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"Discerning the Times in the Light of the Word"

This excerpt is from chapter two of the book
Disarming the Powers of Darkness
by Eric Barger and David Benoit.

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The Ground Rules for Warfare -
Knowing Your Enemy & Knowing Who You Are

And you hath he [Jesus] quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.

—Ephesians 2:1–2

And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

—Revelation 12:9

Scouting the Opposition

Satan. Lucifer. The Devil. The Prince of Darkness. The Evil One. Beelzebub. No matter with which name he is referred, he is the enemy of mankind. He is our foe in this, the most important of all wars—the one for the soul. If indeed he is the enemy, then there in fact must be a conflict. If there is a conflict, then there must be a prize at stake. And if that prize is truly worth fighting for, there should be some guidelines so as to win the conflict. That is why our ministries exist. It’s also the reason for this book—so you and your family can be victorious in Spiritual Warfare!

Mad . . . Who You?

As we travel each week, presenting seminars and preaching in local churches, conferences, and Christian schools, invariably we discuss the Devil and his work. Occasionally this receives the same kind of negative reaction that our mention of Spiritual Warfare does. You would think that as we go to Bible-believing churches across America and mention the defeat of Satan and his powers, that everybody in the church would shout, “Amen,” “Hallelujah,” “Praise the Lord.” But that is not always the case. Instead, when the Devil is mentioned, some people roll their eyes in disgust. Others almost yawn, seeming to question the validity of the subject. But to many folks, any mention of Satan simply makes them angry and they may not even know why. Not somewhat uncomfortable, but just plain mad! Now, why is that? Perhaps our personal, individual look at Spiritual Warfare should begin by answering this.

Granted, we do our best to be straight shooters. In itself, that may put some folks on the defensive. You can’t sit and listen to either of the authors teach and then get up, walk out and say, “Well, I wonder what he really believes?” There is no mistaking where we are coming from—of this, we are certain! We let you know what we stand for when we teach “live and in person” just as we will in these pages. Perhaps it is the fact that neither of us is interested in mincing words or preaching just to be well liked. There is a world of lost souls out there dying and going into eternity without Jesus and the way we see it, every church person should evaluate what “kingdom” and which “lord” he serves. After all, the battle lines have been drawn; there are two worlds in total conflict and you CANNOT live successfully in both! We also know that some folks want to hear what makes them feel good and would just rather Barger and Benoit leave that “devil stuff” alone. By the time Sunday rolls around each week, many church folks feel beaten down by the pressures of life and just want something to soothe their fragmented beings. After all, haven’t we heard, it’s a new millennium and all that negative stuff about demonic powers—especially here in America—is just soooooo outdated, isn’t it? But rather than please the crowd, we’re like the U.S. Marines . . . just looking for a few good men and women who want to take back territory that’s been lost to the kingdom of darkness! If there is indeed a way to grasp some spiritual power and victory and to live successfully Monday through Saturday, wouldn’t that alleviate a lot of the stress we drag to church every Sunday hoping to get rid of? YES! So, if you are one of those folks who cringes when you hear the mention of topics such as sin, Satan, demons, hell, or judgment, then perhaps you need to engage in some honest soul searching before going any further. It could make the difference in your life and the lives of others whom God wants you to touch.

The World, the Flesh and the Devil

The reason some folks are uncomfortable listening to teaching that exposes Satan, his lies, and his works, is probably rooted in one of these three areas. Once we identify and discuss these three venues that the Devil commonly operates in, it should help us understand which areas need our attention.

First, the world’s system scoffs at the reality of a real creature named Satan. It is understandable that those living outside the walls of the Christian faith would only talk of the Devil in jest or use his image as a character to be portrayed at Halloween. While the world would naturally skew any reference to the Devil, one would think that the church would have a more accurate concept.  However, with the encroachment of modernism (liberalism) in the church over the past century, we find many people—even in good Bible believing churches —who hold to extrabiblical ideas about Lucifer. In reality, Satan is as real today as when Jesus battled with him in the fourth chapter of John. He is a tangible, finite being with a very real, finite army. He is focused on his objective and is formidable as a foe—no matter what those in the world may say or believe. So, it would seem that the world’s view of the Devil has infiltrated our Christian view, watering down reality—a great strategy for Satan to employ, no doubt. Tragically, in the view of many in the church, Satan has been reduced to a myth, and the prevalence of demonic powers only something that the residents of some distant land need be concerned with.

