demons “heard that Jesus had come to earth leaving the glories of heaven – a heaven which they had once known – and always having access to this world, they seized the opportunity of opposing and troubling Christ in his great redemptive mission. It couldn’t have been otherwise. He had come to confront their kingdom of darkness and to establish his own everlasting kingdom, and they were intent upon thwarting his intention. We know that the kingdom of darkness of the god of this world is … in existence. Satan is not going to relax his grip on sinners…Christ’s presence on earth simply exposed the activity of these sinister forces.” It is like at the coming of Christ, Satan was doing all that he could within his might to establish his hold over the world and protest what God was doing through Jesus, His Son.

Now another interesting thing that some have noted is how often this demonic possession seemed to take place primarily in places with heavy pagan influence. In other words, in areas where God’s Word has not gone deep and where out and out idolatry is common.

I was reading “it is noticeable that in the Gospels nearly all accounts of exorcisms are put in a setting where compromise with Grecian religion and paganism were rife. By far the most exorcisms took place in the Galilee area, where there are some eleven instances recorded. From a bit further afield came the Syro-Phoenician woman. Then there are a few general references to the effect that people came to Jesus from Syria, Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, beyond the Jordan, Idumea, Tyre and Sidon, but all these people were not necessarily demon-possessed, although some of them were. These general references are the only ones in the Gospels that suggest that there were demon-possessed in the Jerusalem area. John, who concentrates on Jesus’ ministry in Jerusalem, does not mention any cases of demon-possession. The only definite evidence of demon-possession in the Jerusalem area comes from Acts 5:16, where it is mentioned that Peter healed some demoniacs. Further references in Acts mention demoniacs in Samaria, Philippi of Macedonia, and Ephesus. Although this evidence is not conclusive, it does support the argument that demon-possession is most common in pagan and idolatrous areas.”

Which makes sense to me.

I don’t know for sure but it seems like when Christians begin to have a real influence on a society, that some of those cruder forms of demon possession may be somewhat more restrained, because there, what would Satan want, it seems he would want people to forget that he exists.

Where people don’t have the hope of the gospel, he’s free to intimidate them and terrorize them because they don’t have an answer to the problem but when people start to realize that there is an answer to the problem, then what is he going to want to do, he’s going to want to get them to forget that there is even a problem at all.

Basic Principles for Spiritual Warfare part 3

5 Nov

Living in Africa, you hear all sorts of strange things about demons and demonic possession and spiritual warfare. Everybody has some experience to talk about.

I suppose that’s not just Africa, either.

It wasn’t too long ago now that books like Bondage Breaker were best sellers in the United States. There was a whole lot of talk about demons and the way they not only attack unbelievers but war on believers as well.

It can all be a little confusing.

How are we supposed to think about spiritual warfare?

Before we dive too deep, I think it is important we go back to the basics and look at several fundamental biblical principles for understanding spiritual warfare.

So far, we have seen:

First, the Bible is our final authority.

And second, God is in complete control.

A third vital principle for us to understand is that humans are fully responsible.

This is an important biblical theme for us to get straight because we as human beings are always looking for opportunities to shift the blame for our wrong choices to someone else.

If there is one thing we are good at, it’s blame shifting.

Which means, if we are confronted with our sin, we will blame circumstances, we will blame God, we will blame other people, and if we can, we will even blame demons for what we did.

And there are even counselors and churches who have whole ministries based on this, where they are constantly searching for the demon behind every problem, the idea being that if you struggle with a pattern of lust or anger or pretty much anything else, the reason might be that you are being possessed or at least strongly influenced by a certain demon.

And as you can imagine this way of thinking has implications.

For example you might have a believer, who struggles with a particular sin for a long time, maybe he struggles with the sin of fear and this fear has dominated him for a long time, and there are Christians, where if this believer confessed this sin, they might think the reason he has had such significant struggles with this particular sin is because there is a certain demon behind it, in other words, the reason he has this problem is not so much his fault as it is the demons, which is why those leaders might think the solution is not the put off and put on that we read about in Ephesians but instead an exorcism of some sort in which they try to compel a spirit named fear to identify himself and come out through the authority of Jesus’ name.

