No war has ever been won by a defending army. The army to win has always been the army that went on the offensive, the army that attacked and advanced, the army that demolished the enemy’s strongholds, secured territory, and set prisoners of war free.
Over the past few chapters, we have seen how the Armor of God—the Belt of Truth, the Breastplate of Righteousness, the Gospel Shoes, the Shield of Faith and the Helmet of Salvation—can protect us from the attacks of the enemy. There is one weapon in the armory, however, that not only lets us defend ourselves, but also enables us to go on the offensive, putting the enemy to flight. It is the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.
This mighty sword—crafted, tempered and honed by none other than the Holy Spirit himself—is a weapon of formidable power. We see Jesus wielding it to great effect when the devil came to tempt him in the desert.
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.’ But he answered, ‘It is written, “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” ’
Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you”, and “On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.” ’ Jesus said to him, ‘Again it is written, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” ’
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour; and he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Away with you, Satan! for it is written, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.” ’
Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him. (Matthew 4:1-11)
The devil attacked Jesus three times. Three times Jesus beat him back by using the Sword of the Spirit—the powerful Word of God! His first reply was from Deuteronomy 8:3, his second from Deuteronomy 6:16, and his third from Deuteronomy 6:13. And the devil fled, beaten.
If we are to resist the attacks of the enemy—and take the battle to him—it is vital that we learn to be good practitioners of the sword. This involves using the sword. A sword might look very pretty hanging on our wall but if an enemy attacks us, we need to have it in our hand. And we need to know how to wield it effectively!
Most Christians have a Bible in their homes. Some give it pride of place on the altar stand, and while the respect given to it is merited, if the Bible isn’t opened, read, believed, studied, meditated upon and lived, it is of precious little use in the war we are in. And let us make no mistake about it; we are in a war. It is a brutal, bloody war and we are losing! The evidence is all around us.
Everywhere we look we see the debris of evil. We see people sick with cancer, diabetes, heart problems, and a thousand other ailments. We see people hooked on drugs, alcohol, nicotine, pornography and scores of other bondages. We see people who are lonely; people who are scared; people who are hurting; people who are abused, physically and mentally; people suffering in so many different ways as a result of war, rape, poverty, starvation, terrorism and torture.
It makes my soul weep. It also makes me extremely angry; the anger as much at the loathsome creature who gleefully causes so much pain, as with us who permit him to do so. Why do we let him? Satan is a defeated enemy and the only reason he still rules the world is because we allow him to. The only power he has is the power we give him. Let us put an end to his reign now. Let us put on the Armor of God, take the Spirit’s mighty sword in our hands, and smash the enemy’s strongholds wherever they exist and make him run for his miserable life! Jesus has shown us that it doesn’t take much for him to flee.
Jesus has also given us the power to fight him and beat him.
See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. (Luke 10:19)
To overcome the enemy, however, we have to learn how to use the sword of the Holy Spirit, which has the “divine power to demolish strongholds.” How do we do this? We can begin by taking the sword off the wall and holding it in our hand. We can toss the sheath away as something we will never need again because this is one sword that should never be sheathed. And then we can start training.
Though we can get educated in the basic techniques of sword-fighting by people who know how to use the sword well, the only person who can truly teach us to master it is the Holy Spirit himself. It is, after all, His sword. And training takes place in His school: the School of the Holy Spirit.
The School of the Holy Spirit is a tough training ground where we learn many things, among which are developing the qualities that make for a good soldier of God. Sword fighting is just one of them. Like almost every other subject in the school, the training doesn’t take place in a controlled environment, where we can practice using the weapon in safety. We are thrown straight away into battle.
The first lessons in use of the sword involve evicting the enemy from our own life, while simultaneously getting indoctrinated in how remarkably effective the blade is against the strongholds the enemy might have built in our hearts and in our minds.
Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
If we read the Word of God for an hour each day, we will be a changed people in just a few months. God’s truth will penetrate into our hearts, discerning our thoughts and attitudes and exposing any hypocrisy or deceit in them. It will also reveal all the sin in our lives. Faced with such intense scrutiny from which there is no hiding, we will simply not be able to do anything but rectify whatever is wrong about our life so that we can stand up to God’s piercing gaze. The strongholds will come crashing down and the devil will flee!
Once we have exorcised the devil from our lives, we need to kick him out of our homes. Sitting down with our families for some time in the morning and/or in the evening and reading the Word of God together will transform our family as much as we have been transformed. All the turbulence that might exist in our homes; all the divisiveness, the violence, the tantrums, the sexual infidelities, the nagging, the disobedience, the disrespect and all other problems that the enemy has engineered will cease. I have seen the power of the Word of God in my own family time and time again. If we ever begin to lose the peace and love that exists in our home, it is because we have begun neglecting reading the Word of God together. The moment we resume reading it, peace and love reigns once again.
When we have our family set right, it is time to take the battle to the enemy, wherever he might be, but we should not let the decision in this be ours. We should wait on the Spirit to guide us when to use the sword, how to use it and where to use it. Then we need to obey as He tells us. We need to expose sin where we find it. We need to call it by name, not the disguised phraseology invented by new age and humanistic philosophies. When we see people being lulled into complacency by the preaching of a soft gospel, we need to wake them up by preaching its hard truths. They may not like us for it, but this shouldn’t disturb us; we are soldiers in a war, not contestants in a popularity contest, and our task is to defeat the enemy no matter what the personal cost to us.
We might notch up some easy victories as we do battle, but we should remember at all times that we are in a war with an enemy who is utterly shameless. It doesn’t matter how many times we thrash him or how many times he runs away; he will be back, especially when he senses weakness or fatigue. And like the coward he is, he doesn’t fight us face-to-face or man-to-man. He will always sneak up on us trying to blindside us or come at us with a dozen of his lackeys in tow. He might succeed in wounding us at times. We might even fall on occasion. At such times we should remember the gospel assurance that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. We should go straight to your Father who will forgive us, nurse us back to health and send us to do battle again—stronger than before. We should never ever forget that the victory against the devil has already been won; we just need to claim it.
He disarmed the rulers and authorities and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in it. (Colossians 2:15)
Even we arm ourselves with God’s sword, we have to exercise some extra caution when it comes to using it outside of ourself and our family. Many of us don’t train at the School of the Holy Spirit. We read the Word of God, use our human intellect to obtain understanding, memorize verses like actors memorize their lines for a play, and then spout them at every opportunity we get, often totally out of context. This is a dangerous way of using the Word of God and I have seen the people who do this cause immense damage and confusion as they preach utter nonsense.
Even more dangerous are the people who believe that God has poured His Spirit exclusively on them, giving only them a true understanding of Scripture while bypassing almost everybody else over the last 2000 years. Such people use the Word of God to hack away mindlessly at anything that departs from what they imagine is right. From the gashing, gaping wounds that they create in God’s body, it is obvious that their instructor is not the Holy Spirit but the enemy himself and they wield, not the Sword of the Spirit, but the butcher’s knife of the devil.
The only way that we can be sure that the Holy Spirit is the one guiding us is by the sort of man (or woman) we become when our training is complete. If we were trained by the Spirit of God, He will not let us go out into the world until such time that we are full of His power and bear His fruit in abundance, especially the fruit of love.
If you are such a person, welcome to battle. It is time to reclaim the world.