Your Adversary Just acts like Roaring Lion

1 Peter 5:8 (NKJV) 8  Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour

This week we have been looking at the nature of our warfare with the Devil. In His Word, God gave us his full armor so that we could go into our daily battles from a position of strength and not weakness. We also need to have spiritual “intelligence.” This helps us understand how the enemy works and the nature of the warfare we fight against him. With these things in place, we can defeat all of the “wiles of the devil.”

Yesterday we got a glimpse into the battle going on around us. We live in two worlds at the same time. We live in the world we can see and we live in a world that we cannot see. In Daniel, we found that there were two rulers over the kingdoms of the earth in his day. There were the natural rulers of the Persian Empire and there were the demonic rulers. The angel God sent to answer Daniel’s prayer had to fight through the demonic ruler to get to him. This same angel revealed that there was another demonic ruler coming called the Prince of Greece. Greece was the next empire to rule this region.

In Hebrews 1:14 we read that the angels of God are spirits sent forth to minister for the heirs of salvation. Paul says in Ephesians 6:12 that we wrestle against powers principalities and spiritual rulers in heavenly places. All of these scriptures point to a conflict between spiritual beings. We are also spiritual beings and we are part of that conflict. As we pray, worship, preach the Gospel and live upright lives as true Christians, we empower the angelic realms and defeat the demonic realms.

Why is this warfare necessary? If God is almighty, and he is, can he not simply destroy the rebellious angels and reclaim the earth? The simple answer is, yes. He could do that but he has chosen not to at this time. There is a reason. The battle is not really to secure the ultimate will of God in the earth. Nothing can stop that. We read about it in Ephesians 1:10.

Ephesians 1:10 (NKJV) 10 that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth–in Him.

There is a day called the fullness of time when God’s will is going to come to pass. All things will be brought together under Christ Jesus. That is inevitable. The battle is for the will of God to be enforced in the earth today. The purpose is so that the full number of God’s children will come into the kingdom of God. When that number is reached, the fullness of times will come and the war will be over.

The reason for the very real warfare that is going on today between the forces of darkness and the forces of light is the protection of the right of people to choose. God will withhold his full power until every person that can choose life does and until everyone who wills to choose death makes that choice. His will for you and I is that we do our part in this battle to bring in those souls that are assigned to us in our lifetime. The increase in the natural instability of the world reflects the increase in the level of spiritual warfare because we are coming to the end of the age.

I want to take a little time today to look at the kind of things we face in this battle. Paul tells us the armor of God will enable us to stand against the wiles of the devil. In 2 Corinthians 2:11, he says we must not be ignorant of his devices. Both of these words imply a plan or method.

The Greek word translated “wiles” in Ephesians 6:11 means to follow craftily, frame devices, and deceive. It also implies investigation by method and settled plan. Satan has a plan of attack. He follows us craftily and comes up with ways to overcome us. He methodically investigates the church to determine strengths and weaknesses and then he formulates a battle plan against each one of us and against each believing church. He determines what kind of threat we are and how to take away our effectiveness. His main weapon is deceit.

Since the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the devil and his forces have been severely limited in what they can do against the church. Jesus said all authority had been given unto him in both heaven and earth as a result of his victory. The church has the right to walk in that authority. Jesus also defeated the devil and took away from him the keys to death, hell and the grave. Any person who accepts covenant relationship with Jesus through salvation can walk in this authority and power.

Any believer who understands the position of strength that is available to them and walks in it has nothing to fear from the devil. He has no weapon that can defeat us. This understanding is the true nature of the armor of God. The devil knows this better than we do, so he must undertake a different kind of warfare against the church.

Satan’s warfare against us depends on the one weapon that he still has at his disposal. Deception. It is his favorite weapon and he is very good at using it. Peter reveals its nature to us in today’s scripture. The devil is like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.

When the bible uses the word lion to describe the devil, we conjure up images of being eaten by a giant beast with sharp claws and huge teethe. Indeed, we would not stand a chance against a full grow lion who came at us directly. However, a lion does not come against its prey directly. Cats of all kind stalk their prey.

