The authors start out by saying that while it’s easy to go overboard with the whole demon thing, ignoring them is not the right answer, either. 1 Peter 5:8-9 says that we are to resist the devil, not ignore him. Just as an army needs to have some knowledge of it’s enemy (and even know who its enemies are), we need to have some idea what we are fighting against. We in the West are very uncomfortable with demons because, unbeknownst to us, our Englightenment worldview excludes the possibility of demons. The Enlightenment worldview says that we are human because we are rational (for example, “I think, therefore I am”). Furthermore, rationality, by means of the scientific method, is the only way to discover truth about the world. The spiritual world, if it exists, is not detectable by the scientific method, so the proper thing to do is to ignore it.
The biblical view says that there are three realms: the divine realm (God), angels and fallen angels, and the natural world, including us. Furthermore, it says that our humanity is defined by our relationship to God and that divine revelation is one of the primary ways that we learn about the world. As a Christian we are obviously ok with some supernatural (namely God), but it does not extend far. Demons, no way. Miracles? Probably fakers, that stopped happening in Acts. God talking us? Well, ok, maybe, but it’s probably just wishful thinking by that person. This is our Enlightenment worldview speaking, however the biblical worldview is very clear that God intervenes in the world regularly. Governments are appointed by God and a little bit of faith can literally move mountains. Michael and another angel fought against the demonic “prince of Persia” to bring God’s answer to Daniel’s prayer. Jesus casted demons out regularly and Peter warns us that the devil is like a roaring lion looking for who he can devour.
So how do you tell if a problem is caused by a demon or by something “ordinary” and psychological or something? Western thinking likes either/or questions like this, but this is really an invalid question based on an incorrect, dualistic view of the world. The biblical view is that the spiritual and the natural are related. The problem might be caused by Satan, or it might be a result of the ordinary problems caused by a bunch of self-oriented sinners living around each other, but you can be assured that either way, Satan will be lying to you about who God is and/or who you are.
The devil’s main strategy is to deceive us about who God is, and if we are a Christian, who we are. Therefore, the main battlefield is our mind: either we believe his deceptions and remain in bondage, or we believe the truth and are freed. The truth is that, in Christ, God is: loving, caring, good, merciful, gives unconditional grace, present, gives good gifts, nurtures, accepts us, reliable, just. Satan will attempt to use our circumstances as evidence that suggests that God is perhaps maybe not completely above reproach in a small area. “Surely if you eat from that one tree you will be like God, are you sure he isn’t maybe possibly holding out on you?” “Don’t you think God not satisfying your loneliness might be a sign that maybe he doesn’t really care that deeply about you—of course he loves you—but, maybe, you know, in a more general sort of impersonal way?” Likewise, the truth is that we are children of God, adoped into his family, unable to be separated from him or his great love, viewed as perfect in Christ, seated on a throne in the heavenly realm next to God, sons and daughters of the King—princes and princesses of Heavan. But Satan will say, “really? perfect?? how about X, how can God possibly consider that perfect? Yeah, Jesus took away the punishment, but God expects perfection, so, don’t you think you need to fix X before thinking about acceptance?”
Listening to those lies will keep people from us from coming to God, which is basically being put in bondage. If we can’t trust God to satisfy the desires he put in us our only choice is to do it ourselves. We develop coping mechanisms for the fact that this only sort of works—the Bible calls them sin. And all the devil needs to do to control us is remind of the lie “look at the happy familiy over there, too bad God didn’t give that to you,” and bam! you’re right back not trusting God and unhappy and needing to seek out satisfaction yourself, instead of splashing people around you with God’s living water that Jesus promised us. “What we usually call counseling is often discipling—learning the truth about God and the truth about our relationship to Him. If young Christians were properly discipled, many of the problems that later take them to professional counselors would not develop” (p. 104).
Spiritual warfare is primarily submitting ourselves to God and resisting the devil (James 4:7). We submit ourselves to God by confessing our sin, realizing why it is wrong (not just “God told us not too,” but why He hates it), repenting of it, receiving His forgiveness, forgiving those who have wronged us, and committing ourselves to living out the truth that God tells us about who He is and who we are. We resist the devil through the truth in God’s word, by taking every thought captive, through the power of the Holy Spirit and the name of Jesus, and through prayer. It requires an up-to-date relationship with God. The more intimate our relationship is with him, the more we recognize His voice and reject the lies of the enemy.
