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Standing and Withstanding
By David A. DePra
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole amour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole amour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith you shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints. (Eph 6:10-18)
This passage is the longest in the NT having to do with spiritual warfare. Usually, when we read it, we tend to focus upon what we are supposed to do to wage this war. Emphasis is often given to the weapons mentioned, etc. The trouble is, I’m not sure most of us have a clue as to what Paul is talking about in this passage, let alone how to follow his admonitions as to how to deal with it.
Central to the passage is the very first instruction: Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of HIS might. This sets the tone, and establishes the ground, for everything that is to follow. This is not about MY strength, or about MY might. It is about me being strong, "in the Lord," and, "in the power of HIS might." How does a person do that? Indeed, what does that really mean?
I have heard some explanations of this passage which, pardon my bluntness, are quite naďve. Some folks seem to think that all you need to do is memorize Bible verses, and wrap yourself about in doctrines, and live a good life – and well, if you do, then that is all there is to warfare. Otherwise, the Devil will leave you alone. Indeed, many Christians haven’t a clue about spiritual warfare, what Paul is here calling, "the wiles of the Devil," or what is really at issue in any of this.
Now, of course, there is the opposite extreme. There are teachings out there that suggest that everything that is wrong with you is because of the Devil. Some Christians become so focused on the Devil that they actually become more defined by their, "battle," against him, then they are by their relationship with Christ. In fact, there are some Christian people that believe that everything that happens in their life that conflicts with their plans and goals must be of the Devil. This too, is deception, and is not going to get us far in our walk with Christ.
What is the balance here? Paul talks about spiritual warfare as if it is, "business as usual," in this passage. It certainly was for Paul! And he gives his instructions out of experience. What IS the issue in spiritual warfare? And how are we assured of victory?
These words of Paul from Ephesians 6 were written to a healthy church. There are very few words of correction that Paul gives to the Ephesians. This alone tells us that the instructions that Paul gives about spiritual warfare apply not merely to those Christians who are off the track – like the Galatians, and the Corinthians. They apply to even the healthiest of God’s people. Indeed, the words of Ephesians 6 apply more the HEALTHY Christians than they do to spiritual sick Christians.
This is important to see. If I am spiritually unhealthy, I am not standing by faith on the ground required by Ephesians 6. So I cannot follow the instructions. My need is therefore to FIRST establish that ground before I can fight the fight described in that passage.
If you read our passage from Ephesians, you will see the words STAND, WITHSTAND, and STAND AGAINST. These words are not used by accident. They picture a Christian who is sure of his ground – one who is certain of his position in Christ, to the point where he can STAND on that ground AGAINST everything that would attack him.
We must see this. You cannot, "stand against," if you are still trying to WIN ground. You can only, "stand against," if you are HOLDING ground. Thus, what see here is that for Ephesians 6 to mean anything to us, we must be certain of the finality of the Redemption. We cannot be trying to WIN the victory. Rather, we must be standing IN the finished victory of Jesus Christ.
This is why Paul says that we need to BE STRONG IN THE LORD, and in the POWER OF HIS MIGHT. This isn’t about US figuring out a way to beat the Devil. It isn’t about US taking out a big club and beating the Devil over the head. No. This is about us being ONE WITH CHRIST, and about us being sure of our relationship with Him – based on what HE HAS DONE for us. This is about HIS victory. It is upon His finished work that we stand as the ground of our warfare.
But if we think that all that this is about is learning the DOCTRINES, and holding to THEM, we are not going to get far. We do need to know the doctrines. But spiritual warfare is not a theological debate. It is not about holding to teachings, and refusing to concede the point to the Devil. No. Spiritual warfare is about something of much greater significance.
It is here that we come to the real issue in spiritual warfare. We’ve talked all around it, but let’s get to it directly: The issue in spiritual warfare is always MY PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS CHRIST – my personal relationship with Christ that is based upon FAITH. The Devil wants to bring something between myself and Christ, and thus, deceive me into forfeiting some aspect of my relationship with Christ. The battle is to STAND AGAINST this attempt, and to HOLD the ground that Christ has won for me.