We used to have a dog and a cat. We have had this combination of pets many times through the years and they have always gotten along eventually. They usually became friends. This was not the case with the these two. The dog was a dachshund beagle mix. The cat was a Himalayan. The cat was here first. When the dog came, the person we got him from told us to make sure the cat let the dog know he belonged in the house. That was not a problem.

We had the two of them for many years and the dog was terrified of the cat. Every now and then, the cat made sure the dog remembered who was boss. He did not just walk into the room and take a swipe at the dog’s nose with his claws. He hid and waited in ambush. When the dog passed by, he jumped out at him. We would hear a little yelp and the dog ran to his bed looking beseechingly at us for help. The cat was “wily.” The cat used “devices” to attack the dog.

The devil is not a lion. Jesus is the Lion of the tribe of Judah. The devil just acts like a roaring lion. He deceives and stalks us. He will roar his threats either through people or in our own minds. He will tell us how hopeless our situation is and how weak and foolish we are for resisting. The game is to get us to take off our armor. He wants us to give up the authority that Jesus won for us so he can attack our weakness and cause us to sin. When we do, we submit to his authority and he can hurt us.

We do not have to be fooled by this fake lion. When he roars and blusters at me, I like to remind him that Jesus already defeated him. If he ever was a lion, he is not one now. His roar may be loud, but he has no teeth and Jesus has declawed him.

Our enemy is seeking whom he may devour. That means the meal has to cooperate. The next time the devil comes to you roaring his threats and declaring your weakness and unworthiness, tell him you choose not to cooperate. Tell him, “Devil, I know you are looking for someone you may devour. I am telling you now that I have on the full armor of God and you may not devour me. As a matter of fact, I am going after you with the sword of the spirit and if you don’t back off; I will make a meal out of you!”

James 4:7 (NKJV) 7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

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Intelligence on the Prince of Persia and the Prince of Greece

Daniel 10:12-13 (NKJV) 12 Then he said to me, “Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words. 13 But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia.

In my last post we discussed the necessity of understanding the way the devil works in being able to operate from a position of strength. Paul exhorts us in Ephesians 6 to put on the full armor of God so that we may be able to stand against the “wiles” of the devil. The armor will help us stand against the wiles of the devil but knowing what they are and how they work will help us go on the offensive. I believe we need to move from simply reacting to what the devil does against the church to an offensive posture where we take the battle to the enemy.

Last time we saw from the World War II Battle of Midway that winning the battle of military intelligence led to a United States Naval victory that changed the outcome of the war in the Pacific. I believe that knowing how the devil works against us can change our war against the kingdom of darkness and by extension our individual Christian lives as well. Jesus told us in Matthew 16 that the gates of hell would not prevail against the church. Gates are defensive. To me, that has to mean that Jesus intends for us to be on the offensive. Intelligence concerning the wiles of the devil will help us turn the tide.

Not long ago in this space we focused on John 10:10. This verse tells us the Jesus came that we might have life and life more abundant. It also tells us that the devil comes to steal, kill and destroy. We live in two worlds at the same time. It is hard for us to understand that. What we see in the natural world is only a reflection of what is happening in the world of the spirit. There is a battle in the heavens and we have a role to play in that battle.

In today’s scripture the Prophet Daniel has an encounter with an angel of the Lord. He has been praying about the future of his people and the Lord sends an angel to speak to him. It is interesting to note that the nation ruling the region at that time was Persia. The angel assures Daniel he was sent by God to answer his prayer on the first day of his 21-day fast. He was delayed because he had to fight through the Prince of Persia.

This was not a natural prince. It was a spiritual prince. It was one of those spirits noted by Paul in Ephesians 6:12. No one, not even Daniel, knew that there was a battle in the air over the Persian Empire at that time. However, there was. An angel had been sent to give Daniel some “intelligence” about the future. The demonic spirit empowering the Persian Empire did not want Daniel to have this information and was fighting to keep the angel from getting through. God sent in angelic reinforcements in the person of the Archangel Michael to see to it that the angel got his intelligence to Daniel.

