Madison Church

Navigating Spiritual Warfare | Unseen (Part 2) | Stephen Feith

July 02, 2023 Stephen Feith
Madison Church
Navigating Spiritual Warfare | Unseen (Part 2) | Stephen Feith
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

What if there’s an unseen realm that impacts our everyday existence? Get ready to pull back the curtain and journey with us into the uncharted territories of the supernatural, where we’ll explore spiritual warfare and demons. We recognize this topic may be a no-go zone for some, but our aim is to help you reevaluate and reconstruct aspects of spirituality that may be misaligned with biblical teachings. It’s not about dismantling your faith, but rather encouraging renovation and growth.

Ever considered how our understanding of evil in the unseen realm can be similar to our understanding of viruses and germs? Drawing parallels with the COVID-19 pandemic, we discuss how ignoring the danger or obsessing over it are both far from healthy. Unmasking our blind spots when it comes to the supernatural, we share insights on how to dismantle and reconfigure what we've been taught about demons, striking a balance between caution and curiosity.

Remember Jesus' spiritual battle when tested by the devil in the wilderness? We’ll look at how we face similar battles in our lives, drawing strength from Paul's advice to Timothy on confronting these unseen forces with faith, not fear. Together, we'll navigate the stormy seas of spiritual warfare and emphasize the importance of prayer in maintaining connection with God. Let’s embark on this enlightening journey together, stay connected, stay curious, and stay faithful.

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Speaker 1:

Welcome to Madison Church. My name is Steven Feith. I'm a Leap Pastor here. We're so glad that you're joining us online and I want to extend an invitation to you to join us in person one of these Sundays coming up. I am glad that you're here today as we're continuing our series Unseen. Unseen is all about, as you could probably guess, the realm of the supernatural. It's about the things that we can't see with our eyes, but it's about the spiritual aspect of our faith that we experience all the time. This study and a previous study we did on the Holy Spirit is challenging, and it's challenging for some of us because we really want to be able to objectively study this. We want to be able to put the Holy Spirit, for example, on the table, and we want to use our hands and use our eyes and pull it apart and examine it and discuss it with other people who can do the same thing, and that's just not possible With the Holy Spirit. I mean, we can read Bible verses about the Holy Spirit and we have, but what we're talking about, what we've been talking about, is best understood through experiences. I also want to acknowledge that for some of you watching or listening, that this series might be difficult because you grew up in a church in which everything was way too spiritual, everything was over spiritualized. It was like a Christian version of karma If you got sick, you must have done something bad. If something bad happened to you, you must have done something wrong. Everything was spiritual. But as you began to read the Bible yourself, or as you began to own your own faith, you realized that what you were growing up in and around and everything being over spiritual, and you realized that Jesus was also very spiritual, but he also helped people and he interacted with people and you wondered, You began to see a discrepancy between what you were taught and the Jesus you were learning about. So I want to acknowledge that this series and the previous series might be difficult because it seems like this church, that our church community, madison Church, is going in that direction, but I want to assure you we're not. I want to assure you that what we're doing in this series is we want to help you and other people unlearn and deconstruct aspects of spirituality that are not biblical, that are not true, and we want to help you, not just care everything down. We want to help you rebuild or, in some cases, just renovate. We don't need to tear the whole thing down, but renovate some areas of our beliefs that just need a little bit of fixing. And that's why we're doing this series, because we are physical and we are natural, but we're all so supernatural, we're also spiritual and we're trying to figure out how to interact with both, and so, again, i'm so glad that you're here. I want to acknowledge that the talks can be difficult. We talked last week about spiritual beings called angels, and we began that way to get into today, and so last week was was fine, it was good, we talked about angels, we unlearned some things about some angels, but today we're going to talk about demons, angels and talking about angels last week set us up for a conversation today about demons. Last week, i showed you guys a poll from 2016 the Gallup poll that revealed only 16% of Americans believe in angels, or sorry that only 16% of people don't believe in angels. So the vast majority of our society believes in angels. But what's interesting is that when asked about demons do you believe in demons or do you not believe in demons Almost 30% said we don't believe in demons, so the number of disbelief doubled. When we're talking about bad angels and we're talking about demons, which means that one-third of you watching right now are getting ready to click the X on the top left of your screen or top right, because we're talking about something that you don't believe in, but I'm going to ask that you hold on and stay with us. Okay, before we go further, this is just a poll of Americans and their beliefs in the unseen supernatural world when it comes to angels and demons and spiritual beings, but belief in the supernatural varies culture to culture, society to society. Some cultures have no problem believing in the personification of evil. I was thinking of when we did our prayer series a few months back, and Jason, one of our teaching pastors, mentioned living in Kenya and while he lived in Kenya, that spiritual warfare was a common conversation, that what spiritual beings, angels and demons were doing was was commonplace, and I think, though, that what we can get into and, as I've already alluded to, we can kind of get sucked into one direction or another direction in which everything is demonic and everything is angels, or the opposite, which is that nothing is, and and that's a little bit of an issue I love how CS Lewis talks about it. He says there are two equal and opposite errors in which our race, the human race, can fall, about devils or or demons. One of them is to disbelieve in their existence, just to not believe in them at all, and the other is to believe and to feel excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves he's talking about the devils, the demons. