The Conflict

The Conflict

Sep 22, 2015

The Conflict

Sermon series by Pastor Nathan Crandall

Senior Pastor, Milton SDB Church, WI

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His power. 11 Put on God’s complete set of armor, so that you will be able to stand your ground against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against other people, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world-rulers of this spiritual darkness, and against malicious evil spirits in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, take up God’s complete set of armor, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. (Ephesians 6:10-13, Nate Crandall Adjusted Version)

We are to reflect God’s image, but not just during times of peace and comfort. It must also happen during times of difficulty, during times of persecution and during times of intense struggle. In fact, we are not able to fully reflect God’s image until we have learned how to respond to our struggles in a spiritually mature manner. This is why the Lord allows us to go through trials. His purpose is to develop in us the character of Christ. As it says in James, “Consider it pure joy when you face all kinds of trials because you know the testing of your faith produces perseverance and perseverance character…”

When my sister and soon to be brother-in-law were dating they developed what they called “rules for fair fighting.” It was an acknowledgment that there would be conflict in their relationship and that they needed to resolve that conflict in a consistent, fair and God-honoring way. Likewise we must acknowledge that conflict is a part of this life and that the Lord has the tools we need to respond to conflict in a righteous or God-honoring way. You could think of them as “rules for fighting God’s way.”

We live in a spiritual battlefield, but I think that the term “spiritual warfare” or “spiritual battle” can be a little misleading. That is because every conflict or struggle is spiritual in nature. Every playground fight or boardroom brawl is a spiritual battle. It is a spiritual battle because we must learn to respond to every conflict in a spiritual way or by the Spirit of God. If we take these commands to heart and put them into practice, we will become more like Jesus and reflect His image.


Special forces soldier with rifle in the fire

Be strong in the Lord

Everyone who is “in the Lord” has by faith received the Holy Spirit. If you are “in the Lord” the Spirit of Jesus Christ lives inside of you, but the paradox is that you are also “seated in Christ in the heavenly places.” (Eph 2:6) In Him you are strong, much stronger than you think — not because of who you are but because of where you sit, in Christ, in heavenly places, far above the strongest forces of this world.

Do you feel condemned and ashamed because of your past? In the Lord it cannot hold you. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2) People may continue to hold your past over your head, but they have no power because, “It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns?” (Romans 8:33-34) To be strong in the Lord is a command, not a feeling. Do you feel weak in Christ? That is a good place to be. Bring your weakness to Him, and He will exchange it for His strength. The good news is that anyone can be strong in the Lord by recognizing how weak he is in himself and humbly turning to Him. The message of the world is to be strong in yourself, but that is not God’s way.

Be strong in the strength of His power

Why settle for the limits of human power when you can have God’s power? His power is inexhaustible. We say that God is omnipotent — all powerful. He doesn’t need or want to keep His power to himself. The truth is that the Lord is willing and ready to give us the strength that we need at the time we need it. It is the power to live by faith, to give glory to God in every nook and cranny of our lives, to be a light and a testimony to the people around us, to overcome the mountains that stand in our way. Have you been fighting your battles in your own strength? You need His power. How specifically can we get His strength for the struggles we face?

Put on God’s armor

It is the complete set of armor. Everything that we need in our struggle is provided for us. If we put on God’s armor we are fully geared up and ready for whatever comes our way. We put on His armor because we are in spiritual battle. If we think that the struggle we face is not a “spiritual” one, then we may think that we don’t need spiritual armor. The truth is that we should put on His armor and never take it off. If we fight using the weapons of the world we can be sure that we will lose. Even when we think we have won a battle, if we fight using the weapons of this world, we are the losers.

God’s armor is more than enough to defend us in any conflict we face. His assignment is for us to stand our spiritual ground. Our weapons of spiritual warfare are powerful enough “to demolish strongholds.” (2 Cor 10:4) A stronghold is a fortress of either truth or lies. As we put on God’s armor and engage in our struggles according to His ways, we have more than enough power to pull down those strongholds of lies from the evil one. Instead of retreat, in the Lord we will be able to stand our ground.

We need wisdom because the evil one has devised wicked strategies against us. The schemes of the devil are designed to drag us back into spiritual darkness. We’ve been watching the Star Wars movies at my house. Just as the evil dark lord tries to continually seduce Luke Skywalker to the dark side, so also the evil one, Satan, the deceiver, tries to lure us from the light of Christ back into the darkness. The darkness is anything that keeps us from reflecting the image of Jesus.