Our flesh has a natural aversion to accepting the reality of a “devil.” In fact, we see no way for our humanity to reason out and accept the existence of the supernatural world without the Spirit of God or the forces of hell intervening. Our humanity struggles with comprehending the unseen world, its inhabitants, and the battle for our souls. When it comes to sickness, destruction, poverty, and all of the evil actions of men, most people see only the effects and would deny the cause is rooted in the kingdom of darkness. With our worldly senses in such control, many wrestle with the reality of a spirit world existing at all. For if something can’t be touched, tasted, smelled, or experienced by our flesh in some way, then it may just be fantasy and certainly has no basis for concern. Yet, many millions have overcome this through examining the evidence of who Jesus Christ said He was and what history bears out that He did. That is, the supernatural God of the universe came to earth as a man, died, and rose from the grave to pay for our unrighteousness and now calls us to be His own. Praise the Lord!

Yet, there is another side to overcoming our flesh and its resistance to the reality of a spiritual side. In a day when millions have adopted New Age and occult philosophies and practices, there is an exploding interest in the supernatural, its powers, and its beings. However, those seeking experiences outside the pages of the Bible almost universally deny that any evil beings exist. A trip into the New Age, spiritism, or psychic power is just another way to tap the “goodness” of the spirit realm which is continually advertised by its seekers as benign and void of harmful inhabitants. Bible believers caution that “Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light” (II Corinthians 11:14), but New Age followers have fallen into the trap. They believe primarily in the powerful and seductive experiences Satan offers, not realizing their blissful acceptance will someday turn tragic. Still others have grasped the reality of Satan’s powers and have willingly enslaved themselves to his bondage. Regardless, it is certain that the spirit world is not a “fantasy land” and that more than just a possibility of serious consequence exists if we choose the wrong path into the supernatural.

If it weren’t already enough that the world system constantly pressures us, mocking the Bible we follow, and its presentation about Satan; and that our flesh must continually deal with living in the natural world, there is yet another aspect. Satan himself wants us to be deceived about his existence, identity, and goals. That is that he, his demons, and the fallen angels are a factual reality and that their driving goal is to steal, kill, and destroy! (John 10:10)

Humans, as we’ve pointed out before, even—yes, even Christians—are under continual bombardment from the spirit world. Our minds can be fertile play fields for the powers of darkness. Even the praying Christian, who is hiding God’s Word in his heart regularly, can be subject to the injection of ideas, confusion, fear, and a host of other thoughts that did not come from God nor from their own memory banks. Satan’s fiery darts can inflict and influence the believer if he allows it. We know that some will reject this notion; however, the proof is in the pudding as countless Christians attest to this reality and many more exhibit lives disrupted from the encroachment of demonic power. In fact, the battles we face and the attacks we endure can be viewed as the very basis of personal proof that we are indeed in a Spiritual War. How odd though that anyone could deny that something evil is at work apart from the fallen nature of mankind when the evidence of such a war permeates our surroundings each and every day through murder, hatred, strife, and death.

James, Peter, Matthew, Mark, John, and Jude all elude to the spiritual battle as they write, but no man used by God to author the New Testament details Spiritual Warfare as frequently as Paul. The apostle Paul knew what it was like to have his peers turn against him for what he believed. He experienced the heartbreak of having his message rejected and his life threatened. Moreover, he knew personally about Satan’s attempts to disrupt his preaching, evangelism, travels, and personal life. In these two passages we see the work of Satan reflected as he fights Paul. From these Scriptures alone it seems impossible for anyone to claim the title of “Christian” and yet deny the authenticity of Spiritual Warfare, let alone the existence of Satan himself.

Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us.

—I Thessalonians 2:18

And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.

—II Corinthians 12:7

Satan Ignored . . .

There are church members, some who have been in church all of their lives no less, who believe that we simply shouldn’t discuss the Devil. It is thought better to just leave him alone. Others believe that he’s no big deal and a waste of breath and time. Perhaps some who have bought  into these and other non-biblical views have just never been educated about what Scripture says or perhaps, they just don’t want to know.

Within months after being saved, through the diligence of a Christian marriage counselor, Eric had recognized that there was surely a spiritual war going on. Having come from a background as a secular musician and record producer who was addicted to drugs and straight out of the New Age Movement, he became acutely aware of the conflict in the spiritual realm. Attending a church in their neighborhood in Seattle, the Bargers came face to face with apathetic, liberal Christianity. Each Sunday the pastor would ask if anything good had happened to anyone that week. It was what most of us would refer to today as a time of testimony. By this point in his walk with God, Eric was feeling the call of God to ministry and had grown in boldness. It was evident to him that many of the folks surrounding him in the pews each Sunday had never had the same kind of life changing experience with Jesus Christ that he had. With this in mind and to the chagrin of those seated near him, his hand immediately raised nearly every time the pastor called for testimonies. One Sunday Eric stood and exclaimed how blessed he and Melanie were that God had delivered them from the kingdom of darkness, broken Satan’s grip, and made them a part of the family of God. The “amens” were few that day. After church one of the elders of the church approached Eric in the foyer. He commented, “Eric, I don’t know why you talk about the Devil so much. He never affects me.” Perhaps if he had known then just a portion of what he understands now, Eric would have said, “Well sir, that’s because you are no threat to his kingdom!”