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight. You see, we are living in the realm of a spiritual battle, and our spiritual enemies love it when we're polarized, when we go excessive in one direction or another. And so for this series Unseen, we are really trying to find balance. Our perspective on evil in the unseen realm is in many ways like understanding viruses and germs For centuries and centuries and centuries. It's only until recently that we're starting to understand germs and viruses, and if you work in the medical field, you know we don't have it all figured out. We're still learning a lot. But for the whole entire history of humanity before us, they, they were further back and some of them didn't know that there were germs and viruses in the air that they can't see, germs and viruses that are floating around you right now, particles in the air particles floating around me right now, and they didn't know that, in some cases, viruses and these germs, the bacteria, can make you sick. Well, it's 2023 now and we know that germs and their effects are literally everywhere, all over the place. And this came to the forefront of the world in 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic. And when that pandemic started, it started the spread very rapidly, and scientists and doctors went to work. Doctors to save lives, scientists to try to understand the virus. For most of us, who weren't doctors or scientists, we didn't know a lot about it, but it was apparent how deadly it was. And yet we still saw two major reactions, and you probably fall into one of these camps and you might actually, i think, for a lot of people. You fall into both camps at different times, and the first camp is just ignoring the danger of the pandemic, of the virus altogether. It was nope, this is just the flu, this is just like strep throat, this is going to be, this is way overplayed, et cetera, et cetera. And then other people, though we became obsessed with the danger, always watching the news and being scared that if I go outside, that I'm going to catch this and then the worst thing possible is going to happen. So I think there were two major camps and you might have only found yourself in one. I think a lot of us found ourselves kind of bouncing back and forth to some degree in those areas. But with the pandemic, regardless of where I fell and regardless of where you fell, i know, as do you, several people who were hospitalized during the pandemic, people who are still to this day dealing with complications from having COVID-19, not just once, but several times. I even know a few people who died. I also know, as you do too, people who are still dealing with crippling fear and anxiety about germs and viruses and getting sick. I had a cousin who took his own life a year into the pandemic because of loneliness, immense loneliness and mental illness. I have a very close friend who never leaves their house anymore and I miss them. Regardless of where we landed, the effects of what happened are all around us. Whether we wanted to believe or not, and whether we believed it a lot or not, the effects are all around us. But there is a third option in which many of us fall in now, and I think it's finding the right balance in which we take the threat of germs and viruses seriously without becoming obsessively afraid. And that balance is going to depend on who you are, because if you have an autoimmune disorder, you're going to have to take more precautions than someone who doesn't. And I use this analogy in our conversation of the unseen and supernatural and demons because it's similar. Again, it's an analogy. It's similar. It's not the same, but it's similar enough to how we respond to evil beings. Some of us choose to ignore the danger altogether, and others of us become obsessed with the danger. Neither are great options, but regardless of where we fall, there are real consequences, and so it's important that we learn to find our own balance in our own lives. Let's consider the blind spots that we might have when it comes to the supernatural, and together let's unlearn and deconstruct some of what we've been taught. First, starting with demons, i'm going to go through and answer the same questions I answered for angels last week, beginning with who aren't demons? This is a great place to start. Who aren't demons? Just like angels in pop culture, we have been sold some wild, absolutely wild ideas about demons. There is quite a discrepancy between what the Bible describes about demons and what pop culture movies, books, tv shows tell us about demons. Pop culture. They're portrayed as human beings who are dead and climbing out of TVs and all discombobulated and crawling toward us. They're murderous dolls with a commitment to kill Whatever Hollywood's going to come up with next, to sell some more tickets to go see that horror movie next Halloween. But that's not what demons are and that's not how they're portrayed in the biblical text. Demons are not behind everything that goes wrong in the world. If you stub your toe, have a bad hair day, your car breaks out and your favorite team loses, that's not