The Art of Spiritual Warfare

You are not called to be Van Helsing. You are called to be Saint You. 

2 Corinthians 10:3-6 For though we live in the flesh, we do not wage war according to the flesh. The weapons of our warfare are not the weapons of the world. Instead, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We tear down arguments and every presumption set up against the knowledge of God; and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, as soon as your obedience is complete.  

I have two stories I’d like to share.  

First one. When I was a kid in the 90’s, I thought Christians were weird. I didn’t really know any personally. I mainly just saw them on T.V. 

I remember hearing about “Born Again Christians” — there were a couple news stories on the local and national channels, it was a fad. They’d interview some of the born again Christians, who were really excited about Jesus and the gospel. But then they’d interview some of their classmates and teachers, and the angle would change. 

“All they ever talk about is Jesus,” they’d complain. “They pray during school hours. We don’t think they should.”  

“They really shouldn’t be trying to convert everyone around them. We really don’t think religion should be allowed in schools.” 

Man, I thought. These Christians sound really annoying! 

Here’s the second story. I remember another time, I flipped to a channel where there was a preacher and he was putting his hands on people’s heads, shouting Bible verses and also some sort of gibberish language, and they’d all fall backwards and an usher would have to catch them. One after the other, he’d give them a tap, — a zap tap – and, zap, they’d all fall down. 

Well, he came to one person, and suddenly he got all mean and start talking to a demon inside that person, and demanding that it leave. And the person, he started yelling and screaming and acting crazy. But eventually, he got the zap tap too, and, zap, he fell backwards into the usher’s arms, calm as a cucumber and limp as a noodle. 

That’s really weird, I thought. 

Now my question for you is: which of these two stories is an example of Biblical spiritual warfare? 

The first one. 

*** 

The second story, that’s an example of exorcism. And exorcism, the process of casting demons out of people, that’s a crucial part of the ministry of healing. But it’s not the whole story when it comes to spiritual warfare – it’s just a part of the whole.  

The whole of spiritual warfare, or the art of spiritual warfare, comprises the mission of the entire church, and it is the reason the church was founded: to make disciples of all peoples and all nations. To gather God’s family together into communion with Him and one another through the gospel, that Jesus is Lord and God is Love. And that is why the first story, and not the second, is an example of Biblical spiritual warfare: because the art of spiritual warfare is all about evangelism and discipleship — sharing the good news about God’s love  and living it out in His Kingdom. 

Jesus tells us that these two are so much more important than exorcism alone in Luke 11, when he explains that “When an unclean spirit comes out of a man, it passes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ On its return, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and dwell there. And the final plight of that man is worse than the first.” Exorcism alone doesn’t cut it, because it’s like a landlord who evicts his tenant, and cleans up the apartment – but never gets a new tenant. Well, that old tenant comes back with a bunch of his deadbeat friends and they come with weapons, and he says, “You think you can get rid of me that easily? I’ve got squatters’ rights, and my friends are gonna enforce them!” 

But if the landlord evicts the bad tenant, and replaces him with a stronger and better tenant, that strong tenant is the Holy Spirit. That evil spirit can come back with his friends, and they can be armed to the teeth, but if the Holy Spirit is standing guard, living in you, those evil spirits don’t stand a chance. 

But you can’t have the Spirit if you don’t have faith. And you can’t have faith if you never hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. That’s why evangelism and discipleship are so important – that’s the art of spiritual warfare. 

*** 

Now, some say that one of the things standing in the way of evangelism and discipleship is “wickedness in high places” or “spiritual darkness.” Well that sure sounds like something out of Dracula. It sounds like something only a Van Helsing can take care of, with a spiritual wooden stake. It sounds spooky, it sounds supernatural. 

But here’s what Ephesians 6 has to say about how to fight wickedness in high places and spiritual darkness. This is the famous part where Paul talks about the “full armor of God” — here’s what’s in that armory: 

The belt of truth; the breastplate of righteousness; with your feet fitted with the readiness of the gospel of peace; the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one; the helmet of salvation; and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God

Did you catch that? The weapons of spiritual warfare are: truth, righteousness, the gospel, faith, salvation, and the word of God. To these, Paul also adds prayer and perseverance: “Pray in the Spirit at all times…stay alert with all perseverance in your prayers for all the saints.” 

Where is exorcism or deliverance or even healing ministry on that list? Nowhere. Because that’s not what the whole art of spiritual warfare is about. The art of spiritual warfare is about the gospel – it’s about evangelizing and discipling. It’s about raising awareness that God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, and it’s about learning how life in His Kingdom is lived. 

Now that we’re clear that the art of spiritual warfare is about evangelization and discipleship, I want to note a few things that are not included in this list of its weaponry: personal defense weapons; weapons of mass destruction; actual body armor. What’s also not on the list is: a good job; a college degree; an eloquent tongue; exceptional intelligence; specialized skills. 

None of these things are required to evangelize or disciple. In fact, all of these things might hinder the preaching of the gospel. The Bible says that the gospel is so simple, and preaching seems so foolish, that it’s almost a scandal, a stumbling block, to the wise of the world.  

