Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Spiritual Warfare

Being a theology student in Africa, spiritual warfare is something I have often come across since I have been here. It was actually partly my interest in this topic that first brought me to Africa. In my undergraduate studies, I had studied various aspects of healing ministries which address demonic oppression. I wanted to learn more about this topic in a setting where people, as a whole, still attribute many things to spiritual causes (which is not often the case in America).

One of my friends from Burkina-Faso told the story of how his dad went to a witchdoctor. His dad wasn’t a Christian, and he wanted to curse my friend and remove his Christian beliefs. My friend was in another country going to college at the time, and the witchdoctor told his dad that he approached my friend in the spirit, but that there was someone very tall guarding him holding a long sword, and he could not get any closer.

One of the debates I settled pretty early on in my study of spiritual warfare is whether Christians can be affected or influenced by demons. They most certainly can, and I believe that almost all are, to some degree. I have experienced it myself. Ephesians 6:11-12 says, “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

Spiritual warfare is first and foremost a battle of the mind. Demons operate by feeding you lies and manipulating your emotions. Satan is the father of lies, and this is by far his most effective weapon. We live in a messed up world, and there are so many opportunities to confuse people and destroy their image of God, of themselves, and of others.

I took a class called Power Encounter during my first year studying in Nairobi, and the main thing I learned is that it isn’t really as important to have a “power encounter” as it is to have a “truth encounter.” If someone is demonized, then it may be possible to talk to the demon, have a big confrontation, and cast it out, but this can be dangerous and violent and is often fruitless. More effective ministry is much more mundane. Demonic presence is merely a symptom of a deeper spiritual or emotional problem, as illustrated by the metaphor of flies around garbage. If we only kill the flies, more will come, but if we remove the garbage of the emotional and spiritual baggage from our past, then the flies will no longer find the situation so appealing. They will have nothing to feed on, and will move elsewhere.

Knowing one’s identity in Christ and prayer are essential components to successful spiritual warfare. The most important key to spiritual victory is truly believing the Gospel: that God made you, that He loves you, and that through Christ your sins have been forgiven. They really have been forgiven. For many of us, we don’t really believe that, and we continually relive the failures of our past – and demons love nothing more.

Though I still haven’t completely figured out all there is to discover about spiritual warfare, since coming to Africa, I have realized that the warfare described in Ephesians 6 is literal. I have also realized that the rest of Ephesians 6 is just as literal and applicable to all of us. There is warfare with demonic rulers, but we have all the weapons we need in Christ to overcome. We should be aware of the fight, engaging in spiritual warfare by standing firm against the enemy’s schemes. But we should also realize that the power to stand is not found in dramatic exorcism scenes, but in a diligent trust in God’s word and character.
(I contributed this post to my friend's blog, so I figured why not mine)

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