His lies, his schemes are described by the classic Christian writer John Bunyan in his book “Holy War.” He says that “the tactics of intimidation and insinuation” are the devil’s “twofold infernal policy.” In other words, he works by “force and fraud.” He is a “bully and beguiler.” The devil fights dirty — but not only is God’s armor enough to defeat these lies, it is more than enough. So then what is the nature of our struggle?

We are in spiritual hand-to-hand combat

It is like the struggle between two wrestlers who grapple for control or like two soldiers whose guns have been tossed aside and are fighting for their lives in hand-to-hand combat. The spiritual warfare that we face is not fought from a distance with drones. It is up close and personal.

One of the first rules of warfare is to know who your enemy is. Our spiritual hand-to-hand combat is not against people. Even though they may be under the influence of the evil one, they are not the enemy. They are captives who need to be set free. Rather than spend our time and energy fighting against people, we must learn how to pray for others. When we celebrate the “wins” against others, it is the devil who ultimately wins.

Instead our fight is against evil spirits. Christian writers and preachers have always understood that the rulers, authorities, world-rulers, and spiritual forces of wickedness are evil spirits. The question that I asked when looking with fresh eyes at the four different descriptions which Paul gave was, “how do we fight in hand-to-hand combat with each of them?”

The rulers. The word for ruler means “beginning.” What are the “rulers” we fight against? These are the spirits which have been with us from the beginning of our lives. They are the demons which have gained access to our lives because of generational sins which have been passed down to us. We are born in sin. Along with that sin, evil spirits seek to control our lives through that sin.

The authorities. Authorities are those who are “invested with power.” These evil spirits are the ones we give power to by believing Satan’s lies instead of God’s truth. We empower them when we continue to live in our deceptions.

The world-rulers. World-rulers are those spirits who control parts of the world. Even before Paul wrote these words in the first century, the Greek culture believed that spirits controlled parts of the world. This word was used in Astrology in reference to the planets which were believed, along with the Greek gods, to control the fate of mankind. Though Satan, in his deception, twisted the real nature of evil spirits in the Greek culture, the truth remains that some spirits have control over regions and nations and cultures.

Our struggle against these demons, these world-rulers, is hand-to-hand combat because we are pressured to believe like the culture around us instead of like the Bible teaches. It’s personal. Try as we might to avoid these battles, these evil spirts do not stop until they are in control. They desire to rule.

Racism is a world-ruler. Back in the 90’s, the country of Rwanda experienced a spiritual battle against the world-ruler of racism. Overnight people from the tribes of Hutus and Tutsis, who lived alongside each other in peace, began to kill each other. These groups of people would describe themselves as Christian, yet they were not immune to the attack of racism. After the conflict was over, people testified that it was like being in a dream, like not being in control of their bodies. This is why we “Christians” must be prepared to stand our ground against the evil spirits which seek to control and destroy our culture. We need to know our enemy and be prepared to fight using God’s methods and His ways.

The spiritual forces of wickedness. These spiritual forces are demons which are pure evil. They are malicious and conniving and without remorse. They fight dirty and they don’t care who gets hurt or how they accomplish their goal.

They fight “in the heavenly places.” They fight in the heavenly places because that is where Christ-followers live and because they aim to strip us of our rightful inheritance as children of God. Joshua led the children of Israel into the promised land with the mission of destroying every enemy in the land. His fight and our fight is a fight to the death. We must either take control and push back our malicious enemy out of the inheritance in Christ that is rightfully ours, or our enemy will take it from us.

Our struggle is for “righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” which is the kingdom of God. This is our birthright as God’s children by faith in Jesus Christ. We have been made “children of the light.” Everyone that is in the light obeys and follows after God. Yet, just like Joshua, we must defeat these enemies of our soul in order to experience the promises which God has for us.

So, again, how do we do this?

Take up God’s armor

to stand against and resist the evil one. On the evil day, that is when the attacks are particularly bad, we need His armor to stand our ground. God’s armor is not just the tools to fight. It is the strength, first and foremost, to respond to our struggle in a manner that is honoring to God.

to keep standing. God’s strength allows us to stay standing until the last round. When the smoke clears, because of his strength working in us, we will still be on our feet. We need perseverance. When we are in the middle of the struggle we can easily lower our shield and take off our armor or protection. We need this

reminder: keep your armor on, keep your armor up.

Our weapons are spiritual ones. We must learn to use them because we are not strong enough to endure when we fight any other way. Our enemy is too strong, too smart and too well-equipped.

The fight is contrary to our sinful nature’s tendency for fighting. The battle is the Lord’s. He will win. Truly when we stand “in the Lord” we will be on His winning side.

Coming next month: the weapons of our fight are those which lead us towards God and towards becoming more like Jesus.

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