Spiritual Warfare and Deliverance Book 4:- Spiritual Warfare: Winning the Daily Battle with Satan, By Dr. Ray C. Stedman
Chapter 3: The Strategy of Satan
Ephesians 6:11: As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins,
in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.
Ephesians 2:1-2: Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes.
ONE OF THE MOST STUNNING VICTORIES in the annals of warfare occurred in 1991, with the defeat of Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein and the liberation of Kuwait during the Gulf War. Military historians tell us that one of the most important reasons that war was won so decisively (Allied losses: 149 versus Iraqi losses of 100,000 or more) and quickly (only 100 hours) was that the allied forces had a clear, in-depth understanding of Saddam Hussein's military strategy and were able to thwart the Iraqi dictator at every turn.
When the military commanders of the allied coalition learned that Saddam planned simply to replay the same strategy he used in the 1980-88 war with Iran, they knew exactly how to defeat him. The Allied generals, led by General Norman Schwarzkopf, devised a strategy of encirclement. Even though Saddam's army outnumbered the coalition forces two to one and were well dug into their desert fortifications, the allied coalition used a combination of superior placement, superior firepower and technology, speed, and misdirection to defeat Iraq.
While U.S. Marines conspicuously practiced for a seaborne invasion along the Kuwaiti coast, drawing Saddam's attention in the wrong direction, the main coalition force was massed for an invasion across the desert. Knowing the exact location of Saddam's tanks and artillery, the coalition pounded those locations with everything from bombers to helicopters. Knowing that Saddam's forces were dug in behind sand berms and other entrenchments, allied troops practiced bulldozing and storming similar desert barricades until they could do it in their sleep.
Once the war began, Iraqi troops began surrendering so eagerly that the Allies didn't know where to put them all. In one case, a pair of Iraqi armored vehicles encountered a lone U.S. soldier whose vehicle was stuck in the sand. The soldier expected to be shot or captured but instead, the Iraqis surrendered to him and helped him get his vehicle unstuck!
The story of the 100-hour war in the Persian Gulf is an apt metaphor to describe our spiritual warfare against Satan. Though the devil would have us believe he is invincible, his cause has already been doomed by the cross of Christ. If we understand his strategy, the victory will be ours. In the end, we will have the honor of standing with our Commander-in-Chief, the Lord Jesus, and hear him declare that this raging tyrant, the devil, was no match for the forces of heaven.
In spiritual warfare as in human warfare, the key to victory is to know your enemy and know his strategies.
Armed with cruel hate
As we have seen in the preceding chapter, the Bible clearly shows that all human beings, without exception, are helpless victims of satanic control, apart from Jesus Christ. Under the domination of invisible satanic forces, human beings are oppressed and unhappy and incapable of escape by any wisdom or power of their own. But the good news is that we can be set free by the outside intervention of Jesus Himself, who came "to destroy the works of the devil" He has broken the power and bondage of Satan over human lives. When we receive Him into our lives, we are liberated to live as children of God.
It is important to understand what this liberation truly means. It does not mean that we have been set free to live lives of selfishness and self-indulgence. That is a common misconception, but it is nowhere taught in the Bible.
No, we haven't been liberated to live for ourselves. We have been liberated to live for our Commander, Jesus Christ. We have been set free so that we can join the battle! That is the call which comes to all Christians. And understand: When God calls us to join the battle, He is not using a mere metaphor. This war is real, the enemy is determined to destroy us, and his weapons are deadly. Like soldiers in any war, we stand a chance suffering wounds at the hands of our enemy. To better defend ourselves against this implacable foe, we need to understand the way he operates.
The first step for any soldier in training is to learn about the strategy and weapons the enemy will use against him. The devil is a cunning and wily strategist, and that is why Martin Luther wrote these stirring words:
For still our ancient foe
Doth seek to work us woe--
His craft and power are great,
And, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.
The record of Scripture confirms this truth. Read the Old Testament and you'll see that every saint, every prophet, every patriarch, everyone of the great and glorious kings of Israel, was defeated at one time or another by the devil. The wisest and greatest of men are absolutely helpless in attempting to out-wit the devil by themselves. Yet, as we have already seen, the Bible makes it clear that we can walk in victory. God does not want us to fail; that is why He has made victory possible in our lives.