To many of us this story seems fantastic. It is like the stories from Greek mythology. However, let me point out another verse in this chapter. The angel calls the spirit he is fighting the Prince of Persia. This is understandable as the people in charge of the current ruling empire were Persian. However, look at verse 20.

Daniel 10:20 (NKJV) 20 Then he said, “Do you know why I have come to you? And now I must return to fight with the prince of Persia; and when I have gone forth, indeed the prince of Greece will come.

This is long before Greece was an empire. Look at the name of the next prince who would rule the area. His name is the prince of Greece. Indeed the Greek empire would defeat the Persians and rise to rule in the region. Our modern western thinking trains us to discount such things. Yet these verses speak of two empires. Both had natural rulers who controlled the region. The angel tells us that both also had demonic princes that empowered their physical counterparts. When the spiritual ruler changed so did the physical ruler.

I know that we cannot see a prince of America, but he exists. There are princes that rule over every continent. Within each region, there are rulers and sub-rulers. I am not trying to be melodramatic or to frighten. This is just what the bible teaches. I do not understand it all but I do not have to understand. I just have to do my part.

What is my part? In the case of Daniel and the Prince of Persia, his part was twofold. First, he had to pray. He was fasting and praying for 21 days when the Angel finally got through to him. The thing that precipitated the battle was Daniel’s prayer. I believe our prayers release the angels to do battle on our behalf. Hebrews 1:14 gives us some insight into this.

Hebrews 1:14 (NKJV) 14 Are they (angels) not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?

Here we learn that the angels are ministering spirits sent out for us, the heirs of salvation. This is a perfect picture of what is happening in Daniel 10. The angel was sent to minister for Daniel and Daniel’s prayers sent him into battle. It is our responsibility to pray and release the angels to do battle.

There was a second aspect to Daniel’s responsibility. Daniel had to be a witness of the true and living God in his world. Daniel was known as one who stood for the principles of God. Because of his uncompromised stand, we see Daniel thrown into a den of lions in chapter 6. In this well-known Bible story, we read that it was an angel who came and closed the mouths of the lions so they would not be able to harm Daniel.

We need to see that we are part of a great drama that is playing out in our world just as it was in Daniel’s world. God is moving to bring about his will in the earth. There are forces opposed to his will and they are currently wielding great power. The degree of instability we see in the natural is the result of an increase in the warfare in the spirit. We have a part to play and God has given us the weapons we need to do that part. That is what the full armor of God is all about.

Our part is the same as Daniel’s part in Persia. We must pray. When we pray we release the power of God, including the angelic army, to bring about the will of God. We must also act. We must live as real Christians walking as best we can in the principles of the bible. When we do, we empower the angels to work for us. Through prayer and our Christian stand, we will help to bring about the will of God in our world and hasten the return of Jesus Christ as the true ruler of God’s people.

The Advantage of Intelligence in Battle

Ephesians 6:11 (NKJV) 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

For the last two weeks, I have been talking about obtaining favor by walking in a position of strength. I believe this is an important element in bringing favor into the life of a believer. I want to restate that the favor I am talking about here is not favor with God. We already have that. Throughout the bible, we see times when God has given his people special favor with other people. Sometimes it is with a group of people and sometimes with one or two key people.

God wants to give us favor but we need to be in the proper position to receive it. We need to be committed to the will of God. We need to walk according to the commandments of God and we need to follow God’s ways. I also believe that God can more readily bring favor to someone who understands that their relationship with the Lord puts them in a position of strength in the spirit even when they may seem to be in a position of weakness in the flesh. This was the case with the Israelite women who asked their Egyptian neighbors for treasure during the exodus.

Last week we began looking at the full armor of God as something that is necessary in order for a believer to live from a position of strength. God has provided this battle clothing so that we can walk through “enemy territory” and not be afraid of attack. Even though attack will come because we live in a warzone, the armor God has provided for us will protect us. It is important that we put on our armor and know how to use it if it is going to help us.

