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Sunday, July 1, 2018

The Mind Is The Battlefield Of Spiritual Warfare

Photo by Chuanchai Pundej on Unsplash

This is the manuscript of the sermon I preached at Christ Church in Los Angeles on July 1, 2018, about the tactics of Satan in spiritual warfare and the believer's protection and our weapons to go on the attack.

We hear a lot about Spiritual Warfare these days. It is a real war and we need to take it seriously but we need to see it for what really it is.  If you are a believer in Jesus and have received Him as your Savior, you are in the body of Christ, and this means you are in the spiritual war between God and His enemy.

1 Peter 5:8-9 NIV Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

A lot of believers either don’t realize that they are in a war or don't take it seriously. So they are not actively engaged in the war,even though they are on the receiving end of the consequences of that war. They are attacked and become wounded and incapacitated because they are totally unprepared to face the enemy.

In order to survive the first thing we have to realize is that there really is a war and we do have an enemy. What we must realize is that our enemy is God’s enemy. In fact he is our enemy because he is God’s enemy. The mere fact that you are a child of God means that you are subject to attack at any time. You may believe you don’t have to engage in the battle, but you do.

Satan does exist and he has a military force. The war is never over because the enemy never never gives up.  Jesus has defeated him but  he continues to engage in gorilla warfare.   Much like Isis or any other defeated enemy does until they are totally destroyed.

1 Peter 5:8 (NLT) Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.

This is a spiritual war, but it’s every bit as real as the the conflicts that we see being waged the world today.  The Bible is clear that this is not a battle which is fought on a physical plane at all, but rather a spiritual one.

Ephesians 6:12 NKJV For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

Who are these principalities, powers, rulers of darkness?  They are  the soldiers of Satan’s military. He works through a vast army of demon spirits.  Remember Satan is a created being and not omnipresent, so he can only be in one place at a time, but he has a large demonic spiritual army.  

He is very powerful, but let's not give him too much credit.    

If you are a believer then Satan needs God’s permission to spiritually attack you. 

Job 1:12 (HCSB)12  “Very well,” the LORD told Satan, “everything he owns is in your power. However, you must not lay a hand on Job ⌊himself⌋.” So Satan left the LORD’s presence.

Job 2:6 (HCSB) “Very well,” the LORD told Satan, “he is in your power; only spare his life.” 

Satan had to ask Jesus’ permission to attack Peter.

 Luke 22:31-32 HCSB “Simon, Simon,   look out! Satan has asked to sift you   like wheat.   But I have prayed for you   that your faith may not fail. And you, when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

So unless God gives him permission Satan can’t affect your external circumstances.   Where he can attack and injure you is in your mind.  Most unpleasant things that happen to us are our own fault, the fact that we live in a fallen and broken world where bad things happen, and not a direct attack from the enemy, but if he can get you to believe that he has the power to attack you at any time and cause bad things to happen then you will start to doubt God’s ability to sustain you, then you become a casualty in the war.

Satan's most effective tactic is to establish strongholds in your mind. 
Photo by Les Anderson on Unsplash


2 Corinthians 10:3-5 KJV For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:  (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)  Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

A stronghold is anything that exalts itself in our minds, pretending to be bigger or more powerful than God.   Let's read that same scripture from The New American Standard Version

2 Corinthians 10:3-6 NASB For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete.

Whether you call them strongholds or fortresses  they  are built by the “ imaginations, speculations and every high-minded thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God.

These imaginations can be a superstitious belief, an addiction, wrong thoughts, or despair over the loss of a loved one or relationship or many other things.

A minister I know defined an imagination as a nation of images (imagi-nation), or a series of connected images that become a stronghold or fortress.

They can consume our emotions, cause us to become overwhelmed, and sap our mental strength.  If we try to ignore them we will never be able to live the life of victory promised by Jesus.

The devil’s chief target is the mind, because the most effective way to influence behaviour is to influence our  thinking.  He did that to Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden causing Eve to doubt God’s truth. 

Genesis 3:2-5 (HCSB)2  The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit from the trees in the garden.3  But about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, God said, ‘You must not eat it or touch it, or you will die.’”4  “No! You will not die,” the serpent said to the woman.5  “In fact, God knows that when you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 

He caused Eve and then Adam to doubt God’s purpose for them and they disobeyed and they did die, and put us in the mess we are in today.

Strongholds

Here are some strongholds that can be established in our minds, and then exploited by Satan in spiritual warfare.  
     Anger
     Fear
     Abandonment
     Shame
     Lying
     Financial need
     Addictions
     Sensuality
     Depression
     Grief

How To Protect Yourself In Spiritual Warfare Against Strongholds Being Built In Your Mind?

We must never go to battle without the things we need in order to protect ourselves and to  win.  Remember our battle is spiritual, so our protection and weapons are spiritual.  God has provided some armor for our protection.

Ephesians 6:13-18 NKJV Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 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, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—

We must have the whole armor of God protecting us at all times so we can stand successfully against the enemy’s attacks and plans.

To “take your stand” literally means to stand in front of and in opposition to the forces and plans of evil. It means to be the one standing after the battle. It also means to stand ready for the next battle which will come.

You need this armor to stop any attack in your life and the lives of those you care about.

Let's take a quick look at the armor. 

In his letter to the Ephesians Paul uses the Roman soldier's armor as a metaphor for our spiritual armor. 

Let's start with

The Belt Of Truth Around Your Waist


Roman soldiers wore something similar to what a weightlifter wears to give him strength and support so he won’t hurt the core of his body. It enabled the soldiers to stand stronger against their enemy.

