Spiritual Warfare and Deliverance Book 4:- Spiritual Warfare: Winning the Daily Battle with Satan, By Dr. Ray C. Stedman
Chapter 2: Beginning the Battle
Luke 11:21-23 When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe.
But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him,
he takes away the armor in which the man trusted and divides up the spoils.
He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me, scatters.
ROBERT THE BRUCE was king of Scotland from 1306 to 1329. Early in his reign, King Edward I of England invaded his nation, defeated his army, and forced him into hiding. While on the run, Robert the Bruce took refuge in a cave.
Completely disheartened, the Scottish king lay by a fire in the cave, ready to resign himself to complete defeat and the loss of his kingdom. But then, in the flickering firelight, he noticed a spider on the cave wall, spinning a web. The spider repeatedly attempted to secure the web, then failed, attempted again, then failed. Finally, the spider was able to anchor the web, making it strong and secure.
In the persistence of the spider, the Scottish king saw a metaphor of his own struggle against the English invader. He decided he would not allow himself to be defeated by past failures he had to continue the fight for Scottish freedom. Robert the Bruce left his cave, led his troops across the field of battle, and defeated the English invaders at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. He continued to persevere for the next fourteen years until he finally won Scottish independence in 1328.
No battle was ever won without courage, perseverance, and strength. And that is the challenge before us, clearly sounded in Ephesians 6. Paul calls us to be strong in the Lord. He calls us to understand the nature of our enemy, those wicked spirits in high places who lie behind the insoluble problem of human evil. And he calls us to put on our armor and join the battle.
The apostle Paul indicates that the only ones who can successfully battle against the devil's forces are Christians. He writes, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood . . ." The pronoun "our" in that statement refers not to "us," the human race in general, but to "us" Christians, followers of Jesus Christ. While the entire world is oppressed by the powers of evil, only Christians struggle against those powers. This is the consistent teaching throughout the Bible. The Bible indicates that all human beings are victims of these invisible forces, but only believers can be victors over them.
No threat from within
Jesus Himself makes this point absolutely clear. There is a story in Luke of our Lord's reaction to the challenge that was presented to Him as He was casting out demons. His ministry of delivering people from demons was continually questioned by those who chose to approach the Scriptures intellectually. They did not like this business of casting out demons, and they tried to explain it in various ways. Some said His ability to cast out demons came from a relationship with Beelzebub, the prince of demons--another name for Satan. They said it was by Satan's power that he was casting out demons.
The name Beelzebub means "lord of the garbage." The Jews regarded hell as a cosmic garbage dump, and in a real sense they were right, for that is exactly what hell is a dumping ground for wasted lives. And because a garbage pile always attracts flies, they called Beelzebub "The Lord of the Flies." These people were accusing Jesus of casting out demons by the authority of Beelzebub, the Lord of the Flies.
But Jesus said, in effect, "No, you're quite wrong. In fact, what you are saying is not even logical. If that were true, then obviously Satan's kingdom would be divided against itself, and Satan would actually be pitted against the demons under his authority. That makes no sense at all!" Jesus states very simply that Satan never fights against himself. He is too clever, too cunning, and far too astute to divide his forces in that way. Satan knows that if he divided his own kingdom, his kingdom would fall.
Jesus is suggesting, therefore, that anyone who was under the control of Satan has no hope of deliverance apart from an outside, intervening force. Here's how He puts it: "When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe" (Luke 11:21). Who is the "strong man"? It is Satan. What is the "house"? The world. Who are the "goods"? The human race. In Luke 11:21-23, which presents this figure of the strong man, three great principles emerge:
(1) Humanity, alone against Satan, is powerless and hopeless. That is the unchanging position of Scripture. John says, "We [Christians] know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one" (1 John 5:19).
