Are You Armed For Spiritual Warfare?

ttSince it first hit the big screen, the Star Wars movie series has wowed audiences with its spectacular special effects. In that galaxy far, far away, the ageless struggle between good and evil rages on, built around the story of a good “knight” who is seduced over to the Dark Side. It makes for great entertainment, as it re-tells a story that is as old as man.

But here, closer to home, are we engaged in that same kind of struggle? Are we in a spiritual battle, a battle being waged for our very souls, in a realm beyond that which our senses can perceive?

Secularists, and sadly many modern “believers,” simply reject this view of reality. They insist that what can be perceived is all there is, as they place their “faith” in science to eventually explain away all mysteries. They don’t believe in simplistic notions like Hell, and if it exists at all, they view it as a destination reserved for the very few, for the worst of the unrepentant. Evil, in their view, is an amorphous, faceless force and not reflected in an identifiable “person.” In sum, they hold to a modern notion that they are basically “good” and that their goodness will, in the end, be recognized by any God that might happen to exist.

These modern views on good and evil may be comforting, but they find no support in the teachings of Jesus, in the Bible or in the traditions of the Church. These sources tell us that Satan, the original fallen angel who inhabits the real Dark Side, is a person, and that Hell is a real and horrible place. Jesus clearly viewed reality this way. He knew Satan to be an actual person, and spoke directly to him when He was tempted him in the desert. Jesus also interacted with lesser demons, which recognized Him as the Son of God and which spoke to Him. In Matthew 8:28-32, Jesus cast a group of such demons into a herd of swine. (See also Mark 9) Jesus also spoke often of Hell as a real and horrible place, likening it to the perpetual garbage fires in the region known as Gehenna. Jesus admonished us not to “fear those who deprive the body of life but cannot destroy the soul. Rather, fear him who can destroy both body and soul in Gehenna.” Matthew 10:28.

The Bible also teaches that Satan acts purposefully and has each of us in his sights. In fact, the Bible warns us to “stay sober and alert. Your opponent the devil is prowling like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8. It teaches that the battle we face here is not against human forces, as it may seem to us from the information provided by our senses, but against the “the principalities and powers, the rulers of this world of darkness, the evil spirits in regions above.” Ephesians 6:12. It tells us that salvation is not something we can earn through our own works or that we can merit through acts of goodness. The way to avoid condemnation is through belief in Christ, for “whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil.” John 3:1-19

What are we to make, then, of this battle for our souls? Is there a “force” we can appeal to for salvation? Or are we left to trust our feelings and to make it on our own? Many people today have lost their way on this question. They speak of being “spiritual” but not “religious.” They feel free to pick and choose what to believe and what not to believe, what to accept as true and what to discard as outdated. They rationalize their immoral behavior and then convince others to join in their rationalization, as if, by force of democratic vote, God’s moral law could be changed. This form of false spirituality is quite seductive, as it responds to the inner desire to know God without requiring the effort to actually learn about Him.

So, how do we find our way out of the Darkness? The answer lies in learning about the true nature of God, as He revealed Himself to us through Holy Scripture. It begins with the central truth that God the Son, the Word, became flesh and made his dwelling among us. John 1:14. Christ is the original light that shines on in darkness, a darkness that did not overcome it. John 1:5. By taking up His cross, and shedding his blood for us, He “cancelled the bond that stood against us with all its claims, snatching it up and nailing it to the cross. Thus did God disarm the principalities and powers. He made a public show of them and, leading them off captive, triumphed in the person of Christ.” Colossians 2:14.

Jesus told his followers that if they lived according to his teaching, they will know the truth and the truth will set them free. John 8:31-32. And therein lays the rest of the answer. If we are to engage in this great spiritual battle, we must first become informed of the true nature of things from God’s perspective. Paul, in his epistle to the Ephesians, explains how to begin. Using imagery that would be familiar to his audience (but unfortunately not to us), he urges them to arm themselves for the battle by putting on the “armor of God” so that they can “resist on the evil day.” He encourages them to “stand fast, with the truth as the belt around your waist, justice as your breastplate, and zeal to propagate the gospel of peace as your footgear. In all circumstances hold faith up before you as your shield: it will help you extinguish the fiery darts of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit, the word of God.” Ephesians 6:13-17. Similarly, in 1 Peter 5:9, we are told to resist the devil, “solid in your faith, realizing that the brotherhood of believers is undergoing the same sufferings throughout the world.” And again, in the Epistle of James, we are told to “resist the devil and he will take flight.” James 4:7.

So, there it is. The lion is stalking in the night, but the true Light can lead the way out of darkness. We need not seek out and attack Satan, but we must resist him. We do this by submitting to God’s will; by arming ourselves with truth; by leading honest and just lives; by not being ashamed of the Gospel but willing to proclaim it with zeal; by encouraging each other to grow stronger in the faith, and finally, and most importantly, by getting into and staying in God’s revealed word.

What’s stopping you from stepping into the light?\

Posted by Al Serrato

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