This was a very insightful book to read. The authors have a big task: convince the reader, who is probably skeptical about “this whole demons thing,” about the need for spiritual warfare, show how we are lied to, and how we should respond. They accomplish their task well. Everything is very biblically based—the authors taught at a conservative seminary for their career, and personally transitioned from a ignore-the-devil attitude to a more charismatic approach, but they kept their biblical rigour. Probably the best aspect of the book is how the authors succinctly capture biblical truths and challenge the reader with them. For example, “People may not live what they profess, but they always live what they believe. It is what Jesus meant when he said ‘by their fruit you will recognize them.’” (p. 35) So while the book is not very long, it packs a lot of challenging truth in a small space. If you are wondering “‘spiritual warfare,’ what’s that all about?” this book is for you. If you’re freaked out by all the charismatic talk of spiritual warfare and want a grounded, thoughtful explanation, this book is definitely for you.
This is a very pithy, wise, challenging book. It manages to cover a broad range of topics, often with only a brief paragraph, but that paragraph really gives the foundation for thinking about it further. Many times I read their explanation and said “wow!” Yet somehow, it doesn’t strike me as a 100-year book, even though I think it should be. Perhaps I just am not fond of conversational style, even though it is effectively used here? As I read this book I kept thinking “10!” I took copious notes, and I cannot come up with coherent criticisms, so I’m giving this a 10.
- Ch 1
- It’s easy to go overboard with demons, etc., but it is not correct to be “safe” and ignore them.
- Going to a place with no knowledge of the enemy is like fighting a battle and not researching the enemy’s strategy, strength, etc. It gives the enemy an advantage over you. It’s stupid and dangerous.
- Satan wants to push truths to to extremes: ex. demons are behind everything or they are behind nothing. Neither is correct.
- 1 Pet 5:8-9 says “resist,” not “ignore”
- He says “be self-controlled and alert, so you aren’t surprised when it shows up. Alert to the enemy does not mean enemy-centered, though.”
- You learn to spot the enemy by learning what the Father’s voice sounds like. Discernment of the Father’s voice is “always in relation to the intimacy of one’s relationship with the Shpeherd.” (21)
- Satan loves to make people afraid, and then they withdraw from battle. God to Joshua to be strong and courageous—you can’t be courageous unless you are afraid, because courage is acting in spite of your fear.
- Ch 2: Is This Spiritual Warfare or Just Plain Old Trouble?
- “There are indeed some things only God can do—things like creating something out of nothing, sustaining the universe with the word of his power, defining truth, and providing redemption for fallen man. There are some things, however, that God has equipped us to do, and he will not do these things for us. He will be there to help us and to mentor us, but he will not excuse us from using our minds.” (31)
- “The primary location of [the spiritual battle] is in our minds. Either we believe the lies that keep us in bondage or we believe the truth that sets us free.”. (33)
- winning the battle is more than just having correct information, “it is a matter of having a functional faith that is based on truth.” (34)
- “People may not live what they profess, but they always live what they believe. It is what Jesus meant when he said ‘by their fruit you will recognize them.’” (35)
- in Eph 2:1-3, Paul links the world, the flesh, and the devil. They work together so closely that you can’t understand one without understanding the others. 39
- “The world” has several meanings in the Bible:
- can mean the physical world that God created and rules over. This is good and it is proper to enjoy it.
- can also mean the system and culture full of things designed to draw us to meet our needs apart from God
- Paul says that the struggle is between spirit and flesh (Gal 5), not spirit and Satan.
- James says we are drawn away by our desires, not a demon (Jam 1:13-14).
- “the flesh” has two meanings in the Bible:
- can be our physical composition (not bad), or
- our learned behavior of satisfying our desires incorrectly.
- the desires are not necessarily wrong, (Matt 13:17, Luke 22:15, Phil 1:23, Thess 2:17) it is how we try to satisfy them. (hence, “drawn away”)
- God satisfies our needs for acceptance, security, and significance (see photos)
- Satan has convinced some people they cannot change in a certain area. But see Phil 4:13.