Of course, this battle can take many forms. But fundamentally, the Devil seeks to get us to give away our ground in Christ. Now, please understand: I’m not saying that we can lose our salvation. No. I’m talking about LIFE IN CHRIST. The Devil wants us to begin to doubt God, and to doubt Truth. The issue here is what God is seeking to do in our lives once we are saved, vs. the desire of Satan to destroy that.
If you are saved, God has a plan and purpose for your life. I am not here talking about YOUR plans and purposes. I’m not even talking about, "your lot in life," in the way of a job, marriage, or ministry. These are all part of God’s plan, mind you, but basically, God’s plan for your life is to GLORIFY HIMSELF in you and through you – using whatever means is necessary. God has a WILL He wants to bring to pass, and a KINGDOM He wants to establish in you. You will be blessed and benefited by this, of course, but this is about GOD’S WILL, not ours. The Devil wants to oppose this at all costs.
I don’t know how many of us really grasp the difference between God’s will in our lives, and our will for our lives. So many Christians have been taught that whatever they desire in life must be God’s will, and that their life in Christ is nothing more than them figuring out how to get God to bring to pass what they want. So we develop religious systems that are geared to making sure that we can get God to bless us – and to give us what we are certain must be His will. I’m not saying that most Christians do this out of rebellion, or conscious self-will. No. We are taught that this is RIGHT – and we buy into it because it is quite easy to believe that what you want must be what God wants, because after all, He loves you! But what happens is that our focus becomes the THING we want, and how to bring God on board our program. This is error – and frankly, is ITSELF a deception that Satan delights to wrap us up in.
The real Truth is that God has a will for your life – and whatever it is as to a working out through circumstances, calling, and relationship – the bottom line is that He wants to glorify Himself. He wants to use your life to bring to pass His will and His kingdom through you along a particular line. Or to put it another way, God wants you to be a unique expression of Jesus Christ. Thus, our walk with Christ is not to be a matter of us trying to get God to hop aboard our bandwagon, so that He will bring to pass our desires – no matter how sincere and good they might be. No. Rather, our walk with Christ is to be God changing and adjusting us over to HIS WILL and HIS purpose – and above all, a matter of God changing us over to where we can walk in a RELATIONSHIP with HIMSELF.
Actually, and this might be a scary thought to some Christians, you haven’t a clue as to who you really are. Almost nothing you believe about yourself is right, and therefore, almost nothing you think you want in life is based in Truth. I’m not saying that it is wrong to have hopes and dreams, etc., but I am saying that until we come to know Christ in Truth, and until He begins to REALLY be our Lord – until then, we are going to be operating more according to natural thinking, and natural desires – even IN THE THINGS OF GOD. God wants to set us free from these tendencies, and come to GOVERN us. If He brings us to this place, then we are going to find out that Christ Himself is all that we have ever wanted. But then, because we have been established in Christ, God will be more free to give us many of the things that we wanted, or free to show us that we never really wanted them. In short, we cannot know very much, even about ourselves, until we know Him.
So what we see in all of this is that the real issue in all spiritual warfare is precisely the purpose God has for His people: Christ. God wants to glorify Himself in us – to make us into an expression of His Son; a living epistle. Thus, it is certainly that this would be the number one attack point of the Devil, to prevent this from happening. Of course, the many little battles in life over this issue may cloud the reality of the bigger issue. But in the end, this comes down to our personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and whether He is getting His will and glory IN US and THROUGH us.
The Finished Work
Perhaps it is now more clear as to why we must be established upon the foundational ground of the Redemption before we can stand our ground and resist Satan. I mean, think about it, if we have not been established upon the ground of the Redemption, we cannot HOLD that ground. We won’t even be operating from the right spiritual territory.
What I am talking about here, as mentioned earlier, is not merely doctrinal ground. Rather, I’m talking about spiritual ground based in faith. It is possible to know all of the doctrines of the Redemption, and to know I must believe, but to have no power at all. Why? Because it is one thing to be able to doctrinally describe a relationship with Christ. It is another to actually HAVE ONE based in real faith. In short, I cannot hold ground by faith, if I have never entered into that ground by faith.
