I feel like the devil got easier to believe in this year. It’s been bad enough I don’t need to name examples to prove it. You already know. Laying them out only reminds us they happened so recently. Things are moving too fast. Time flies when you’re having fun, but apparently unrest, fear, and panic seem to do the trick too. The idea that there are dark forces at work doesn’t seem like a stretch even to a world so steeped in the secular.
Christians know the devil prowls about like a roaring lion seeking those to devour. That his wrath is fierce because he knows his time is short. That he is the enemy, the deceiver, the accuser, the murderer. We know who he is and we know what he’s after. Ever since he cajoled Eve into eating the fruit she coveted, he tipped his hand. “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” “Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.” The devil wants none saved. The devil wants God’s creation undone. Of all the stuff nobody agrees on at least we can agree to stand together and say that’s bad. We’re against the devil. Sometimes Christians call it spiritual warfare.
We want to fight back. But since we haven’t found anyone in red suits with pitchforks, it’s harder to do. Spiritual warfare is easier when we can find that enemy in a pandemic. It’s easier still when we can find that enemy inside each other. The devil is in the thing making us hurt. The devil is in the one slinging blame that leaves us feeling like we can never do enough to make things right again. Accusation meets self justification. We paint the other side of every issue as the evil ones. The world as the problem. We pick sides to help. And Spiritual warfare becomes much less spiritual. Look around. The only thing we’re fighting is each other.
The scriptures are clear. All have sinned. The law always accuses. It shows how things are supposed to be. Things are not the way they’re supposed to be. That parts real easy to see in 2020. The devil doesn’t need new tricks to point it out. His pitchfork points to what God’s own law already condemns. Us. “Death spread to all men because all sinned.” The danger of spiritual warfare is assuming you’re on God’s side because you’re right and, and if not innocent, at least less guilty than the other side. It’s easier to talk about spiritual warfare when we find the enemy inside each other. It’s harder when the real problems in ourselves. I am a sinner. The problem is me.
It’s the devil who would have you think the only enemies are outside of yourself and outside of our walls. In true spiritual warfare, there is no us against them. There is only Jesus for sinners. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. WE were the enemies of God. Not the world. Not the devil. Us. If you want to understand spiritual warfare, don’t start with demon possession and angels warring against dark forces and crying for your help. Don’t look to the world and why everyone is doing the wrong thing about whatever just got called out on the 2020 Bingo card of horrors this week. Look to yourself. We were enemies of God. Spiritual warfare was fought against you.
It doesn’t look like all the good Christians teaming up with God to pray away the bad. Listen again. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. Spiritual warfare looks like the death and resurrection of Jesus for you. For me. For sinners. For all.
And that’s finished. Jesus died for you. Your sins are forgiven. So are your enemies’. Even the one who is wrong about the stuff that’s so important to you. Especially that one. Now we are reconciled to God by the death of His Son. Now, present tense, you are reconciled, so much more shall you be saved by His life. The devil lost. He wants none saved. He wants God’s creation undone. But Christ is risen. Sin and death cannot destroy anymore. The law cannot condemn anymore. The devil cannot condemn anymore. Now you are reconciled to God. The war over your spirit is over.
Now, the battleground is your conscience. Think back to Adam and Eve. The devil didn’t work damage through plague or war, but in a promise that never could actually comfort. Eat that fruit. You shall be like God. If you just do that, things will finally be better.
Today satan makes the same deceitful and empty promises. You can see it in the measurement of victory. How do even good and devout Christians talk about spiritual warfare? There is no talk of victory before the devil loses and we all get along. We don’t win until the devil loses and the vaccine is found and whatever other thing that goes wrong next gets fixed. In all the promises to make things better, there’s no comfort, only anxiety that grows as the next number gets called out in 2020 Bingo. G7. Murder hornets.
The devil’s true fight today isn’t in what’s wrong, but our mounting unrest, animosity, and fear. The devil’s war right now is fought over your conscience. The one that knows deep down that it’s more than “this isn’t how it’s supposed to be”. It’s “I’m not how I’m supposed to be.” I haven’t done enough. I haven’t trusted enough. Spiritual warfare is the devil doing everything he can to take your eye off the cross where Christ already won for you the victory.
Nothing in 2020 can change what happened in 33. Christ was crucified. Christ is risen. Christ is risen from the dead and death cannot hold you. You literally can’t stay dead. You literally wear the crown of life today because He who was crucified is risen. But I’m still scared. I’m still struggling. I’m still sinning. Even if all the problems in the world went away, I’d still be stuck with me. This is where the devil fights.
But spiritual warfare is not fought in us. It’s fought in Christ, for us. He fights back against the accusations of the evil one. “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” For you. The free gift is not like the trespass. The free gift is not found in the law that accuses and shows what’s wrong. It’s in the gospel that reconciles enemies. “Now you are reconciled to God through the death of His Son.” Now you are baptized. Now you wear the armor of God that protect you from the darts of the evil one even as you wear robes washed clean in the blood of the lamb that let you respond to the accusations of the law.
I am a sinner Jesus died for. No, I haven’t done enough. I haven’t trusted enough. I haven’t fought hard enough. But Jesus has. And He did it for me and He did it for you. Now there is grace, the free gift, given to sinners that reconcile us to God and so reconcile us to each other. If you can’t see past the picture the law would paint of your enemies and of yourself, your spiritual warfare is simply to receive the gospel. Receive pardon and mercy. Receive grace and reconciliation. Receive forgiveness, life, and salvation that unite us to the victory already won when Christ burst from the tomb. That unite us even to each other. We are the enemies that were reconciled to God together. We are the sinners Jesus died for. We are the baptized. We are brothers and sisters in Christ.