Many people derive meaning for their temporary sufferings by imagining scenes from an angelic Marvel-type movie. These fantasy ideas include a character arc where massive demonic angels are waging battles in the cosmos over their frustrations, finances, relationships, depressions, and/or any obstacle that stands in their way to the abundant life of Jesus.
Christians are notorious for creating personal dramas, sharing them with intensity and spiking the emotions in their friends about the conflicts that are spinning in their lives. There is something uniquely powerful about arousing interests, anger, justice, sadness and loss in the emotional experiencing of our friends.
We love the power of story, the conflict, the contrasting characters, and the vivid pictures within our imaginations. When we take our own frustrating story, in our present moments, and show conflict, colorfully presenting the struggles, identifying the human and angelic characters within the story, and show how it all is important to the struggle, we feel this special hot-wiring and emotional connection to those we are sharing with.
Our imaginations are sparked by stories in the Bible like when Elisha’s servant miraculously sees armaments of divine angels on the hillside surrounding them (2 Kings 6:17-20). Or when Daniel fasted for 21 days until the angel Michael appeared in a vision with news of the angel Gabriel battling against demonic warrior over the nations (Daniel 10).
However, is this really the idea we are supposed to come away with when we imagine spiritual warfare as a New Testament Christian?
Back to our dramatic story telling, when we are in the challenges of life, trying to make sense of our present sufferings, are we to hyper-spiritualize the answer is to deal with demonic angels and pray till the divine angels put the bad guys in their place?
Many have assumed so. This is why we over-use religious verbiage like…
“Ya’ll fire up the prayer chain. The devil must be mad at me right now.”
“Our car broke down. I’m under demonic attack.”
“I’m being especially tempted and emotionally spun up. Take authority over the devil so I can be free.”
These and about a thousand variations of the statements continue to frame the devil up as having external warriors that are wreaking havoc, interrupting the flow of blessing in my life and invading my physical world to bring me pain. This is the picture of spiritual warfare for most religious people.
However, again, are these scenes really the accurate picture we should get when talking about spiritual warfare? What if spiritual warfare as the New Testament writers framed it isn’t about an external battle between demonic angels and divine angels, but it is about an internal battle, a battle within our minds, tempting us to let go of Redemption and the faith that activates the changes in our circumstances?
For those who are purists around the idea spiritual warfare being the Elisha’s servant and Daniel versions of scenarios, let me offer you this: A healthy scriptural overview does show that angels are invisibly involved in our physical experiences. When we pray and intercede for others, there are limited areas of authority we can execute in prayer. Yet, when we are dealing with challenges in our own lives, the focus completely moves from the external strategies of demon-management, and moves into the war taking place in our individual minds.
Five times in the New Testament the words “war” or “warfare” are used.
2 CORINTHIANS 10:3-5…we do not WAR after the flesh: …(…pulling down STRONGHOLDS;)Casting down IMAGINATIONS…
1 TIMOTHY 1:18-19 …according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good WARFARE, 19 having FAITH and a good CONSCIENCE…
2 TIMOTHY 2:4 No one engaged in WARFARE ENTANGLES HIMSELF with the affairs of [this] life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.
JAMES 4:1 Where do WARS and fights [come] from among you? Do [they] not [come] from your [desires for] pleasure that WAR IN YOUR MEMBERS?
1 PETER 2:11 Beloved, …abstain from FLESHLY LUSTS which WAR against the SOUL…
In all five mentions of war and warfare, the writers are talking about the war in our minds, not a management of war between demons and divine angels. After thirty-five years of spiritual leadership as a pastor/minister, I have witnessed so many people trying to control the war outside in their circumstances, while they are completely disengaged with the war in their minds.
The words “war” and “warfare” from the Greek language, the original language our English text is translated from here, is a word that means strategies. The war, or strategies, the enemy is working against us in our minds. The strategies are not out in the cosmos somewhere between demonic angels and divine angels.
When most people talk about their struggles, they offer multiple line-item examples of one circumstantial challenge after another. The focus is squarely on the external, or the circumstances in their lives. Rarely do you hear someone in the struggles of life talk about the way the enemy is sucking them into aroused mental drama, emotional dysregulation or that he is inflaming their thoughts with fear and unbelief. Rarely do you find someone ready to be accountable for their own thought, emotion, belief, and attitude management.
If we are focused on some grand fantasy out in the cosmos - while the devil is intently focused on our thoughts, emotions, beliefs and attitudes - we will surely be defeated in all areas of life. While the devil and his warriors may be active in the invisible realm, even influencing circumstantial issues, our focus to disarm and disable the enemy is with how we manage our mind in relationship to Christ’s Redemptive work.