To wage the warfare of Ephesians 6, I must be grounded and anchored – at least to some stable degree – in Christ. In other words, I must have some assurance that there is nothing that can separate me from Christ. I must know this is true, based on what HE has done, and not upon what I do. If I am not anchored by faith in this personal relationship with Christ, I will not be able to use the weapons Paul mentions – indeed, I won’t have those weapons at my disposal. My task, if that is the case, is not to yet use the weapons. Rather, I need to learn that they ARE weapons.
For example, how can I have my, "loins girt about with the Truth," if I don’t know even the most basic Truth? Or if the Truth I think I know is merely doctrinal, rather than the result of knowing Jesus Himself? I can talk about my weapon all I want, but just try to throw a doctrine at the Devil. It won’t work. I must be anchored in the Truth in a way that if I stand, I cannot be moved.
So in order to HOLD ground, I must STAND upon that ground on the basis of what Christ has done. Practically speaking, this works itself out on the issue of whether anything can come between myself and Christ. The Devil always seeks to bring something between myself and Christ – and he especially likes to use my own failures. Redemption ground means that I know that NOTHING can separate me from Christ because of HIS finished work.
The Wiles of the Devil
The word, "wiles," is significant. It means, "precise plan and calculated method." What we see here is that the Devil isn’t guessing as to how to get to you. This isn’t hit and miss. The Devil has a plan and purpose that he has calculated will destroy your spiritual health. And he is working on it right now.
It is easy to doubt this if life is comfortable. But we need beware, for a comfortable life may be exactly what Satan has promoted for you – THAT may be his plan. The point is, the Devil doesn’t take vacations in your life. He is working. Paul never speaks of spiritual warfare as a MAYBE. It is certain. The Devil has WILES – he has a plan.
The plan of the Devil for you will be specifically suited to you – to your temperament, weaknesses, fears, and places of unbelief. The Devil will seek to use everything about you that is weak in Christ to trip you up. And guess what? God will let Him. Why?
The reason God lets the Devil attack you at your weakest points is so that you can turn to God on those weakest points, and be made strong – in the Lord. Thus, God uses the Devil. The Devil is used of God to disturb us, and to press us closer to Christ – provided, of course, that we turn to Christ and submit to HIM.
You can be sure that regardless of your weaknesses and failures, and regardless of how successful the Devil seems to be on those points, that there is a victory in Christ for every one of them. This is precisely why God has allowed the attack.
We must see this. God allows the Devil to attack us so that we might RESIST HIM. That might seem silly, but it is not. For it is by resisting the Devil – by resisting him IN CHRIST – that we grow in Christ. In the end, there is only one way to resist the Devil. It is by submitting yourself under the mighty hand of God. Thus, as we submit to God, He has victory over us, and we, in turn, have HIS victory over the Devil.
There is NO victory over the Devil that you can win unless God has victory over you. You can take that one to the bank. You cannot fight the Devil and win. No. You must surrender to GOD. Then, because God has victory over you, you can, "be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might." Sure. This is the basis of all practical victory.
God resists the proud, and gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, establish, strengthen, settle you. To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Pet 5:5-11)
If you read this passage from Peter, you see that the MEANS BY WHICH we resist the Devil is by submitting to God. It is the only means. You cannot resist the Devil as a thing unto itself. You have no weapons. You must turn to God and let him have His way with you – which is why God has allowed the attack to begin with, so that you MIGHT resist the Devil by turning to Him. God is pretty smart. He uses everything for His purposes.
So spiritual warfare is not a THING unto itself – it is not about me fighting the Devil. Rather, it is about whether I will submit to God, seek God, and become dependent upon Him. If I humble myself under the hand of God – whatever that means for me in the trial I am in – then I AM STANDING ON VICTORY GROUND. Why? Because in that case, Christ has victory over me! And because of that, I have victory over all that Christ has victory over!
Do you want to be strong in the Lord? Then become so weak in yourself that you MUST surrender to Christ in all things. To the extent that we are dependent upon Christ – allowing Him to have victory in us and be Lord of us – we will be strong in the power of HIS might. You cannot divorce any of these things from our personal relationship with Christ. Everything comes back to that in the end.