Now while that sounds somewhat strange, at least to me, that particular approach to the Christian life is not all that unique; there are many who seem to think that one of the primary reasons believers have the problems they have is because of demons.

And to a certain extent you can understand that, because sometimes our struggles with sin are so intense, and we want to change so much, and we can’t figure out why it’s not happening more quickly that it feels to us there must be demons or something like that at work BUT the question which we have to ask however is if that is actually the way the Bible speaks.

Because remember the Bible is our final authority.

And so we have to ask if when we find people making sinful choices in the Bible, the Bible ever speaks as if the people making those sinful choices weren’t actually responsible for their decisions?

In other words, does the Bible ever say to someone who is struggling with a particular sin that the reason he is struggling with that sin is because he is being demonized and the answer is for that demon to be cast out?

And the answer to that question is a big fat no, and I can prove that to you in several different ways.

One way to prove that is to look at different situations in the Bible where the devil or demons are said to be involved with someone doing something sinful and see if the Bible then says that fact means the person who sinned was not responsible for his choices.

I mean, there are a whole lot of times in the Bible where people sin and the devil and demons aren’t even mentioned, so we won’t even talk about those; but what about the times where they are?

Let’s begin with Cain.

You know the man who murdered his brother?

In 1 John 3:12, the Bible tells us that we should not be like Cain who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. The evil one is Satan.

Cain, John says, was of Satan.

Now does that fact mean that he wasn’t responsible for his sin?

God didn’t think so because in Genesis 4:10, He comes to Cain and asks, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground and now you are cursed from the ground.”

Judas is another example.

When both Luke and John talk about Judas’ betrayal of Jesus, the describe it in terms of Satan filling Judas. Listen to Luke 22:3, “Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve…” Or take John 13:27, where we read that “after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into Judas and Jesus said to him, ‘What you are going to do, do quickly.’”

Now, those are some pretty clear passages in regards to Satan’s influence over Judas’ actions and yet, when later in the New Testament, it talks about what Judas did, do they talk about poor Judas who had no role in the matter?

No, the opposite.

In fact Luke himself speaks of Judas in Acts 1:18 like this. “(Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness…)” The key idea there being his wickedness, obviously the pronoun his means that Judas was held responsible by God for his sinful decisions.

Another place we could look is to the story of Ananias and Sapphira, the two people who sold their field, gave some money to the church, but lied about exactly how much. When Peter speaks to them in Acts 5:3, he recognizes Satan’s influence when he asks, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back part of the proceeds for yourself.” But look, here’s the deal, because even though Satan obviously did have an influence in Ananias’ life, God still held Ananias responsible, which we know for one thing because Peter says later “Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart. You have not lied to men but to God.” And also we know that God held Ananias responsible because Ananias died.

Still another would be the false teachers Paul speaks about in 2 Timothy 2:24-26.

In verse 26, Paul says that these false teachers need to escape from the snare of the devil, because they have been captured by him to do his will.

That is strong language and we have to ask if the fact that they have been captured by him to do his will mean they are not responsible for what they are doing?

Well, if you look at what Paul says in the verse before the answer seems to definitely be no because he says in verse 25 that Timothy is to correct these men with gentleness, so that perhaps God may grant them what?

Repentance, which is something you do when you recognize your responsibility for your own sin and you make a conscious and deliberate decision to turn from it.

Pretty much wherever we look, we find the writers of Scripture recognizing that Satan tempts and that Satan has an influence in the lives of individuals, but you know, we never find them excusing people’s sins as a result, and what’s more we don’t find them looking to the casting out of particular demons as the solution to the moral problems that people are having.

Instead, when the Bible does identify the cause of our sinful choices, we find the writers of Scripture laying the blame squarely and fully at the feet of our own sinful desires.

They don’t blame demons, but they do blame us and there are many passages which illustrate that but perhaps none illustrates that more clearly than James 1:13ff.

James is dealing with this whole problem of why people fall into sin.

He’s looking at this issue, why someone gives into temptation and he’s explaining what is at the root of that and he begins by saying that we can’t blame God.

“Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.”

You can see how the person James speaks about takes this blame game to a whole other level where he doesn’t blame the devil or demons, but instead he goes directly to God.