But this is what the art of spiritual warfare is all about. We should look to the example of St. Paul – every day of his life, from the day he was struck blind by the light of Christ in Damascus, he was devoted to the art of spiritual warfare. This is the man who said, “We do not wage war according to the flesh…” He knew he was a spirit warrior. He said, “The weapons of our warfare are not the weapons of the world. Instead, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We tear down arguments and every presumption set up against the knowledge of God; and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 

This was Paul, the Spirit Warrior, describing the art of spiritual warfare. What was his main job description – St. Paul the Exorcist, or St. Paul the Apostle? He was an apostle. A messenger. An evangelist. 

Paul is our example. He committed awful crimes against Christians before he was converted, and even then he called himself the chief of all sinners. But the Lord said about St. Paul, “This man is My chosen instrument to carry My name before the nations and their kings, and before the people of Israel.” 

And again, as Paul was shipwrecked on the way to Rome, an angel appeared to him, and comforted him, promising he’ll survive this disaster saying, “Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand before Caesar.” 

Did God say, “This man is my chosen instrument to exorcise spirits?” No, but to carry the Lord’s name before the people of Israel, before the nations and their kings, and even to Caesar himself, the most powerful man in the world at the time. 

People wonder why the book of Acts is all about Paul. They also wonder, why it ends so suddenly. After years of adventures in ministry and imprisonment, Paul finally arrives in Rome, and the last lines of Acts read, “Paul stayed there two full years in his own rented house, welcoming all who came to visit him. Boldly and freely he proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.” 

Womp womp. The end. We don’t get to see him stand before Caesar. We don’t see him martyred. All we read is, “Boldly and freely he proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.” 

Isn’t this a bit anti-climatic? Lots of people think so. But here’s why it’s not: because Paul fulfilled his vocation. He won the spiritual war! He carried God’s name before the people of Israel, and from nation to nation, and before their Kings – and finally, he’d made it to Rome, the nation that ruled over all the nations. Paul was waging a war of attrition! – from nation to nation, up the ladder of authority until finally, he arrived in Rome. Caesar thought he was King of Kings – but Paul was about to stand before him and preach the gospel. It doesn’t get any more climactic than that, and here’s why. 

It’s important to remember how simple the Bible puts it: the person who hears the Gospel and repents is justified, the person who hears the Gospel and does not repent is condemned. The Gospel is equally an instrument of salvation and judgment. That’s why the word of God is called a double-edged sword. 

This is serious, heavy stuff. That means that, no matter what, once Paul opens his mouth and preaches the gospel to Caesar, the man who many believed was King of Kings – no matter what, Caesar would come under God’s judgment, whether to justification or condemnation.  

Caesar’s throne would be put under the foot of Christ, in other words. This was the fulfillment of Paul’s vocation to spiritual warfare. This was as far you as you can take the gospel up the worldly ladder of authority, conquering darkness and wickedness in high places. It was as high as you could go on earth. 

But maybe we never hear about his standing before Caesar in the book of Acts because the Book of Acts wasn’t written after this confrontation happened – in fact, the Book of Acts may have been written in preparation for this confrontation.  

Remember, Paul was imprisoned for the Gospel in Caesarea, and after a series of sketchy, politically compromised  trials, he finally appeals for a trial before Caesar. That’s why he went to Rome in the first place, and he took Luke with him. The same Luke who wrote the Gospel of Luke, and the Book of Acts. There are many who believe that the reason the book of Acts was written, and why it focuses so heavily on Paul, and why it ends the way it does, is because it was to be used as Luke’s affidavit, a written witness testimony, on Paul’s behalf as he stood before Caesar. 

Folks, can you imagine what would happen in today’s courts, if you submitted an affidavit that looked like the Book of Acts? You might be thrown out in contempt of court! It’s almost preposterous. The sheer volume of scriptural quotation, and the detailed accounts of the Apostles’ preaching over and over and over again; they’d say you were like those annoying “Born Again Christians” in the 90’s — just shut up about this Jesus and the Bible already! We want to have a normal court proceeding! 

But Paul wasn’t playing that game. He wasn’t doing something “normal”. He didn’t hire a lawyer to represent him with the art of law, but he fulfilled his vocation to the art of spiritual warfare. The Book of Acts is filled with everything he said is required for spiritual warfare: truth, righteousness, the gospel, faith, salvation, the word of God, prayer, perseverance. 

*** 

Church family, choose your battles carefully. How do you want your affadavit to read when you stand before the judgment seat of Christ? The world has many martial arts to choose from: you can be a gunslinger, judo wrestler, kung fu fighter, culture warrior, social justice warrior, keyboard warrior, a weekend warrior – or, you can be a spirit warrior, like St. Paul.  

You can be a Van Helsing, or you can be Saint You. The choice is yours. 

Let’s look to St. Paul, and listen obediently when he says, “You are to imitate me, just as I imitate Christ.” 

Amen. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s