The wiles of the Devil are his calculated method by which he seeks to get you – not to turn to the Lord – but to turn to other helps and means. Perhaps even to get you to turn AWAY from God as your only help. Thus, we can be sure that one of the chief wiles of the Devil is to get you to buy into a picture of God that makes God look indifferent, apathetic, and uncaring towards you. Satan will do this by playing upon your fears, unresolved issues with God, and by trying to stir up all of your doubts about whether God is to be trusted. He will use your own sins and failures to get you to believe that God has forsaken you. He will use your own lack of understanding to get you to believe that you have missed the boat, and that there is no way back. Satan will use anything he can to try to convince you that it is no use – God is not possible to find and experience for YOU.
Satan will do everything he can to get you operating – not from an anchored relationship with Christ based upon faith – but to get you operating from ground that is outside of victory ground. Another way of saying this is this: Instead of operating FROM victory, Satan will try to get you to believe you must win victory, and then make you realize you never can! Thus, you will forever be asking God to give you what He has already given. You will forever feel like you are on the outside of God looking in, instead of as the Truth teaches, on the inside of Christ looking out. It will be an unresolved circle of defeat. Satan will again and again challenge the fact that Christ is in you, and that there is nothing than can separate you from the love of God in Him. The answer, however, will be RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU: You are already given, in Christ, all that Satan is saying you cannot find. You need to believe – need to surrender to God. And if you do, you will be standing once again on victory ground.
One method Satan uses is to make us look at our life with natural thinking, and if we do, he may try to get us to build a case against faith in God. He will suggest to us, "Do you see how God allowed you to fail? Do you see that this is a pattern? What makes you think it is going to be any different moving forward? So stop expecting God to take care of you. He did NOT in the past, and is not going to in the future." In fact, Satan will usually suggest this: "God doesn’t expect you to trust Him the way you thought. He wants you happy. He expects you to take your life in your own hands and enjoy it. The fact that every time you trusted God resulted in disaster ought to prove this to you by now. STOP this religious fanaticism and do your own thing."
Satan’s methods focus on blurring the heart of God to us. Satan’s attacks upon us are really attacks upon God -- TO US. He slanders God to us, and often does it in a religious sort of way – seeking to make it appear to be the Truth. We see this in the very first temptation – "has God said…..?" Satan may directly call God a liar, as he did there in the garden, but may often will resort to suggesting that God really didn’t MEAN what we thought God meant. He will suggest, "Has God said that? No. God didn’t really say that. You just thought He said that – you just thought that God wanted you to trust Him to that degree. You are being a religious fanatic." In other words, Satan suggests, "You are believing God. But has God really promised to be with you? Has God really said that? If He has, well, then WHERE IS HE? How could all of this bad stuff be happening? Can’t you see that you have bought into a lie? Has God said…? No, He hasn’t. In fact, God doesn’t expect you to trust Him to this extent. He expects you to get the message that your bad circumstances are teaching you – that God is not with you in this thing. Don’t you see that God is beyond knowing. Just get on with life on your own terms. God would want you to do that."
There is, of course, another ploy the enemy uses. He might suggest, "Has God said that you must come the way of the Cross? Well, your life is pretty good. God has given you everything you have wanted. So isn’t this proof that this Cross business is silly? Sure. Just go on the way you have been going. God has blessed you. Don’t try to fix what isn’t broke."
Now, if you notice, almost all of these lies keep the focus, not on our relationship with Christ, but upon THINGS – and Satan will always seek to use THINGS and circumstances to prove to us some of his lies. Sure. That is why Jesus said to seek first the kingdom of God – to seek first God Himself – and then THINGS would be added. He wanted to warn us against these lies. Satan says that to seek first THINGS is what God wants, and that the THINGS we receive, or don’t receive, are evidence of whether God is with us. All lies that are preached everywhere today.
So again – we see that the goal of Satan is to get us to voluntarily assent to a relationship with God where there is something between us and God. Satan has no power to actually separate us from God. But he does have power to deceive us into thinking there is something between us and God. And often, his deception along this line might be nothing more than to get us to settle for LESS as NORMAL.
