Philippians 2:5-11 shows us the pathway of Jesus from fully God, to fully man, to death, and God’s response to it by exalting him above all. Here is an amazingly compelling graphic from Josh Byers and Tim Challies that shows that path.
Mastery of the Mind.
The movie Inception has a complex plot line based around the simple concept that ideas can be planted into someone’s mind. Once the foreign idea is planted, or “incepted”, by the intruders the person begins to believe the idea was their own. They wake up thinking the lie is actually the truth.
The intruders don’t have to force their opponent to do something they want, the simply get them to believe they came up with the idea on their own. Once they have mastery over their mind, they have mastery over their behavior.
It is a lot like spiritual warfare.
I believe spiritual warfare is real thing, and because of that we need to let Jesus be our functional fighting Savior.
But, this is a different kind of warfare.
The world was a hostile place for the early Christians. They woke up each morning to a world that was persecuting them. Today, we don’t wake up to a world trying to persecute us, but to a world trying to seduce us. It’s a completely different kind of hostility.
We must believe that spiritual warfare takes place in the mind. It isn’t a fight taking place in a ring or a battle out in an open field. It’s a battle fought primarily in the mind. Evil seeks to gain mastery over your mind, not your behavior.
Jesus called Satan the father of lies. His goal is to secure lies in our minds and to make them seem solid and stunning. Because once he has our minds and we think lies are truth – our behavior follows soon after that.
In a Perfect Paradise.
Just look at how Satan approached Eve in the garden of Eden – which is the very first record of spiritual warfare.
Satan’s one goal wasn’t to get Eve to eat the fruit, but to doubt the goodness of God. Isn’t it interesting that the first sin wasn’t a horrific act like murder or rape or genocide, but the sin that sent all humanity in a tragic downward spiral was simply a lack of trust in the goodness of God fueled by a lie.
In a perfect paradise, Satan came with a delicate subtlety and presented the truth as something to be doubted. Adam and Eve believed the lie.
The Apostle Paul calls the devil a “schemer” and Genesis 3 says he is craftier than all the creatures. His assaults are sudden, quick, secretive, and cunning with the aim to throw his opponents off guard and catch them by surprise. Trickery, deception, intrigue, and seduction are his methods, and he is good at it.
In a Barren Wilderness.
In Matthew chapter 4, Jesus is led by the Spirit out into the wilderness to fast and pray for 40 days.
With Jesus tired, weak, and hungry Satan shows up to appeal to his deepest desires and worldly needs. He is there to seduce him, the same tactic used in the Garden of Eden.
Jesus has all he needs in the Father but Satan tries to convince him otherwise and lures him with sustenance and power. This is a perfect example of what spiritual warfare is like. Evil has no power over us so it takes what you already have in God – security, sustenance, wealth (real wealth), power, and righteousness – and tries to get to you buy into a counterfeit version of it.
Unlike the result in the Garden of Eden, Jesus wins the battle against the devil by using truth to combat the lies of the devil. Jesus, the living, breathing, and walking truth of God, is the only person who can win against the corrupt schemes of the devil.
In Jesus’ most extreme experiences of spiritual warfare – both in the wilderness and when he was dying on the cross – he quotes Scripture. Jesus uses the words of God as his weapon against the devil.
Truth, the very words of God, is the only weapon against lies.
The Battle is Won with Truth.
Compare the events in the Garden of Eden with the events in the barren wilderness. Eve misquotes the words of God when it matters most and Jesus calls on the accurate truth of God in the heat of the battle. I’m not singling out Eve here. Adam was right there with her and by saying nothing at all means he was deceived by the father of lies more so than Eve.
Adam and Eve were tested in a perfect paradise and lost, Christ was tested in the barren wilderness and won. Even in the best circumstances you cannot resist the devil without employing the mind of Christ.
The ultimate truth is that God is good and we can trust Him. The ultimate lie is that we have reason to doubt God and He can’t be trusted.
Putting Christ in the ring for you as your functional fighting Savior is a matter of recognizing the lies for what they are and reminding yourself of the true goodness of God.
What lie are you believing, and what truth do you need replace it with?
As I was reading Ephesians 6:10-18 last week I got really scared. The Apostle Paul is talking about a real fight – a real war – spiritual warfare.
Spiritual warfare is real.
It is very real.
Most Christians don’t stop to consider that they are in the middle of a war, and I realized that I’m a 31-year-old man who has never been in a fight. Not a fist fight, at least.
I’ve fought with my older brother before, but those don’t count.
I’ve never thrown a punch. I’ve never been punched – not in the face, not in the stomach.
I’ve broken up a few fights before, but I’ve never been in a brawl – not even close.
Now that might surprise some of you who hold me in high regard as a tough, macho kind of guy. I’m sorry, but I just shattered that image. I’m a wuss, really. I’m a docile little bear cub who avoids conflict at all cost.
Just ask my wife. I do. I avoid conflict.
If the waitress brings me out the wrong meal – I mean, the completely wrong meal – I don’t complain. I don’t question it. I just eat it. I don’t want to cause any problems.
If I order my steak medium rare and it comes out well done like shoe leather – I chew away until my jaw is sore.
I know… I know… I’m weak. I don’t like conflict.
