HE ALREADY WON

Grafted_Magazine_IMG_8823-28 copy 2 Broaching the subject of spiritual warfare produces a myriad of responses. Some will roll their eyes and excuse themselves. Others will don their armor and issue a battle cry. And there’s always the few who get a spooky look in their eyes and glance around as if it is taboo.

Christians either tend to think spiritual warfare is not relevant to us, or that it should always be on the forefront of our minds. Specifically, we either tend to put an unhealthy focus on Satan, or we shrug him off completely. I’ve seen how both views can negatively affect Christians and our relationship with God. As I have studied the Bible and spoken with other Christians, I’ve realized that regardless of which end of the spectrum we claim, there are certain truths we have to remember when considering spiritual warfare.

  1. Spiritual warfare is real.

Ephesians 6:12 “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.”

What else needs to be said? Spiritual warfare is the ongoing battle between light and darkness, the pull of Satan and his lot as they attempt to defeat God and overcome the Church. Satan is darkness, and he does his best to infiltrate this world with his darkness. His aim is to tempt God’s children away from truth and whisper lies in our ears, in the hopes we will follow him and reject God.

Those family arguments? Those people who try to pull us down? Those friends who gossip behind our back? That’s the easy part of life. The real struggle, the great cosmic battle, is between life and death. Will we follow God, the giver of life? Or will we follow Satan, the lover of death? Satan is vying for your attention, and if we don’t arm ourselves with truth, he just might succeed. We can’t brush away spiritual warfare as something we can’t see, something that will only happen during the events described in Revelation. It’s happening now.

Ever since the serpent appeared to Eve in the Garden, the powers of darkness have been warring with God, trying to steal away His church. Sadly, some believers often become desensitized to lies and fall away to the deceiver. But those who brace themselves with God’s word are equipped to turn Satan away and trump his lies with truth.

  1. Satan can never be as powerful as Jesus.

I often come across this idea that Satan is basically the evil equivalent of God, with as much power and omniscience as Christ. People who hold this view tremble before Satan with statements like: He knows my thoughts and attacks my weaknesses. He’s everywhere I go, everywhere I turn. They also seem to focus on Satan substantially more than Jesus. To them, spiritual warfare is nothing but Satan, calling Satan down, resisting Satan’s tempations. Every single struggle, trial, or bad thought is a spiritual attack from Satan. Satan, Satan, Satan. But if Satan is who we focus on, doesn’t that mean he has us right where he wants us? Are we fearing him and forgetting how powerful our God is? Satan and his charming deceits could never compare to the power, majesty, and awesomeness of the Lord God Almighty.

Remember Job? Remember how Satan tried to ruin that poor guy’s life? Sometimes all we see is the hold Satan had over Job. What we forget is before Satan could even touch Job, he had to request God’s permission (Job 1). All power and authority lies with God. Satan is just like us in the way that he can’t do, speak, or think anything without God knowing it first. Satan is not omniscient nor is he omnipresent. He roams the earth (1 Peter 5:8, Job 1:7), instead of having the power to be a constant, haunting presence in our lives. James 4:7 says, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you,” implying there will be times when Satan is not with us. He does not have the power to know the future or our innermost thoughts. Those are divine traits possessed only by the Creator.

Not only does putting too much emphasis on Satan distract us from the Lord, it also gives us an easy excuse for sin. We want to believe Satan and his attacks are ever present in our lives because it takes the responsibility for our sin off of our shoulders. We too easily excuse our sinful tendencies as “spiritual attacks” from the enemy. Certainly, our struggles can often be a result of Satan’s temptations, but since he is not omnipresent, that cannot always be the case. Let’s have the courage to admit our own sinful nature, acknowledge our mistakes, and put the blame with ourselves.

Satan is indeed our enemy, and he does tempt and attack us. But he’s not God. Don’t give him more credit than he deserves.

  1. Jesus has already won.

Satan is not to be ignored, but neither is he to be feared. We should not cower before Satan as though he could choose to crush us at any moment. Why? Because Satan has already been defeated. In Genesis 3:15, God declares the serpent’s head will be crushed by Jesus Christ. That promise was fulfilled when Jesus came to earth over two thousand years ago. In John 16:33, Jesus says, “I have overcome the world.” I have overcome the world. Jesus coming to earth, proclaiming His truth, sacrificing Himself, and conquering death was His victory over the enemy. And one day, as the final climax of His triumph, He will return to claim His people, establish His kingdom, and cast Satan into the lake of fire.

Without Christ, we should indeed tremble before the evil one who seeks to destroy us. But with Christ, we are girded with strength and truth to resist Satan and proclaim the gospel to the world until the Lord’s return, in spite of the powers of darkness that try to stop us. If our God is for us, then who could ever stop us?

There’s no doubt Satan is real. But guess what? So is Jesus! And over two thousand years ago, He overcame death and crushed Satan’s chances of ever succeeding. So whom shall we fear? Jesus already won. And with Him, we are indeed victorious.

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The Defensive Role of Listening

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Listening is an acquired skill; one of those things that takes time to learn and to develop. In a world where we are doing less and less listening—or less and less or the right kind—a good listener is becoming more valuable. And more important.