Satan Empowered . . .

Conversely, many in the church today lend too much attention to and ascribe far too much power to Satan. This is just as unhealthy as trying to ignore him. To hear some folks tell it, he is nearly given equal status with our Lord and certainly, we are no match for him. Some believe that if they talk about the Devil, he’s going to get them. They see that coming into conflict with him is like spreading honey on hot tin—it’s going to attract flies—and they just don’t want to deal with it. Perhaps they are right about confrontation attracting attention. It’s true that those who decide to do what is right and follow the leading of Scripture may endure some attacks, but that’s just part of living the Christian life. However, since when does the Devil abide by any sort of Geneva Convention anyway? Warfare is a fact of life and everyone—EVERYONE—is either winning or losing. Those who think they can be “conscientious objectors” in Spiritual Warfare have really abdicated their potential victory! No one has ever correctly stated that living the Christian life was going to be stress and pain free or simple and easy. Scripture never teaches that. Also, the Word doesn’t say “ignore the Devil and he’ll ignore you.” No, the Bible instructs us to take a stand; resist the Devil, his workers, and his power, and then watch as God runs him out of town (James 4:7b)! What a great assurance we have—IF we’ll just follow the Word!

Playing Into the Devil’s Hands . . .

There is another sobering factor besides ignoring Satan or fearing him. It is ignorance. Ignorance to the spirit realm, its inhabitants, their activities, their abilities, and Spiritual Warfare in general, is without doubt, one of Satan’s best tools leading to the breakdown of righteousness and powerful Christian living. It has also aided the encroachment of liberalism within Christian ranks over the last century in particular.

Clearly, the Bible states that there will be some among us who are merely along for the ride. These “Christians,” using the term very loosely, accept and enjoy the nice and pleasant things about Christianity, but when it comes to the stuff of Spiritual Warfare, the Devil and obedience to the Word of God—that’s another story. It was these folks that Jesus was referring to when He said, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). To these uninformed and mostly unsaved folks, Christianity is viewed primarily as a social club, and the church building as a gathering place to just make an appearance on Sunday. Instead, the reality should be that Christians are an army, engaged in a war, and that the church is a training ground to help equip the soldiers as well as a hospital to bind up those wounded in the conflict.

Who’s Afraid of the Devil?

Contrary to the belief of many, there is not one verse in the Bible that tells the Christian to fear the Devil. We are on the winning side! First Peter 1:5 points out that because we have faith in the Lord we are shielded by the power of God from Satan’s wrath. Otherwise, we would surely meet destruction at the hands of the Evil One. How wonderful to know that those covered in Christ’s precious blood are “more than conquerors through him that loved us” (Romans 8:17)! Victors in Christ! Yes, soldiers on the winning side!

Instead of nervously trembling in fear of the Devil, the Bible says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7). Now understand, this does not mean that God’s people should fear Him as a child fears a cruel or abusive parent. Though God is a righteous God and will judge the living and the dead, He is also the God of love who desires the very best for His own. In fact, the Hebrew word translated “fear” in Proverbs 1:7 is yirah which means “reverence.” We should hold an awesome, loving, holy reverence for the Lord, and yes, if our lives are consumed with sin and strife, we should fear Him.

Satan often operates from the position of our ignorance. As a matter of course he is also freed to varying extents if we choose to be disobedient in following God’s Word and allow sin to gain a foothold in our lives and homes. With that in mind, it stands to reason that if the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge and wisdom, then the fear of the Devil must be the beginning of ignorance. For the believer, showing ignorance by fearing Satan surely furthers his mission to rival God. It is that simple! We need to have a healthy fear toward God—NOT the Devil. So, ask yourself, “Who do I fearfully enthrone in my heart?”

Every time an angel of the Lord appeared to men, the Bible tells us that the first thing they always said was, “Fear not. Don’t be afraid of me. Fear the Almighty God.” We see this truth repeated all through Scripture. But fear was the first emotion that Satan used to turn the heart of man away from God. Remember in the Garden, Adam said, “I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid . . .” (Genesis 3:10). The Bible tells us to fear God, not to fear the Devil. Nevertheless, Satan’s manipulation of fear continues to this day.