God’s it is your fault I did what I did.

And James says absolutely no one should ever say that.

Why?

Because first off what we know to be true about the character of God.

He hates evil and he doesn’t tempt people to do evil.

But if we can’t blame God, then who can we blame?

James answers,

“But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”

Each person, that means everyone, is tempted, when he is lured and enticed by who?

Himself.

That is what is so crazy.

We are stuck in a trap and we are trying to figure out who set it and we are actually the ones who set the trap for ourselves.

James says it we are tempted by our own evil desires and that it is those same evil desires which when conceived give birth to sin.

And that means if you have a pattern in your life of giving into sinful fear or into sinful lust or into sinful anger, while those patterns can seem so strong and so difficult to overcome that you want to blame someone else and while the Bible doesn’t deny the fact that the devil and demons may be involved in tempting you or trying to entice you to do evil, God simply won’t allow you to blame your sinful decisions on them.

You are responsible for your sin.

And I think it is very important that you know that, this is not just random theological information, it is important because when are wrong about the source of a problem, you are going to be wrong about the solution to the problem.

If someone comes to you when you are struggling with sin and says that the reason you are struggling with that sin is because you need the demon of lust or anger or fear cast out, you know that solution isn’t God’s solution because when you look to the Bible, it never ever speaks like that.

Humans are fully responsible.

And failing to understand that is going to have serious consequences.

You can imagine, as I was reading one author suggesting, “a certain woman, for example, who is judged to be demon possessed” when her problems are actually the result of her own sinful behavior, if they think the problem is demon possession,then all of the sudden things are going to get deeply complicated.
Here she is struggling with what is sin but she meets these men who speak with this great intensity and certainty and they are telling her that she is possessed by an evil spirit.

Then they attempt to cast out of her demons that aren’t even there.

Now what is going to be the result of that?

Not only is all that yelling and binding going to be a waste of time, it’s going to lead to hopelessness and despair when it doesn’t work the way she wants, and what’s more, it is going to shift the focus away from the responsibility of this woman for her own sinful behavior.

She will begin viewing herself as a helpless victim rather than as a guilty sinner and this will result in her being confirmed in her sinful life patterns when the attempted casting out of demons fails, and with the people who are trying to help her, they will start getting frustrated as well, when all their praying and efforts don’t seem to be doing what they are hoping they will do.

This is why when we are confronted with sinful behavior, our first response should attribute it to sinful desires, and not demons.

Basic Principles for Spiritual Warfare

29 Oct

We are at war.

If you are a Christian and you believe the Bible is true, I don’t think there is going to be much argument about that.

What there can be questions about and I think there are lots of questions about is how exactly we are to fight this battle as a church. It’s obviously not much good to know there is a battle if you don’t have any idea about how you are supposed to fight it.

And I think it is really, really important we think carefully about this because the fact is there are so many ideas that come into different people’s minds when they think about spiritual warfare. A lot of people are going to answer this question of how to fight it differently.

Like for many people, if I bring this subject up, that of spiritual warfare, the first thing and pretty much the only thing that people are going to think about is that of casting out of demons.

Spiritual warfare to them equals casting out demons.

Their basic concept of spiritual warfare is someone putting a hand on someone’s head and shouting out something and the person falling over or something like that. And this is so ingrained in some people’s minds that it is hard for them to even imagine that if I say I am going to talk about spiritual warfare that I would mean any other kind of warfare than that.

And what’s more, it used to be when people talked about the casting out demons they were talking primarily about casting them out unbelievers, but now and days you will find people are talking more and more about what they think demons do with believers. And there is an even a term people use for it, they call it demonization and while they might not say that a demon can actually own a believer they do think that a demon can take over part of a believer’s life at least and force him to sin.

So for example that means when they talk about spiritual warfare you might hear them talking about things the demon of lust or the demon of anger and if people are struggling with a particular sin, someone might say the problem is with some demon and that they need to be delivered. I know with some people I have heard of, it’s almost like every problem is related to a demon, your toaster is not working, you have to cast out the demon of the toaster.

And the way this works out in Africa is that we have all these churches and revival crusades where people go and they are exhorted to have demons of witchcraft and jealousy cast out of them. That is what they think of spiritual warfare.

