Tag Archives: Spiritual Warfare

RE: Lions at War

lions at war

4/28/2017 Continuing with the blog theme of Retractions and Edits that I introduced a few weeks ago, in this reexamination, I must confess it was a misapplication of passages, a sort of one passage vs. another and neither in their appropriate context.

(Original publication 11/17/2009) It’s not difficult to follow the patterns of my life by simply reading the blog posts that I write.  Recently, with a few exceptions, the focus has been on spiritual warfare and the fact that we are embroiled in the middle of a battle that seeks daily to destroy us, to not only impede our walk with Christ, but an attempt, albeit futile, to severe our relationship.  In those posts we’ve discussed how this war isn’t one of the flesh, but of the spirit, that we are equipped with the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-20), and that non-participators in this battle are quickly seized by the enemy. This is an accurate assessment of the war in which Christians are engaged.

The Bible doesn’t under-emphasize this war, but instead is full of references and analogies to describe just how powerful this struggle really is.  Perhaps there is no better verse in the Bible that describes our enemy as well as I Peter 5:8 ESV, “Be sober-minded; be watchful.  Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”  This description is so profound; a lion, massive and powerful, just like in the picture above, capable of literally ripping flesh from the bone and devouring it, just like Peter alludes.  The text tells us to “be sober-minded; be watchful”, a call for us to be alert at all times with our defenses ready, that at the slightest movement or sound we are prepared for battle.  Again, helpful.  Sometimes it seems we underestimate the influence and power of our enemy, that old serpent the Devil.  However the imagery of a lion helps put this in a proper perspective.

I’m sure we’ve all seen movies where the frantic, scared, and helpless person is trapped inside a house or cabin, while the adversary is outside looking for any possible entrance inside.  This is the same principle with a lion, they stalk their prey, looking to exploit any weakness they can find and so it is with the devil, searching for a foothold into our lives in order to attack and destroy us.  But this scene needs to be different; we’re not the scared helpless victim.  Don’t let the devil paralyze you with his stalking, because that’s exactly what he wants to do.  Again helpful.  This analogy of a lion, particularly as it has its victim in his sights is appropriate.  Instead of fearing, we are called to resist him, as our Lord did in His wilderness temptation.

No, instead Christians we need to turn the tables on our adversary because surprise, surprise, we’re lions too!  Proverbs 28:1b says, “but the righteous are bold as a lion.”  This certainly changes the game doesn’t it?  Lions aren’t cowardly (despite what the Wizard of Oz might portray) they’re predatory, aggressive, and relentless in their pursuit.  This should be our approach toward sin, don’t sit back defensively while it stalks you, attack it with the boldness of a lion!   “ Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7  The analogy of believer’s as lions, capable of equally battling the Devil is not helpful and in fact may be harmful.  I do not think that believers should seek to actively engage the Devil.  However, we are called to resist him.  How or in what way?  In the strength of God, by the power of the Holy Spirit, wielding the Sword of the Spirit, God’s Word.  We are to be ready, vigilant, sober-minded because our enemy prowls around like a lion, but we are indeed weak in our flesh and experience to think that we can resist him on our own.  

There’s one additional point we need to look at in this fight and it’s critically essential.  In our verse from Proverbs we are told that the righteous are bold as the lion.  This righteousness isn’t something we develop or are taught, but it comes through Jesus Christ when we accept Him as Savior (Romans 6:18, II Corinthians 5:21, Philippians 3:9).  He is the source of our boldness; He is the Lion of Judah (Revelation 5:5).  As we learned yesterday in the post from Charles Spurgeon, we need to recognize that without Jesus, our weaknesses are exposed and will be exploited by the enemy.  Alone we have no power to battle sin, but with Him leading the way we have sovereign power.  As the enemy begins stepping up his assault on Christians of the world, it’s time that we stand up and fight back against sin with the boldness of the lion that we were made to be in Christ.  Stand up, be bold, be aggressive, be fearless as the lion, for “if God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31b ESV  This is a helpful, clarifying summary, if albeit unrelated to the subject of lion vs. lion.  If the righteous are to be as bold as a lion, as Proverbs states, it should be in our willingness to proclaim the Gospel, confront sin in our own lives, and live holy lives in a wicked and adulterous generation.

*Featured image credit – Atif Saeed Fine Art Photography

The Fabian Strategy of Satan

 

Awhile back, we looked at the petition from the “Lord’s Prayer” to deliver us from the evil [one] and briefly touched on the fact that Satan, like a roaring lion, is prowling around seeking whom he may devour.  In a very real sense, Satan is actively pursuing mankind in order to leave them blind or lead them from the light into darkness, even if this be temporary for the true child of God.

