Sermon series: Questions Jesus Asked
Sermon series: Guarding Your Heart
Scriptures: Luke 10:18-24
In the promotional preview of the movie Lord of the Rings, three phrases flash across the screen: Fate has chosen him; The Fellowship will protect him; Evil will hunt him. These three statements describe some of the key principles of following Christ. We are called and chosen by God. He places us in a body of believers who fight for our success, and we have real enemy who is striving to destroy our lives. In this message, our focus is on the battle for the heart.
Dr. Adrian Rogers, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church and former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, described our battle in his book The Incredible Power of Kingdom Authority: Getting an Upper Hand on the Underworld.
"We may think our enemy is flesh and blood. But the true enemy is not the government or the Republicans or Democrats, your wife or your wife's family, or your boss. Your enemy is not the pornographer, the liquor baron, or the drug pusher. They are only victims of our common enemy. The reason that so many times we don't win the battle is that we never show up for the war! We are not wrestling against flesh and blood! The enemy is a spiritual foe, and the battle is a spiritual battle." (Adrian Rogers, The Incredible Power of Kingdom Authority, Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002, p. 3.)
1. See the adversary
It is time to show up for battle, and our battle strategy begins by recognizing our enemy. The Bible says that Jesus saw Satan fall from heaven (Luke 10:19). When Peter tried to convince Jesus to avoid going to Jerusalem where he would suffer for the sins of the world, Jesus rebuked Peter by saying, "Get behind me Satan." Jesus saw a greater force working behind the scenes, but very few Christians live like that. We are so consumed with what we can see and touch that we rarely consider the instruction of Paul who challenged the saints "to see the unseen" (2 Cor. 4:18). When we argue with our wife or struggle with a rebellious child, we must realize that an enemy is attacking our family.
Author John Eldredge identifies this volitional ignorance of the enemy as the most dangerous choice a believer can make.
"To live in ignorance of spiritual warfare is the most naïve and dangerous thing a person can do. It's like skipping through the worst part of town waving your wallet above your head. It's like walking into an al-Quaida training camp wearing an I Love the United States T-shirt. It's like swimming with sharks, dressed as a wounded sea lion smeared with blood." (John Eldredge, Waking the Dead: The Glory of a Heart Fully Alive, Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2003, p.152.)
Choosing to ignore the battle does not make the enemy go away. Refusing to fight is disobedience. It dishonors the call of God upon you life, and it endangers your family.
Satan is: a liar, thief, an accuser of the brethren, a murderer, a roaring lion that devours, a deceptive angel of light, the author of confusion, a false teacher, and an enemy of the cross. We are engaged in a cosmic battle. The church is not a cruise ship sailing for heaven. We are not invited to ride the gospel showboat that entertains the saints. We are called to serve on a battleship that destroys strongholds and delivers the gospel to those living in darkness.
2. Stand with authority
Jesus declared in verse nineteen, "Look, I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy." In God's original design, man was given authority or dominion over all creation, but man forfeited that authority because of sin. Now, through Jesus Christ the authority that God designed for His followers has been restored. We possess authority over Satan and the forces of evil.
We struggle with this doctrinal truth because we don't feel like we have authority. We also fail to recognize the difference between the authority and power. Satan is powerful. He is deceptive, persuasive, sinister, and strong. But, Jesus promised that we have authority over Satan. Just as a referee has authority in a football game to limit the activities of the players on the field, we can limit Satan's influence in our life. Referees are not more powerful than the players. Professional football players often exceed 300 pounds. Linebackers weighing 250 pounds run with the speed of a wide receiver and hit like freight trains. But, these monsters in helmets will stop and back up when the little man in the striped shirt blows a whistle or throws a yellow flag.
We should not try to compete with Satan according to strength. His legions of demons and spiritual forces are stronger than our flesh. Therefore, we do not wage war with weapons of the flesh but "through God for the demolition of strongholds" (2 Cor. 10:4).
3. Surrender your ability
A critical element of standing with authority is to surrender our ability. Jesus said the truth about spiritual authority has been hidden from wise men and revealed to infants (Luke 10:21). A child in the arms of God is mightier than the armies of world. Though weakness we experience our greatest strength. Paul wrote to the Corinthians that the weakness of God is stronger than the strength of men. When we are willing to surrender to God as a child does to a loving parent, we can access the power of God in our lives. I am convinced that this aspect of our faith is more difficult to grasp than seeing the unseen or applying authority. As proud Americans, we do not want to submit or surrender to anyone. We fail to see that we are not surrendering to the enemy but to a loving and strong God.
A Romanian Christian, Josef T'son made the following insightful observation about American Christianity. "The key word in American Christianity is commitment. When you make a commitment, you are in control, no matter how noble the thing you commit to. One can commit to pray, to study the Bible, to give money, or to lose weight. But, surrender is different. If someone holds a gun and asks you to lift your hands as a token of surrender, you don't tell that person what you are committed to. You simply surrender and do as you are told. Americans love commitment because they are still in control. But the key word of following Christ is surrender. We are called to be slaves of the Lord Jesus Christ." (Rogers, p. 3.)
Josef had suffered persecution in communist Romania. He had been imprisoned and beaten. He had watched loved ones murdered by the iron fist of Ceausescu one of the most brutal dictators in the history of the world. He also witnessed the defeat of Ceausescu by child-like faith. On the grey stone walls of the Hungarian Reformed Church hangs a plaque proclaiming in four languages, "Here began the revolution that felled a dictator." (Charles Colson, The Body, Dallas: Word Publishing, 1992, p. 51.) Romanian Christians did not have a military; they had a messiah. They did not have tanks; they had the truth. They did not have weapons; they had the Word. They did not have strength, but they had a Savior who promised His divine authority to those who believe. Josef learned the paradox of victory through surrender. We should learn it too!