Everything comes back to communication, when you think about it. There is no message that is delivered without communication, even the message of the Cross. And listening, being the sole way we understand the message being delivered, is vastly important to letting the message affect our lives.

I’m definitely a listener. I’m not always good at it—especially before 9 a.m.—but I am definitely a people watcher. I love to listen to more than just the words people say, but focus on how they feel, how their actions reflect what they say. Its important to understand that listening isn’t passive. Listening is active, and it isn’t just for the moment. Next to listening is remembering, and overcoming goes hand in hand with testimony. And where is testimony without remembering?

Testimony is key to taking back land from the enemy. It is how we look back and exalt God in the things he has already done, and also how we look forward in expectation. It is how we remember and prepare for triumph. Being able to say that our past and future are covered by the Lord leaves no room for darkness.

There is more to listening than remembering though, and there is more listening to be done than listening to each other. How do we learn but by listening? And how can we learn that we are similar but by listening? A good listener finds similarities, and compassion is built. A good listener is able to see the root of the problem, and pray for it with truth. Being able to hear the Spirit clearly aids us in both of these. Good listeners take their time to invest in a quality conversation, and ask interesting questions. Like I said, I’m not always good at this, but small talk bores me. I’d rather know your opinion on the latest book you read, or how you feel about one of the difficulties in your life, or what was the most recent thing that made you excited. Here is where community is built, and where we really know each other. When we have community, when we welcome each other in, its that much harder for the enemy to come between us.

It is easy to let our listening and our testimony grow to be an idol. We can’t just listen to a person’s story without using the information we’ve been given to change the situation for the better, otherwise our listening is ineffective. We can’t keep our testimony close to our hearts, cling to it and not be willing to gather more ground with God. Testimonies are meant to be shared. The Israelites used rocks to celebrate God’s faithfulness. These rocks weren’t meant to be worshipped, but glanced at every so often as a reminder.

One of my favorite things is hearing testimonies, because they don’t just effect the person telling them, but increase faith and hope among those listening as well. Psalms 119 describes them as our ‘heritage.’ They increase the atmosphere of praise around us, and because we know God has been with us in the past, we leave no room to remember the enemy. We keep them forever; nothing can remove them from our memory.

Here is where listeners come in. In order to remember vividly what the Lord has done, we need the listeners.

Listeners, the quiet ones who sit back and observe, who gather rich testimonies to offer back before the Lord in expectation, are defenders. They are the watchmen who listen and are often the first to see holes in the enemy’s tactics.

In the body of Christ, there is room for everyone and all have unique gifts and talents to bring to the table. He has allowed us all unity to bring His kingdom to Earth, taking ground every day with each of our special talents when put into correct use. As I said, everything comes back to communication. Communication of love and sacrifice on a cross to those who would later receive the message, and want to increase that kind of love throughout the world. When I think about it, I’m not sure if our strengths are our own, or His, since they were given by Him and given back to Him. Either way, it’s a huge thing to already be prepared by the Giver to fight the battle and not to be left to fend for ourselves. Your talents are needed, no matter how small and silent they are.

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When Spiritual Warfare is the Saddest

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When I was thirteen, I was terrified of Satan.

The fear started when I watched a television special on The Exorcist, the seventies movie about a girl who is possessed by Satan. In this special, the commentators explained how the film was based on a real story, and then showed clips of the film to demonstrate what happened to the real-live girl.

I couldn’t sleep for days. I preemptively told Satan “In the name of Jesus, leave!” over and over, semi-compulsively, until I fell asleep. I went to my church with a list of questions. I needed answers. The only consolation, I decided, would come with answers.

In actuality, the answers led to more questions and the anxiety persisted every night. I kept repeating my warding-off-Satan mantra until eventually I forgot to give Satan much thought before bed.  And then, I forgot to give Satan much thought at all. When I was reminded of Satan, the fear would return, but most of the time, I lived casually unhindered by his nasty presence and untouched by the fear it would bring.

For six years, I remained consciously unhindered. I buried my fear of Satan under other things- less disturbing things. I was tired of being scared of him.

That sixth year, when I was 19, I decided to go on a sex trafficking mission trip. Towards the beginning of the trip, I started to experience what people on my team referred to as “spiritual warfare.” After they described “spiritual warfare” a little bit, I determined that this ‘stuff’ resembled The Exorcist television special from years ago. Some of it was less intense than head-spinning, but nonetheless, my fear returned.

Then, one night, I felt the spiritual attack that I had been dreading for six years. I felt my arms numb on the bed, itching and pushed down. I heard little laughing voices and then one ominous, dark, deep voice saying “End it now.” How could this be happening? I had convinced myself not to be scared of this! I cried, I woke up my leader, I paced through the halls, dousing water on my face to feel the cold. I repeated the mantra, “In the name of Jesus, leave!” I knew the mantra all too well from older days. Finally, with some worship music in my ears, the pressure went away, the voices went away, and I fell asleep.