Thus we have come to consider a method that our enemy uses in assaulting the saints of God.  Keep in mind too, that when we say Satan, it may not mean a direct attack from the singular figure of evil, as in the Garden of Eden or the Wilderness of Christ, but may and most often does include some other demonic personage serving the will of his master.  Thanks be to God that the head of Satan was crushed at the cross of Christ, nevertheless our opponent is very real and very active.  In this particular post, we’ll look at the Fabian Strategy of Satan to see how that ancient serpent, the Devil, employs an old military strategy in one of his many attacks on the children of God.

The Fabian Strategy was a military idea implemented by Roman General Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus (280 – 208 BC), or Fabius Maximus, sometimes simply Maximus for short.  He was arguably one of the greatest generals in the Roman Empire and is often credited with being the father of guerrilla warfare.  In perhaps the most famous war of all time, the Punic War, Rome, led by Fabius prepared to battle against the superior Carthaginians, led by Hannibal.

Recognizing his army was outpowered, Fabius employed his now famous Fabian strategy in which he wore down his enemy by avoiding any “pitched battles or frontal assaults” and instead relied on a war of attrition.  As this strategy unfolds, it calls on the proponent to harass his opposition through smaller skirmishes that cause attrition, disrupt supplies, and effect morale largely believing that time is on their side to wear down their opponent (see wikipedia article).  How then does Satan employ this strategy against the saints of God?

Before we start it’s important to note that we’re not inserting the Fabian Strategy into Scripture, simply observing the methods of our enemy and finding a fitting description of them to better help us to understand the war in which we are engaged.

First, this strategy of wearing us down is extremely dangerous and extremely effective because it avoids many of the frontal assaults that the believer may be more aware of in his or her battle against sin.  For example, if a person knows that a particular location, we’ll call it the sin store, however make the necessary application in your own case, causes him or her to sin, obviously they would stay out of that location, simple enough.

However, through means of the Fabian Strategy, the devil would not tempt a person towards that location, but would instead wear them down physically, mentally, and spiritually, over time, perhaps even to the point of cutting off all other avenues leaving the only opening that travels past the “sin store”,  inevitably leading to sin.  At this point, you are weakened and worn down, unable to avoid what would have normally been a very weak temptation had it occurred as a frontal assault.

As alluded to, primarily Satan wears us down physically, mentally, and spiritually and sometimes in that order.  Physically this may come by way of a variety of means, sometimes through illness, sometimes through lack of sleep, sometimes simply through the exhaustion of the day.  He need not bring these on directly, but may, as in the case of Job.  Or, he may simply take advantage of an opportunity of these weakness that is already preexisting.

Obviously, physical exhaustion lessens mental alertness, which in turn makes one more susceptible to temptations.  Consider the example of our Lord, who after 40 days of fasting in the wilderness was left no doubt, weak, tired, hungry, and physically exposed.  Satan sought opportunity in this weakness to strike.  Take also for instance the disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane with our Lord and His instruction upon finding them asleep to “watch and pray.  That you may not enter into temptation.  The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26:40

Against this war of attrition in physical strength, a greater reliance on the strength of God will be necessary.  Consider our Lord’s response to Satan with the Word of God, the Sword of the Spirit, from our example cited above.  Too often, we become comfortable and self-reliant, either in our own gifts, strengths, even our material possessions.  Reconsider Job, who had his material possessions and physical strength taken away, yet Scripture affirms for us that Job did not sin with his lips (Job 1:22, 2:10).  When these comforts evaporate, we are left to return to the fountain’s source, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.”  Ephesians 6:10  In this alien strength, pray and grab one verse at a time to hold onto.  Volume of reading, either Scripture or godly books will not be as helpful here, but could  actually hinder progress in the battle if one is not careful.  Become a master of one verse and use it acutely, praying until you can’t.

Second, the Fabian Strategy, having plundered our physical resources shifts to the attack of morale, sometimes via the form of lacking mental alertness.  This may come in the form of discouragement from the physical weakness, mental fogginess, or simply resorting to vegging out.  In our society, we are perhaps more prone to this than any other time in history and we have a lot of devices and opportunity to do so.  After running the daily rat-race, we can be given to extended periods of vegging, be it in our consumption of social media, binging on-demand videos, video games, shopping, etc. all to make us feel better in a flesh-led effort to recharge our physically weak batteries as it were.  This simply opens up further opportunity for the devices of Satan.

The key opposition against this is to reengage the mind upon the word of God.  Meditation can functionally serve the same purpose that many hope to gain by turning to vegging out by essentially calming and refocusing the mind.  Here of course, we are talking about biblical meditation and not that which accompanies yoga, transcendental meditation, or other ungodly forms of mind emptying.

Finally, if both physical and mental strength be lacking in any substantial quantity, the spirit is essentially left exposed in the battle against the flesh, the world, and the devil.  Think again on Matthew 26:40 cited above, “the spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak.”  The two are diametrically opposed and without diligence, the flesh can sometimes gain the upper-hand on the spirit quite easily, Galatians 5:17.  Here then the Fabian Strategy of Satan often employs the temptation to lesser sins over those of more scandalous or outlandish nature all in an effort to subvert the spirit’s resistance against the flesh.