James says, "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you" (James 4:7). Think of that! This clever, cunning strategist who has held the world in defeat for centuries, whom no man is able to out-maneuver, will flee from you when you learn not to be ignorant of his schemes and strategies.
Now, the question we must ask ourselves is, "What is the strategy of the devil? How does he plan to defeat us? How does he keep the world in such bondage? And what are the particular ways he uses to neutralize my effectiveness for God?" The only one in all history who has ever consistently defeated the devil, not only in His life but also in His death, is the Lord Jesus Christ. He put His finger squarely upon the strategy and tactics of Satan when He said that the devil "was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies" (John 8:44). The strategy of the devil is to murder. The tactic by which he accomplishes this is to lie.
How does the devil plan to oppose the work of God in the world? By murdering, by destroying. One of the names given to the devil in the book of the Revelation is Apollyon, which means "Destroyer." What is it to destroy? It is to create chaos, to lay waste, to ruin, to make desolate. There you have the explanation for the whole tragic story of human history: A Destroyer is at work among human beings.
Our God is a God of beauty, harmony, order, perfection, love, light, and grace. There is enough evidence left in the world of nature, including our own being, and in the world of ideas, to see this marvelous symmetry, beauty, and perfection of God. The Lord is a God of harmony and order. The world was created as orderly and perfect and even human beings were once orderly and perfect.
But then a Destroyer came on the scene. It is his delight to smash, mangle, twist, mutilate, disfigure, darken, and blast in every way he can. It does not make any difference whether it is bodies or souls, flesh or ideas, matter or spirit the aim of the devil is exactly the same in every case. That is why the devil can never offer anything positive to human life. He can create nothing. He has never made anything, and he never will make anything. All he can do is destroy what God has made. His power is totally negative and destructive in every way.
What are the tactics the devil employs? He destroys by deceiving, by lying, by distorting, by counterfeiting, by masquerading, by clouding human minds with illusion and fantasy. This is what Paul calls "the devil's schemes," or as some translations put it, "the wiles of the devil" Read through the Bible and see how many times the work of the devil is referred to in that manner the snares and the traps of the devil, the lies and illusions, the stratagems and the wiles. That is why we must look closely at the tactics the devil uses against us so that we can be strong and well-defended when he comes to us to defeat us, weaken us, and ruin our lives.
Direct and indirect attacks
The Bible makes it clear that the tactics of the devil fall into two major divisions: direct attack and indirect attack. He is capable of direct confrontation with human beings, as well as a subtle, indirect approach. The devil uses these two methods to maintain worldwide control over the race of humanity. The Bible indicates that there are fallen hosts of angels called "demons," whom Paul refers to when he writes, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (Ephesians 6:12).
It is crucial to understand that the phrase "heavenly realms" does not refer to heaven, God's eternal place of glory, the final home of every believer. In this context, "heavenly" refers to the spiritual realm, or more literally "the realm of the invisibilities," the invisible realities of life. The devil and his hosts are not visible, but they are very real. The devil's activity is in this realm of the invisible reality of life, the heavenly places, where God works.
The Bible tells us very little of the origin of the devil and his angels. But there is enough written to suggest that the devil was a being created originally as an angel of might, strength, beauty, and power. There is a brief reference to the fall of this great angel, whose name was Lucifer, and who became lifted up by pride. Pride is always the mark of the devil. Seized by pride, he chose to rival God and, in doing so, he fell from his station of honor and beauty and he became the devil. The Old Testament prophet relates the fall of Satan with these words:
How you have fallen from heaven,
O morning star [Lucifer], son of the dawn!
You have been cast down to the earth,
you who once laid low the nation!
You said in your heart,
"I will ascend to heaven;
I will raise my throne above the stars of God;
I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly,
on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain.
I will ascend above the tops of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High."
But you are brought down to the grave,
to the depths of the pit (Isaiah 14:12-15).
And in the New Testament, there is a scene in which Jesus sends out seventy-two disciples to exercise His authority and further His ministry. They return with a triumphant report: "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name" (Luke 10:17). And Jesus replies that this is to be expected, because of who He Himself is the eternal One who was there at creation, and who has witnessed all of history, including Satan's fall. "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven," Jesus told them (Luke 10:18).