The Bible tells us that the world has fallen under the control of Satan. What does the Bible mean by "the world"? Not the world of trees and mountains and lakes and seas that is God's world. No, the Bible speaks of the world of organized human society, which has fallen under the control of Satan. We, as worldlings, are trapped within this domain of the evil one, and there is no possibility of escape apart from an intervention from without. For, as Jesus says, "When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe." There can be no threat from within to Satan's control.
It is here that our Lord puts His finger on the reason for the continual failure of the usual methods men and women employ to correct evils and wrongs. Human methods of reform fail because they do not come to grips with the essential problem. All our efforts to correct the evils we see in life are simply rearrangements of the difficulties. We succeed only in stirring them around a bit until they take a different form. Our methods can never solve the essential problem of evil because they cannot come to grips with the power of Satan. We cannot threaten Satan from within his dominion; only a stronger, outside agency can threaten the stranglehold of the evil one on our world and our lives.
As C. S. Lewis so aptly put it, "No clever arrangement of bad eggs will make a good omelet." And when the full cycle of problems is run through, it begins again, and we say, "History repeats itself."
What are the usual methods of human reform? You can list them easily. Almost invariably they are legislation, education, and an improved environment. Every problem we face is usually approached by using one of these reforms, if not all three combined. Legislation is law the attempt to control the behavior of the outward man. Law alone can do nothing to alter the inward man. It does not change the basic nature of man but merely restricts him under certain conditions.
Education is one of the worst so-called remedies for a deranged personality or a twisted mind. Scripture tells us that we are all are born into this world with twisted minds. (Some are more twisted than others, which is why most of us consider ourselves "normal," while thinking the other fellow is the one who is "twisted"!) To educate a twisted mind is but to make it more clever in its wickedness. The educated criminal is a far more clever, far more subtle, and far more dangerous than the ignorant criminal. The educated mind may have a thin veneer of erudition or sophistication hiding his corrupt personality from view, but the corruption is there nonetheless. Education does not change the core of a man or woman it only makes him or her more clever, and potentially more destructive.
An improved environment does not change a person either. When you take a man out of the slums, for example, and put him into a nicer environment, you do absolutely nothing to the man himself. In a little while he'll make that new environment the slum as well. So taking a man out of the slums does not necessarily take the slums out of the man. This is not to say that these reforms have no value. We should have laws for the sake of an orderly society. We should have education for the sake of a literate and effective society. And we should improve the living conditions of all men and women, for the sake of a just, compassionate, and decent society. But let's not make the mistake of thinking that these reforms will lead us to Utopia, to a shining new society of love and brotherhood. None of these reforms can produce a Utopia, because none of them has the power to transform human nature and the inner human being. None of them can counteract the invisible spiritual forces that are at war against us.
That is why so many of our best and brightest thinkers have arrived at a point of despair after a lifetime of trying to change humanity through legislative, educational, and social reform. They invariably end up in a pit of pessimism and despair. Listen to these words of Bertrand Russell, the high priest of the cult of social reformers and free thinkers:
The life of man is a long march through the night, surrounded by invisible foes, tortured by weariness and pain, toward a goal that you can hope to reach and where none can tarry long. One by one as they march our comrades vanish from our side, seized by the silent orders of omnipotent death. Brief and powerless is man's life. On him and all his race the slow, sure doom falls, pitiless and dark. Blind to good and evil, reckless of destruction, omnipotent matter roles on its relentless way. For man, condemned today to lose his dearest, tomorrow himself to pass through the gates of darkness, it remains only to cherish, ere yet the blow falls, the lofty thoughts that ennoble his little day.
Those eloquent but bleak words catalog the sheer despair into which humanity falls apart from God. There is a growing sense of despair everywhere you turn today. That despair is the unconscious realization of man's helplessness under Satan.
Now look at our Lord's words in Luke 11:22: "But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor in which the man trusted and divides up the spoils." Who is this "someone stronger"? It is Jesus. He is speaking of Himself. He says that when a strong man, fully armed, guards his palace, his goods are at peace and nothing can be done about it, least of all by the goods themselves. But when One who is stronger comes, He breaks the power of Satan.
