(July 24, 2018) Dr Jim McClure, straight shooting theologian, brings another wake-up call…
Recently I watched Britain’s Got Talent. The act that won was of a ‘comedian’ whose whole routine was about his homosexuality. The judges thought it was hilarious! The audience stood and applauded! And the voting public declared him the winner! (In another performance a man demonstrated his ‘skill’ by removing his clothes in a provocative way.) The show was concluded by a female guest singer who sang about wanting to kiss girls.
Another popular singer, Ariana Grande, has a new sexually explicit song on the market called God is a Woman. Some of the lyrics are a mockery of Christianity, such as, ‘Baby, lay me down and let’s pray’, ‘So, baby, take my hand, save your soul’ and ‘And boy, if you confess, you might get blessed.’ In her music video of the song Ezekiel 25:17 is misquoted. And Grande is portrayed in a flesh-coloured body suit with multiple breasts at which men suckle.
Disrespect for spiritual beliefs and standards
Sadly in recent years we have seen a disintegration of social principles and disrespect for spiritual beliefs and standards that have established a sound foundation for many nations for hundreds of years –
- Solid Judeo-Christian values, which emphasise human dignity, are being inverted
- Unborn babies are being slaughtered by the millions
- Suicide is being promoted as an admired choice
- Gender is being redefined as multifaceted
- Christians are being reviled and, in a number of counties, oppressed and killed
- Islamic terrorists are cold-heartedly destroying anyone with whom they disagree
- The vocal and violent protests of radical left-wing agitators are seeking to subvert and destabilise society
- Atheistic philosophies which underlie most of today’s left-wing ‘political correctness’ are aggressively being promoted in all levels of society and especially through the media and educational institutions
I recognise that the above is a sad commentary on contemporary life – but should we be concerned? And what can we do about it? Shouldn’t we just keep our heads down, mind our own business and believe that things will turn our all right eventually?
Regrettably such views flow from indifference and there is nothing meritorious about indifference. Elie Wiesel, a Romanian-born Holocaust survivor, has written, ‘The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.’
How vitally important it is for Christians today to shrug off the cloak of indifference and begin to see what is really happening in our world!
So, what is really happening? It is easy to dismiss the disturbing trends in contemporary societies as a phase that they are going through and that, at some stage, they will pass through it. But the extent and consequences of the degeneration of values, the degrees of vileness and the displays of violence suggest something much more sinister.
Paul’s explicit warning
We need, therefore to be reminded of Paul’s advice to the Christians in Ephesus.
- In Ephesians 6:12 he wrote, ‘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’ (NIV).
- Or as J B Phillips translated it, ‘For our fight is not against any physical enemy: it is against organisations and powers that are spiritual. We are up against the unseen power that controls this dark world, and spiritual agents from the very headquarters of evil.’
This is still true! In a very secular world we tend not to give much consideration of, or even credibility to, the reality of malign spiritual forces that want to destroy us. It is much easier to think of our enemies as people whom we can see and witness the consequences of the vile moral standards they propagate. But our real enemy is not people, however offensive and hostile they may be.
Our real enemy is that from which the offensiveness and hostility originates! Paul identifies that enemy to be ‘the unseen power that controls this dark world, and spiritual agents from the very headquarters of evil.’
Let’s look a little more closely at this. The following is a kind of ABC of spiritual warfare.
1. Aware and Alert
Obviously in one article we cannot explore this subject in depth, but at least we as Christians need to know that spiritual warfare is a reality and not just a religious characterisation of a sense of evil.
One New Testament scholar has written about this verse: ‘We may not take Paul’s actual language literally; but our experience will tell us that there is an active power of evil in the world.’
My response to this statement is, ‘Why may we not take Paul’s language about spiritual warfare seriously?’ The active power of evil is a reality and its source is demonic! Paul explicitly states that in our world there are spiritual forces operating that are seeking to destroy us. This is not a fable but a sobering reality.
Yes there are personal forces contending against us – men and women who detest Christians and Christianity and everything it stands for. But they are not the originators of the hostility but the agents who carry it out…
- They are a confederacy of evil spiritual force which Paul describes as rulers, authorities, powers of this dark world and spiritual forces of evil.
- Those hostile forces oppose all that is good and all that is of God.
- They are an evil that conceals itself in corrupted intellectualism, distorted compassion, disguised falsehood, shameless immorality and militant atheism.
We need to be aware of this today. The passing of 2000 years since Paul wrote those words has not made them less relevant.
In the Old Testament we often read about watchmen. In those days watchtowers were built that overlooked the fields. From them men would watch over the animals and the growing crops and alert the community when thieves or any danger approached.
The watchman’s role was critical for the health, safety and security of the people. Watchmen were also stood guard on a city’s walls. Their role was simple yet critical – they were to be constantly aware of what was happening and to alert the citizens of approaching danger.
Watchmen had two responsibilities – to watch and to warn. When they saw approaching danger they sounded the alarm. The Old Testament prophets was sometimes described as watchmen. The prophet Ezekiel was twice told by God, ‘I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me.’