It is a natural human reaction to be pensive or fearful of the unknown. Though explorers see the unknown as a horizon to be crossed or a new vista to be charted, this “spirit” is not the norm. History proves how rare this breed of man or woman really is. In this life, most of us become set in our ways and often try to work around excursions into uncharted waters. It is this human trait that Satan often capitalizes on as he methodically plans his attacks on our lives and homes. He is counting on people being fearful through their own ignorance of him!

We would simply rather not deal with the unknown, at least most of us, most of the time. This flaw in human nature leads us to shy away from learning about or dealing with whatever it is we don’t understand. Satan LOVES to see Christians operate in ignorance because he KNOWS that biblically literate believers, empowered by the cross and led by God’s Word, are going to be a formidable foe to him. But those walking in ignorance are no match for his deceptions. In fact, he knows that believers, lacking understanding and training in God’s army, are sitting ducks, prey for his minions to taunt and to bind! The Devil must also be particularly fond of those Christians who consciously refuse to resist him.

Speaking of believers, the Bible says, “. . . for we are not ignorant of his [Satan’s] devices” (II Corinthians 2:11b). The immediate reaction by some is, “I’m not stupid. I know what’s going on,” but the Bible never calls us stupid. The Word of God warns the saints about being unknowledgeable of the workings of the enemy. That is ignorance, not stupidity, and there is a difference.

But Satan Can’t Hurt Me . . .

Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.

—II Corinthians 2:11

The first part of II Corinthians 2:11 points out the very real possibility that the lives of believers can be interrupted by the powers of darkness. This idea runs contrary to much preaching we hear today. The line being proclaimed in many circles is, “Just be a good Christian and you’ll have nothing to worry about.” Oh, if it were really that simple!

Now, without getting into the age-old theological argument of whether a Christian can actually be possessed by a demon or not, it should be obvious from this passage alone, that indeed, we and our homes can be affected by demonic intruders. “Lest Satan should get an advantage of us”! Sadly, many choose ignorance in the arena of Spiritual Warfare. The costs of this unwise decision are lives, families, and churches in spiritual disarray and defeat.

When ministering on this in his seminars, David uses the analogy that ignorance is driving thirty-five miles an hour in a twenty-five mile an hour zone, and not knowing what the speed limit is. When the police officer pulls you over, the first thing he says is, “Do you know how fast you were going?” When you answer, “Well, I didn’t know the speed limit here,” does the officer say, “I’m sorry. There was a sign just back down the road. I thought everyone saw it. You are probably in a hurry. I’ll just let you go”? Is that how they do it? No. You are responsible to know the law. That’s ignorance.

Stupidity, on the other hand, is knowing that the speed limit is twenty-five miles an hour, and doing thirty-five miles an hour, while waving at the police officer as you pass him! That’s stupidity.

More Than Ignorance . . .

We wonder just how many Christians are at least uneasy with a discussion like this. As we’ve pointed out, a common conception is to “leave well enough alone.” But a good soldier involved in a good fight just can’t leave his adversary alone. Especially when that soldier understands the ultimate importance of his mission, to both himself and to those he has been given charge over. Therefore, perhaps understanding is the key breakdown in attaining victory in the battle.

Hosea 4:6 states: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.” Let that sink in deep!

How often we have heard this passage recited and preached upon, yet in its words lie perhaps the keys to this discussion.

* We don’t understand what God has clearly outlined in Scripture.

* We even go out of our way to avoid finding it, rejecting His call to get wisdom and understanding (Proverbs 2:2).

* Then we wonder why our priestly authority seems powerless and we dismay at how easily our children go out to follow other gods.

There can be no doubt that one of the root causes to the anemic level of victory for many in the church today is a direct result of ignorance about the constant spiritual barrage being waged against us. We desperately need to bone up in this area! Congregations find themselves ineffective in their witness and walk for Christ, while families are splintered and often in tragic disarray as they face the enemy without a knowledge of Spiritual Warfare. Perhaps many who have been beaten down by the adversary’s attacks have merely opted to accept a level of spiritual victory far below what they are entitled to as believers. Otherwise perfectly capable of attaining victory, these saints are living short of it—all because of their lack of knowledge. This ignorance breeds fear about the tools and methods of the enemy and skews a proper biblical view of the arena of Spiritual Warfare. The result: Satan wins. Just imagine where you, your family, and your church would be if everyone involved would grasp the power of God’s Word, act on it, and reach for the higher ground in our experience with God? Talk about joy unspeakable and full of glory!

He’s Gonna Get Ya!

