Spiritual Warfare: Understanding the Enemy

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But He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.'”

– Matthew 16:23

In warfare, the key to winning the battle is understanding the enemy. Military strategists spend a significant amount of time researching the enemy in an effort to understand how they operate. What are their skills? What techniques do they use? Where do they like to hide? What motivates them? What are their weaknesses? You want to learn to think like them so you can anticipate their next move. You want to beat them to it. You want to be ready when the attack comes. You want to be prepared for anything they may bring against you.

The same is true in spiritual warfare.

So who is our enemy?

The easy answer is Satan, Lucifer, the Devil, the Prince of Darkness – and we’ll get to him, but less obvious answer is ourselves. We are often our own worst enemy. I once heard Pastor Steven Furtick say, “The enemy is the inner me.” If spiritual battles takes place most often in our minds, then we have to learn how our minds think. If spiritual battles are the flesh verses the spirit, then we have to learn where our flesh is weak. We have to learn to strengthen our areas of weakness, and we have to learn to build on our areas of strength. We have to learn where we are most prone to attack, and where we are most prone to be attacked.

We need to ask ourselves, how do I pose the biggest threat to Satan? Because whatever that threat is – that’s what Satan will seek to destroy.

We need to ask ourselves, where is my flesh weak? Because wherever that weakness is – that’s where the Satan will aim his weapon of attack.

Think about competitive sports. Athletes and coaches will often prepare for a game by watching, studying, and analyzing videos of past games. They’ll watch their opponent to understand how they play the game, what strengths they rely on, and what techniques they use. But they’ll also watch themselves. They’ll learn from their mistakes. They’ll see where they went wrong. They’ll see where they left themselves open to attack. They’ll see where they made a wrong step or turned a wrong way. They don’t focus on the mistakes to dwell on the mistakes and tear themselves down, but they focus on the mistakes to make improvements and better themselves for the sake of the team.

Obviously we can’t watch our lives on a highlight reel. We can’t rewind, press pause, and zoom in on certain areas of our lives. We can’t always see our mistakes right in front of our eyes – but with prayer, and reflection, we can ask God to reveal it to us. With repentance comes self-awareness and transformation.

We can mentally destroy ourselves from the inside out by the lies we tell ourselves – or we can be transformed from the inside out by renewing our minds (Romans 12:2). A strong and secure inner self, completely dependent on the strength and security of Christ, is fully capable of defeating Satan in his many methods of attack.

In Priscilla Shirer’s Bible Study The Armor of God she talks about the importance of “undisguising” our enemy. She says we tend to make one of two mistakes in our beliefs about Satan, we either 1) overestimate his impact on our lives and live in a constant state of fear and anxiety or we 2) underestimate his impact on our lives and don’t take seriously the spiritual battle that we can’t physically see with our eyes. When it comes to understanding the enemy, there’s a lot we can learn from the many names he is given throughout scripture. As Priscilla Shirer writes, “The names of the enemy reveal his character, intention, and activity.”

He is described as Satan, meaning he is our adversary (Job 1:6).

He is described as Devil, meaning he is slanderous.

Ephesians 4:25-27 says, “Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.

He is described as Lucifer, meaning “day star” or “shining one.”

This name is perhaps the most telling. We often are blindsided by his attacks, because we’re looking for a red robe and horns – but Satan comes to us in light. We are drawn to his lures because it is attractive and appealing. Luke 10:18 describes his fall as resembling lighting – the light is beautiful, but the power is destructive.

Isaiah 14:12-14 says, “How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, You who have weakened the nations! ‘But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, And I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. ‘I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.'”

His fall came as our own fall came – with a desire to be like God. His pride was his downfall – and he tempts us to fall in the same way as he fell, the same way he tempted Jesus to fall.

He is described as a Tempter (1 Thessalonians 3:5), and an Accuser (Revelation 12:10).

Matthew 4:1-3 says, “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, ‘If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.'”

His tricks have not changed. In the Garden he tempted Eve by asking “Did God really say…” and with Jesus He asked, “If you really are…” He plants seeds of doubts with his questions. He promises the only power he has to give, the power of this present world.

He is described as a Ruler of the World (John 12:31), a Prince of the Power of Darkness (Ephesians 2:2), and a Father of Lies (John 8:44).

He is deceptive, and manipulative. 2 Corinthians 4:4 says, “In whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

Now that we have a better understanding of who he is, the next question we need to ask is how does he operate?

In The Armor of God, Priscilla Shirer lists 10 different strategies Satan tends to use against us:

  1. Our Passion
  2. Our Focus
  3. Our Identity
  4. Our Family
  5. Our Confidence
  6. Our Calling
  7. Our Purity
  8. Our Contentment
  9. Our Heart
  10. Our Relationships

These are the areas of our lives where we need to hold steady that shield of faith. We need to protect ourselves. These are the areas of our lives that God uses for His glory and the expansion of His kingdom. Therefore, these are the areas of our lives where we pose the greatest threat to Satan. We need to infuse the Word of God into every of aspect of our lives, so that Satan can gain no foothold. If Satan is attacking you, it’s because you’re doing something right. Satan knows he is powerless. He knows he’s been defeated.

Priscilla Shirer writes, “Satan knows that he cannot destroy you. Too late for that. The best he can do (and he intends to make full use of it) is to make your time on earth futile and unproductive, to suffocate you with sin, insecurity, fear, and discouragement until you are unable to live freely and fully. He can’t ‘unseat’ you, but he can intimidate you and render you ineffective and paralyzed.”

When we live fully in our calling, when we walk in the ways of Jesus, and give Him glory in all that we do – then we remind Satan of his rightful place, and it makes him angry. It reminds him that He lost the victory at the cross. He reminds Him that Jesus has defeated death, hell, and the grave – and is seated at the right hand of God.

As Priscilla Shirer writes, it reminds him that he has been disarmed (Colossians 2:15), overruled (Ephesians 1:20-22), mastered (Philippians 2:9-11), rendered powerless (Hebrews 2:14), and all his works destroyed (1 John 3:8).

We have the victory, so let’s live in the victory. Let’s operate from a mindset of victory. Let’s battle as if God is fighting for us and the victory has already been won.

 “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.”

– Romans 16:20