- Satan can put thoughts into our mind (he did it to Jesus in Luke 4, and Jesus was tempted in every way, just as we are [Heb 4:14])
- Being tempted is not sin. “We are always responsible for what we allow into our minds and for what we do with the stimuli to evil that are all around us in the world.” (50)
- “‘Is this sp warfare or just plain old trouble?” The answer is, “It’s both.” They go together. If Satan doesn’t cause the trouble, he will try to take advantage of it when it comes to us. ... He will be on hand to make the trouble seem even worse than it is and to make you feel so much like a victim that you will begin to act like a victim rather than a victor in X” (51)
- Ch 3: Toward a Biblical Worldview
- “Everyone lives by faith. The only difference between Christian and non-Christian faith is the object of our faith.” (52)
- inaccessible high/creator god
- impersonal spiritual power, neither good nor bad [like electricity], sometimes called “god,” especially in Asia
- Shamans are experts in using mana, just like we have electricity experts
- might be objects in nature, people who died, etc.
- not amoral like mana
- Western worldview: two realms, spiritual and natural. They are separate and don’t touch (hence religion need not be taught in school).
- God, angels, and demons are in the spiritual realm. God seldom interferes with life on Earth.
- The scientific method is the only valid way of learning about the world, received revelation is not valid.
- Westerners like to ask either/or questions: “is it a question for religion or science?” “Is it flesh or a demon?” “is it private (spiritual) or public (secular)?”. The question “How do you know whether a person’s problem is spiritual or psychological?” is an invalid question coming from an invalid worldview: both our spirit and our bodies are related. (61-62)
- The Enlightenment said that our significance came because we reason, not because of divine revelation. Scientific revelation said the scientific method was the only way to find truth, divine revelation was not reliable. Evolution makes the world no longer the creation of God. The idea of angels and demons is thus opposed to Enlightenment thinking.
- Pastors have adopted a more secular view to try reduce the credibility gap between their views and society’s views.
- Biblical worldview: three functional realms.
- Deity (populated by only God, but extending everywhere)
- Angels (created by God to worship God, carry out God’s orders; some of whom fell)
- Satan’s goal seems to be to become like God, but since he now knows he can’t achieve that, wants to oppose all God’s purposes.
- “Don’t take God’s name in vain” does not mean just don’t swear, but also don’t act in a way that doesn’t bring him glory.
- Syncretism is when we say one thing but our actions demonstrate that we believe something different (like a candidate for bishop going to a witch doctor to enhance his chances of being chosen)
- Ch 4: More than Technique
- The war is already won at the Cross (Col 2:15, Heb 2:14-15)
- The Israelites won when they had faith and consulted God; they lost when they did not. The same goes for us. “Do things God’s way and God will be responsible for the results. Do things our way and we must be responsible for the results.” (73)
- It is not the right kind of prayer that is effective, it is our relationship with the Creator. The Bible is not a spiritual instruction book, it is a book on how to relate to God.
- Satan uses deception to control unbelievers. Deception is subtle; by definition we do not know it has happened.
- Satan is ok with any religion, as long as it keeps you from God.
- His favorite disguises are an angel of light or a servant of righteousness.
- Satan steps up his attacks on a believer, in an attempt to neutralize him.
- Lure of knowledge and of power are two of Satan’s most effective traps. 81
- Satan is limited, but does have power. Some people want power to feel significant. Others simply because they do not believe that God will provide for their needs and that he has given us “incomparably great power.” (Eph 1:19)
- Demons do not have bodies, but they can sometimes appear like they do. When children say they see things at night, they might really be seeing something demonic.
- Satan may give us power, but it will result in bondage somewhere else in our lives.
- Ch 5: Who Am I, Really?
- “we can behave consistently in a manner inconsistent with what we believe about ourselves. ... We need to agree with God about ourselves, as well as about everything else in life.” 90
- The Bibles talks about three “kinds” of “self”:
- the self involved in denying ourselves legitimate things to
focus on God, also the self of self-centered (what Jesus was talking
about when he said you must deny yourself to follow him). [negative connotation]
- our personality [positive connotation]
- physical appearance (this is God’s handicraft, so it is
good), and the new self, the new creation (obviously, this is also
good) [positive connotation]
- we need to love ourself in the sense that we agree with what God says about us.