Here's the next principle the Lord reveals in this passage:
(2) Only the "good news" of the gospel of Jesus Christ can break the grip of the "bad news" of the devil. We sing of this truth in that great hymn of the faith, "0 For a Thousand Tongues" :
He breaks the power of canceled sin,
He sets the prisoner free;
His blood can make the foulest clean,
His blood availed for me.
We have been born into a world under the control of the satanic mind. Yet, in the mystery of the cross of Jesus and in the power of His resurrection, applied by faith, we discover that the force which ruins us is now broken and its power is canceled.
That is why this Christian gospel is so exclusive. That is why Christians are perfectly justified by the Word of God when they say there is no other answer to the problems of man; that there is no other power that can touch the basic problem of human life. Many people say that there are many roads to God, that it doesn't matter what you believe or who you believe in, as long as you are "sincere." But Jesus is very clear on this point: There's only one "stronger one" who has come into the world and is capable of breaking the power of this dark spirit, setting us free from the evil one's dominion and domination. No one can come to God the Father, and to freedom from the dominion of the evil one, except through Jesus alone (John 14:6). He is the "stronger one." There is no other.
Actress Grace Lee Whitney can testify to the fact that the "stronger one," Jesus Christ, has come into her life to set her free from the evil power that rules this world. In the 1950s and 1960s, she appeared in numerous motion pictures and television shows, working with the biggest stars in Hollywood Marilyn Monroe, Groucho Marx, Jack Lemmon, Robert Stack, and many more.
Then, in 1966, she was tapped to playa featured part on TV's Star Trek. During the first season, however, after appearing in only thirteen episodes, her character, Yeoman Janice Rand, was written out of the show. The sense of failure and rejection she felt after losing the role sent her into a tailspin of alcoholism, drug abuse, and immorality. She got to the point where she was drinking on skid row street corners right out of the bottle. Hospitalized, she was told by her doctors that the gin she had been drinking was eating a hole in her esophagus, and had nearly destroyed her liver. If she didn't stop drinking, they said, she would be dead within a couple weeks. Grace Lee Whitney was scared but she didn't know how to stop drinking. The alcohol controlled her.
A friend took her to a recovery group, where she was introduced to God. The group said the Lord's Prayer together, and at that very moment this prayer that had always sounded like gibberish to her suddenly made perfect sense. It was the first time she ever really knew that God cared for her and she immediate stopped drinking and using drugs. In the weeks that followed, God led her on a journey to Israel. On a walking tour outside of Jerusalem, she came to a gate with a sign that read "Garden of Gethsemane." In her autobiography, The Longest Trek, Grace Lee Whitney recalls what happened next,
I put my hands on the iron bars of the gate and looked through, into the Garden of Gethsemane. Suddenly, I felt weak, as if I was about to faint. I had to hold onto the bars to remain standing. Then I saw Jesus. He was beyond the iron bars, praying in the garden. . . . I thought, But I'm Jewish! As if He could read my mind, He turned and looked at me. "So am I," He said.
After that experience, Grace Lee Whitney gave her heart and life to the Lord Jesus Christ. The "stronger man" came into her life with amazing power, setting her free from her addictions, her enslavement to immorality, her guilt and shame. Today, she goes to Star Trek conventions and women's prisons and television talk shows, telling everyone who will listen about the Lord and what He has done in her life.
And Grace Lee Whitney is just one among thousands who can testify to the power of Jesus Christ, the "stronger man." Only He has the power to invade the devil's domain and liberate people the devil's "possessions" so that they can become the cherished, prized possessions of God! Those who have such testimonies include not only alcoholics and drug addicts and people who have lived in outrageous immorality, but also people whose habits are less spectacular but no less sinful, including "church people" with evil habits and attitudes of anger, lust, self-righteousness, and pride.
