Last night I had the wonderful opportunity to spend a Friday night with just me and my best friend. Sorry, that should read: me and my Best Friend. This was not by a choice of mine, but more because of the fact that everyone else that I called already was doing something that didn’t involve me. I was disappointed for a while, but then I remembered that one of my Friends was always available. He and I spent a wonderful evening as I learned more about Him and His awesome promises to me. On top of that, I read some more of Wild at Heart, a book which I’m slowly working through – reading it bit by bit as I remember that I still haven’t finished it.
As I read this book, I realized just how much we’ve “humanized” Christianity over the years. By humanized, I mean two things: that we’ve brought ourselves into the main focus of the religion, and also that we’ve almost completely dismissed the supernatural. The chapter I was reading was talking about “the Enemy,” which is Satan. But how often do we really stop and think about forces of evil – or forces of good, for that matter? Something bad happens and we say, “Whoops, I must have screwed up somewhere.” But what if it’s not all us? Are we really so naive to think that we’re all alone – especially if we profess to believe in a God that is so much larger than us?
The truth is this: God and the devil are both working simultaneously at all moments in history to achieve their end. We are but pawns in a great game of chess, being moved around at will by those who are unseen. Now, of course, I’m not saying that all actions are merely a whim of someone greater – we still have free will, and we can exercise that free will for good or for evil. However, we don’t give much credit to the supernatural. We acknowledge that God and the devil exist, of course, but that is only a mental assent to doctrinal truths. We rarely give them credit for the world’s state any more than we would give credit to an insect for the same. No, the work of both the good and evil forces are for revivals in Third-World countries and the tribes in deepest, darkest Africa. There they have demon possession; there they see God’s influence in tangible ways. But here in North America, we rely on our own power.
Have you ever considered that we stifle God’s power to work and give the devil free reign in our lives? I’m not talking about actually being possessed by a demon to do his work or anything like that. But think about this: God works in situations where He is wanted; He will never force Himself on us. The devil, on the other hand, tries his best to work invisibly. His greatest lie is, “I’m not here; this is all you.” This difference in strategy means that we must watch ourselves very carefully. We know that we need to pray to ask God to work in a situation; that’s merely a matter of discipline that we need to develop. But when we try to do something under our own strength, that’s where we give the devil his free reign. He whispers oh-so-subtle lies into our ears, and without the power of God in our lives, we are vulnerable. We fall into his trap so easily, and when things don’t work out as planned, we say, “It was all my fault.” The scheme of the Enemy in North America is subtlety. Perhaps he can get away with crazy, demon-possessed people over in tribal Africa, but here, we are “cultured.” Right?
The second way we have “humanized” Christianity is by shifting the focus off God and onto ourselves. We have so easily swallowed the devil’s very first lie: “You can become like God.” Sure, again, we give God’s grace mental acknowledgement, but how often do we allow that to permeate our hearts? When was the last time you heard a powerfully-preached sermon about our wicked treachery that God had to wipe clean? No, we hear sermons about how God loves us, and then comes a three-part sermon about how to love others. These are all great subjects, but I fear that we’ve been saturated with messages about God’s love and not much else. We’re so concerned with “feeling the love” that we forget about what is still active at work today – the presence of evil. I’m not saying that every sermon at church has to be about Satan and his forces. But we’ve forgotten about the supernatural in favour of feeling good. We think that since we are saved, our duty is done, and now we can bask in God’s incredible love. But we’re just getting started. There’s a war going on, and we are all soldiers in it – if we aren’t prepared, we might just become casualties.
Somehow, in this physical world, there exists a world of the unseen, and on this plane lies a war of proportions more massive than all the wars in human history combined. Every human is a soldier; there are no civilians. Every human is on one side or the other; there is no neutral ground. And I fear that the majority of us are laying on the battlefield, choking on our own blood – and we don’t even know it. The Enemy’s strategy is simple: keep all humans on his side. If anyone turns to God’s side and starts fighting, he attacks us and wounds us in the place where he knows it hurts the most. After all, he and his forces are always watching and observing our actions. He knows what angers us, what we beat ourselves up over, and he’s done extensive testing with us. The only way to prevent this is to put on the full armour of God and fight back. After all, God promises us: “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” The truth is that Satan knows our incredible potential. He’s scared of us. But he also knows that as long as he keeps us on the ground and wounded, we’re not a threat. It’s only when we tap into God’s unlimited power that he knows things are going badly for him.
I think it’s time that we stopped focussing on God’s love and gentle personality, and start dealing with what He also is: a warrior. He is the General, the great Strategist in this war. And He also knows our potential, for He created us in His image. He knows that if we adopt that image as our own, that we can be influential soldiers in this war. And that’s why, above all, He’s worked on us our whole lives to become who He wants us to be. He wants us to be soldiers for Him, soldiers devoted to a cause. And yes, that means we need to love others and all that stuff. But in loving others, we are waging war – we are attacking the Enemy in the place where it hurts the most. For all he can offer people is hate. That’s all he is. And if we attack him with love, we can win this war. Sure, we know who wins in the end, and we need to make sure we’re on the winning side, but that’s not the end – it’s just the beginning. We’ve got a day ahead of us where we can rest after the battle is over, but for now, our duty is to fight.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” (Ephesians 6:10-18)