Friday, June 10, 2016

How Do We Battle the Evil One?

Readings For the Day
Song of Songs 1-4, Ephesians 6

Ephesians 6
The Armor of God
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 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. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

As Paul closes his letter, he gives the Ephesians some final advice regarding the spiritual battle they will face. Paul has faced this spiritual battle as he sought to take the Gospel to the Gentiles. Paul says our struggle is not against human powers in the visible world, but against dark forces who exist in the heavenly realms. We know this to be Satan, the adversary, and his other fallen angels, demons. As Jesus began his ministry he faced Satan in the desert, who tried to tempt him by using his messianic power too early. We also see that part of Jesus' healing of those he met involved casting out demons.

In the church there has often been different ways of acknowledging this spiritual battle Paul teaches about. One is to be so preoccupied with demons that we give them too much power. Someone has said, "seeing a demon in every bush". In this way we give the devil even more attention than he deserves. The devil would love it for us to be so focused on him that we forget to focus on God and the power He has already given us through Christ.

The other equal and opposite error is to completely dismiss Satan as a metaphor, and be naive about spiritual reality. This is also playing into the devil's hand, because if we don't acknowledge the reality of evil, we can't, as Paul says, "take our stand against the devil's schemes". To say that the devil has schemes is to acknowledge that he always has a plan of attack.

So if this is what Paul taught the Ephesians in the closing chapter of his letter, how might it be relevant for today? Do you think Satan and his minions are any less committed to waging war against those who seek to advance God's kingdom today? I think not. But Paul gives the Ephesians a strategy. We have been given weapons to stand up to our enemy. Among the different weapons you will notice that one is an offensive weapon, the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.

Why is God's Word which the bible contains an offensive weapon? We know from the New Testament that Jesus is the Word who made his dwelling among us full of grace and truth. One of the reasons we read the bible on a regular basis is it equips us with God's power fight our spiritual battles in Jesus' name. Whether we see it or not, our battle is fought in the spiritual realm, so we need spiritual weapons, especially the Word of God.

In the lyrics of great hymn "A Mighty Fortress is our God", written by Martin Luther say,

And though this world, with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim,
We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure,
For lo! his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

Did you hear that? One little word shall fell him. That one Word is the Word of Christ, who defeated him once and for all in the cross when he died and rose again! Though we are in a battle, we know the war has been won. But until Jesus returns we have everything we need to take our stand until that final day when evil one is defeated once and for all.

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