In his fall, Satan drew a third of the angels with him, and those fallen angels constitute the principalities and powers, the organized kingdom of darkness, as opposed to the kingdom of God. It is through these hosts of wicked spirits that Satan is able to make a direct assault upon human life.
This direct assault covers what the Bible refers to as "demon possession," the outright control of a human personality by the power of a wicked spirit. It also extends to such activities as soothsaying, occultism, spiritism (or spiritualism), and is related black magic arts such as astrology, horoscopes, voodooism, fortune-telling, witchcraft (wicca), shamanism, paganism, channeling, and the like.
A strong word of warning is in order here. There is no question that there is a great deal of fraud and deception in this whole field of black magic, channeling, and fortunetelling. There are charlatans at work who make their living off the superstitious fears of people, and they use deceptive tricks to fool people into thinking they are genuinely in touch with spirits and occult powers. It is very difficult to tell the difference between the genuine and the false in this field. Great skepticism, care, and clear thinking must be used by anyone attempting to investigate this dark realm. While there is a great deal of smoke and mirrors in the occult domain, the Bible tells us there is considerable fire as well. Despite the existence of fraud, there is truth dangerous truth behind the operation of black magic and witchcraft.
The Bible consistently warns us against dabbling in these matters. Here are just a few examples of biblical teaching on the subject:
"Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the LORD your God" (Leviticus 19:31).
"I will set my face against the person who turns to mediums and spiritists to prostitute himself by following them, and I will cut him off from his people" (Leviticus 20:6).
When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? (Isaiah 8:19).
Under the Old Testament law, the people of Israel were strictly forbidden from having anything to do with wizards who speak in spells and incantations, who try to make contact with the dead, or who deal with the world of the occult. This prohibition was largely because any investigation into this realm immediately lays one open to powers beyond human understanding and makes it possible for demonic power to subdue the will of that person. This is dangerous ground. In fact, it often progressively opens the way to outright demon possession.
The devil's direct attack: demon possession
Many people are incredulous and disbelieving that there is such a thing as demon possession. "Surely you don't believe in such nonsense anymore," they say. "In this educated, sophisticated day and age, you don't really mean to suggest that there are such things as demons! After all, the Bible was written in ancient times for gullible, primitive people. We are much better informed today. What was once called demon possession we now know to be mental illness, and we can treat it with drugs and other therapies." The biblical reply to that kind of thinking can be expressed in three principles:
(1)The Bible is not a book of primitive superstition; on the contrary, the Bible carefully differentiates between mental illness and demon possession. The writers of the Scriptures were certainly aware of this distinction. One of them, Luke (who was a physician), was certainly acquainted with the distinctions between physical diseases and mental illnesses and demon possession (see Luke 4:40-41). In Matthew also, a careful distinction is made between those who were afflicted by diseases, those who were demon-possessed, and those who were mentally ill (see Matthew 4:24).
(2) Biblical cases of demon possession do not conform to the clinical pattern of any known mental disease. There are diseases of the body, there are diseases of the mind and then, quite distinctly, there is demon possession. Diseases of the mind, like those of the body, present standard clinical patterns and symptoms that can be readily recognized. But when you carefully examine the biblical accounts of demon possession, you find that these accounts do not fit any of the standard patterns of mental diseases. Mental illness and demon possession are clearly not the same thing.
In contrast to mental illness, biblical cases of demon possession always contain an element of debasement. There is uncleanness and moral defilement present.
Also in the biblical accounts of demon possession we see an immediate recognition by the demon of the character and identity of the Lord Jesus Christ. When Christ would deliver people from demons, those demons would often call out and say (as, for example, in Luke 4:34) "What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are the Holy One of God!" The demons used titles for Jesus which the human victims of possession could not know. Though demons are in opposition to God, they inhabit the invisible realm and are well acquainted with spiritual realities; only such creatures could have instantly recognized the authority of Jesus Christ.
Further, there is always the presence of a totally distinct and different personality involved. In some cases multiple demonic personalities are involved, as in the incident where Jesus asks the name of the demon and the demon's reply is, "My name is Legion, for we are many" (Mark 5:9).
