It's not only good faith, but often a good tactic, to take action in the opposite way from evil. Where there's anger, act to bring calm, and things may calm down. Where there is greed, start giving - it might become infectious. Where large egos rule, be a servant of all, and the contrast will speak for you. Where there is backbiting and gossip, say things to build people up, and it may suck the poison out. Where there is disunity, seek a way to bring people together, and you may find surprising allies. Do these things deliberately, in a way which exposes the evil for what it is. You may not be safely able to name the evil, but your actions and attitudes can reveal the truth when words can't.
Let this world's tyrant rage /
In battle we'll engage /
His might is doomed to fail /
God's judgment must prevail ! /
One little word subdues him.
------- Martin Luther (LBW #229 translation, *A
Mighty Fortress Is Our God*)
TAKING THE DEVIL HEAD-ON
Pentecostalist spiritual warfare teaching strongly emphasizes aiming directly at the Devil and his works. However, there are many problems with using the 'frontal assault' warfare teachings. For instance:
The thing they are attacking may not be Satanic; it may just seem so. We need to understand why a person is the way they are. For example, mental disturbance may look like it's made by the devil, but it isn't. Instead of going off condemning people and popular culture, we need to find out why something which seems demonic is so popular. What is the symbolism touching in us that gives it so much effect? It'd be easier to get teenagers away from dabbling in the occult if we really thought about what the occult is appealing to in the teenage mind.
It takes time to develop a relationship of trust with those who are unknowingly doing or supporting the Devil's work. It takes time to show love, and it takes time for that love to be trusted. They're people, and none of them are beyond the reach of Christ's love.
Some people don't really let themselves feel the ugliness of spiritual warfare. They actually want to see spiritual combat, see devils lash out and experience extended struggles with sensational happenings. The teaching of many preachers is that it's a swashbuckling adventure, and they're the heroes, Rambo taking the Commies head-on. But think of real guns-and-bombs warfare here: the carnage, death, destruction, and hatred - there are some who find war exciting. It's the same for spiritual warfare. They need to teach the truth of how horrible such things are.
The devil's work is not at all simple. It goes on at all sorts of different levels from all sorts of thoughts, people, movements, and happenings. Hit it from only one angle, and the Devil works all the other angles that much harder.
A badly-aimed attack is like a mischosen drug which can kill the patient.
Never give the devil a ride.
He'll always want to drive.
(Steve Taylor sang about the devil's idea of backseat driving in Drive, He Said, from 1985.)
A reader writes:
what is your perspective on Multiple Personality Disorder?
I don't know, I'll have to ask my Committee of other selves what they think of it....
Seriously, MPD, a strong form of what is now called dissociative identity disorder (DID), is rare; some even question whether it really ever occurs. I had one who lived a few blocks away from me back in the late '60s, who was in and out of clinics, so I believe there is a real MPD. He had a full second personality, which grew out of his first, mainly because of sexual abuse by a relative and two very traumatic accidents.
It's nearly impossible to talk about MPD/DID without talking about 'possession', because most supposed instances of Multiple Personality Disorder since the start of the '70s involve some claim of demonic 'possession' or twistedness. (Note: the above example made no such claim; he came before the '70s wave hit.) It's given a lot of money and attention to a lot of real jerks, liars, nuts, and demagogues, both within Christian circles and outside of them. If you need a good source on the hyping of it, check out Jon Trott's book *Selling Satan*, which touches on it through the sad story of Mike Warnke. I don't address MPD or dissociative identity disorder elsewhere in my Spirithome site because I do not believe there is a real connection between Satanic stuff (or any other spiritual phenomena) and multiple personalities.
In its section on frontiers for further investigation (para. 4 bullet 3), the Lausanne Committee's Nairobi consultation on spiritual warfare urged Christians to develop a diagnostic approach for telling whether the other personalities are demonic or a DID personality. Some differences are already well-known. A demonic personality is willingly taken on from an outside source, whether directly or step by step (decision by decision). Unlike a multiple personality, a demonic personality isn't really part of the person at all but a different 'being' (or maybe 'un-being') which pulls strings or lays bait from within its host, slowly shaping the host into its evil image. The demon will push existing weaknesses to an extreme. Demons or Satan can never actually own or possess anyone. But they don't have to, because for whatever reasons the host is joining them in their game. (It's why I don't usually use the term 'possession' to describe it.)
Keep the Change
One of our readers writes:
I am doing a presentation on the theme 'Lord, change me' - with the sub-themes: Changed through earthly power, demonic power, godly power.
The first key teaching here is that the Lord changed you from what you were, and is still changing you. As a baptized Christian believer, you have the Holy Spirit living inside you, teaching you how to live as a follower of Christ. The Spirit brings you Christ Himself, so you might have His righteousness. And the Spirit works through other followers of Christ, the people around you, building each other up strong and keeping each other going in the right direction. That's godly power, used to conduct the real spiritual warfare. Tell them about what God has done for you in these ways.
Earthly power changes us, too. Think of the people around you who do not believe. What they do matters to you, affects you, shapes you. And God made it that way - God made you part of a community of others, only some of which believe in Christ. Their kindnesses and cruelties set the tone for much of what you do. What happens to your nation, and how it acts as a nation -- you're part of it, and you have to live with the fruit it bears. This is not right or wrong by itself -- it is just true. The world and local economies are earthly power -- it can bless with good things, like jobs, goods, and being able to go from place to place. Earthly power is a mixed bag in spiritual warfare and in life. God can use it. The Devil can use it. But most of all, people use it and are used by it.