necessarily demonic activity. That's just the facts of living in a natural world governed by natural laws and physics. Other times, bad things happen in our lives because of choices that we make, because of choices that you make, because of choices that I make You getting cut off in traffic, somebody who's recklessly driving and causes a car accident that's not necessarily demonic activity. That's somebody making bad decisions. So demons are not behind everything that go on in the world. So if that's who they are not. Who are the demons and where do they come from? Well, demons, just like angels, were created by God. It says that God created everything seen and unseen. God created the heavens and the earth. Demons, however, are fallen angels. Last week, i alluded that angels have free will, that angels could choose to serve God, choose to be God's messenger, and some of them don't And, as such, they were cast out of heaven, cast out of God's presence. Well, what do demons do? And demons, again, just like angels, can influence and interact with the human world. They can mess with us, they can mess with systems to make sure that evil happens and continues to happen and that God's will is not done. Demons can possess people, but it's not quite how we think And, again, not quite what it's like on TV. Oh, actually, i brought some keys with me. These are my car keys, and this is a good way to explain what demon possession, according to the Bible, is like. You see, right now I'm possessing these keys, i'm holding them in my hand, i can do some things with them. I can jump in my car and drive, i can put it in the drive and I can drive around. I'm in possession of the keys and the vehicle, but I do not own that vehicle Not really. I see, i have a loan on the car, there's a bank that owns it and they get to determine some things, like if they want to repossess it or if I have to have certain kind of insurance. You see, i possess the car but I don't own it. There's still someone else ultimately in charge, and that's kind of more like what demon possession it is. It's not that they're controlling someone and they can't not control themselves, at least according to the Bible. So we've talked about demons and kind of hopefully unlearning some of that stuff that we learned or some of the fears that we might have about it. But now let's move into this figure, this one demon that you probably know by name, and that name is Satan. That's the one we know by name. Right, we're first introduced to this spiritual being early on in Genesis, in the form of a serpent who comes to the humans and says hey, did God really say that? That's the first lie, and it continues to be a common lie. That's just one of the ways that the Satan, that the devil, is portrayed in the Old Testament. We also see him portrayed as a sea dragon, but also as a snake or a serpent. This name, the Satan, in Hebrew stands for the adversary. You see, this particular being has several names the devil, the Satan, it's our adversary, the liar, the thief. But at the end of the day, all of these names have one thing in common, and that is that this being is against everything, but this being is not for anything, that this being absolutely hates everything and everyone. Now a little point of clarification before we move on to spiritual warfare. Satan the Satan is not to evil what God is to good. You guys imagine that painting, that picture of Jesus and the devil arm wrestling. It's just not true. That's just not how it is. You see, the devil, satan, is one of many fallen angels, but Jesus is God and we're human beings, and so let's not give the Satan too much credit. He or they are one of many. Now let's talk about spiritual warfare. There's a scene immediately after Jesus is baptized in Luke 4, if you want to follow along, that we're going to look at. Jesus is baptized. He's going into the wilderness to pray and to fast, to get centered, before he launches his public ministry, before he preaches, teaches, heals us, any sort of miracle. Jesus goes to fast and they get closer with his heavenly Father, and during this time the devil comes to Jesus and begins to tempt Jesus, to try to get Jesus to fall, and this is what I believe we should interpret as spiritual battles in our own lives. I do want to say, though, we should not consider this a normal experience. This isn't what the Bible is saying, or Luke is saying is this is exactly how it happens every time, but I bring up this story because it covers several elements of spiritual warfare and battles that we might be facing in our everyday lives, and we can learn not just from Jesus, but from those who knew Jesus best, on how to handle that. So, again, it's combining the unseen with the seen, the natural with the supernatural, as we see that supernatural things affect our natural lives. And, beginning in verse three, we read that the devil has come to Jesus while he's fasting. If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become a loaf of bread. But Jesus told him no. The scriptures say people do not live on bread alone. The first battle that Jesus has to face has to do with questioning God's provision. God's provision Sometimes, oftentimes, in a spiritual battle. What the devil or demonic activity around us? our spiritual battle has to do with questioning God's provision, and in this case, jesus is hungry. Obviously, he's in the wilderness. He's fasting. There isn't a fast food place all around. If he is hungry, he ends up giving up on his fast. He'd have to walk somewhere. And the devil tempts Jesus and says hey, you can do it. Well, why don't you do it? And the question here is why isn't God providing for you? It's the question, and for some of us, that might be the place that you're in right now Why isn't God providing for me? I'm trying to follow him, i'm trying to do what he wants, but it doesn't feel like I'm being provided for. As a matter of fact, you might have lost your job over the past year unexpectedly, not even your fault. You were doing good work, you