It might not seem like it, but there is a great war raging right now, and Christians and Messianic Jews are in the middle of it. We’re in the middle of a war between God and the good angels versus Satan and the fallen angels, the kingdom of God versus the kingdom of darkness. It’s a war for the souls of human beings. In this war, the sons and daughters of God are opposed by powerful, intelligent, cunning and malevolent enemies. On our own, we’re not strong enough to withstand them. But we have an Ally who is far stronger than they are – Adonai Tz’vaot – the mighty Lord of Hosts! Rabbi Paul teaches us that His mighty power and the protection He provides enables us to stand against the schemes of our adversary and his forces. Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.
When Adam and Eve joined the rebellion of the fallen angels, Satan became the god of this world. Human beings came under the control of the devil and the other fallen angels. We became subjects of their dark kingdom. These evil spirits want to keep us under their control and want as many people as possible to share their destiny in the Lake of Fire. When we hear the Good News and respond with faith, we receive a new, godly nature. We receive the Holy Spirit, who transforms us and empowers us to live the right way. We are transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. Before we were born again, we were part of the kingdom of darkness and were at war with God. Now that we’re saved, we’re on God’s side, fighting the prince of darkness and the fallen angels. Satan and the demons are real. These evil spirits are smart and cunning and strong. To stand against them, we need to be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. We’re able to do that by putting on the full armor of God – all the spiritual protection God has made available to us.
To be successful in our battles, we must know who our enemies are, and who they aren’t. We don’t want to be fighting the wrong opponents. Rabbi Paul informs us: 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. People are not our enemies. Even if they’re attacking us, persecuting us, hurting us, even killing us, our battle is not with them but with the evil spirits who are behind them, influencing them, controlling them. We are not at war with human beings. We don’t hate people. We don’t want to hurt people. We want them to turn to God. We want them to be saved. We want them to be redeemed. We want them to be set free from the kingdom of darkness and become our brothers and sisters and join with us in the war against the dark powers. Human beings are made in the image of God and are precious. And, unlike fallen angels, they can be redeemed. So, if people curse us, we bless them. If they hit us on the check, we turn the other cheek. If they hurt us, we pray for them like Messiah did: “Father forgive them because they don’t know what they are doing.” We bless them, we pray for them, we bring them the message of salvation; and those who are chosen for salvation will turn to the Lord – like Saul of Tarsus did and gave us this teaching.
Our enemies are not flesh and blood. They are spirits, non-physical beings who have access to this physical realm. Our enemies are organized and powerful. The devil is their leader. He is the god of this world. Serving under him are rulers and powers and authorities and forces, evil spirits who control various parts of this dark world. Our enemies are intelligent and devious. The devil has schemes to harm us. Schemes involve intelligence, careful planning and craftiness. Satan and the demons know us. They know our strengths and our weaknesses; and they try to exploit our weaknesses. Our enemies are evil. God is good, perfectly good. The fallen angels are rebels against God and against goodness. They are wicked, corrupt, twisted, perverse. They tempt us toward evil. They try to corrupt us morally and spiritually. Our enemies come from heavenly realms and have access to heavenly realms, but our war with them doesn’t take place in heavenly realms. The war takes place in our minds and hearts.
Here’s how they fight us: If a person is not born-again, Satan and the demons try to keep that person in that damned condition. They try to keep him from the truth that will set him free from their control and from their destiny. So, when anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. They fight us with false teachings – the doctrines of demons. They cultivate false religions and philosophies and try to keep people trapped in those false belief systems. If the truth sets us free, and it does, then lies and deceptions keep us enslaved. The evil spirits know our weaknesses and target our weaknesses. If we struggle with pride, greed, lust, anger, selfishness, laziness, the desire to control and dominate others – if we’re tempted by drugs or alcohol – the evil spirits know. When we yield to the things that tempt us, our weaknesses get worse, and our will-power and self-control are diminished. The evil spirits want us to get weaker and weaker, more and more corrupt, less and less human, more and more wicked – like they are.
Our enemies are smart, crafty, evil, malevolent, deadly. They know us and are able to influence us. But they can be resisted. 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. Just like a soldier is better able to stand his ground if he has all his armor on, we can stand our ground by putting on the full armor of God – all the spiritual protection the Lord has for us. If we only put on some of the armor, the enemy will know where we are vulnerable and target that vulnerability. We need the full armor so that all our vulnerable spots can be protected. So, let’s consider the full armor of God, piece by piece. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the Good News of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Belt of truth: The belt of a Roman soldier kept his clothes in place and held his sword. Truth is like a belt. It supports us and protects us. It keeps things in place for us. What is truth? Yeshua said God’s word is truth. So, when we’re being tempted, we remind ourselves what the Word of God teaches and are strengthened to resist that temptation. We do what Messiah did when he was tempted by the devil in the wilderness. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Yeshua answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” Yeshua answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Yeshua said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” In response to each temptation, Yeshua applied the Word of God to that situation and was able to resist that temptation. We are to do the same.