John 8:31-32 (NLT)31  Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings.32  And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

It is not just any truth that sets you free. It is God’s truth. We find that truth in His Word, in the Bible.  It is this truth that gives us support and strength as we resist the attacks of the enemy.

The Breastplate of Righteousness it's your (Body Armor)

A Roman soldier’s metal breastplate covered his chest and kept him from being fatally wounded in the heart. Jesus’ perfect righteousness is what covers our hearts.

Romans 3:22 KJV Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:

Our breastplate of righteousness is the righteousness of Jesus in us. It protects our heart from any mortal wounds and assures us that the enemy can never destroy us because of sin. It makes us right with God. It is as if we had never sinned.

The Preparation of the Gospel of Peace For Your Feet

Next we need to protect and take care of our feet. And put  the preparation of the gospel of peace on them. 

Roman soldiers had strong military shoes studded on the bottom of the soles in a way similar to cleats. Properly shod feet can stand strong against the enemy and keep you from slipping into doubt. We need to have the foundation we walk in to be solid and protective.

The idea is that we should stand firm.  Having peace with God and peace in God is an unshakeable foundation. God has peace for us that is beyond our comprehension.  You just have to walk in it. 

Philippians 4:4-7 NKJV Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Now Jesus has already prepared this good news, which is the gospel and we, with our feet planted on His firm foundation are to tell others. 

We started with the belt of truth, we put on the breastplate of righteousness, put on our fighting shoes, now we pick up

The Shield of Faith

Every soldier needs something to shield and protect him from the weapons of the enemy.  The shield of faith protects all the rest of the armor. It was a large object in the shape of a door. The Greek word for ‘shield’ is from the Greek word for ‘door’.  So this was a very large piece of equipment. 

The enemy shoots spiritual arrows and darts at us designed to discourage and make us fearful, anxious, uncertain, or incapacitated. The shield we have against these arrows of the enemy is our faith, and it is powerful protection.  When we put our faith in God and His Word, He is our shield and defense.

Psalm 91:4 (NKJV)  He shall cover you with His feathers, And under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler.

So now that we have included the shield of faith everything protected but our head. Now we need to put on

The Helmet of Salvation

The helmet protects a soldier’s head.

Our enemy wants to fill our minds with feelings of guilt, helplessness, and misery. He doesn't want us to understand all that Jesus did for us on the cross because he knows when we put on that helmet of salvation we are transformed through the renewing of our mind. 

Romans 12:2 (NLT)  Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect

We put on the helmet of salvation the moment we acknowledge Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Make sure that you keep the helmet of salvation on every day by reminding yourself of what Jesus did for you. 

There's just one more piece to the armor

The Sword of the Spirit, Which Is the Word of God

When we we are attacked we have to use our weapons.  A good example of this is our Lord himself.  When Jesus was baptized and led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit, Satan attacked Him. Jesus’ weapon against him was God’s Word—which is the “sword of the Spirit.” He responded to every attack by saying it is written, and Satan finally left Him alone.    No spiritual battle can be fought and won without our greatest weapon—the Word of God. 

Hebrews 4:12 (NLT)12  For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.

There are a couple of other things we use that are not a part of the armor but are for our protection.

We Are To Always Pray

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 KJV Rejoice evermore.  Pray without ceasing.  In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

God wants us to be persistent in our praying. That’s what it means to pray without ceasing.  It means always  praying through things and not giving up.

We are to always pray and

Then Be Watchful

When a soldier is on active duty, he sleeps in his battle gear.  He stays dressed in case of a surprise attack. We do the same. We never take off our armor not even while we sleep.

The Counter Attack

We need to protect ourselves at all times but there are also times that we need to go on the attack  Scripture tells us to resist and our enemy will flee. Sometimes we need to counterattack.

James 4:7 KJV Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

As I said before we only have one piece of God’s armor that is designed for offense and that is ”the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s Word.  That's how we counter attack.  We counter attack with God's word. 

To win this war against Satan, we need to take control of our thought life – “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”  We take those thoughts captive with the Word of God the “sword of the Spirit”.


When you identify a stronghold in your mind (remember a stronghold is thoughts or imaginations in your mind) when you identify a stronghold find God’s truth that addresses that stronghold and then go on the attack.   Find that truth in your bible then read it, speak it, sing it, and apply it over and over and over until the stronghold is destroyed.  Put it on your mirror, your refrigerator, in you car, on your desk, anywhere that you will constantly see it.  Continue attacking the stronghold and destroy it with the truth of the Word of God.   

I gave you a list of potential strongholds earlier;

     Anger
     Fear
     Abandonment
     Shame
     Lying
     Financial need
     Addictions
     Sensuality
     Depression
     Grief
None of these specific strongholds may not affect your life but until Jesus returns you will have imaginations and thoughts that exalt themselves against the knowledge of God,  that you will need to fight and destroy.  The only way to win is with the “sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. 
God has provided a way for us to fight back.   First and foremost, we have to saturate our mind continually with God’s Word. When we do that we will eventually develop a mental filter that reacts in alarm when we are attacked.  We become  rooted and grounded in the truth.
We also have the indwelling Holy Spirit, who gives understanding of God’s Word, directs our way, and enables us to distinguish truth from the lies of the enemy. He educates our conscience to provide timely warnings when we start down the wrong path.
The Lord has provided everything we need to avoid deception, but those things will protect us only if we use them in obedience with the Word of God as we are lead by His Spirit.
To guarantee victory we must;
1.    Love God's Word
2.    Know God's Word
3.    Memorize God's Word
4.    Meditate on God's Word
5.    Believe God's Word
6.    Use God's Word
7.    Do God's Word

Philippians 4:8 NIV Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
Strap on your sword and take the battle to the enemy.

Sermon Audio