AFTER WWII THE U.S. AIR FORCE hired a tribe of pigmy Philippinos, called Negritos, to guard Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines. After several years the base commander fired the Negritos replacing them with G.I.s. The Negritos felt insulted. After about a week the Negrito chief asked the base commander to inspect the shoes of the men that guarded the base. Each sole had a white chalk mark. The American guards were so bad, and the Negritos were so good, that the American guards were completely unaware of the Negrito’s presence when they chalked their shoes.
Spiritual warfare is similar. Unless you understand the Devil’s wiles, his tactics, and his ways, he will clandestinely mark your soul with temptation, deception, and pain, and you will be completely unaware of the source. Your ignorance of his wiles can end in your destruction without a fight.
You and I make contact with the hordes of darkness every day—some of you are in contact right now—and like the Air Force guards, are completely unaware. Our spiritual enemies have one goal: to provoke unbelief, to distract us from a single-minded devotion to Christ, to separate us from God, and ultimately to haul us away into eternal conscious torment. Here are Paul’s fighting instructions.
Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 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. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.Ephesians 6:10-13
Paul is concerned about the spiritual warfare that swirls around us 24×7. His admonition is at the end of an exhortation concerning marriage, parenting, serving masters, etc. Then this warning about spiritual warfare follows. (If you or I were writing Ephesians would any of us have thought spiritual warfare this important)? Paul’s point is that we can’t conduct successful marriage, parenting, or work relations without knowing why and how to conquer evil spirits.
I am most thankful for the contemporary biblical counseling movement. It has replaced secular therapy and psychology with counseling directly from the Bible. This approach is much needed. However, this movement has one weakness. Although theoretically, it believes in the Devil, practically it gives little attention to his activity in the Christian life. It is as if our only obstacle to spiritual progress is the flesh. Are we Air Force guards constantly and unknowingly marked by spiritual negritos? This begs the question. How do evil spirits attack us, and how can we fight them?
For those truly born again, the Devil’s goal is to make your life as miserable as possible. If this is true, there is only one logical response. Don’t be passive. Don’t be ignorant. Rather, as vs 10 advises, “Be strong in the Lord and the strength of his might.”
The symbols scripture uses to describe our Adversary are alarming. He is a “Serpent” (Genesis 3), a great Red Dragon (Revelation 12), a Roaring Lion seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5), the Ruler of this World (John 12), the Prince of the Power of the Air (Ephesians 2), Prince of Darkness (Matthew 9), Beelzebub (Matthew 12), etc.
Therefore, the apostle Paul warns us. “We do not fight against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness.” This means we have a powerful, crafty, intelligent spiritual enemy. The nouns Paul uses are vivid, and alarming—“rulers, authorities, cosmic powers.” Because his goal is your physical and spiritual death Paul doesn’t want us to take him lightly.
For these reasons Paul encourages us to “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might…take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day.” Practically, what does this look like? How do we “withstand [evil spirits]?” To fight effectively we must understand the nature of the conflict, our weapons, and how to fight. The conflict is about truth. It is a war of words or ideas. That is why the Bible constantly refers to God’s word as a sword.
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.Hebrews 4:12
We use swords for fighting and killing. God’s word is a sword. It is the word of truth. Our conflict is spiritual, not material. It is a war of ideas and concepts.
This implies that the Devil also has a sword—lies, untruth, deception, exaggeration, and distortion. He also uses his sword to kill. Note when Jesus speaks of our adversary how he connects murder and lies.
“Your father the devil…was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.John 8:44
The Devil kills with lies. But God’s sword puts lies to death. It kills exaggeration. It slays distortion and deception. This is how we conquer the Evil One. We brandish the lie-destroying sword of truth.
Face To Face
Our conflict is not theoretical. It is not waged from a distance. It is face-to-face, experiential, and intimate. If you don’t understand how it works the spiritual Negritos might get you. Satan wields his sword three ways—through culture, friends, and acquaintances, and by speaking thoughts directly into our minds.
First, Satan speaks through the world. Three times Jesus called Satan “the Prince of this World.” That means he is the Mastermind behind secular culture. He lies through T.V., podcasts, social media, Hollywood, Civil Government, the News Media, and our educational institutions. Therefore, be careful about that to which you watch and listen.
Second, Satan speaks to us through acquaintances and family members. After Jesus predicted his coming death, Peter dissuaded him, “far be it from you, Lord. This shall never happen to you.” But Jesus turned on Peter addressing the real source of his words. “Get behind me Satan. You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of man” (Matthew 16:22-23). This means the Devil will speak to you through others, and to others through you.
Third, Satan inserts thoughts into our minds. He leads “our thoughts astray” (2 Cor. 11:3), and inserts “lies into our hearts” (John 13:2). His goal is either our self-hatred or our self-worship. They both suit his purposes. “God doesn’t love you. You are a failure. your future is hopeless. people don’t like you.” Or, maybe the opposite. “You are really special. There is no one else like you. You are above the rules. They don’t apply to you. You are so special that you need to push yourself forward. Eventually, others will acknowledge your remarkable gifts.” He stirs up bitterness and wounded feelings, and he convinces you that you have a right to feel this way. He promotes selfish ambition, jealousy, greed, and insecurity and then gives you justification for these sins.
How do we discern our natural thoughts from those of evil spirits? Satan’s servants are pushy. They don’t take no for an answer. You try to reject his suggestions and are met with resistance. The temptation keeps coming and coming. It can even turn into”torment” (1 Samuel 16:14, Acts 16:16-18), all the while you are not recognizing the source. The only way to wage war against this foe is by addressing him directly. “In Jesus’ name, I command you to leave me at once.” Then we confront our foe with God’s truth. “The truth is ____________.”
Satan can’t stand against the truth of God’s word. An American friend who spoke Spanish was praying with a Hispanic woman who knew no English. To encourage her he quoted 1 Peter 5:8-9. “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” Amazingly, an evil spirit spoke from her using perfect English. “Don’t say that to me. I hate it. It pierces me. It pierces me.” This is how God’s word affects evil spirits. It is the “sword of the Spirit.” It pains them. It hurts them. They run and hide.
God’s word is your sword. It is your only weapon against “the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness,” and without it, we are helpless victims. Do you take it seriously? Do you understand the ways of Satan? Are you waging spiritual warfare, or are you a victim of spiritual warfare?
When we listen to sermons on Sunday morning, God is taking his sword from his scabbard. When we read our Bibles in daily devotions, we are polishing and sharpening God’s sword. When we conduct family devotions, on behalf of our children and spouses, we are brandishing God’s sword in the face of the Adversary.
So, here is the vital question. Are you doing this? Are you using God’s weapon? Or are you like the Air Force Guards unknowingly disabled by silent, stealthy spiritual Negritos?
“Resist him firm in your faith”(1 Peter 5:9). “Resist the Devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).