The parallel that we can see in our own day is the body armor worn by our soldiers in the field. For the first time in centuries, the individual soldier has armor that is effective against the weapons of the day. When a US soldier goes against an enemy who has no body armor, he is in a position of power against that enemy. He is not invulnerable, but he is much less vulnerable than his enemy is.

In future weeks, we are going to look at this armor in detail. We will learn what each piece is and how it works to protect us from the enemy. We will also look at the offensive potential of our armor. We tend to think of armor in a strictly defensive way, but the Greek word used by Paul in Ephesians 6:11 does not mean defensive armor alone but the whole weaponry available to the soldier. We need to know how to go on the offensive against our enemy as well.

Today I want to look at the purpose Paul gives for putting on the whole armor of God. Certainly, it is that we may be “strong in the Lord” as stated in verse 10, but there is another reason given in verse 11. Paul says that we must put on this armor so we may stand against the wiles of the devil. Another important element in operating from a position of strength is intelligence. I am not talking about being smarter than your enemy is but knowing your enemies plans and methods. Look at this verse from 2 Corinthians.

2 Corinthians 2:11 (NKJV) 11 lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.

The context of this statement is an incident in the Corinthian church involving someone who needed to be disciplined. The discipline was carried out and Paul says it is time to forgive the man, so he will not be “overcome with sorrow.” He then tells them that Satan can take advantage of us if we do not understand his “devices.” This word carries the idea of a plan or purpose. Paul tells us we need “intelligence” concerning the plans and purpose of the enemy.

One of the most important battles in World War II highlights the value of intelligence. The United States had been severely damaged by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December of 1941. By June of 1941 The US was still in a very dangerous position in the Pacific. The Japanese Navy greatly outnumbered the navy of the United States and the vastness of the Pacific Ocean determined that the war against Japan would be a naval war.

In the spring of 1942, the United States code breakers had managed to break the Japanese naval codes. The Japanese plan was to attack some strategic American target and lure the US aircraft carriers into a decisive battle. If they could destroy the American carriers, the Japanese believed the US would be forced to sue for peace. Because of the US Naval Intelligence service, the Americans knew the Japanese plan.

This intelligence enabled the United States to turn the tide on the Japanese. Naval Intelligence found that the attack would occur in early June at a place called Midway Island. Because they knew the enemy plan in advance, the Americans were waiting when the Japanese arrived. Instead of Japan destroying the American carriers, the Japanese carriers were destroyed. Japan never recovered from this defeat.

In 1943 and 1944, the Japanese built seven new aircraft carriers. In the same period, the United States built ninety of these all-important warships. The naval intelligence victory at Midway gave the United States time for its economic and industrial advantage to take hold. How different might the outcome of World War II have been without this important victory? No one can say, but knowing the plan of the enemy in this battle literally changed history.

Paul says that the armor of God will enable us to stand against the “wiles” of the devil. In 2 Corinthians 2:11 we read that we should not be ignorant of his devices. These two words have similar meanings. What are the “wiles” or “devices” of the devil? How does he come against us? What are his plans? When we learn these things, we will not only be strong defensively but we will be able to go on the offensive. I am tired of simply responding to the attacks of the devil. I am ready to take the battle to the enemy just as the US Navy did at the battle of Midway.

Join me tomorrow for an intelligence briefing.

Put on the Armor of God

Ephesians 6:11 (NKJV) 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

We will have favor with God and man when we realize we can live from a position of strength and not weakness. That has been our topic this week and we will take a few minutes today to finish this thought. From the story of the favor given to the Israelite women by the Egyptian women in Exodus to the way Jesus stood in strength before Pontius Pilot prior to his crucifixion, we see that understanding the strength we have in the spirit leads to favor in the flesh.

Yesterday we looked primarily at Ephesians 6:10. In this verse, Paul exhorts us to be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might. He begins the verse with the word “finally” connecting it with all the revelation in this book. When he says, “be strong,” he is not telling us to be strong in ourselves but to have faith in the strength Jesus makes available to us. We are to be strong because of our covenant relationship with the Lord and in the dominion created by his ability. This is very different from just saying we should “grow up” or “stop whining.”

