Monday, January 01, 2007

Spiritual Warfare Starts with Me

"Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.
Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures." (James 1:12-18)

This was the text for the morning service at The Gathering. We considered a new year of living with God, and placed this text dealing with the temptations of this life into the context of our struggle for relationship with God.

I believe this is the beginning point of the struggle which we have called spiritual warfare in Pentecostal and evangelical circles. My greatest enemy is myself. My thoughts, my philosophy of living, my passions, my desires, my anger, my impatience, my fears, and my greeds are the frontline struggle in my life. If I can overcome these things, any other enemy will be comparatively far weaker than the enemy which is myself.

I do believe there is a personage called Satan. I do believe that there are demons of varying degrees of power and influence in this world who are fighting against those who love God. I do not believe that I need to know their names, figure out their strategic plans before I can be an overcomer, or that I should spend a significant amount of time considering the works of these dark angels.

My first task in following God, and living for him is to "keep my heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life."

This is true in respect to how I think of my own life, and in how I treat other people. If I have lost the struggle of living for God in personal life, and in respect to my social interactions, then I am losing this spiritual warfare, and any amount of rebuking, binding, and loosing will be worse than empty efforts, they will be utilized to further the cause of my impotent Christianity.

That's my cursory thinking on this subject. What do you think?


Anonymous said...

This is the uncomfortable truth - my heart is at the heart of the issue and as you rightly say, if I'm losing the battle with myself, I'm not going to be effective at winning the battle against any enemy. As James says (James 5:16) regarding forgiveness of sin and healing, "The prayer or a righteous man is effective". There is a link.

As Christians we have three traditional enemies; the world, the sinful nature and the devil. I believe spiritual warfare should address each differently and good discipleship is working out which is the issue and therefore how we should respond.
I guess this begins to address the personal response. I wonder how this relates to the corporate response of the community of faith?

Pastor Phil said...

Now you're going deep Tim. The community response to the personal struggles of walking with God are an uncomfortable consideration for all of us, and the disciplines of confession, and fellowship (a significantly ignored discipline in most churches) are critical elements to our overcoming.

Steve Hayes said...

Phil, you are beginning to sound too Orthodox!

I hope I haven't been proselytising in visitng your blog!

Pastor Phil said...

Orthodox?! Yikes! I've been Pelagitized! ;-)

Anything which moves me away from Augustine a safe distance is fine I suppose.

I suppose this darn Emergent thing is rubbing off on me.

I actually tested out as an Anabaptist Pentecostal somewhere online. What the heck is an Anabaptist Pentecostal anyway?

Webb Kline said...

It a Charismatic Mennonite. We have one of those churches down the road, but really Phil, no offense, but I don't think they're looking for your type anymore than 4square is.

Could it be that you took the test at 2am like I did when I suddenly and mysteriously became a hyper-calvinist? You know that hyper-calvinists live in a black and white world, don't you?

Order! Order!

Okay, back on topic, in my experience (and maybe I rely too much on experience--touchy-feely and all that), you are right-on. In fact, I believe that if we are not living for God in our own life, we definitely don't want to chasin' demons out of the bushes, because they'll bite us for sure. I know this is worn out, but Paul tells us to put on the full armor of God, each part of that armor being something that purifies our own life, so that we can stand firm in our struggle against the devil.

As for encountering slew-foot and his cronies, I have learned to let God give me discernment as to what I am up against and how I should deal with them. I have found that we only complicate matters when we try in the flesh to systematically analyze demonic forces. How does one do that anyway? There is no greater source of chaos and confusion that a pack of demons; and we think we can figure them out? That's one of their best lies.

Be a nice guy and trust in the power of the blood of Jesus!

pendell said...

Gonna disagree with you slightly, Phil ...

"11in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes." (2 Cor. 2:11).

On the one hand, I agree with you that the major enemy that any Christian has to face in day-to-day walk is the Flesh. That it is overcome by the Spirit, by learning to love and forgive, by self-control, and by discipline, by putting off the old self and putting on the new, every day. All of these, of course, are fruits of the spirit.

And I agree with you that a lot of what Charismatics think of as "spiritual warfare" -- binding and loosing et al -- is silly mumbo-jumbo, giving the enemy more power than he has.

That said ... just because Charisma as a whole has fallen into an error does not mean that there is not an opposite error -- and that opposite error is willful, deliberate ignorance of our enemy's nature and his operations against us.

To win against an enemy who, yes, really is out to kill us, we must know ourselves and know our enemy, as Sun Tzu tells us.

So .. yes, there is an error. You have correctly identified it. Just see to it you don't go the opposite way. I have suffered much in my spiritual walk but I have never suffered from too much *accurate* knowledge. Ignorance is not a virtue, willful ignorance even less so.

The major problem with charisma -- as I see it -- is an over-emphasis on "flash" and an under-emphasis on the slow, powerful work of love that changes lives. We are at war with an enemy but that war is mostly fought with love, peace, patience, and overcoming evil with good. NOT with rebuking evil spirits and "coming against them" or whatever.

Of course, I've been out of charismatic churches for nine years -- ran screaming from them in fact -- so your viewpoint may be entirely appropriate from where you come from. Out here in non-charismatic world, where the reality of the spiritual world is 95% ignored, the rules and needs are different.


Brian P.

Pastor Phil said...

Hey Webb,

You guys are like way ahead of me. That is where I was headed next - to consider the armor of God, and place in it context as something "I" wear.


It actually doesn't sound like we are disagreeing at all to me.

You said,
"We are at war with an enemy but that war is mostly fought with love, peace, patience, and overcoming evil with good. NOT with rebuking evil spirits and "coming against them" or whatever."

Dang you've been reading my thoughts.

We are told that we are not ignorant of "his devices." Yet at the same time, neither Paul nor the other writers of scripture spend copious amounts of ink on demonology. We have limited knowledge of who they are, and how they perform their work, but we have lots of information on our weaknesses, and we know he is a tempter, a liar, a thief, and a murderer. Okay, we have a bit more info.

I think that the perspective from which we are looking at this is the issue. Go hang out with some hyper pentecostals for a day. I will try to remember that there are some non-penties out there.

Steve Hayes said...

Phil, Most Pentecostals have been anabaptist in my experience. But perhaps it should say anawaterbaptist :-)