Whose have the responsibility to be watchmen today as the world is being attacked by ‘spiritual agents from the very headquarters of evil’? Primarily it is the responsibility of leaders in the church, but in reality it is the responsibility of all of us. .
- Jesus told us, ‘Be on guard! Be alert!’ (Matthew 13:33).
- Paul advises us to realise that because we have evil spiritual forces coming against us, we must ‘be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints’ (Ephesians 6:18).
- And Peter urges us, ‘Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour’ (1 Peter 5:8).
2. Bold and Balanced
The church in Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22) was composed of indifferent Christians! They thought everything was okay. They were comfortable and, as far as they were concerned, life was pretty good! Obviously they were quite indifferent to the growing persecution of Christians in other areas and not really bothered about the struggles of others.
But Christ’s assessment of them was quite different. He said to them, ‘You say, “I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.” But you do not realise that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked’ (Verse 17).
In these days Christians, instead of wimpishly caving in under their onslaught, need to demonstrate boldness in the face of ‘the spiritual forces of evil’ that both threaten and anaesthetise us! When Paul was in Philippi, he was opposed by a demon-possessed girl, attacked by the ‘businessmen’ who profited by the girl, experienced racist hostility, was unjustly convicted on fabricated charges by the magistrate, beaten with rods and then thrown into prison.
But he later wrote to the Christians in Thessalonica, ‘Though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the face of great opposition’ (1 Thessalonians 2:2).
Spiritual forces of evil are marching across the world generally and attacking Christians specifically; it is so vital, therefore, that if the church (that is, us) is to fulfil the mission Jesus gave us, we need to both acknowledge the source of the corruption that is present in the world and to embrace a boldness that enables us to remain true to our convictions and to stand firm against anything that is attempting to destroy God’s witness in the world.
But we must also be balanced in our understanding about these things. While we should acknowledge that there are spiritual forces of evil reaping much success in the world today, we must also have a balanced grasp of what the Bible actually says about those forces. Regarding spiritual warfare there are two opposite positions that are often taken –
(i) being apathetic and dismissive about the reality and activity of demonic spirits, and
(ii) being extremely concerned and obsessive about them. Some Christian writers and preachers have gone down paths of fantasy as they warn people about demonic spirits. And as such they do more harm than good!
One such writer in her latest book, Defeating Water Spirits, writes, ‘… few have heard of marine demons. Also called “water spirits,” these powers wreak havoc in places near bodies of water. From Python, to Leviathan, to Triton to Rahab and beyond, spiritual warriors are feeling the effects of water spirits but often don’t know how to combat these evil forces.’
Unfortunately there are many Christians who are titillated by such ramblings and form their theology of spiritual warfare from sources rather than from the scriptures. Unless we wisely use God’s word as the source of our knowledge about the spirit realm, we may as well use the old Scottish poem as its basis:
‘From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!’
3. Concerned and Committed
Yes, we should be concerned about the destructive influence of demonic warfare and the power that Satan wields. Three times in John’s gospel Jesus called Satan ‘the ruler of this world’ (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). By this Jesus meant that Satan’s power is so far-reaching that it is over all the earth. Satan does all he can to manipulate us! He…
- Affects our attitudes
- Warps our reasoning
- Makes us self-focused
- Corrupts our behaviour
- Perverts our morals
- Makes us materialistic
- Encourages our pride
- Makes us jealous and resentful
- Above all he does all he can to stop people finding, worshipping and serving God.
In 2 Corinthians 4:4 Paul describes Satan like this: ‘The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.’ And in Ephesians 2:2 Paul calls Satan ‘the ruler of the kingdom of the air,’ by which he means that Satan and his demons are around us persuading us to reject God and God’s influence and to ignore God’s good news.
So should we be concerned? Most decidedly so! If we are truly concerned we will also be truly committed. As Christians we have a responsibility!
Old warfare hymns are not often sung today, probably because they have been deemed to be not ‘politically correct’, hymns such as, Onward Christian Soldiers Marching on to War and Soldiers of Christ Arise and Put Your Armour On; and
‘Sound the battle cry! See, the foe is nigh;
Raise the standard high for the Lord;
Gird your armour on, stand firm every one;
Rest your cause upon his holy Word.
God calls us to be concerned for the world he loves and for whom Jesus died. The ultimate truth is that God will win – the cross and resurrection of Jesus confirmed that! Before he ascended Jesus called his disciples to committed service. He told them to go into all the world preaching and teaching all that he had committed to them. Before Christ returns there will souls to reach with the news of salvation and, with selfless service, there are many things that we can be doing to honour and serve the Lord.
Of course it is not going to be easy – Satan will make sure it will not be! But Paul’s words to the Christians in Corinth need to ring in our ears, ‘Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain’ (1 Corinthians 15:58).
And the bottom line is that Jesus is victorious over Satan. Christ’s reign has commenced and it will be consummated when the fullness of his triumph will be manifested in glorious power.
Dr Jim McClure, author of several books and Bible study series, welcomes questions from Christians seeking enlightenment on biblical perspectives.
Recommended is his enlightening Looking for Answers in a Confusing World, available in electronic version in EPUB, Kindle and PDF formats with hyperlinks and offered free. Link for orders and questions: firstname.lastname@example.org