Finally, we see that Jesus is able to transfer demons from individuals to animals something that is never observed in cases of mental illness. How do you explain the case of the Gadarene swine? If demon possession is merely mental sickness or a hallucination or some kind of schizophrenia, then how did the demons leave the man, enter the herd of swine, and send them rushing to drown themselves in the sea? These cases simply do not conform to any clinical pattern of known mental disease.
(3) Jesus Himself described these cases as demon possession, and he treated them that way. In sending out His disciples, He gave them authority to cast out. demons. "Well," some would argue, "we have an explanation for that. Jesus was simply accommodating Himself to the way of thinking of the people of His day. They believed in demons and devils, so He simply spoke in those same terms." But it is impossible to take that position and be consistent with the rest the account of Christ's ministry, for we see Him constantly correcting misconceptions like that. On one occasion He said to His disciples concerning another matter, "If it were not so, I would have told you" (John 14:2). He did not come to coddle the superstitions and misconceptions of His hearers; rather, He came to reveal the truth about the world as it really is.
Throughout the Christian centuries there have been various outbreaks of demon possession described by missionaries in many lands. It is a rather commonplace phenomenon in many places in our world today. And it is significant, I think, that whenever Christian teaching spreads, the direct assault of these evil powers upon human life is kept in check. Even secular teaching, when it is moral and uplifting and based upon the Bible and Christian values, demonstrates an ability to keep these manifestations under control.
But when education becomes purely secular and denies the Bible and God, then even though men and women reject superstition and profess a degree of sophistication about these matters all this is not enough to keep these powers at bay. As our world grows more and more godless and secularized, we will witness an increasing tide of demonic manifestation in our culture guaranteed. There is no power in man to withhold these forces or to stand against them, because this is the manifestation of the god of this world.
When we, as Christians, are confronted with what we suspect is demon possession, the one thing we're told to do to help such people is to pray. These cases of demon possession, Jesus said, yield to concerted and persistent prayer. There is no need to chant or sprinkle holy water or conduct exorcism rituals, as the sensationalized Hollywood horror movies portray. Prayer is the recommended therapy in any case of this type. Let us give ourselves to prayer and nothing else.
For the sake of a balanced perspective, I hasten to say that there seems to be too much concern among Christians about the matter of demon possession. I know certain Christians who feel they must "bind Satan" before they do anything. When they go into a room to have a meeting, they pray to bind the powers of darkness. I know others who ascribe every common problem of human life to some manifestation of demon activity. The New Testament offers no justification for this type of approach.
The New Testament letters of the apostles seldom mention the direct attack of Satan against human beings. There are a few instances of this sort of attack, but after our Lord physically left the world there seems to be a reduction in the evidence of demonic activity. As we see in the four Gospels, these dark powers were no doubt stirred up by His presence on earth, but they seem to be less active as we move through the book of Acts and on into the letters of Paul and the other apostles. There is much written about Satan's indirect attack in the letters of Paul, but Paul has little to say about the direct attack of satanic forces. Nowhere do we read that Christians should "bind" the powers of darkness before entering a room, nor that we should ascribe all the common problems of life to demonic activities. That idea is not in the New Testament.
By far, the majority of attacks of the devil against Christians are not direct but indirect. That is why they are called the "schemes" of the devil. Schemes suggest deviousness acting in a way that is subtle, secretive, and treacherous. We need to examine this more thoroughly, for the major attack of the devil and his powers against human life is not by direct means, but indirectly by satanic suggestions through the natural and commonplace situations of life.
The devil's indirect attack: satanic subversion
The Bible tells us that the indirect approach of the devil comes largely through two means: "the world" and "the flesh." We often hear it said that the enemies of the Christian are the world, the flesh, and the devil, as though these were three equally powerful enemies. But there are not three. There is only one enemy, the devil, as Paul tells us in Ephesians 6. And our enemy, the devil, uses these two means, the world and the flesh, to make his indirect attack against us. Earlier in Ephesians, Paul addressed these words to Christians, including you and me:
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world [the first channel] and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air [a description of the devil], the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient (Ephesians 2:1-2).
In other words, Paul is telling us, "Do not forget, you Christians, that you too once followed the course of this world you were under the grip and in the control of the ruler of the power of the air, the evil spirit who continues to be at work in the nonChristians all around you." Paul goes on in to tell us in the next verse:
All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature [or "the flesh" in the King James Version-the devil's second channel] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath (Ephesians 2:3).