In this context, Christians should know, the devil doesn’t create drama in their lives; he just creates the illusions of life falling apart. The Christian takes over from there to create their own rollercoaster drama.
Yes. You create drama, not the devil. The devil doesn’t have the capacity to control your mind. Only you have the key to guard the door of your thoughts, emotions, beliefs, attitudes and ultimately the manner of life you live out.
Even the Old Testament writers would exhort…
PROVERBS 4:23 NIV Above all else, GUARD your HEART, for EVERYTHING you do flows from it.
The devil doesn’t have any power over the Christian but what we give him. We abdicate power through how we manage our thoughts, emotions, beliefs, and attitudes. Throughout Scripture, the writers are exposing the devil’s threatening activity in our lives. Here are three such examples:
“…STAND AGAINST the WILES of the DEVIL.” [EPHESIANS 6:11]
The word for “wiles” is the Greek word methodeia. Methodeia comes from two root words. Meta which means “with” and odos which means “road”. Put the two words together and you have within the road. Methodeia, or “within the road”, was the original way of talking about a designed path, or direction, or purpose. Later it became the word that we know today as methods. It speaks to the devil’s designed systems and strategies to disrupt our thoughts and emotions.
“…we are not IGNORANT of SATAN’S DEVICES.” [2 CORINTHIANS 2:11]
The word for “devices” is the Greek word noema, which means mind. It is understood to expand into schemes, patterns and designs in the mind. Again, this word emphasizes the mind and disruptions of the mind.
“…called the DEVIL and SATAN, who DECEIVES the whole world.” [REVELATION 12:9]
The word “deceives” is the Greek word planao, meaning straying thoughts. Deception is simply a false perception. The enemy wants to spike our roaming thoughts and inspire delusional images to defeat us.
In all three of the references above we are dealing with our competence with mind management.
How does the devil strategically employ methods against our minds to take advantage of us?
Through beliefs about God that are untrue.
Via thoughts about the Self that compel harsh mental disintegration.
By thoughts about personal security that imagine worst case scenarios.
In emotions about relationships that threaten belonging.
From coaching our attitudes of self-survival and control as the tools for success.
The first step to victory over the enemy is to know without any uncertainty where he is accessing influence upon your thoughts, emotions, beliefs and attitudes. While many are desperately praying, hoping that the Marvel-type angels win the battle out in the cosmos, you are sure that the battle is won in the mind, by establishing what you will think and believe on what Christ did for you in Redemption.
By standing in Redemption, holding your mind to the truth of God’s Word, you are disarming and disrupting all methods of the enemy. He has no power over you but what you give him in your beliefs.
1 PETER 1:13 NKJVTherefore GIRD UP [BIND WITH A BELT + ALL] the LOINS of your MIND, BE SOBER, and REST [YOUR] HOPE fully upon the GRACE that is to be brought to you at the REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST;
To “gird up” the mind means to bind it up with a belt. The Greek word it is derived from speaks to “all” of your mind, not just one category of life. The belt speaks to restraint, thought management and emotional attunement.
Peter continues in the text speaking of the “loins” of the mind. Loins are a reference to procreation. The mind has the ability to be malleable, changeable and orchestrated by you. You can move your thoughts in directions, spawning emotions and beliefs to land and evolve where you want them to.
When we take our thoughts captive, imagining what God has said about us, our emotions begin to light up in congruence with our intentional thoughts. Over time these thoughts and emotions turn into intuitive beliefs and finally attitudes. Once we have developed attitudes, we are autonomically compelled to live out what used to only be a small thought.
Another take away in the text is that all of our mental hopes, imaginations of our futures rest in the grace and revelation of Christ. When we are decisively anchored in Redemption - the work of Christ in His death, burial and resurrection – our thoughts then are bound with the belt that restrains our wanderings into every possible negative outcome in life.
We are the custodian, the steward and the engineer of our thoughts, emotions, beliefs, and attitudes. We are responsible for what we allow to be continually thought about. We can’t keep thoughts from coming, but we can reorganize our mental diets, meditations and relational fuses to compel our thoughts into formations of Redemption.
Begin winning in the spiritual war by knowing what the war actually is. At Red Ink Revival, our goal is to help you manage thoughts that have root systems built over a lifetime. That which has been your historical story drives your hysterical state. Each week join our podcast to learn the brain’s systems, the psychological drivers and the tools that transform your life.