- “First, our relationship with God must be based on the instruction, guidance, and empowerment of the Holy Spirit, and second, it must be based on truth.” 96
- Problem is, we don’t really believe in spirits. For example, which would most cause us to put our emotions under control in, say, a heated argument: the Holy Spirit’s presence within us, or an important person at the door? 97
- we are not committed to truth: we put on masks at church where we should be the most open
- “You cannot be right with God if you are not real. If necessary, God may have to make you real in order to be right with Him.” 102
- “In being honest we often need to share our hurt and our sin with others. ... The. Church was intended by God to be a place where it is safe to be honest—a place where you can go to find help with the things that are really troubling you.” 103
- When someone says “there’s no one I can talk to,” what they mean is “there is no one I trust to handle the truth and offer a solution.” 103
- “What we usually call counseling is often discipling—learning the truth about God and the truth about our relationship to Him. If young Christians were properly discipled, many of the problems that later take them to professional counselors would not develop.” 104
- Ch. 6: Which God Do I Serve?
- What we think God is like affects how we act
- Satan received Adam and Eve into thinking that God was not entirely trustable.
- He still does this: some people think there is no god. Some people think we are all part of god. Some people think he is very arbitrary.
- A seminary professor’s young son had an incurable cancer, and he wrote ‘Quite frankly, I found that the Bible was not the answer. I found the Scriptures to be helpful—even authoritatively helpful—as a guide. But without my feeling God, the Bible gave me little solace. ... I fond myself longing to get closer to God, but found myself unable to do so through my normal means: exegesis, Scripture reading, more exegesis. I believe that I depersonalized God so much that when I really needed him I didn’t know how to relate.'' 110. See John 5:39-40
- We see God through a set of filters:
- we may simply be ignorant
- Satan may put lies in our mind (or use those he has already lied to)
- he many convince us that God is like the dysfunctional authority figures in our lives, esp our parents.
- “we have all been victimized in some way, but whether we remain victims is really our choice. Nobody can fix our past, and even God doesn’t try to do that. He makes us a new creation in Christ and sets us free from our past. We have to choose to believe the truth that will set us free.
The truth says God is: filters: lies that make me feel like:
- loving and caring
- good and merciful
- giver of unconditional grace
- present and available
- giver of good gifts
- just, fair, impartial
- steadfast and reliable
ignorance of truth
false doctrine thoughts from deceiving spirits
poor role models of authority figures, especially parents
- hateful and unconcerned
- mean and unforgiving
- giver of conditional grace
- absent when needed
- a killjoy who takes away
- critical and unpleasable
- unjust, unfair, partial
- Authority, accountability, affirmation, acceptance: do you see God as saying through these, “As you are accountable to My authority, I will affirm and accept you,” or “I accept you and affirm you and ask for accountability to My authority”? (115) The former is really saying that you have to earn God’s acceptance. If we buy into this we will either try to evaluate if we are good enough (becoming trapped in either pride or inadequacy) or look to other people to find acceptance.
- The Gospel is
Justice: Christ died in payment for our sins
Mercy: we did not get what we deserved (death). In fact,
Grace: we got what we did not deserve—adoption into God’s family. (Not only did the judge pay our fine, but he also adopted us!)
- Ch. 7: Keep Looking Down
- We born into Satan’s family because of Adam’s sin (see also John 8:44), and we are adopted into God’s family and become heirs (Eph 1:4-5). “Adoptions don’t happen by accident.” (120)
- Legalism is thinking that you have to be almost perfect to be acceptable to God.
- The same filters that we unknowingly apply to God we apply to
the truths about ourselves.
The truth says in Christ: filters: lies that make me feel like:
- I am God’s child
- I am a member of Christ’s body
- I am a saint
- I have direct access to God
- I am free of condemnation
- I cannot be separated from God’s love
- I have been given a spirit of power, love, and a sound mind
- I am God’s workmanshkp
- I can do all things
ignorance of truth
false doctrine thoughts from deceiving spirits
poor role models of authority figures, especially parents
- Uncared for
- Alone and isolated
- Like a sinner
- Unable to approach God
- That God is far away
- Fearful and powerless
- Useless and unworthy
- Able to do nothing
- since we were born apart from God’s presence, we have had to earn our acceptance in a performance-based society ourselves. The main ways are appearance, performance, status. Not only does criticism and introspection penetrate the facade, but what we do is often condemned by others, even when it is our best work. This is due to sin, a simple mistake, and even failure of others to appreciate what is genuinely good.