As we have stated, the Bible tells us not to be ignorant of Satan’s devices. Yet occasionally people unwittingly warn us against carrying out the ministry’s we have of exposing the Devil and his schemes. They do so out of fear, supposing that the Devil is really going to get anyone that meddles in his affairs. It is a misconception to believe that the Devil hates you more or is out to get you any more than he previously was just because of what you do. He is out to destroy anyone and everyone possible. Thought he may temporarily increase the intensity of an attack on a person we need to keep in mind that the Devil instinctively hates people because of who we are—human beings in God’s creation—not what we do. Blinded, ineffective, frightened, and unaware humans make it so easy for Satan to accomplish his purposes. Fearing demonic retaliation in reciprocation for any righteous action we take is the pinnacle of Satan’s intimidation at work. It’s kind of like the Mafia wanting protection payments from you, although they know that they’ve run out of bullets and can only operate on the fearful perceptions that people have of them. To be intimidated by his power because we don’t understand it is exactly what Satan wants! To walk in the power, purpose and knowledge of the Holy Spirit, while understanding the limitations of the enemy is exactly what God wants for us! You will make the decision which way you and your family will go.

Who We AreAmbassadors!

Perhaps the most lethal information a Christian can possess is the sure understanding of exactly who he is in Jesus Christ. Though the definition of our position in Him could be the subject of an entire book, it is powerfully and simply illustrated in the passage below.

Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

—II Corinthians 5:20–21

Here Paul makes a fervent appeal to the Corinthians to fall on the mercy of God and realize the great salvation available to them through Christ’s atonement. In doing so he refers to himself and other accompanying him as “ambassadors.” This speaks to those who are mature in Christ having left the “milk” or infancy of the faith and who now enjoy the “meat” of a rich, deep relationship with God.

The actual word “ambassadors” used here comes from the Greek word Presbuteros which is where the word “presbytery” originates. It is interchangeable in the New Testament with the words “elder”, “bishop”, and “overseer.” But what catches our eye is the proclamation here that Paul and others are entitled “ambassadors.”

Noted English Bible scholar and eighteenth century pastor, Dr. John Gill commentated: “Since God has made reconciliation by Christ, and the ministry of it is committed to us, we are ambassadors for him; we come with full powers from him...” Indeed, full powers, Praise the Lord!

Webster’s Dictionary states:

Ambassador, Embassador

Am*bas”sa*dor (#), Em*bas”sa*dor (#), n.

1. A minister of the highest rank sent to a foreign court to represent there his sovereign or country.
2. An official messenger and representative.

When, for example, the President of the United States appoints an ambassador to Canada, he bestows upon said ambassador the weight and responsibility to act on behalf of the United States and its affairs inside the country of Canada. The only occasion in which the ambassador relinquishes his absolute, yet controlled powers would be when the President himself comes and sets his foot on Canadian soil. The same is true of Christians. According to Scripture we are ambassadors of the Kingdom of God. Until our commander and chief comes and sets His foot here on earth, He has left us the instructions on how to carry out His wishes as we walk in complete ambassadorship. It is ultimate authority as we operate on behalf of the Kingdom of God and come in Jesus’ name!

So, if indeed we are His ambassadors, our mission must be first and foremost to clearly present the unabashed Gospel to a lost and dying world. But right along side of carrying out the “Great Commission” (Matthew 28:19-20), we need to understand that since Jesus came to destroy the powers of darkness (I John 3:16), we must carry on the enforcement of His triumph with great confidence and vigor while taking direct aim against the Devil’s kingdom.

Who We Are—Conquerors!

This leads us from being ambassadors, endowed with every authority of His throne, to our position as conquerors over sin, hell and the grave!

Paul admonishes the Romans to realize their position in Christ when he states: “...we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” (Romans 8:37b)

Jesus instructs us here about the authority bestowed upon the believer.

Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.

Luke 10:19

It is clear isn’t it? We are more than conquerors, aren’t we? Either we are and Jesus was right; or we aren’t and He wasn’t. Can there be any middle ground? No! Jesus surely didn’t come and give His life so we could proclaim that we’re “kinda” conquerors some of the time! The reality we need to start living in is that we are more than conquerors all of the time—even when times are tough and the going is hard. When the church realizes its position, authority and role in Him and takes seriously the call to disarm the powers of darkness, we’ll then move in the realm in which He ordained us to operate.

Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.

—Colossians 2:15

Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.

—Colossians 1:12–14

What a joy in knowing that no matter where we’ve come from or how low our lives may have once been, as Christians we’re now Conquering Ambassadors for the Kingdom of God!

All rights reserved. Copyright 2002, Eric Barger and David Benoit

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