Podcast 11: Wrestling against Spiritual Forces

by Sean Finnegan

Ephesians 6.12 tells us our struggle is not really against other humans but against spiritual forces.  Learn how malignant powers influence people both directly (through demon possession) and indirectly (through the culture).  Hopefully, this message will open your eyes to what is happening behind the scenes as Satan works to keep people from believing the gospel message as well as take out those who already follow Christ.  At the end, I offer 7 specific examples of how the devil gains a foothold in our lives.  Even so, through the power of God we are able to shut down these vulnerabilities and overcome spiritual attacks.

“Greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist” –Keyser Söze, Usual Suspects

Eph 6.12

ὅτι οὐκ ἔστιν ἡμῖν ἡ πάλη πρὸς αἷμα καὶ σάρκα ἀλλὰ πρὸς τὰς ἀρχάς, πρὸς τὰς ἐξουσίας, πρὸς τοὺς κοσμοκράτορας τοῦ σκότους τούτου, πρὸς τὰ πνευματικὰ τῆς πονηρίας ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις.

Because the struggle for us is not against blood and flesh but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world-powers of this darkness, against the wicked spirits in the celestial realm

how is it that malignant spiritual powers are behind flesh and blood actions?

  • direct influence of people
  • indirect influence of people
  • specific examples to watch out for
  1. direct influence

Luke 4.31-36

31 And he went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee. And he was teaching them on the Sabbath, 32 and they were astonished at his teaching, for his word possessed authority. 33 And in the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, 34 “Ha! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are– the Holy One of God.” 35 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent and come out of him!” And when the demon had thrown him down in their midst, he came out of him, having done him no harm. 36 And they were all amazed and said to one another, “What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!”

though you would think dealing with demon-occupied people would be harder, it’s actually easier

  • we have authority in the name of Jesus to cast them out
  • when the 72 returned they said, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” (Luke 10.17)
  • Paul cast out demon from girl in Ephesos (Acts 16.18)
    • “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.”
  1. indirect influence

wake you up to Satan’s influence on our world

  • relevant scriptures about Satan’s massive sway over this age
  • John 14.30: “the ruler of this world”
  • 2 Cor 4.4 “god of this age”
  • Rev 12.9 “the deceiver of the whole world”

by nature we dance to the devil’s drumbeat

Eph 2.1-3

1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience– 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

what indirect means does he use to infect us?

  • horror movies: meditate on torture and evil
  • music, especially rap and pop
    • sing about committing sin
    • where are the songs about how wonderful marriage is after a dozen years?
    • where are the songs about raising children?
    • where are the songs about finding satisfaction in working hard?
  • tv shows are reprogramming your sense of normal
    • show is about getting a parking ticket
    • what’s not part of the story line is
  • the unmarried couple living together
  • acceptance of homosexual relationships
  • casual attitude towards murder, cheating, stealing, lying, malice, and greed
  •  greed
    • magazines (story about improving the closet)
    • home improvement television
    • car commercials
    • 0 down, 0% for 12 months
  • The twentieth century began with the Second Boer War, the Philippine Insurrection, and the War of a Thousand Days with a combined estimated death toll of over 150,000. It ended with the Congo Brazzaville Civil War, the Kosovo Crisis, and Ethiopia’s war with Eritrea, totaling nearly 120,000 dead. In between these book ends, we find not ten or fifty or even a hundred bloody conflicts, but well over two hundred, totaling more than 76 million battle deaths.[1] That’s 2.3 wars a year for the entire twentieth century! Why is there so much killing? What is wrong with people that they keep fighting? May I suggest that these unbelievably high war statistics confirm what the Scriptures teach—that wicked forces under satanic control fill our world with evil.
  • humanitarian issues b/c of mismanaged governments
    • Syria
    • clean water
    • access to food
  • government persecution
    • we’ve dealt with this from the beginning
    • Jewish authorities used to beat up apostles for preaching
    • Roman government tortured us for entertainment
    • and this is just within the first 40 years of the movement
  • don’t sleep enough
    • diminished will power
  • parenting is often done w/o discipline
    • kids up all night and strung out

Satan’s Goals

  1. keep people from the gospel (prevent people from believing the gospel)
  2. take out those who already believe (eliminate your threat to his interests) (he wants to take you out)
  • fall away
  • become impotent

2 Cor 4.3-4

3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

sower & seed fails

Mat 13.19-23 19

19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. 20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. 22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. 23 As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

  1. don’t understand gospel
    1. shape culture so gospel doesn’t make sense
  2. tribulation and persecution arises on account of the message
  3. cares of the world, deceitfulness of riches, desires for other things enter in and choke the message

a little balance: devil’s not hiding in every closet

  • if you wake up and put in Keurig cup and push the button but find there’s no water in the machine
  • if you get in your car and one of tires is flat and you’re running late already
  • if you forgot to pay a bill and got hit with a late fee
  • if you try to put in a new bathtub and discover carpenter ants are eating the framing on your house
  • that’s just part of life; everyone deals with that kind of stuff
  • however, if you are on the front lines of prayer, of trying to understand scripture, and especially of sharing the gospel message w/ people, then you are actually in the struggle of Eph 6.12
  1. specific examples

Christ is above all rule and authority

Eph 1.20-22

20…he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet…

we are delivered from domain of darkness and transferred

Col 1.13

He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,

Paul’s mission to open their eyes to turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God (Acts 26.18)

example #1: temptation

as soon as you feel the temptation, SHUT IT DOWN

Matthew 16.23

But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

  • Jesus w/ Peter, “Get behind me Satan”
    • was he just being dramatic there?
    • was he trying to embarrass Peter?
    • or did he mean what he said?
    • he detected the work of Satan in Peter’s perspective
  • he knew if he gave even a millimeter to it, it would defeat him
  • David’s temptation to number Israel (1 Chron 21)

example #2: failure

dealing with failure; get back up!

Luke 22.31-32

Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

  • Peter vs. Judas
  • don’t quit: what did Paul do when he was arrested? Was he more deadly to Satan’s kingdom when he was out starting churches, preaching powerfully, and casting out demons or when he was in jail writing epistles?

example #3: unforgiveness

unforgiveness w/in the church as a tool for Satan to outwit us

2 Corinthians 2.10-11

Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.

example #4: inattention

sober-minded & watchful

1 Peter 5.8

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

  • God’s got your back if you stand firm in the faith

example #5: adultery

married people should not deprive one another

1 Corinthians 7.5

Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

  • you might think you’re teaching him a lesson or getting him to do what you want, but what you are really doing is dangling your marriage, your life over the chasm of adultery
  • otherwise Satan will tempt you

example #6: false teaching

Satan’s factions in the church

2 Corinthians 11.3-4 , 13-14

3 But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 4 For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough…13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.

  • 2 Cor 11.1-15in Corinth they proclaimed another Jesus, a different spirit, a different gospel
  • 1 John talks about “Christians” who went out from their group but are actually antichrists who proclaim a Jesus who did not come in the flesh and who embrace a lifestyle of sin, all the while claiming to know God
  • someone approaches you to join their anti-leadership division, shut it down
  • if a leader is in sin, we have clear instructions in scripture (Mat 18: talk to the person in private)
  • otherwise, SHUT IT DOWN

example #7: anger

Ephesians 4.26-27

26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil.

we wrestle against spiritual forces

  • direct
  • indirect
  • when you spot it; SHUT IT DOWN! don’t give an inch

Rom 16.17-20 17 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. 19 For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. 20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

[1] For stats, see war-memorial.net/wars_all.asp?q=3

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