And that is why I was so scared while reading what Paul had to say about spiritual warfare, “Put on the armor of God and stand firm!“
We are at war, and when it comes to this war, I keep asking myself, “Am I prepared? Am I ready? Do I have what it takes?”
I’m not so sure I do.
You might be the strongest guy or girl in the world and you might be asking yourself the same question. When it comes to spiritual warfare – do you have what it takes? Do you have “it”?
You know, “it.”
Guys like Muhammad Ali had “it.”
William Wallace, he had “it.”
Maximus Decimus Meridius (the guy from Gladiator), he had “it.”
Ryan Tate – I’m not so sure he has “it“, whatever “it” is.
Those guys were heroes, fighters, warriors. We all know their stories and look up to them in a way. I don’t know if I have “it” and that scares me when it comes to spiritual warfare. Perhaps it unsettles you a little bit?
The reason this passage in Ephesians scares me so much is because I’m CONVINCED there is nothing in me that is capable of winning the battles of spiritual warfare.
There is no hero within me, and any ounce internal fortitude that I muster up will simply collapse under the condition of this fight.
I’m convinced of that.
And there is no hero within you either – but there is a hero without.
Paul isn’t telling us to look inward here. He isn’t telling us to put on our armor and jump into the ring by ourselves. He is commanding us to make Christ into our functional fighting Savior.
When we put on the armor of God we are actually putting on Christ – and that doesn’t scare me at all!
I don’t have with it takes. You don’t have what it takes either. But we have Him, and there is victory in Christ.
“Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” (Ephesians 6:10)
You don’t have to be the hero, and actually, trying to be the hero will kill you. You’ll be exhausted and worn out.
Jesus wants to be your functional fighting Savior. He doesn’t want you to be an exhausted and defeated Christian soldier.
Just admit you don’t have what it takes.
Christ has what it takes and he wants to be in the right for you.
Have you ever been in a fight?
Are you scared when it comes to spiritual warfare?
I’m a sucker for chocolate brownies—not the cakey, flaky kind. I love the fudgy, desnse chocolate brownies that require you to wash your hands after you have one. (Or two, or six.)
My 4-yr old daughter often helps me mix the ingredients. I explain to her that when you combine flour, sugar, cocoa, oil, eggs, water, etc. and then apply heat, it results in the perfect brownie for us to eat. It’s hard for a child to understand the idea of ingredients and a how a recipe works. They understand that the brownies look delicious and tastes delicious but how flour, eggs, and oil combine to make something so great is a mystery to them.
Whether you bake or not—we all love recipes. We love having a set list of guidelines that tell us what to do in order to get a desired result.
I think it is dangerous when Christians apply the Acts 2 “recipe” in order to get a desirable and effective church result. In Acts 2 we see a community with these characteristics:
- Devoted to teaching
- Committed to fellowship, gathering, being together
- Braking bread, eating together
- Passionate in prayer
- Generous in giving to each other, sharing everything
- Joyful in worship and praise
These are all important elements of a vibrant, healthy, Spirit-filled community, but they are not ingredients for church—they are the result of a community who believes deeply in the Gospel.
We have it completely backwards when we try to apply these elements as ingredients for “doing church.” If we structure our community this way and filter people into these types of ministies we will not get disciples who walk and talk and look like Jesus. We will get Christians who think God expects us apply principles to our lives and merely wants us to follow guidelines. This is a burdensome and exhausting approach.
I am not down-playing these elements, but simply saying that in and of themselves they hold no power to change us or transform us. Only the Gospel has that power. The Gospel is the only ingredient. A true Acts 2 community is not possible without a deep belief and experience with the grace of the Gospel.
A community that is drunk-on-grace and who walks sure-footed on a Gospel foundation is a community who looks and acts and operates like an Acts 2 community. They look and taste delicious.
If you feel stuck in a system of ingredients or struggling with a recipe that isn’t working—don’t try harder, don’t strategize better, don’t plan more efficiently. Try a new recipe, one which has a true sanctifying power. Preach the gospel, teach the Gospel, and proclaim the Gospel and you will get communities who can’t help but meet together, pray together, worship with passion, give generously, and radically change the world.
You won’t be radically different unless you radically apply the one true ingredient. Believing in the Gospel at a deep, deep level makes all the difference.
He returned home with the small hope of earning his way back into the community of his Father, but that’s not how the story ended for the prodigal son.
For you and for me, the only remedy, the only cure, the only antidote, that will ever restore community with God is nothing less than unbridled, unbalanced, uncondtional grace. And that means it has nothing to do with us but everything for us.
Don’t ask God to earn your way back into his favor like a hired man. Instead, fall into His outstretched arms like a son or daughter would.
Brick and mortar doesn’t have a heartbeat, but you do.
The Church is not a place it is a people—that was His plan from the beginning.
“I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant. I will establish them and increase their numbers, and I will put my sanctuary among them forever. My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people. Then the nations will know that I the LORD make Israel holy, when my sanctuary is among them forever.”
“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
after that time,” declares the LORD.
“I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.
1 Corinthians 3:16
Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God
I’m learning that God’s greatest desire is to be with his people. More than doing things for him, God simply wants to be with you. That means you’re accepted, you have access, you’re protected, and you have an inheritance in Him.