The strongest chains are not those that can be placed around the body, but those that are wrapped around the mind and heart. The writers of Scripture make this clear. Paul tells us, "The god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelievers" (2 Corinthians 4:4). And that great document on human liberty, Paul's letter to the Romans, opens with the same basic thought that human beings in their darkened state, under the dominion of the evil one, have engaged in all manner of evil practices, leaving God no choice but to give them what they demand: "He gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done" (Romans 1:28). Paul suggests that the great hatred we see exhibited against God and His gospel does not come from the uneducated but from the educated: "Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools" (Romans 1:22), and so they "exchanged the truth of God for a lie" (Romans 1:25).
Into this realm of spiritual darkness and self-willed resistance to the will and goodness of God, Jesus Christ has come to set us free. John says that Jesus came into the world "to destroy the devil's work" (1 John 3:8). There is no adequate explanation of His coming apart from that. Paul says that Jesus has "rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves" (Colossians 1:13).
Paul himself was chosen as an apostle to the Gentiles, and in a dramatic conversion experience on the road to Damascus, he said to the Lord whom he saw in His glory, "Who are you, Lord?" And after identifying himself, Jesus replied, "Stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you. . . . I am sending you to [your own people] to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God" (Acts 26:15-18).
This is the principal purpose of the gospel. If we try to channel it first into the smaller areas of life, such as applying it to social concerns, we only reveal how far we have mistaken its purpose. The gospel will ultimately find its way into the social condition of humanity, because the gospel of Jesus Christ is pervasive. Once it gets a hold of us, it doesn't let go until we are transformed through and through.
But the gospel must first make its impact on this basic problem of human life. Humanity is in the grip of an evil power, and we are helpless to free ourselves from bondage to that power by our own strength. The only one who can deliver us from it is Jesus Christ. He has already done so in the mystery of His cross and through the power and glory of His resurrection.
When a person trusts in Christ and commits himself to Christ, he discovers that the gospel becomes real and practical in his own experience. This is what we call "conversion." But conversion is only the beginning of the battle. Very soon, a new Christian becomes aware of the evil forces at work to destroy him. If he goes no farther in his new life than to believe his sins are forgiven, he will remain in bondage to those sins, living a life of conflict and frustration. But the battle is fought on the ground that we have been delivered from the dominion of darkness that we have been brought out of the power of Satan and into the kingdom of God.
Returning to the passage in Luke, we have seen (1) that human beings alone are helpless against the power of Satan, and (2) that liberation from the power of Satan is available only through the gospel, through belief in Jesus Christ, who destroyed Satan's power. Now we come to the Lord's third principle, revealed in Luke 11:23: "He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me, scatters" (Luke 11:23). Here, then, is the next principle Jesus reveals to us:
(3) There is no neutrality in spiritual warfare. You either stand with Christ or against Him. He is saying here that it is not possible to take a neutral stance. Mere profession is not sufficient; total commitment is required. There are always those who say, "I understand something of the gospel, and I agree that there's much of value in the Christian faith. I am a friend of Christianity. I believe that Christianity exerts a positive influence on society but I do not care to go so far as to personally 'receive Christ.' I don't want to be thought 'extreme' or a 'religious fanatic.' I choose to remain neutral"
Jesus says this stance is impossible. There is no neutrality. "He who is not with me is against me." A person who does not receive total deliverance is still under the bondage and control of the dark powers of Satan. There are no exceptions.
That is why Christ is the crisis of history. He spoke of Himself that way as the divider of humanity. As He looks at human beings, there are only two groups. There are those who are wholly with Him because they are of Him they have received Him, they know Him, they love Him, and they partake in His life. And there are those who are against Him. "He who is not with me is against me."
On the other hand, some are tempted to say, "Well, if this is the case, then I want to be a Christian, but I don't know about all this inward control. I'm willing to go along with the outward forms of Christianity I'm willing to join the church but inwardly, I still believe in directing my own life and running my own affairs." Jesus says you cannot do that. "He who does not gather with me, scatters."
