Just suppose that there really is an invisible kingdom arrayed against you. What good does it do to know that? Is there anything that we can do about it? How does it impact daily life?
According to no less an authority than Jesus Christ, we all have an invisible enemy—the “thief”—who comes to “steal, kill and destroy” (John 10:10). Why tell us that if it isn’t true? Why burden us with knowing it, unless knowing it would help us? In fact, Jesus spoke of the devil and demons often—unlike many of our modern ministers and in complete contradiction to our psychological healers. So, following His example, I’m not going to take time trying to prove the existence of this invisible kingdom to you, but to explain helpful things to know about it.
This Isn’t Business, It’s Personal
I am someone who came to conversion through the ministry of deliverance from demons. Immediately after inviting Jesus to “come into my heart, come into my life, and live Your life in me”, I saw Jesus in heaven, reaching my way with an effortless grace and freeing me from years of hard bondage (for that story see Rescued from Hell at Amazon).
Then, my friend Eddy told me that he suspected I had demons oppressing me. I completely agreed! The heavenly vision that had just revealed Jesus to me, also revealed a previously unknown enemy—Satan. I was astonished, dumbfounded. Never had I believed that either one existed. I remember thinking, “I had one of the best educations money could buy (at Duke), but no one ever taught me these primary truths about the universe.”
What happened next was even more astounding. Eddy proceeded to cast seven demons out of me—me, the recently born again Christian. I had previously scorned the idea of evil spirits as being an ignorant Christian superstition. Now, creatures by the names of doubt, unbelief, arrogance, intellectual pride, lust, fear and negative expectancy all did as Eddy commanded them: “Spirit of ____, go in Jesus’ Name.”
I felt the changes as each one left—there was more “room” and cleanness on the inside. My wife, June, observed the changes in my countenance—I was “brightening” and looking freer as each one left. Eddy’s wife, Barden, actually saw the demons as they came out—these in-dwellers “looked like little Smurfs.” They left by my mouth. One, however, didn’t leave the room. It hid under the coffee table and when I spoke a word of doubt, it jumped back in! That caused quite a stir until Eddy got it out for good. That brought me out of one invisible kingdom into another. My head was spinning!
He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son. Colossians 1:13 ESV
As you can imagine, I learned a lot from these encounters. First of all, I learned the power of the Light to cast out darkness. I tried for 12 desperate years to get free of the bondage of my personal hell, but Jesus accomplished it with ease in a mere 15 minutes. Compared to the power of Jesus—and to the authority of any born-again Christian—the powers of the enemy are weak indeed. We need not fear them. Nevertheless, this invisible kingdom had been powerful in my life before conversion, precisely because I didn’t believe it existed, had no radar for detecting it, nor any weapons for resisting it.
Keep in mind that this infernal kingdom doesn’t just go after non-believers. It already has them captured by the massive deception that keeps Jesus “veiled” from their sight (2 Corinthians 4:3-4). Suppose you are a born-again believer and don’t have “eyes to see” or know the ways of defeating this kingdom. Could that be causing problems for you? Of course it can. That’s why there are so many warning scriptures in the New Testament telling Christians to be on guard against the depredations of this evil kingdom.
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8 ESV
Something that I saw right away, however, gave great comfort. I hadn’t messed up my life entirely by myself! Like you, I was attacked by an invisible enemy without cause (Psalm 35:7). This army of malevolent beings got here first, knew the lay of the land far better than we did, and had all the advantages of ruthlessness, superior intelligence, and eons of experience going for them. Oh, and it also helped that they are invisible. We’re still responsible for every choice we make in agreement with this kingdom, but our most bone-headed ideas and black-hearted feelings don’t come from ourselves alone. At the very least, they don’t originate with us.
The Goal of Spiritual Warfare
Even now, seeking to move forward in the Lord’s direction, it’s still not a garden walk, or if it is, the garden is full of snakes! This kingdom resists us every step of the way. Satan’s name actually means the Adversary—the one who “opposes” and “plots against” God and us. He’s earned it. Nevertheless, Paul writes that knowledge about the enemy helped him: “To keep Satan from getting the advantage over us; for we are not ignorant of his wiles and intentions (2 Corinthians 2:11 AMP). OK, so just what are those “wiles and intentions” we need to guard against?
The enemy’s primary “intention” or goal towards us is to separate us from our God. Jesus has already warned us that unless we “abide” in Him through trust and obedience, we “can do nothing” (John 15:). This certainly includes gaining lasting victories over our relentless foes. Naturally, the dark kingdom wants to separate us from our source of life and strength. The first separation began at birth. Due to the enemy’s success in separating Adam and Eve from God, we were all born as spiritually blinded unbelievers.
In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 2 Corinthians 4:4 ESV
Strategies of the Invisible Kingdom
Here is a brief list of ways (“wiles” or strategies) by which this kingdom works to separate humanity from God.
- Veiling us in darkness, not even knowing there is a God.
- Keeping us from seeking the one true God through faith in Jesus.
- Pressing us to live for ourselves, and not for the One who created us.