The next morning, I didn’t want to talk to God. I didn’t want to do anything for Him. He let my worst nightmare happen to me. He abandoned me. He let Satan come close to my skin and talk in my ear…after everything I did for Him! I debated completely turning away from God because obviously He couldn’t protect me.

BUT there was nothing in me that doubted that Satan had been the one to visit me the night before. ‘Nothing in me that doubted‘… that was a new thought. I had always been a doubter and a questioner. I had been a Christian, but would very often hear a little voice in my head that said, “What if this whole thing is a joke? What if everything you serve and obey is made up? What a fool you are!”

Even though I was angry with God, I could no longer doubt that He existed. When I told God that I didn’t want anything to do with him, I realized that even if I didn’t want anything to do with Him, He still existed. I knew that now. I KNEW Satan existed…which led to the hard fact that if Satan existed, God existed.

After talking (well, crying) to some teammates, I was assured that God was protecting me. They affirmed, ‘If Satan did what he wanted with you, you would probably be dead.’ … so He DID protect me? 

I thought about this whole new world I was seeing. For so long, I had been terrified of this ‘stuff’. Now, somehow, it was increasing my faith in God. I soon realized that what Satan meant to destroy me, God used to increase my faith and help me past the doubtful walls in my life. There was no more denying God. To this day, I thank God for that night more than almost any other event in my life.

 

So, if that event…which I had feared for six years… wasn’t as horrible as I had imagined, what IS the saddest form of spiritual warfare? Lately, I have realized that there is no act of spiritual warfare that God cannot beat, defeat, and use for His and our good.

I believe spiritual warfare becomes the saddest when we fail to recognize it as spiritual warfare. We often fail to realize that Satan wants us to feel worthless and far from God. Anything that is convincing you that you are unloved, unworthy, or unable to be close to God is spiritual warfare. The saddest part about unrecognized spiritual warfare is we fail to fight against the warfare because we think it is “nothing.” In the more Exorcist- like attacks, we understand the need to have God and to fight, but what about when we hear an inner voice calling us “ugly”? Do we feel the same need to fight against that?

We have nothing to fear, but plenty to recognize. Though I was scared of Satan showing up in the way he did, I have realized that God can defeat and protect. To my surprise, ignoring the idea of spiritual warfare caused me more fear and harm than the physical spiritual attack did. Now, having experienced what I dreaded, I realize that my conscious unhindered state was the saddest because I was not fighting against the spiritual warfare that I was experiencing.

The sooner we recognize spiritual warfare, the sooner we get to fight against it and know that God has more for us. We realize how much of our insecurities have been rooted in the spiritual world, and we stop the pattern.

In that way, recognizing spiritual warfare is not “sci-fi weirdness.” Realizing spiritual warfare is beneficial to us.

 

 

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Spiritual Battle

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James 4:1-17

1 From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?

2 Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.

3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.

4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.

5 Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?

6 But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.

7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.

9 Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.

10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.

11 Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge.

12 There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?

13 Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain:

14 Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.

15 For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.

16 But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil.

17 Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.

Q1- What do you see is spiritual warfare in your life? in the world?

Q2- How can we best deal with spiritual warfare?

Q3- What are some of the attacks and lies you’ve heard that try to lead you astray from the truth?

Q4- What is the truth God has spoken to you against spiritual warfare and what can you use to benefit others?

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Breakthrough

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I don’t know if it’s just me or the fact that I was raised hearing, breathing, living missions, but whenever I hear stuff I usually try applying them to a missional sense.

When we picked Breakthrough for the theme of July, I thought back to the mission stories.

How many times everything seemed to be against the missionaries at some point or another.  And then something would happen, most of the time the thing that would happen would seem to be some type of disaster, but it would open up a huge door to the place they would be reaching out to!

It only happened after they had endured attacks, hate for God, and just plain uncomfortable circumstances.  The thing that helped them last till the end was that they had purpose & passion from God for what they were doing, and a hope for the future because they believed God had greater plans for these people. They received a breakthrough from what ever trial or culture block they were having with the people they were ministering too.

(The below is from Perspectives, work books.)

Purpose

We were made to live for purpose. God himself lives for purpose.  The way to live with significance is to devote yourself to a purpose that is larger than your life.

Passion

Passion is the heart set free to pursue that which is truly worthy.  Those who set their hearts on what is most worthy- the glory of God- live with joy-filled abandon. Their hearts are both seized and satisfied with the ambition for Jesus to be ardently worshiped. That love comes to domination and integrate all other desires so that they live in the freedom of single-minded purpose.

Hope

God has called us to live our lives as a bold act of hope. To hope is not merely to wish for small improvements of personal circumstances.  Hope expects all things. large or little, to be overwhelmed and filled with the immense glory of Christ. Thus, true hope pursues global glory and total triumph over evil.  Lives of hope can face great evil with relentless courage, since there is no telling how soon God will break through with ultimate victory.

Breakthrough

To breakthrough is to begin the finish.  From Satan’s point of view, a missiological breakthrough permanently penetrates the darkness of his domain.  From God’s point of view, He is at long last welcomed. known and followed.  From people’s point of view, breakthroughs introduce enduring hope.  Breakthroughs are turing points in history. It’s hard to imagine being part of anything more enduring significance.

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