Pastor Ryan looks at the unseen war that rages around us and how followers of Jesus need to make sure they are fighting the right battle. Hint: It’s NOT the “other “political party, coworkers, or neighbors.
Never Have I Ever – Halloween Edition
Judging by the weather outside, it sure feels like fall has finally arrived. And with it, Halloween is now right around the corner. Unfortunately, we all know halloween may be a bit different this year.
What I’m seeing is there are 3 camps of how people view halloween this year:
- All In – more decorations, costumes, candy – we need something to celebrate now
- Modified – we’ll go trick or treating, but we’re going to be safe and follow CDC guidelines
- Nope – like everything else coronavirus ruined, add halloween to the list. I’m out.
I fall into that 3rd camp, but probably for a totally different reason – I hate halloween. Always have. Definitely has to do with my upbringing where I was taught halloween was a pagan holiday to worship witches and demons. Made for a long list of things I couldn’t do growing up. And today we’re going to have some fun with that by playing the Pastor Ryan edition of Never Have I Ever!
I’m going to say, “Never have I ever…” and then say something I never did growing up and if you have done it, you have to sit down. So everybody stand up. If you’re online and standing up right now – 5 bonus points.
Never have I ever:
- Decorated our house for halloween (lights, spider webs, ghosts) – Christmas only for my family
- Gone to a haunted house – if they gave you a Gospel presentation at the end, you get a free pass
- Used a Ouji board – those things still make me uncomfortable
- Watched horror movies – nope – I still haven’t
- Worn a costume to school
- Carved scary faces into pumpkins – we did a cross.
- Went trick or treating – nope – my mom just bought me a bag of candy
- Watched Care Bears – Evangelist came to our church and told all the parents about the black magic
I love designing games I’m guaranteed to win! But in all seriousness, this game shows we all have an awareness of some version of a spooky, invisible world we can’t see. But for most people, this unseen world is just fiction. It’s full of vampires and gremlins, ghosts, and rings that give you special powers.
So while the spirit world is portrayed all over, most people never consider it’s activity in our ACTUAL LIVES! What if there was an invisible world full of beings actively working against you? What if that was part of the source behind:
- Our addictions or our unhealthy thought life and temptations
- Our relational drama with others
- The racism, division, and injustice we see in our nation
What if there was more than meets the eye behind all these things? How might that change how we view these challenges, and more importantly, how we might go about trying to overcome them?
There is an Invisible World
Scripture is full of stories that show where an invisible world meets our physical world. One of my favorites is about Elisha, a great prophet in the Old Testament who was really getting under the skin of the king of Aram. So the king sent troops out to go capture Elisha. Lets pick up the story…
2 Kings 6:15–17 (NIV): When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” the servant asked.
“Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”
And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
I can’t imagine how the servant felt at that moment as the power and presence of God’s invisible army was shown to him.
But what some might dismiss as almost mythical stories of an ancient world aren’t found only in the old testament. We continue to see the working of an invisible world in the life of Jesus. And we’re not just talking about a spiritual realm when you die – of heaven and hell. But in daily living, the spirit realm was wreaking havoc on the physical realm.
The Gospel of Mark was the first record of Jesus written down, and the author didn’t waste any time talking about the impact this spiritual world was having. Let’s look at just the first chapter:
Mark 1:12–13 (NIV): At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan.
Mark 1:23–27 (NIV): Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”
“Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.
The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.”
Mark 1:32(NIV): That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed.
Mark 1:39 (NIV): So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.
Clearly, in Jesus time, everyone believed in the actual, day-to-day impact the invisible world was having on their lives. And it wasn’t just the religious who believed in this spiritual world. The book of Mark was written to the Romans, and they had no problem reading about all these encounters Jesus had with spiritual beings.
But for some reason, we feel like the time the Bible was written in was far enough back that they didn’t have the benefit of the enlightenment, no modern science, so they were confused and attributed natural situations to invisible and spiritual beings. As a result, while they THOUGHT there was an invisible world, we KNOW better.
And that’s an easy case for us Americans to make because it’s so infrequent that we encounter something unexplainable. But in 3rd world nations, from our African friends, and from missionaries around the world, we hear stories of witch doctors, of demon possession, of animals with glowing eyes that terrorize the villages.
Its as though in places who know the spirit realm exists, the powers of that realm are willing to be more active and direct in their opposition. But in places who feel we are too sophisticated to believe in such silly things (though we celebrate those very silly things each halloween), the invisible world works more subtly, satisfied that we never attribute any of their activity to them. It’s the exact situation CS Lewis describes in his fictional book about how the underworld might work, The Screwtape Letters. If you can drive addictions, anxiety, depression, division, and terror without anyone suspecting you are the one behind it, then why would you show up more directly?