- Making us into their image through sin: prideful, selfish, unloving, pleasure-driven, greedy, frightened, angry, violent, hopeless, etc.
- Tempting us to come into agreement with what they are already thinking and feeling as fallen beings, entirely separated from God.
If they cannot keep us from being restored to God through faith in Christ, then they work to dis-connect us so that we become captives all over again, or at least are rendered ineffective at obeying God and advancing His kingdom. How do they do that?
- Tempting us to cling to our sins, rather than to Jesus.
- Stealing from our hearts the peace and confidence the Lord gives.
- Accusing us so that we feel condemned, unworthy, insecure and inferior.
- Robbing us of the joy of our salvation, leaving us without strength.
- Deceiving us into living for ourselves, and not for the One who died for us.
- “De-forming” us so that we resemble their master, not ours.
- Making a life of total commitment to and complete surrender to Jesus, seem like something to avoid.
Observations of the Enemy
You can see by this list both the persistent strategy of separation and the many “wiles” by which it is accomplished. This kingdom works by deception, temptation and accusation to carry out its goal of separating us from our God and His ways. I wish this were a complete list of their wiles, but it’s not. There are countless ways this invisible kingdom works against us. Even so, this gives you a lens through which to discern other crafty ways being used against you or your loved ones.
Although the primary intention is to separate us from our Source of life and power, this still doesn’t tell us why. Why does Satan have it in for us so vehemently? Some have speculated that he hates us out of envy, or that he hates God so much that he wants to crush all whom God loves. There is also the thought that he is holding humanity as a hostage, in a vain attempt to secure his place on earth, thereby delaying his own doom. Perhaps it’s all the above, or none. Since the Bible gives us so little to go on, it’s probably best not to delve too deeply into darkness. Let evil think its own demented thoughts all by itself.
The Centerpiece of Our Strategy
It is enough that scripture unmasks the intentions and wiles of this kingdom. And that we have been given highly effective weapons and counter strategies. For instance, what is our primary strategy for defeating the enemy? Sticking close to Jesus! The great thing in the Christian life is our relationship with Christ—not the enemy. I don’t know about you, but I want to go through each day walking with Him—not walking away, not lagging behind, not running ahead.
By walking in trusting obedience to His Word, we stay close to Jesus. His Word sets the moral boundaries, while His Spirit leads the way. We don’t defeat the enemy by focusing on him. That only makes us paranoid, keeping us on the defensive. We conquer and advance by focusing on the Lord!
Centering in on Jesus is the biggest piece and it must be put in place daily, or nothing else will work right (Luke 9:23). If my first right choice isn’t to put Jesus first, then the enemy already has me at the starting gate. Why make it any easier for him to mislead me (than it already is)? If you see this point, then you can recognize just how hard it is. Everything within us (that is not of God) cries out to take the lead. By nature—that is, by fallen nature—we instinctively want to put ourselves first. Our questions are usually, “What do I think about this? What do I want to do with my time, my money, my life? How do I want to respond to what just happened?” That leaves Jesus out, doesn’t it?
Our Homing Beacon
The single best indicator that we are truly allowing Jesus to be our Lord is the peace of Christ. With this peace comes bright hope, faith-confidence in God, the joy of our salvation, a clean conscience and a clear sense of direction. This cannot be manipulated by us. If the Holy Spirit sees that we are trusting Jesus with all that He has so far allowed into our lives (and that of our loved ones) AND that we are willing to obey Him in what He is asking us to do in the present moment, THEN the peace of Christ flows in us like the River of Life that it is. Otherwise, we stress up and start to stray.
That so few Christians live in this peace daily, is a testimony to how well the enemy has tempted us. That so few seem to realize that living surrendered to Jesus daily is their true calling, is a tribute to how well we have been deceived. Don’t let this be you! We can fight back using the weapons God gives us, protected by the armor He supplies. Just remember, even the slightest step away from surrender is movement towards the Great Rebellion. You might be suited up for battle and still find yourself playing on the wrong team, if you let Self replace Jesus on the throne of your heart.
How They Operate
How does this kingdom operate? What are their powers? By a process of deception and temptation, the demons work to gain our agreement with their demented perspective on our situation, seeking to draw us into fear, despair, distrust of God, bitterness towards others, or some misguided way of acting out, etc.
We, however, have the power of choice and it comes at us continually. In every moment, we are having to choose what might be the next right thing to think, believe or do. We even have to choose what to do about our feelings: Should we allow them to stay as they are, or work against them? The demons cannot force our choice, but they can subvert our ability to make right choices.
Our handicap is two-fold. First, we really don’t know what the best choice is in many situations, since due to the fall we lack God’s perspective. Second, we don’t always have enough motivation to make our best choices stick, since our fallen nature refuses to do the right thing (except for the wrong reasons). These two handicaps give the demons plenty of opportunities to defeat our good intentions by making the wrong things seem right and the right things seem wrong—both in terms of our thinking and feeling, as well as our doing.