- We get many more shame messages than encouraging messages, and Satan will supply any lack (see Rev 12:10)... Yet emotionally it takes many acceptance messages to counteract one shame message.
- We are co-heirs in God’s kingdom, so we are princes and princesses (which is what the heir of a king is). “You are not being prideful when you believe this truth, but you are defeated if you don’t.” (125)
- Being a sinner saved by grace is only half the gospel: adopted into the heavenly realms and made co-heirs with Christ is the other half.
- When we act who we are, we rest instead of struggle to be good enough.
- Hudson Taylor was super disciplined, devoted, etc. He discovered that he that he was trying hard to impress God, himself, and everyone around him how committed he was to God. After he realized he wasn’t believing and receiving the gift of God in Christ, he became a source of much overflow-blessing when he visited his missionaries.
- Rom 5:1-5 says that we can confidently and joyfully look forward to becoming everything that God has in mind for us to be.
- “Humility is never self-centered; it is God-centered. It is confidence properly placed—in God, not ourselves. Inferiority feelings are Satan’s counterfeit for true humility.” 129
- We are not “under our circumstances,” we are seated in the heavenly realms high above them!
- Ch. 8: Boot Camp for Reluctant Warriors
- We need the armor of God: belt of truth (Christ, the living Word), breastplate of righteousness (agreeing with God that our sin really is sin, and telling the devil to go to the cross if it is not really sin, helmet of salvation (take every thought captive so it won’t mess up or brain-computer), readiness to go anywhere God sends us.
- The devil’s offense is trying to gain a foothold through sins of the flesh, unforgiveness, lies, and occult activity 137
- If left unchecked it becomes a stronghold: a system of lies that gives the devil control over part of our lives 137
- James 4:7 talks about breaking down strongholds: submit yourselves to God and resist the devil.
- Submitting to God is:
- Confession of sin (agreeing with God that it is sin—note that if the devil has convinced us that God is not very holy, we will have a wrong view of our sin)
- Renounce the sin (recognizing why it is wrong and turning from that)
- Receiving forgiveness for what we renounced
- Forgiving those who wronged us
- Renouncing the lesser we believed in and affirming the truth
- Committing ourselves to God’s truth as the basis for living our lives
- We get in the sin-confess-sin-confess cycle when we really need sin-confess-renounce-resist 138
- Resisting requires a up-to-date relationship with God.
- Word of God: brings truth and thus attacks Satan’s deceits. Rev. 12:11: testimony that demonstrates the reliability of the Word is powerful
- Prayer: S.D. Gordon: “Prayer is striking the winning blow at the concealed enemy” 141. It is often where we struggle with supernatural evil. It is why prayer is so difficult and why we are distracted when doing it—Satan doesn’t want us to pray.
- We are made holy by the blood of Christ
- Name of Jesus (this isn’t magical, you have to have a relationship with someone before others will honor their name in you)
- We have been commissioned to take back enemy territory through the church, we can use Jesus’ name for that.
- We have been given authority to cleanse our homes from demons.
- “We are told to always be on guard, because we never know when or where the enemy will launch on of his deceptive attacks” 146. The main weapon Satan uses is lies and deception
- Bringing God’s kingdom means taking down Satan’s. This happens in many spheres: our witness at work, evangelism, stewarding our resources, intercession, etc. 147
- God only sends people who are prepared; if Satan succeeds
in deceiving us, we won’t be prepared to be sent out and we will have
- Interpersonal conflicts is the largest reason missionaries Lear the field. But God intended for us to have different personalities. “When [personality differences] cause us to be ineffective in our ministries, it can only mean that someone’s personality is not under the Spirit’s control or that someone is not doing things God’s way.” 148
- As we replace lies with living out the truth, the interpersonal conflicts start becoming resolved.