Demonic power changes us, too. Not that the Devil has any real power - Christ broke his power. The Devil has not much more than what we give him. But that's the game he's best at winning. When we listen to his whispers, we sin. We decide we'll go for fame, power, wealth, or lust. We break our promises of marriage, family, friendship, business, faith, neighborhood, law, or school. We break other people by way of gossip, and maneuver to take their social place, to bring them down. All of us act like that sometimes. How have you been that way? And what led you to do otherwise, and follow God rather than these temptations? Share something of that. The more we give ground to the temptation, the stronger the pull of Satan on our soul.
Please remember to pray several times each day until you present, and trust that the Spirit will use you. Try to draw on your own experiences and of those you're talking to. And also read Paul's letter to the Romans.
Part of a reader's much longer excursus on spiritual warfare.
... Because it says in Romans 4:24-25, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the soul of death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with my deliverance of soul I now serve the law of God; but with my corrupt flesh the law of sin." So I perceive that we must be delivered of the demons that have built strongholds in our lives.
It's Romans 7:24-25, and the Greek word there is not 'soul' but the body (ie, his physical being) which, of course, is mortal and tends to go against God by its very nature. The chapter says nothing at all about Satanic strongholds built by demons. It's simply not there, and your teachers do you a disservice if they're teaching you that it is.
And it says that we must use the Word as a spiritual weapon in I Corinthians 10:4, "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds."
It's 2 Corinthians 10:4. And what it talks about here is not the Word (it's not mentioned), or any other specific "spiritual weapon". He is saying we live by God's power and not our own. Paul refers back to the meekness and gentleness of Christ (v. 1), and how there are some among the Corinthians who would not treat him in the same Christly way (v. 2). He speaks of 'strongholds', but that refers not to the demonic (which is never mentioned here) but simply the parts of life (our own life and our lives together) which have not been given over to the Lord, and which still harbor our own fiercest resistance to Jesus. Specifically, speculations (thoughts we create about God) and lofty things (that which we judge God by, or hold in actual practice to be more important than God). The objective is for every thought to be captivated by the Lord.
Because some of my friends believe that once you are saved you are not able to be oppressed by the devil or his servants, I think you must be delivered or they will claim you as open oppression ground.
The devil can speak temptations to anyone -- including Jesus. But when Jesus was tempted, He spurned it. The devil can whisper or yell temptations to you or any Christian. That's not 'oppression', that's life. And anyone, even the best and most Christlike of us, can and sometimes will listen. We follow Christ when we spurn it -- but we do not always follow Christ. (That was Paul's point in Romans 7.) All talk about 'demonic oppression' or being on 'open oppression ground' is superstition or magic. It gives the devil more than his due. This sort of spiritual warfare teaching is seriously destructive, because it gives us an excuse not to love others. Jesus allowed us no excuses. The devil can claim someone all he wants to, but he has no actual power to take someone for his own. The spiritually oppressed are the ones who give themselves over to Satan's whispers. There are many excuses for it: perceived gain, pleasure, low self-worth, addiction, spiritual laziness, or quitting on God. The oppression ends when they stop listening to the whispers. The rest of us, Christian or otherwise, are just living.
Somebody's taught you some pretty strange things about spiritual warfare. They read Satan into every line of Scripture. Yet according to Scripture, the devil is not hiding behind every tree, waiting to gobble people up. The devil is not a peer to God. He's not a counterbalance to goodness, nor a mad power who zaps weak people into submission. Spiritual warfare does not follow a book, whether Frank Perretti's or Dante Aligheri's. Not everything is the Devil's doing. Indeed, the Devil is pretty much a failure, and is certainly a loser. A poor loser, too. In fact, on the day-to-day level, people shouldn't give the devil a second thought. Their minds should be on what Jesus wants of them. You need to learn from more reliable teachers that go from what a Scripture passage actually says.
Afraid of Choosing Wrong
A transcription of a question from a meeting:
As long as we stay doing what our Father wants us to do, then we are okay. When we make the wrong choice, and go the way of the world, then we are not protected.
First : the root of spiritual warfare is not fighting the Devil, but loving God and people. When you do that, the Devil loses even if he wins a battle.
Second : bad things happen to God's people, even when they're doing right. The image Christians often use is of a hyper-protective mother or a super-fortified fortress. This is not how God works. God allows us to suffer real suffering (and, by the way, to inflict real suffering on others). Other peoples' choices have a real effect on you, and your choices have a real effect on them. God doesn't stop anyone from taking an action. God 'protects' you not by an army of angels or by the Spirit somehow zapping you into perfection. Instead, God gives you ways to discern what God wants of you (a work of the Spirit), gives you forgiveness in Christ, and gives you courage to change from doing wrong. It's not about you and your choices, but about furthering God's work. This is a whole lot more complicated than just being 'in' or 'out' of the Spirit.
If we entertain any of these thoughts, we are sunk!
Third : spiritual battles are not won by our own power or our own efforts at self-control, but by Christ. It will not do to just try harder to do right or to think right. It fails.
Last : YOU AREFORGIVEN !!!! You are not 'sunk' because of sin. You're a baptized believer. You're Christ's, and He will not just let you go. Jesus will chase you down to the very end, offering His love and forgiveness. Trust in the grace of Christ, love, and be unafraid to live.
Too many Christians trust in behavioral rules, and measure people by them. Jesus spoke against the Pharisees who did that. The whole Reformation started with a rejection of this misplaced trust. Yet some pastors and churches still try to lay down the Law when their job is to preach and live the Gospel. Don't fall for it. to top