Ephesians 6:10-12 “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the fall armor of God so that you can 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.”
Before you go to battle, it’s important to know whom you’re fighting. Just who is your enemy? People have a lot of ideas about that. Cancer patients fight a battle with their disease. Politicians fight battles over public policy. Divorcing parents fight custody battles. Entire communities are involved in the battle with crime. We find ourselves battling the effects of aging when we are old, or the hurt and pain of bullying when we are young. We struggle with our own bad habits.
Sometimes our battles become very personal, very individual. The enemy is one particular nemesis who makes my life miserable at work, at school, on the other side of my privacy fence, on the ball field, in the PTA, at city hall, at church, or even in the family.
Paul identifies our most dangerous enemy as the devil and his angels. He is not imaginary, as some believe. Several years ago one of our Supreme Court justices was asked in an interview if he believed in the devil, and he answered that he did. The reporter seemed surprised. One commentator later concluded, “We have a lunatic on the court.” That kind of denial of Satan’s existence is just the way the devil wants it.
It is part of his schemes. If he can’t convince you that he is stronger, kinder, more reasonable, and more fun than God, then he doesn’t want you to think he exists at all. He knows that denial of the his existence tends to go along with denial of belief that there is a God. Together that leads to denial that sin has eternal consequences, and a willingness to rethink what is right and what is wrong.
The devil has always been clever at playing both sides of an issue. He finds a way to make seemingly contradictory beliefs or behaviors serve his purposes. If he can’t get you to indulge your sinful desires, he will fill you with pride about how superior you are. If he can’t fill you with pride and blind you to your sin, then he will drive you to despair that God could ever be gracious to you. If he can’t drive you to despair of God’s grace, he will lead you to see God’s grace as a kind of license to sin all you want. He makes you think sin isn’t so bad if God can forgive it so easily. If he can’t get you to take grace as a license, then he will convince you that grace has all kinds of conditions and stipulations attached to it, so that it ends up being no real grace at all. It’s like a game of chess, and the devil has a way to counter your every move. He is always thinking at least three or four moves ahead.
Except that this is no game at all. It is a fight for your eternal soul. Look again at what Paul calls your spiritual enemies: rulers, authorities, powers of this dark world, spiritual forces of evil. These aren’t ghosts that jump out and say, “Boo!” There is real power and influence here. They create genuine misery–suffering, shame, fear, doubt, and unbelief. In Daniel 10 one of them was able to delay one of God’s good angels from delivering a message for three weeks until the Lord finally sent the archangel Michael to intervene. If that scares you a little bit, good! Far too many people fail to take the devil and his angels seriously.
Of course, in Christ we have the victory, but only in Christ. “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven,” Jesus once told the Twelve (Luke 10). Jesus shared our humanity “so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is the devil…” (Hebrews 2). In the end Jesus will return “and the devil, who deceived them, (will be) thrown into the lake of burning sulfur” (Revelation 20).
If you and I are going to be strong for our battle, we need to know our true enemy. Trust Jesus, who has already defeated him. But don’t underestimate the power of the enemy, who still desires your soul.