The matter of spiritual warfare has been off the radar for most of our churches, I believe, for more than a generation. My purpose here then is to offer some general insight as to the essentiality of this matter. You will find my tone is somewhat devotional at times as my hope is that you will hold this article in one hand and the bible in the other. Take time to look up the scriptures mentioned throughout and consider the summary reflection questions at the end. In so doing I hope you will be able join with me in the prayer that concludes my collection of thoughts. While I am no expert on these matters, I do hope that the following encourages you in the way of the Master.
I love baptismal services. These occasions are laden with meaning, anticipation, wonder, beauty and are a cause for great celebration. The visible and invisible church are at one, in joyful assembly, for we are declaring – among other things – that the transformational work of Christ is visible in our lives today. We are announcing that a fundamental transfer of residency has occurred. The baptismal candidate no longer resides in the triple bind of sin; ‘without hope, without God and in the world’ (Ephesians 2:12) but has been released from the power of darkness into the kingdom of God and the ‘Son he loves’ (Colossians 1:13). This act of declaration rings true both in the heavens and on the earth.
Everyone who takes such a step needs to ‘be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power’ (Ephesians 6:10) because they are taking a ‘stand against the devil’s schemes’ (Ephesians 6:11). You might have thought that the spiritual nature of this act and the evil opposition that the follower of Jesus will face would be something that every church would take seriously. Sadly, this is not the case. Due to spiritual warfare excesses over the years, many of our churches have chosen to ignore, avoid or underestimate the realities of the spiritual battle we are in. Leaving the door wide open for the devil to ‘outwit us’ through our lack of awareness (2 Corinthians 2:11). For this reason, we recently ran a CBOQ Now webinar on this subject, to help us recover some of the ground we may have lost. Our desire was to raise awareness of spiritual warfare while offering a balanced approach. You can watch the webinar here.
For us to recover some of the things we have forgotten, we will need to address the fact that we have been influenced in our thinking by a secular age. In secular society the ‘spiritual’ is considered an ideology or a philosophy we choose to incorporate or not. It is only as important or as real as you make it. This materialistic view ‘functions like a vaccine against imagination and spirituality’ and coupled with ‘disenchantment’ we are likely to surmise that spiritual warfare is only what we see in the movies. That is why in the webinar we spoke of the Lordship of Jesus. It is His headship that defines and leads us to navigate well the secular social spaces and recover a biblical worldview. We are then able to look with fresh eyes on what we are called to be and do.
In Paul’s appeal to ‘put on the full amour of God’ he uses imagery of soldiers preparing for battle. The Christian is someone who has prepared themselves to be involved and engaged in the advancement of the purposes of God. But Paul does not stop there. He explains that the forward motion is a struggle against ‘spiritual forces of evil in heavenly places’ (Ephesians 6:12). There are actual spiritual forces arrayed against God and your goal for continued faithfulness and allegiance to Jesus. Therefore, John reminds us that ‘greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world’ (1 John 4:4) and it is God’s word and the cross of Jesus that overcomes the evil one (Revelation 12:11). Notice that it is the witness, the declaration, the proclamation of this word in your life that defeats the evil one and triumphs in God. Our focus on spiritual warfare is not a fascination with the apparent wickedness, but our interest is in the word of God that sets our boundaries. We overcome because of it. It is little wonder then that Paul exhorts Timothy to ‘watch his life and doctrine closely’ (1 Timothy 4:16) because following Jesus and His word are vital amid spiritual contention (Romans 1:6). I love the way Robert Murray McCheyne phrased it when he said, “the greatest need of my people is my personal holiness.” Living wholeheartedly for God though it may invite opposition is an effective weapon in the spiritual battle.
What might a spiritual attack look like in a church context?
There are numerous tactics that could be equated to a spiritual attack on a church or an individual. The three main ones to watch out for are lies, temptations and confusion. When you are discerning a spiritual attack there may be multiple issues surrounding you, but if you find one of these at the core you can pray specifically about it.
How can we deal with a spiritual attack?
- Read, speak and declare the word of God. Having the whole church family read the scriptures together in unison makes it clear to all where our allegiance remains. Philippians 1:6 or 1 John 4:4 are good scriptures to speak aloud in these moments.
- Don’t isolate yourselves in these moments – seek fellowship with other believers.
- Pray with people you trust, supporting each other.
- Seek help from your pastor or church leaders.
The reality of spiritual warfare is something that every follower of Jesus must face. Yet when we make our declarations, praying and speaking God’s word, we do so in harmony with the saints through the ages. As Charles Wesley in his hymn Jesus, the Name high over all so eloquently wrote, the name of Jesus ‘in hell or earth or sky; angels and mortals prostrate fall, and devils fear and fly.’ May this be your experience today.
Join me in this prayer:
‘Lord Jesus lead us as your church today to declare your word, in life and in love. Help us to shine your light where it is darkest and to offer trust where there is fear.
Let your Kingdom come.
Deliver us by your truth that we may serve you in newness of life.
Let your will be done.
In praise and thanksgiving, we offer you, our lives. Amen.’
- What does ‘be strong in the Lord’ look like?
- In what ways can we prevent a secular worldview from influencing us?
- What does it mean to live a holy life and how might the Christian disciplines help us?
- What might God be calling you to do next?
Cid Latty, Congregation Development Associate, CBOQ
 ‘ Turning Ourselves Inside Out’ Russel Daye & Robert Fennel (Fortress Press 2021)
 ‘Pastor in a Secular Age’ Andrew Root (Baker Academic 2019)