On January 6th I gave a sermon at Crossings Community Church about the reality of spiritual warfare from Ephesians 6. The response has been fascinating in multiple ways. Honestly I didn’t get as many of the ‘you’re crazy’ looks that I expected. I had multiple people tell me that was the first time they had ever heard a sermon about the reality of Satan. Further, it has given people the permission to talk about things they had obviously been struggling with, yet did not feel it was appropriate to discuss.
Without writing a book here, I want to share with you just a snapshot of the beginning of my journey. As I have written before, if we are people who are studying the Bible then our beliefs will be changing. They will be changing because we will find the truth of scripture colliding with views we held to be true apart from the scriptures. This has been one of those areas in my life.
Probably like some of you, I grew up around very conservative baptist churches which advanced the Kingdom of God greatly through their faithful obedience. Most of the cultures that surrounded these churches were upper/middle class suburban sprawls. God provided me with a great foundation of belief through these churches. He also blessed me with some incredible relationships that have molded me greatly. I am so very thankful for those churches.
Whatever the reason might have been, I wasn’t exposed to discussions and teachings about the reality of spiritual warfare and the vigilance with which Satan pursues those who oppose him. Truthfully, I even made it all the way through my Master’s degree without giving much thought to it either. That all changed when I arrived in a classroom of fellow students and professors during my first doctoral seminar. My primary professor during those four years of study and writing was a man who had first given his life to translating the Bible to the tribal people of Papau New Guinea. My degree has two names for the purpose of protecting those of us who would do ministry overseas. It is a Doctor of Missiology or a Doctor of Intercultural Studies. Simply stated, I was in a classroom full of great minds and hearts who desired to take the gospel around the world, many of which already had done so in various ways. It was a group with enormous international experience, and there I was a young guy whose mission field was the white-collar suburban culture.
It was then that I began to realize that the most vulnerable culture (and church) to spiritual attack would be the one that did not acknowledge its reality. And so the journey began…
This group of men facilitated a significant change in the way I would approach ministry. I believe it was within our first week of study together that we were gathering in a circle praying for God to heal the wife of one of our professors. Many areas of ministry which were only theoretical to me at that time became very practical. We processed through stories together of great spiritual conflict which had been seen and felt in their ministry stories. I began to see how I had completely separated the idea of spiritual warfare from the practical outworking of everyday ministry. I came to the realization, for the first time, that ministry was a constant spiritual battle in which Satan is constantly active.
I am describing it as though this was some type of overnight change in thinking and that is not the case. I am still wrestling with and growing in this today. I had a friend who I had done some ministry with who had been walking through a similar journey. God has continued to use him as a sounding board and safe place to find encouragement in really opening these stories throughout the Bible which I had previously been much more comfortable leaving alone.
When I encourage you to study the Bible and invite it to shatter ideas which we have long held, I do so as one who is walking that journey with you. I feel pretty confident saying that this area has been one of my most significant spiritual/theological growth areas over the past several years in my relationship with Jesus through His Word.
I’ve shared an ounce of this with you for a couple reasons. First, I feel like God pushed our church a few baby steps forward as we looked at that passage of scripture a short time ago. I want to encourage that growth. If we believe we are fighting a battle and yet refuse to discuss the opponent then we are naive and ignorant at best. So, I want to emphasize the need we have to openly discuss the reality of Satan and those under his dominion. Sure it might feel weird at first, but so do all of the other counter-cultural life style altering truths we find in the Bible. Second, I believe it is important that you see that I am being challenged by the truths I find in scripture. Those truths are changing the way I think and engage in ministry as a husband, father, friend, and pastor. Our pursuit of gospel transformation demands constant growth and change… we don’t arrive, but rather we grow in joy as we are discovering new realities about the work of our Savior.
I don’t have any great questions to conclude this post. I do invite your comments and I pray this is an encouragement to you in some way.