Get that: If Satan can get us to the point where we don’t believe that what GOD HAS SAID in the Bible is really possible, and get us to the point where we will settle for less, and call THAT normal, he has us deceived. He will have blinded us. And until we get free from this unbelief, we won’t move forward.
If Satan can get us deceived in this way, and thus, get us to give way on the ground that Christ has won, then God’s glory will not be worked out in our lives. God’s will and kingdom will not come in us, or through us. And we will miss out on what God wanted. This is what Satan desires. In short, if he cannot get us into hell, he will bring hell to us – and this comes in many guises. I frankly cannot think of anything that speaks more of a hell on earth than to step off of the ground of the Redemption onto ground where you have forfeited your assurance that God is with you. Try it if you like – and I hope you don’t. But if you do, you will find that the moment you concede redemption ground that the most terrible things imaginable rush in.
The good news in all of this is that God allows Satan to try to get at us so that we might be forced to face issues of faith that we might otherwise never face – and in doing so, experience the victory that He has for us in Christ in a way that we would never experience otherwise. Again – if we would turn to God and give Him victory over US in these matters, we would find that we ARE standing upon HIS ground, and we will find that we are able to wrestle and WIN against the forces of darkness. The key to our victory is His victory in us.
Paul says, "ABOVE ALL – take the shield of faith." Then he compares the attacks of the enemy to, "fiery darts," that faith will, "quench." A fiery dart, once lodged in my body or armor, will ignite and spread and eventually consume all of me. The suggestion here is that once the enemy gains access to our mind or heart, we will have that much more of a fire to put out. Better to take the shield of faith and quench his suggestions before they get that far and do that much damage.
For example, if you have ever gone down the path of unbelief – accepting thoughts of fear, doubt of God, condemnation, and darkness – notice how much more difficult it is to stop and recover, than it would be if you didn’t let such things in to begin with. Your emotions and perspective are affected. But you know, the enemy is aware of how to approach you with such fiery darts, and on which points that you are vulnerable. That is why he makes his approach there. You must resist Him by standing by faith in God.
You will notice that every one of the weapons has to do with the relationship we have with Christ by faith that is based on HIS finished work. This is the ground upon which we stand, and it is the weapon with which we war. Thus, it is the ground the enemy will attack. And of course, as mentioned before, this is NOT a matter of us being strong enough to fight off the enemy. No. It is a matter of us being strong in the Lord and in the power of HIS might. Again – to the degree that I am submitted to Christ, and know I belong to Him, I will have the ability to stand. And if I don’t have much ability to stand, then I can be sure that God is allowing the attack to get me to turn to Him and gain that power in Christ. In short, turn to God. You cannot lose.
Christians are not people trying to win a victory. They are people who have received a victory. The question then, is whether we BELIEVE.
We need to know this Truth today as never before. For example, today Christians are being told they need deliverance from sin. There are all kinds of programs and deliverance teachings out there to try to get saved people delivered from sin. Yet if you are IN CHRIST, you are already as delivered from the power of sin as you are ever going to be. Are you IN CHRIST, and under His Blood? Well, what do you think you can ADD to those to get MORE delivered? How will you finish what Jesus said is already finished – FOR YOU? Actually, rather than need deliverance from sin, what you need is deliverance from UNBELIEF – deliverance from the fact you don’t believe and stand by faith in His victory over sin. And then you need – again, not deliverance from the power of sin – but once you believe, you need to stop sinning. It isn’t any more complicated that this simple Truth.
This simple Truth of the finished victory of Christ over sin perhaps embodies the whole issue of spiritual warfare – in that we don’t need delivered from the power of sin. We need deliverance from UNBELIEF. For it is the TRUTH that sets us free, not a deliverance session! It is the Truth about who Jesus is, and what He has done, that shows us that, in Christ, God has set us free from sin and death. And this is precisely why the Devil seeks to hide this Truth, blur this Truth, and bring into our minds lie after lie that seems to prove it cannot be the Truth. It is why the Devil suggests all kinds of gimmicks and techniques and additional spiritual experiences that will supposedly do the trick for us, rather than simple faith in the Cross of Jesus Christ. Our warfare is to STAND AGAINST those lies by STANDING IN the Truth.
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