I recently read a letter from a believer in Botswana describing what he sees happening in churches all around him.

“People are told they are bound by demons and all they have to do is go up front and be prayed for. Sometimes Christ won’t hardly be mentioned in the sermons. And people get the impression that demons are making them sin, and all they need is to respond to the altar call or have someone put hands on them and all will be well…”

You will have some churches who talk about holy water, charms and bracelets which members need to wear in order to protect them from evil. There are other churches where people are told they need to stamp on the ground in order to drive out the devil from their lives. And I know I have had people talk to me about deliverance ministries, they ask, do you have deliverance ministry, and what they mean by that, is do you try to bind demons and you find there are a lot of people who think there are some sort of special prayers or words you can speak that have power over demons or that there are some sort of special people who have this unique gift of identifying demons and casting them out and with some there is a real fascination with these kind of things.

There are books that have been written on how to get rid of demons and sometimes even entire seminars and conferences on the subject.

And you know it can get really complex, where you will even find people who are trying to name demons and they talk about ancestral spirits and how they think a father can actually pass a demon down to his children or that someone will be bothered by the spirits of their ancestors and sometimes they talk about things like territorial demons, and the idea there I guess is that certain places have certain demons that are in charge and so they might talk about the demon of Pretoria or the demon of Philadelphia or whatever.

And I know that even here in Africa, we have our own set of things that come up whenever we talk about spiritual warfare in addition to that as well, where I would guess that for many people, when they think about engaging in spiritual warfare or they go to church and hear about spiritual warfare pretty much the
main idea that comes up are things you can do to get out of curses you think other people have put on you.

And the reality is it can get a little confusing, because there are demons out there, and we have all seen some crazy stuff and we have all heard stories and we all probably know people who seem like they are constantly talking about demons and who will go around trying to bind demons and who are always worried about witchcraft and curses and magic and there even may be some of you who have experienced in a firsthand way something of what we are talking about or have had someone try to cast a demon out of someone you know or give you special rituals you are supposed to go through to get rid of demons and while there is no way obviously I can try to answer every single question, I thought what I could do is identify some basic biblical principles for understanding how to think through some of what you might see or might have experienced or might hear people telling you about all this spiritual warfare.

Because you see, when you are in these situations and you are confronted with things you don’t exactly understand and you are seeing things you can’t quite figure out how they work, one of the very best things you can do is just go back to what you know to be true for sure and when you try to evaluate what you are seeing or hearing or experiencing in light of what you know to be true for sure and that helps because even if you can’t explain everything about what you are seeing, you can have a basic idea of what it is or at the very least, what it is not.

It is kind of like with a complicated problem in math or calculus that you don’t understand and you look at that problem and you are sitting there looking at the paper and thinking there is no way you could ever figure it out, one thing you can do for sure is start with the simple things you do know, the building
blocks, because if you don’t get those right, there’s no way that you will be able to get the complicated problem right.

And so what I want to do is give us some simple, basic biblical building blocks for understanding this complicated matter of spiritual warfare; seven basic truths we have to be clear about if we are going to be clear about spiritual warfare.

The first is a truth about the Bible.

The Bible is our final authority.

It is our sole, our only, you can count on it, no mistakes at all authority when it comes to what believe and how we live and how we engage in spiritual warfare. When it comes to a subject like spiritual warfare we have just got so many things people are saying that we really have to know how we are going to evaluate all the information that is coming at us and the answer to that question bottom line is the Bible.

If you want to know whether something is true or important when it comes to the Christian life, you have to go back to the Word of God. The Bible is the standard you are going to use to evaluate what you are hearing or seeing.

And I want to stress that because you see when it comes to spiritual warfare, that’s not the standard many people are using, at all.

Instead if you listen, there are a whole lot of people who really, the ultimate authority they use to determine whether they think something is true or not is not the Bible, but their own personal experience or the experience of others and so how they make decisions about what they believe about this kind of stuff is at the end of the day based on what they have seen and what they think about it or at least what other people have seen and what other people told them about it.

And so what you hear these people saying a lot is when they talk about spiritual warfare is ‘I saw this’ or ‘this is what someone told me they experienced’ or even ‘I think.’