Let me tell you a tragic story. Lord Kenneth Clark (1903-1983) was a world-renowned art historian and host of the BBC-PBS television series Civilization. He lived his life as an agnostic. As far as we can know, he died without faith in Jesus Christ. In his autobiography, he told about the experience of visiting a magnificent European cathedral, where he had what he described as a profound and breathtaking religious experience. "My whole being," he recalled, "was irradiated by a kind of heavenly joy far more intense than anything I had known before."
Yet, immediately after this experience, Clark pulled back from faith in Christ. He realized that if he were to become a Christian, his entire life would have to change. He liked the life he had as an agnostic, and did not want to submit his life to the lordship of Jesus Christ. Besides, he said, his family and friends were all as irreligious as he was, and they would think he had lost his mind. He didn't want to subject himself to their ridicule, so he rejected God and turned his back on his one brief glimmering of Christian joy. "I was too deeply embedded in the world to change course," he reflected.
What a tragic epitaph for a human soul! And how many people around us could say those same words: "I refuse to change I am too deeply embedded in the world." Here was a man with a great reputation in the world yet he chose to waste his mortal life and his eternal soul pursuing things that could never last and never satisfy. What if, instead of choosing to be accepted by his godless family members and friends, he had chosen to have an influence upon them for Christ? What if instead of choosing to squander and scatter God's gift of life, he had chosen instead to gather his family and friends into the kingdom of God?
There is one thing that reveals whether you're with Jesus or against Him: the influence of your life. Jesus Christ has come into the world to gather together the adopted children of God. His is a gathering influence, breaking down divisions, binding hearts together, reuniting families, making people live together in harmony, breaking down the barriers of race, healing wounds, bringing nations together, drawing men, women, and children to Himself.
Victor or victim?
The great question of your life and mine is: "What is the essential character of your life? Is it self-centeredness or self-givingness? Are you with Christ or against him? Are you gathering with him in a healing, wholesome ministry or are you a divisive force in your family, your church, or your neighborhood? Do you split people up or bring people together?
You say you're a Christian. All right. Are your children drawn closer to faith in Christ because of your example? Or are they turned away by the example you set? Do your children and your spouse see Christ living in you or do they see only you, your demands, your ill-temper, your pettiness, and your selfishness? These are crucial questions that each of us must answer.
Our Lord cuts right to the core of life: Our lives are laid absolutely bare before Him and we are ultimately judged on the basis of our relationship to Him. The evidence of that relationship is the influence we exercise in our families, our church, our neighborhood, our workplace, and wherever we are involved in the lives of other people.
The question you and I must ask ourselves is, "Am I a victor, or a victim?" In our own strength, we are helpless to escape the dominion of the evil one. We are not free. We are not able to carry out our own decisions, except in a limited area, and this illusion of freedom makes us imagine that we are free, unrestrained individuals. The Bible tells us that apart from Christ we are under the unbroken influence of an evil force that influences our thoughts and reactions. The only way of escape is through the One who has come to destroy the works of the devil.
If you have not known that deliverance, you can do it now. Perhaps as you have been reading, you have had to say, "If all this is true, then I am still an unbeliever. I am still under the power of Satan." In that case, the message of the gospel to you is this: In one moment of time you can pass from death into life. In one moment of commitment, trusting only Christ and His work, not in your own efforts to be "good enough," you can say, "Lord, here am 1. Save me." The moment you pray that prayer, you pass from death into life. That is what conversion is. In those words you will open the door that allows the Lord Jesus to accomplish His saving work in your life.
Father, may those who have been seeking answers pass now from the power of Satan into the kingdom of God. May they be delivered and set free. For me, Lord, who has already experienced this and who knows the reality of this delivering power in my life, I pray that I may never forget that I have been set free. I ask that you continually remind me that Jesus did for me what I could never do for myself. May I have a heart filled with love for Him who loved me and gave Himself for me. In the name of Jesus, who set me free, amen.