were trying to do good things, and now you're on unemployment. You're living from week to week, you're trying to make ends meet And you ask God why aren't you providing for me? This could be a spiritual battle that you are in. Paul deals with this, and Paul, writing to Timothy, says that we must choose, in these scenarios, faith over fear. He writes, for God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, of power, love and self-discipline, and I really like how the Amplified Bible unpacks this passage, for God did not give us a spirit of timidity or cowardice or fear, but he has given us a spirit of power and of love and of sound judgment and personal discipline, abilities that result in a calm, well-balanced mind and self-control. You see, what Paul is saying is that when we have questions about whether or not God will provide for us, it's often because of fear. How will I eat? Where will I sleep? Will my kids be okay? Will I be okay? And some of that fear is natural and it's okay. Being afraid isn't always bad. But what Paul is saying is, when that's all we feel is scared and fear and afraid, well, that's not from God, that's not the spirit that's in you. And we need to remind ourselves this. We need to learn to listen to ourselves, our souls. When our souls are saying, hey, i'm in a chronic state of fear, that needs to be an indicator to us that, hey, the wrong spirit is communicating to me right now, because God's spirit is one of power. You see, we don't need to be afraid because of Jesus. We have the same spirit that was within Jesus, the same spirit that gave Jesus the ability to say no, devil, i will not turn the stone in the right, even though I'm hungry. We have the same spirit, so that way we can say no, yes, i'm wondering about God's provision. I don't know. This doesn't make sense to me, but I'm not gonna begin to doubt it or walk away from my faith just because of it. When this fails, the devil circles back. I will give you the glory of these kingdoms and authority over them, the devil said, because they are mine, to give to anyone I please. I will give it all to you if you worship me. And Jesus replied. The scripture say you must worship the Lord, your God, and serve him. Only When the devil couldn't get Jesus to compromise his faith out of a fear of God's provision, he offers Jesus influence and independence, trying to make Jesus question God's will. And sometimes we find ourselves in this spiritual battle. We think we're listening to God, we're doing the best that we can and we've ended up in a place that's really challenging, that's really difficult, and in those moments the spiritual battle that we might be facing is the question of doubting God's will. Is this really where God has called me to? Is this really where God wants me? And this is a hard place, but it's a place that James, the brother of Jesus, knew well, as he himself, being a Christian, an early Christian leader, was persecuted and was jailed and was ultimately killed for what he believed. He writes to those who are struggling with the same questions resist the devil and he will flee from you. This passage is about standing firm When we're in a spiritual battle and we're questioning or doubting God's will. James, the brother of Jesus, says stand firm. This is spiritually speaking, of course, but it might also mean physically being present and staying still When it comes to fighting off a spiritual battle. It's not about secret prayers or secret rituals. It's not about being good enough. Sometimes it's just about persevering and weathering the storms, and as we pursue God's will, we're going to welcome in spiritual attacks. The devil is against us, the devil is against God. The devil is against God's kingdom and God's will. So, of course, if we're doing something right, we should feel the tension of that, and when we do, though, our tendency is to run. Just to move is to question God's will, which is exactly what the spiritual battle is all about. This is a common cycle in which we say, yes, i want God, i want your will done for my life, and God says do this or go there. And we do that or we go there, and then we feel pain, we feel suffering, we get tested and we question is this really what God's will is? No, it can't be. God wouldn't want me to suffer or have pain or make a sacrifice. And so we move And then we wonder why God has left us, when the reality of the situation is is that God called us to do something or go somewhere? and God was there and we left him? But our gracious and loving God continues to pursue us nonetheless. But I bring this up because if we find ourselves in a position in which we're being tempted and we're going through pain and suffering, it doesn't mean that you're doing something wrong. It doesn't mean you're outside of God's will. It might mean the opposite. It might mean you're doing exactly what God wants you to do, exactly where God wants you to do it. And take James advice stand still, because the devil will eventually leave you. When the devil can't get Jesus to fall short because he's fearing God's provision, when he can't get him the question or doubt God's will, the devil comes back to Jesus. He's going to quote the Bible and he's going to try to make Jesus question his faith. We read the devil took him to Jerusalem, to the highest point in the temple, and said if you are the son of God, jump off. For the scripture say he will order his angels to protect and guard you and they will hold you up with their hands so you won't even hurt your foot on a stone. And Jesus responded the scriptures also say you must test. You must not test the Lord, your God. What's scary about this passage is that sometimes the spiritual test, the spiritual battles that we're in, is going to sound a lot like God, because our enemy knows God's word, god's words, god's will, and our enemy, as he did with Eve and Adam, is going to make you question that. Did God really say? or look, god did say this. And Jesus, instead of doubting his faith, says yes, i'm