To those who have not experienced spiritual warfare, much of the New Testament will sound like lovely platitudes. To those who have, the words of God are the anchor of the soul.
Spiritual warfare is not about in-church fighting or brother against brother. It isn’t even about us against a sinful world, or battles with causes, or righting wrongs. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).
Satan and his evil spiritual forces still intend to ruin the people of God. While he cannot pull me from God’s eternal grasp, he continues to attempt to separate me from God’s love. His goal is that my life is not credible as one who shows the world that Jesus is real.
The Bible says that Jesus prays for me. He also left an example so that I know how He prays. Part of His concern is that I am protected…
And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. (John 17:11)
That He prayed, “Keep them in Your name” infers that there is danger of some kind. A few verses later, He explains some of that danger.
I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:14–21)
From these and from my own warfare experiences, the danger list includes at least the following threats:
Forgetting the gift of His Word. When Jesus was tempted by the devil, His defense was always appropriate truth from the Old Testament that countered the lies the devil used in the temptation. If I forget or neglect the Word of God, I put myself in danger of falling to temptation. God tells me to read His Word and hide it in my heart. I am to be as the psalmist says, “I hold my life in my hand continually, but I do not forget your law.” (Psalm 119:109)
Hatred from the world. Rejection can lead to self pity, attempts to win favor, and other sins. While God never promises that I will have the world’s approval, He does promise to be with me. The danger is that I turn from fellowship with Him and look for other ways to satisfy my needs.
Ignoring the reality that I belong to Jesus. God set me apart from the world and sanctified me for Himself. There is danger if I decide to slip out of that relationship and take matters, any matters, into my own hands. This can be blatant disobedience, but it can also be subtle. “I know better than God” can creep in and with it, my protective armor becomes pierced. Jesus set Himself apart, sanctified Himself that I might walk in truth. I’m to cooperate with Him and remember that my life is not my own.
Slipping from the assurance of my unity with Him. Being conscious of God’s arm around my shoulder is a tremendous protection from the lies of the evil one, but if I let Satan’s lies or the circumstances of life convince me otherwise, then I am in the most danger of all. My defenses are gone and so is my witness.
As I think about God’s commands like: “Keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life” (Jude 21) and “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23) and even that I can run to Him, “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe” (Proverbs 18:10), I must admit many time of failure.
Spiritual battles expose the reality that I often do not do my part. Yet every failure to keep myself or to run to Him, this prayer of Jesus again points me to another reality: I cannot save myself. If I could, I would not need His intercession for me, nor His saving power. Failure is good for one thing; it takes me back to the Cross.