The most basic of these two channels is "the flesh," our sinful nature. When the Bible uses the term "the flesh," it does so in a symbolic sense. Many... of us, when we approach middle-age, are troubled with too much flesh. But that is not the sense in which the Bible uses the term. "The flesh," in this context, is not our bodies, not the meat and blood and bones of our physical life. It is a term that describes the urge to self-centeredness within us, that distortion of human nature which makes us want to be our own god the proud ego, the uncrucified self that is the seat of willful defiance and rebellion against authority.
We are all born with this sinful nature. None of us had to go to school to learn how to sin and be self-centered. Who taught us to lie? Who taught us to be proud and bitter and rebellious and defiant and self-centered? We never had to take classes in these. We're all experts in how to sin by the time we are ready to go to school. We are all born with "the flesh," and it is the presence of this sinful nature that makes us sinners.
James calls this the wisdom which is from beneath, which is "earthly, unspiritual, of the devil" (James 3:15). It is the devil--attacking indirectly through the essentially sinful character of our human nature. Paul says in Romans, as J. B. Phillips translates it, "everyone has sinned; everyone falls short of the beauty of God's plan" (Romans 3:23).
"The world," on the other hand, is the corporate expression of all the flesh-centered individuals who make up the human race. Since the flesh is in every human being acting in a way that is satanic, sensual, and earthly the total combined expression of such beings constitutes the world and determines the philosophy of the world. It is that tremendous pressure of the majority upon the minority to conform, adjust, keep in step, and go along with the crowd.
When the Bible addresses itself to Christians, it says, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world" (Romans .12:2). In other words, "Do not let the world squeeze you into its mold." Why? Because the world is flesh-centered, flesh-governed, and as Jesus said to Nicodemus, "Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit" (John 3:6). In order to be changed, people must be born of the Spirit. So this is the world that human society which insists on satanic value judgments and is guided by satanic pride and philosophy. While the world is totally unaware of it, nevertheless, it is under the control of satanic philosophy.
We must never forget the ultimate goal of these clever strategies: the devil seeks to destroy, ruin, and make waste. . That is his purpose toward you and me. You can probably think of people--people who were once full of promising potential--who have given the devil some toe-hold in their lives, and the devil has used it to destroy their lives. Perhaps they got involved in some habit that took over their lives, such as drugs or promiscuous sex or pornography. Or perhaps they have ruined their families by their habitual rage or destructive tongue. Or perhaps they have turned aside from the truth of God in order to chase some worldly philosophy or wealth or prestige or self-centered idea of "fulfillment." It is a story that is repeated . again and again, in life after tragic life: Satan schemes to destroy a life God loves and in that particular life, Satan wins because that individual was not aware of the schemes of the devil.
So we have been called to a battle against a vicious, scheming, unseen enemy. We are called to battle not only for our own sakes, not only for our own families, but for the sake of others around us. We must warn those around us that life is a battle, and that the enemy has us in his crosshairs. We must warn one another to be aware of the devil's schemes, so that we can be armed and defended against the devil's attacks. And we must pray for one another, because our only true defender is Jesus Himself.
Battling against these forces of darkness is what makes human life possible on the earth. If Christians, who are the salt of the earth, were not devoted to an intense, intelligent battle against Satan and satanic forces, if we as believers did not choose to be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might, then human life could not exist on this planet. The forces of evil would run rampant and unopposed throughout human society, and life on earth would be a horrible, unendurable hell. It is the presence of Christians, and the Holy Spirit who lives within us, and the gospel that we bring, that makes the world as livable and bearable as it is, even for nonChristians.
So we have an enormous responsibility before God and before the entire world to give ourselves, body and soul, to this great battle against the schemes of the evil one. We have a responsibility to battle the schemes of the devil in this world, and to point the way to the peace and security that lies ahead of us in the world to come.
Thank You, Father, that the victory is already won. Thank You for revealing to me the strategy of my enemy and for the assurance that I have already been brought out of darkness and into the kingdom of Your light. I no longer fight alone in a losing battle in my own fading strength. Instead, filled with Your strength and courage, I fight knowing that the battle has already been won upon the cross of Christ. Thank You for that victory! In the name of Jesus Christ, my Victorious Commander, amen.