familiar with those. But his word also says to not test God. When we're going through these spiritual battles of questioning our faith, it's important to come close to God. James continued to write in that passage in which he tells us to stand firm against the devil and he will flee from us. James says if you come close to God, he will come close to you. I love the imagery of being able to stand still and the devil will flee from me, but if I walk toward God, god will walk toward me, whereas we keep our feet planted when we're under a spiritual attack. We keep following Jesus, even when things are not good, whereas the devil, and during these spiritual attacks, wants to make us doubt God's will and question God's provision and question our faith. We see from Jesus different responses to overcome. When the devil had finished tempting Jesus, he left him until the next opportunity came. And this serves, i believe, as a warning that victory today doesn't mean the war is over forever, you see, because after the devil had finished tempting Jesus and having this battle with him, he left until the next opportunity came. Spiritual battles are going to be a regular part of our lives And I hope that from studying this scene in Luke, that you see that it's not quite again, what we see on the television or on the internet. It's more subtle than that and it's actually more dangerous than what we see Now. A warning, if you will not every fleeting thought of doubt, of fear and questioning is a spiritual battle. It's completely normal and completely human to have those questions regularly. We accept that, we welcome that and at Madison Church we pick conversations based on the questions that we have. But the spiritual battle might be when it lingers and it drives you away from God. That is when we need to be on alert. Spiritual warfare is real. There are spiritual battlefields all around us, and sometimes those battles are so subtle we don't even notice them. But as we pray, god, open my eyes so that I may see. I believe we're going to begin to recognize these battles a little bit more frequently than we do, which is a good time for us To acknowledge we have an enemy, and who? that enemy is not Paul writing one of his letters to the early church, this one in Ephesus. He's concluding the letter. He's about to talk about spiritual warfare and the armor of God. But listen to how he begins this section. He says a final word be strong in the Lord and mighty in His power. Put on all of God's armor so that you will be able to stand firm against the strategies of the devil. And this is the important part, for we are not fighting against flesh and blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. If Paul, just like James, just like Jesus, acknowledged that there is spiritual warfare going on all around us, acknowledges that we have spiritual enemies who don't like us, who hate us, who want us to struggle. But he says, before he's going to instruct you how to engage in a spiritual battle, paul says but keep in mind who your enemy is and who your enemy is not. Paul says your enemy is not other people, your enemy is not flesh against flesh. And I begin and I believe that he begins this way because he knew He saw it all around him, as you and I see it all around us today that we get so confused as to who our enemy is. If you don't believe me, log on to Facebook, turn on the news and see who we're fighting against. I love Dr Ed Stetzer's observation. He says you can't hate people and engage them with the gospel at the same time. You can't war with people and show the love of Jesus. You can't be both outraged and on mission. You and I, we have a choice to make. We can hate people or we can engage them with the gospel. We can war with them or we can show them the love of Jesus. We can be on mission or we can be outraged. So when we're thinking about our spiritual enemy, if I'm a conservative Republican, my enemy is not the liberal Democrat. If I'm the liberal Democrat, my enemy is not the conservative Republican. If I'm a Christian, my enemy is not the Christian who disagrees with me, who has different values than me, who understands the universe differently than me. If I'm a Christian, my enemy is not the Muslim, the Buddhist, the atheist. Paul says no, no, no, no, no, no. It's unbiblical to approach it that way. And this isn't about being centrist. This isn't about just holding the middle. It isn't about moderation. It's about mission And, as we engage, other people and passionate issues that we should care deeply about, i want you to consider what am I gaining at the cost of who I am losing? What am I gaining but who am I losing? You see, satan offered Jesus a what Power, confidence, this, that kingdoms, worship, worthiness, all of that, but Jesus turned it all down for a who. Jesus stayed on mission. Jesus chose faithfulness to God and his mission, and that mission is about a who. It's about a you and a me, and so the spiritual battle facing you this week might be to show someone that you have a very difficult time showing any sort of respect or love. It might be this week. Your challenge, your spiritual battle, your breakthrough is showing them the love of Jesus, the love of God. That might be what you need to work on. Paul wraps up his passage. He goes through the whole armor of God and he says pray in the spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers anywhere. Paul reminds us the way that we remain alert in this unseen battle going around us is to pray, and not just one kind of prayer, but to pray all kinds of prayer, and to be praying often. Prayer is not a posture of the week, but prayer is a position of the strong. When we pray, we're not only resisting evil, we're not only becoming more alert to the way that evil is trying to attack us, but it's about connecting with God and having a deeper and more intimate relationship with him.

Exploring the Unseen
Understanding Evil in the Unseen Realm
Navigating Spiritual Battles and Doubt
Spiritual Battle and Power of Prayer