We are Involved in an Invisible War
So if we accept what the Bible says about an invisible world, then you have to accept that we are now involved in an invisible war. The Unseen and the Seen are not existing in a peaceful existence – and any flip through the news makes that clear. If God created the world to be good, then there is something acting behind the scenes that drives all the evil we encounter. The apostle Paul states that as followers of Jesus, we are at odds with the dark forces of this unseen world:
Ephesians 6:11-12: …take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
The main point of this text which I think is especially important for us to notice today is who we are struggling against. Right now, it feels like we are opposed to one another. Republicans against Democrats, protestors against the police, black vs white, masks vs anti-maskers, parents against children, teachers against administrators, the list goes on and on and on. And we get so angry, and we don’t know what to do… so we go to Facebook and post memes. Or we speak badly of our enemy with others who feel the same way we do. Or we feel helpless and slide into depression.
And I think this text clearly shows, we’re in an invisible battle, but when we don’t recognize it, we fight the wrong forces. And we clearly fight with the wrong tools. Let’s take a look at what Paul says about how we should fight:
2 Corinthians 10:3–5 (NIV): For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
We have DIVINE POWER TO DEMOLISH STRONGHOLDS! Do you believe that? And what is that power? I can tell you one thing – its not power to post on social media. It’s power found in the ONE person who has already won this invisible war for us.
On the Cross, Jesus Made Victory Visible
Let’s turn to Colossians and see what I mean by that statement:
Colossians 2:13–15 (NIV): He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
You see, in our own strength, we were stuck. We owed a debt we could never pay and faced an enemy much more powerful than us. But that’s why God sent his son Jesus. Jesus first set us free from our debt, he took away all our condemnation. BUT THEN, he also went and defeated the enemy – the dark forces of Satan, the demons he was driving out his entire earthly life, and the powers of the unseen world were destroyed. And not only did he do that for all of us, but then he gave us his Spirit to live inside of us, so now as we go about our daily lives:
1 John 4:4 (NIV): You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.
So while we may feel like we are still in a battle, and life hasn’t become easy for us yet. We can have hope knowing that victory is guaranteed. We know that if we live our lives from within the power of God that has been made available to us, we are invincible.
How to Stand Firm in the Victory
And living a life of victory is more available to us that I think many of us may think. You see the Bible doesn’t give us a challenging assignment we all have to struggle through to beat these evil forces in our lives. No, our assignment is actually rather basic. We’re not called to go attack. Our attack is simply when we live out lives of light in our dark world. We are called to stand firm in our faith and not let our enemy put out our light.
We already looked at a passage from Ephesians 6:12, but now I want to quickly look at the verses around that one.
Ephesians 6:10–14 (NIV): Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power… 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then…
First, be strong. Not in your own maturity, in your own faith, but in GOD’S mighty power, using the tools of the Armor God provides like truth, righteousness, salvation, and the Word of God. And he ends then with a call again to simply stand firm. Keep doing what you’re doing.
But then, after telling us how to stand firm against the spiritual war raging against us, Paul gives specific instruction to the church – simply instructions we can all do, but I fear we do woefully too little – to PRAY.
Ephesians 6:18–19 (NIV): And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me…
Putting this All Together
So to summarize all these verses – we need to recognize the invisible world, and more than that, we need to accept that we are in a spiritual war with that world. And war changes people. Nobody goes to war and comes back the same person. NO – they come back changed. They recognize you can’t take the enemy lightly. And you can’t pretend the war isn’t going on and hope everything just works out.
Additionally, if we finally see our TRUE enemy clearly, then we can begin to fight with weapons that are actually effective. We can stop fighting in the ways of the world, posting to social media, complaining to our friends, and hoping that a vote will change everything. And instead we can get on our knees and pray. We can pray against our temptations. We can pray for our enemies. We can pray for our leaders and our nation.
Can you imagine what would happen if Christians across America replaced the time they spend watching the news and scrolling through social media with prayer? I think lives would be transformed. And while we can’t change how all Christians across this nation behave, we can choose to devote more of our own lives to prayer. We can step into this Spiritual Battle better prepared, with recognition of who our true enemy is. And we can stand firm. We can pray. We can watch as the God inside us overcomes the evil schemes of our enemy.
- What is the problem with going through life without recognizing the fact there is a spiritual battle all around?
- Where can you join God’s cosmic battle against spiritual darkness this week? What will you commit to pray regularly for?