To counter these attacks, Jesus comes to our rescue in two ways. As we put Him first, He leads us by showing us the next right thing to do. Then, as we yield to Him, the Holy Spirit transforms our feelings, helping us want to do as He desires. That’s why it should always be our top priority to make sure that we are truly putting Jesus first. There is no way we partially sighted, new creations can see well enough to lead ourselves past all the interference coming at us from spiritual darkness.
Why They Succeed
The demons succeed because we don’t (yet) fully believe that the scriptures are telling us the truth. Jesus did. That’s why he always succeeded, facing down even direct temptation by the master of deception himself. By His own statement, He showed us that He was fully convinced that God’s truth was the truth. And He prayed for us to become separated from darkness the same way: “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17).
Simply believing the Bible is true is not the same thing as actively believing even one truth in it. Active faith always produces joy and peace within us over the thought of what God has promised, has done, or might do. The enemy will keep working us over, until we can look at any adverse situation and not waver with the slightest doubt or loss of peace. Then, as he did with Jesus, he may leave off tempting us until a more opportune time.
In addition to His stance on truth, there was apparently never any question in Jesus’ mind that He was going to put His God, our Father, first. He was clear within Himself that He had come, “not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me” (John 6:38). Whose will have you come to do? If we have to ponder that, it simply shows what we all know—that we have a divided mind. Part of us wants God’s will, even if it involves sacrifice. Part of us doesn’t. This also gives the dark kingdom much to work with. Jesus stood firm because, as He said, “the ruler of this world comes, and he has nothing in Me” (John 14:30).
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Where It Began
No doubt, we would like to believe that babies fresh from the womb are just what God created them to be, but that’s not what the Bible shows us. Scripture reveals that we are born in an unnatural state—that of not knowing or even seeing our God as Adam and Eve once did. We are all born spiritually dead and blind due to the originating sin of those first parents. This puts us at a huge disadvantage. It only seems normal and natural because of the deceptive influence of spiritual darkness, helping us to “forget” who we really are.
Right along with this, we are also born with a sin nature that eagerly desires to agree with the Enemy’s invisible kingdom—and we don’t even know (yet) that we can’t trust many of our own thoughts and feelings. Now, add in the sins of earlier generations coming down the line, putting pressure on our glorious, God-given personality to become damaged or deformed. Then, throw in the present-day failings of the ones who birth us and raise us. Even if they honestly did their best, they still had brokenness and sins of their own that got passed along.
All this sounds pretty grim, but only because we are focusing on what darkness is doing. Fortunately for all of us, God gives grace to children to largely overcome, or at least survive, these obstacles. Little children are mostly marvels of His kingdom ways of love, joy and rightness. Even so, these dark, unseen factors create an environment which becomes the devil’s playground. His work of deception and temptation begins right away. That hardly seems fair, but we must remember that the Evil One is entirely evil. Attacking innocents deeply offends us; not him. He enjoys inflicting pain in the nursery. And we’re the ones who let him in.
The Heart of the Problem
The oft-traveled pathway of deception began when we were very young. For example, it seemed normal and right to hold on to anger or jealousy and let that provoke us to strike out, or to sulk. Or, we became selfish and demanding when our will was thwarted. Nobody had to teach us to misbehave. We were learning it, as Jesus said, from our “father the devil” and it slowly became our will “to do his desires” (John 8:44).
In those early days, we knew nothing about what was really true. We acted according to our own understanding. If we were parented poorly, or suffered trauma or abuse, the growth of our fallen nature was force-multiplied. I like to say that whatever the devil put in, God can get out. Truth could have freed our emotions and protected our hearts, if a wise and understanding adult had been there to guide us that deeply on the inside. Now that the Holy Spirit is within us, we have a Helper teaching us truth from scripture (God’s perspective) and showing us how to apply it in our lives.
This is the focal point of our spiritual warfare: Doing battle within our own hearts to make sure that one truth after another is deeply believed and acted upon. If you decide to engage that battle, you will quickly discover as Pogo did, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” It’s not that we’re the enemy—we’re a new creation—but the former self (the “old man”) needs careful watching. He/she loves to stage a comeback!
Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. Proverbs 4:23 ESV
The chief task of the athlete is to enter into his heart [and do battle there]. Macarius the Great, Desert Father (from Henry Knowen, The Way of the Heart)
Out of Darkness; Into the Light
To be sure, there are other levels to our spiritual warfare. Our calling is to expose and evict the kingdom of darkness wherever we find it—in our families, our communities, and our world. But the essential battle begins here—within ourselves. Fighting the good fight of faith, at the very least, means hanging in there when the going gets tough, rather than giving in to the invisible kingdom. At its best, it ushers us into wonder-filled stretches of that River of Peace which flows from the throne of grace.
Fruitfulness, freedom and the fragrance of Christ could characterize our lives. It’s what we have been re-created to experience. However, like the Israelites before us, we won’t enter our Promised Land without “training our hands for war” (Psalm 18:34). Consider taking our entirely free eCourse for Emotional Healing to learn how to get free and stay free. Here’s to good times in the River!
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