I’ve had a lot more interaction over the past few weeks about this particular Misconception than the other two combined. I think this is because of a miscommunication on my part as to what I was referencing when I mentioned spiritual warfare. So, in an effort to clarify my position, I want to make some simple distinctions about various spiritual aspects about our sanctification. I agree completely that the first post was intentionally vague so as to encourage discussion, and I hope that this post helps to tie the project together, and I hope that our new knowledge will encourage us to be about the business of our Heavenly Father.
- Spiritual Warfare is different from our war against our own flesh. Galatians 5:17 indicates that there is a direct opposition between our flesh and our spirit, and that the conflict needs to be won by our spirit. The term Sanctification is used to describe this process wherein our spirit grows and our flesh is put to death on a daily basis until that point where we are reunited with our Christ, and are no longer struggling against the desires of the flesh. However, I fail to see the role of an active adversary other than our sinful flesh. This may be a bit critical, but there is a difference between my own inherent wickedness and, “the devil made me do it.”
I hope that we can see that the struggle to become more like Christ is crucial to our sanctification, but that our battle with sin to which we were formerly bound has ultimately been concluded by the death of Jesus.
- Spiritual Warfare is not limited to our testing. I am not engaging spiritual warfare when I am facing Trials of Many Kinds like those mentioned in James 1:2-4 and 1 Peter 1:3-9. These trials are a testing of faith for the express purpose of growth among the saints. James goes on to indicate that there is a purpose and plan behind the testing, and Peter overtly states that these trials are meant to refine the purity that has already been imputed to us. (1 Peter 1:7)
Our testing, not unlike those experienced by Job, come about as a way to reveal what is already within us. Job 1:8 indicates to us that God saw in Job a faith that could withstand a test, and allowed him to be tested in order to reveal his faith for what it was. In no way, and at no time, was Job’s salvation in question. In fact, Job was able to withstand the trial because of his faith in God.These trials are an element of endurance, which is only one element of Spiritual battles.
These first two aspects of Spiritual Warfare seem to relate to two pieces of our Spiritual Armor as described in Ephesians 6. First is the Breastplate of Righteousness which is the imputed righteousness given to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus, and the second is the Shield of faith which is assigned to us by the Holy Spirit. Both of these pieces of armor are necessary on the battlefield, but they are defensive weapons. (and no, I don’t need some medieval lesson on how a shield can be used as an attacking weapon, so if that’s your argument, just keep it to yourself.) They were each given to us at the point of Justification and will be useful for our sanctification, but that battle is not being waged over us. It is being waged over those who are yet lost.
The element of Spiritual Warfare that is far more neglected is that of the attacking weapon. Spiritual Warfare is truly about advancing the gospel into dark places, and while a shield of faith and breastplate of righteousness is critical for the advancement of that Gospel, we must maintain focus on those for whom we are fighting.
- Spiritual Warfare is a battle for the lost. Armies advance in war when they attack. Advancing armies need weaponry specific to their adversary and the specific battle conditions. So when the Lord saw fit to put his church on the front lines of a spiritual battle for the lost of this world, he equipped us with the most effective spiritual weapon available. Scripture. Ephesians 6:17b calls us to take up the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.
Yes, I saw War Room too and it was great, but what made that movie great and what makes our prayer effective, is the fact that God empowers the prayers of His people by his own word. Ephesians 6:18 commands us to pray after we have taken up the full armor of God. When we pray, we are invoking the name of the Lord, as a direct result of our being called children of God. We are able to approach the throne of grace boldly and ask of God any thing that our heart desires.
Prayer is the active wielding of the word of God. With the Word, or prayer has power, and without the word, our prayer is nonsense.
We pray for those who persecute us.
We pray for others that they might be healed.
We pray for those who doubt.
We pray in order to snatch some from the fire.
I will admit that the idea of Spiritual Warfare includes defense against Satan’s attacks, but I disagree with the idea that we fight for our own sanctification. Our salvation is a product of the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is guiding our sanctification. The enemy may try to slow our development but my eternity is no longer in question. The eternity of those who are still lost, however, is not secure. It is the advancement of the gospel that will draw them out of the fire. It is the sharing of the good news of Jesus that will offer them life.
It is when we stop trying to purify ourselves through the practice of psychological determinism and start focusing our spiritual energy on shining a light into the darkness that we will see our own spiritual lives being encouraged. We will recognize that my righteous lifestyle is a tool to save, and that my checkered past is a tool to save, and that my struggle with the flesh is a tool to save, and that my pursuit of the Holy One is a tool to save, and my memorization of scripture is a tool to save, and that my every waking moment can be spent developing my own spiritual warfare skills in order to save someone…Anyone…for the King who first saved me.
When we begin to see ourselves as warriors instead of scholars, we will advance the gospel in ways that the world has not yet seen.