Beaten down physically, sapped of mental alertness, and blind to the peccadillos of life, the Fabian Strategy has subtlety given Satan the upper-hand often without us being none the wiser.  This of course may happen over a long period of time to further heighten our drowsiness until he makes an attempt to strike a mortal blow.

Very rarely to believers fall into sin upon the first hints of a frontal assault.  Little by little the enemy pecks away much like water dripping on a mighty granite boulder until finally a crack appears, when heat is applied the entire rock is in danger of exploding.  Be alert and sober, dear Christians.  Our enemy, the devil often has more success in lulling us to sleep, via the Fabian strategy, than an all out, in your face assault.  Resist him and he will flee from you. James 4:7

Deliver us from the Evil One

 

In so called reformed circles, it is sometimes common to hear of spiritual warfare that downplays any opposition to the devil or his minions.  Typically, this type of spiritual warfare focuses on the enemy within, namely sin, and poo-poo’s any battle with the evil one, because it is generally assumed that he has bigger and better things to do than cause your car not to start or give you a cold.  I say this last statement a bit tongue-in-cheek because there is another approach to spiritual warfare, that typical of the charismatics, that blames everything on the devil, from a flat tire to spilling your coffee on the way to work.

So what is the biblical approach to this?  Does the devil come against us either personally or by way of a second-tier demon, as in say The Screwtape Letters?  Or is there little to no evil activity by way of the evil one that is directed our way?

The first passage we will look at is a familiar one, though the proper translation is not as familiar, at least not familiar to most of us who memorized the KJV.

Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. Matthew 6:9-13 ESV

The ESV, cited above, is in line with the King James Version on the translation of this passage, particularly verse 13 and the phrase, “deliver us from evil.”  Interpreted in this way, it would seem that our prayer should be for deliverance from general evil, which may come in many shapes, sizes, and forms.

However, this is not the best translation.

The NKJV gets this phrase right when it translates, “But deliver us from the evil one.”  How can we conclude that this is more accurate?  The Greek word for evil here is the word ponerou and it is an adjective.  Translating this word would leave us with the English equivalent for evil, however, as we can see in the ESV translation, it is functioning as a noun (technically a direct object).  How can an adjective function as a noun in the sentence?  Because it is functioning as a substantival adjective, meaning it acts as a noun in the original Greek grammar.  So wouldn’t this simply mean that the ESV translation is correct and our prayers should be to keep us from evil (note that the ESV recognizes the possibility of “evil one” in its footnote)?

Not necessarily, because not only is this word functioning as a noun, but it has a modifying article tou which when put together in its context would be more accurately translated, “the evil one” (tou ponerou).

This isn’t simply an academic exercise throwing around Greek words and phrases to impress or confuse, but has profound application in our prayer life and the direction toward which we should approach spiritual warfare.  It gives us a crystal clear statement that the devil, whether by secondary means or not, is in opposition to believers and that God is willing and able to protect us from the evil one (Luke 22:31-32).

Though outside of Matthew’s usage, similarly, this exact phrase is translated as I’ve just described in 1 Thess. 3:3

“But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.” ESV

Here the ESV has chosen to translate the phrase “the evil one” while again offering a footnote for an alternative, this time for “evil”.  In this context, the Apostle Paul is concluding his second epistle to the Church at Thessalonica, by contrasting the faithless with the faithful Lord and stating His willingness and ability to guard them from the evil one, seemingly a related restatement of the passage from our Lord in the Sermon on the Mount cited above.

Additionally, John 17:15, in the midst of Christ’s High Priestly prayer we read

“I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.” ESV

Again the translation choice of the ESV is towards a specific “evil one” and not a general concept of evil.  Context again shows a petition made that God would keep His saints from the evil one, and He will.

Summarizing this brief survey we may conclude several points:

  1. Satan is active in opposition towards believers.
  2. God is sovereign over Satan.
  3. Believers are to pray for God’s protection from the evil one.
  4. Christ intercedes on behalf of the saints for protection against the evil one.
  5. God is ready, able, and willing to protect them from the evil one. And He does.

Of particular interest is that in these passages we do not see any command or instructions on engaging in personal combat with Satan, as some charismatics would have us to believe.  Likewise, we see nothing of the diminishing attention that Satan gets in some reformed circles.  Perhaps in a future post, we’ll look at several passages that give us more insight into the operations of the devil in the lives of the believer and how we are exhorted to resist him, which is rooted and grounded in our Lord’s resistance of Satan 3 times in Matthew 4 and His subsequent death and resurrection (1 John 3:8).

 

See also: Ephesians 6:11, James 4:7, 1 John 2:13, Luke 22:31

For more on this translation discussion see Daniel Wallace Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, pg. 233.