That’s their basic argument.

And look it’s not wrong for us to talk about what we think we saw or what people experienced or what we think, but what is wrong, is when we don’t evaluate or think critically about our experience or what people are telling us all that much. What is wrong is when we don’t stop and think, well maybe I didn’t see what I thought I saw; what is wrong is when we make our experience our culture our final authority for evaluating everything.

There are other people, who they base what they think or believe about this stuff, spiritual warfare, not on the Bible, but instead on visions that people have had or maybe they will base it on the teachings of some particular person they think is a prophet or on church tradition and what they have been taught.

And what you hear these people saying when they talk about spiritual warfare is something like ‘this particular prophet had this dream’ or ‘I know this is true because there is this anointed man who has this gift and he said this’ or ‘this is what I was told back at my church about all this.’

That’s their argument.

And again they don’t tend to want to evaluate what that prophet said, if they don’t understand it, that’s o.k., so long as he said it because he’s their final authority.

And I guess the thing I want you to understand about our church is that as we think about spiritual warfare and demons and how we are to engage in this battle, (and really anything else) we want to base what we believe on what God has said in His Word.

That’s our final authority.

So what we ought to be saying and hearing a lot around here when we talk about things like spiritual warfare is stuff like, ‘what does it say in the Bible?’ or ‘have you read this verse’ or ‘what does this passage tell us?’

For one thing, because we know this book, is not just another book.

God says in 2 Timothy 3:16 “All Scripture is inspired by God” and that means it is God’s Word.

He’s the source.

And God, being God, knows everything and is right about everything and knowing everything and being right about everything makes Him our final authority for what we believe and how we live. I mean if I have a question about something it just makes sense that I am going to go to the person who knows everything and is right about everything for answers.

You can just imagine two people standing next to each other, one knows everything and is right about everything and the other is this guy you know sometimes doesn’t even spell his own name right, who are going to use as your authority for what is true?

There is no competition.

There are a lot of things you can learn from your experience but your experience makes mistakes and there are a lot of things you can learn from your culture and what other people tell you, but they make mistakes too.

But not the Word of God because it is the Word of God and God never makes a mistake.

Which means the Bible is the only for sure we can trust it never make a mistake guide to what we know and believe and how we live.

And that’s got to be the basic starting point for all this stuff we hear and see about demons and spiritual warfare. It’s got to be, but what does God’s Word say?

Because none of us are smart enough to be able to make this stuff up; to sit around and say, well I think demons do this and I think this is how you fight them, no, really not to be mean, but why would I trust what you think about demons, what I need to know is what does the Word of God say about all this?

And you know when you have got this principle in your mind, it really helps because whenever you see or hear something that seems really strange you don’t get all freaked out but you just go back to God’s Word and if what you think you are seeing or hearing is in contradiction to what God plainly says in the Bible, then you know without a doubt that it is wrong or you haven’t understood it right.

It is that simple.

If it comes down to what you thought happened or what someone else says they thought happened and what God says, what God says wins every time.

And what’s more, we can add to this, because not every time is what they are saying out and out contradicting, but if you are hearing something that sounds a little different about the Christian life and you go back to God’s Word and you are searching and you are searching and you can’t find it, it isn’t clear on the issue, or it doesn’t talk about it very much or it even doesn’t talk about it at all, then you know that whatever you are hearing or seeing is not necessary for your life spiritually. It may be interesting to talk about, but it’s not necessary.

Because if it were necessary, it would be clear in the Scriptures because God has specifically said in His Word, 2 Timothy 3:16 and 17, that He’s given us everything we need for life and godliness which means for example, if someone is coming to you and saying you need to do this or that to really move forward in your relationship with God, like you need to cast out this demon or do this ritual or pour this holy water over yourself or stamp on the ground and say certain words this way and then you go to the Scripture and you don’t see anyone anywhere saying you need to do this or that to be spiritual and walk with God then you know that it really isn’t something that is needed at all, and in fact, it is probably something fairly dangerous because it is going to distract us from what God says is important for the Christian life.

When we talk about spiritual warfare, the first and most basic principle has to do with the Bible. This is our only you can count on it, it never makes a mistake authority for what is important and what is true.