Spiritual warfare




Written by ANDRÉE SEU

October 27, 2010, 9:54 AM

We don’t like pain. And so we take the first exit out of it. We don’t do spiritual warfare because it feels like dying—also because no one ever told us to, or taught us how, or modeled it for us. “Spiritual warfare” (as good a term as any to describe the second half of Ephesians 6) is the resisting of a temptation until you have had the victory, a riding of the tiger. It is what John commended the young men for: “I write to you, young men, because you are strong . . . and you have overcome the evil one” (1 John 2:14).

A temptation is any strong desire to say or do something that would have an immediate payoff. To desire is to suffer, and to give in to desire is to experience relief. It is the way I have lived most of my life. Even as a Christian I thought it was the best we could do. I have been aware of the doctrines of the “power of his Resurrection” (Philippians 3:10) and “newness of life” (Romans 6:4), but there has never been much reality to it. The days have been moribund rounds of sin and regret, mini-capitulations, and no progress in holiness. I sang with Peggy Lee, “Is that all there is?”

This lifestyle has been abetted by a view of grace as “grace to keep sinning.” No one ever says this out loud, of course, and if confronted would vehemently deny it. But the grace of God that is given to us to experience an “overcoming” of sin (see Revelation 2) has been corrupted into grace to relax in it. We are fond of reminding each other that we are Sinners with a capital “S” and will be until we die. It is an emphasis not found in the New Testament as applied to people who have been renewed in Christ. The emphasis in Paul and the evangelists is that we are Saints: We are empowered; sin no longer will be our master, etc. How wide of a mark is the result of a small error on the compass.

Not surprisingly, the resulting robbery of hope undermines the God-intended practice of spiritual warfare. The armor of Ephesians 6 receives no more than a lick and a promise in some sermons, so large segments of the church find themselves completely at a loss. Very few have experienced the spiritual thrill of wrestling and overcoming an acute and serious temptation. Some think that to even try is to violate the doctrines of grace and the sovereignty of God.

By the grace of God, some Christians have, like flowers growing in the cracks of a city sidewalk, come to their own understanding of this wonderful ability we have in Christ. I would like to publicly thank those of my friends who have blessed me by living the true Christian life before me, and pulling me up to faith by their faith. There is no greater service we render to the brethren than to walk in the truth ourselves.