When we’re thinking too highly of ourselves and not highly enough of God and others, we remind ourselves: Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling. Are we being greedy? Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. Consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. Being tempted by lust? All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. Clothe yourselves with the Lord Yeshua the Messiah, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh. Flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. Struggling with anger? He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city. Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered. Giving into bitterness, resentment, unforgiveness? Forgive us our sins – as we also have forgiven those who have sinned against us. For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Afraid of sharing the Gospel with others? I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. Everyone who confesses me before men, I will also confess him before my Father who is in Heaven. But whoever denies me before men, I will also deny him before my Father who is in Heaven. The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid? I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.
Breastplate of righteousness: The breastplate covers the chest, which includes vital organs like the heart and lungs. We need righteousness to be protected. We must be in a right relationship with God. That happens when we respond to the Gospel and transfer our loyalties to the Father, Son and Spirit. Then we strive to live the right way – according to the teachings of the Word of God.
Footwear: A soldier needed to have good footwear. He needed to walk to the place of battle. He couldn’t afford to slip while in combat. We need to have our feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the Good News of peace. That means we are to proclaim the Gospel to others as part of our lifestyle. Every day we are to be ready to tell the Good News to those the Lord enables us to encounter. Each day we look for opportunities to tell others the Gospel. This not only benefits those we bring the message to, it benefits us, strengthens us, protects us.
Shield of faith: A soldier needed a shield. We need the shield of faith with which we will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. The shield protected the soldier from swords and spears and arrows, including arrows set on fire. Our enemies will attack us with fiery trials and temptations. When that happens, we need to respond with faith. Faith is our shield. Faith protects us. What is faith? Faith is knowing something without being able to see that something. Faith is knowing that God is real and His word is true, and then being faithful to God and His Word. Have faith! Trust God and His Word! Be loyal to God and His Word – especially when you are going through trials, temptations, hardships, difficult circumstances.
Helmet of salvation: A soldier had a helmet, which protected his head. We are to have the helmet of salvation. So many people are confused and unhappy and angry. They try to be happy by turning to drugs and alcohol and sex and relationships and by seeking money and power and worldly success. I would be confused and unhappy and angry too if I believed I was a meaningless product of mindless evolution, that when I died I would cease to exist, and that there is no ultimate meaning or purpose to my life. Much of the battle we’re in is fought in the mind. We protect our minds by knowing that we’re saved, that we have been reconciled to God, that the Holy Spirit has been given to us, and that we’re going to live forever as the glorious sons and daughter of God in the new heavens, the new Earth and the new Jerusalem. Knowing we have been saved protects our minds.
Sword of the Spirit: The last piece of armor is the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. When we’re being lied to or when we’re being tempted, we remind ourselves what the Word of God teaches. We apply the Word of God to every situation we encounter and every decision we make. That protects us. That keeps us safe. When we understand the Word of God, we are able to go on the offensive and teach its truths to others. We’re able to demolish the strongholds of erroneous thinking, destroy wrong arguments, tear down false and arrogant opinions, and turn thoughts that were disobedient to Messiah into thoughts that are obedient to Him.
What I’ve been describing – putting on the full armor of God – is real spiritual warfare. It’s something in which we are engaged every day. Dealing with people who are demonized is another aspect of spiritual welfare. Thankfully, in our society, having to deal with someone who is demonized is a relatively rare experience. In my 40 years of ministry, I’ve only encountered a couple situations in which people were demonized. If we do encounter a situation in which someone is demonized and in need of exorcism, we have the authority to do that by proclaiming the Gospel to the person, and by prayer and fasting. In such a situation, it is wise to involve the leaders of your congregation.
Real spiritual warfare is about resisting temptation and deception by knowing God and the Word of God and bringing the Word of God to others. It may also involve removing demons in rare situations when someone is demon-possessed. Real spiritual warfare is not the bizarre kind of spiritual warfare that is taught and practiced by some today. Real spiritual warfare does not involve “binding and loosing” demons. “Binding” and “loosing” refer to spiritual authority entrusted to the leaders of Messiah’s Community to make decisions. Binding and loosing means allowing things or not allowing things. Binding and loosing has nothing to do with spiritual ropes to restrain evil spirits. We do not bind or loose demons. Real spiritual warfare is not involved in “spiritual mapping” – the idea that we need to identify demonic strongholds in a geographic area where certain sins or occult practices have taken place, and cast out the evil spirits of that locale that specialize in those sins or occult practices. Neither the Lord Yeshua nor His disciples were involved in spiritual mapping, and did not cast out demonic strongholds in an area – nor should we. Real spiritual warfare does not involve talking to demons and asking them for their names or what they specialize in to exorcise them. Neither the Lord Yeshua nor any of His disciples did that – nor should we. Note: When demons who were in people tried to speak, Yeshua did not allow them to speak. When Messiah asked the demon-possessed man his name (Mark 5), I believe Messiah was talking to the man – not the demon. We do not cast out demons of pride, greed, lust, anger or selfishness. We do not exorcise evils spirits of alcohol, nicotine, cocaine or anything similar. These are sins to be resisted over a lifetime, not demons to be exorcised in a moment.