In verse 11, Paul tells us that we should put on the whole armor of God. We live in a spiritual war zone. In recent years, there has been a distinct improvement in the body armor worn by our troops on the battlefield. Although this armor cannot make them invulnerable to attack, it does provide significant protection against small arms fire especially for the vital organs. As a result our troops can walk into battle from a position of superior strength compared to the enemy they are fighting.

In a very real way, that is what Paul is talking about in Ephesians. His model is the Roman battle armor, which shared a similar technological advantage to today’s body armor. It gave the Roman’s an advantage that contributed to their nearly unstoppable battlefield record. For us to walk in the power of Jesus’ might we must put on the armor that he has provided us. If we keep our armor in place, we will continue to have a strength advantage over the enemy.

I have never worn the body armor our troops wear today, but I can imagine that it is not always comfortable. We see video of them fighting in desert environments and it is hard to understand how they can endure the heat with so much clothing on. If they want to have the strength that the armor provides they must keep it on no matter how uncomfortable it may be. The helmet may chafe and the Kevlar may be stiff but they keep it on because the alternative is to be vulnerable to enemy attack.

Part of the armor of the modern soldier is his or her weaponry. They carry a number of different kinds of weapons from rifles and machine guns to mortars and rocket launchers. They must carry ammunition for all of them. These weapons and ammunition are heavy. The soldier must be trained on how to use them and they must keep themselves current in the necessary skills. This is not easy, but it is what causes them to go into battle from a position of strength.

God has provided us with some very powerful armor and weapons, but it does us no good if we do not wear and learn how to use them. As a pastor, I often found that the armor of God can be uncomfortable to people’s flesh. God gave us a helmet of salvation, but sometimes we do not want to act saved. We have a breastplate of righteousness, but sometimes it seems too tight or it chafes under the arms of our flesh. We need to realize that this armor is for our protection. When we take it off, we are vulnerable.

The armor God has given us fits our spirit perfectly. It is only our flesh that rebels against wearing it. We must crucify our flesh so that it begins to conform to the armor of God. When we choose not to wear the armor, it simply encourages the flesh to complain every time we do choose to put it on. In battle, a soldier understands that the armor will save his life so he gets used to it. We are in a warzone and if we wear our armor, we will face the battle from a position of strength

What do I mean by taking off the armor of God? We take it off when we choose not to obey the principles of the Word of God. If I choose to act in a way that is contrary to my salvation, I am taking off my helmet. If I choose to sin, my breastplate of righteousness is not going to protect me. When I give in to the weakness of the flesh my girdle of truth is ineffective and if I allow strife or fear to compromise the peace in my heart, I do not have my “combat boots” on.

I conform my flesh to the armor by building up my spirit. Meditation in the word is important to the process as is Praise and Worship, prayer and fellowship with the Lord and other believers. Paul gives us a picture of this in Romans 12.

Romans 12:1-2 (NKJV) 1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

The soldier must be willing to sacrifice himself for the good of his family and his country. If we want to be conformed to the strength of the armor of God, we must be willing to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice. We must be willing to bear the discomfort of the flesh so that we will be protected in our battle.

The soldier must not be conformed to the ways of the world. He is trained that he must be different from the world. He must think and act differently. He must be conformed to the military so that he can wear the uniform correctly. We must not be conformed to the ways of the world. We must be transformed by the renewing of our mind until the full armor of God fits us perfectly. It will not change so we must.

Finally, we must learn how to use the weapons God has provided with the armor. Faith is a shield, but in Roman times the shield was not just for protection. It was also a weapon. We must learn how to wield our shield of faith against the enemy. We also have a sword called the Word of God. It is important that we train with our sword and become proficient in how it is used against the enemy.

We must be willing to carry the weight of our weapons. We must keep them clean and loaded by constant prayer, worship and study. If we do, we will be fully armored and prepared for any battle. The enemy has weapons of his own. Primarily they are the weapons of deception. If we wear our armor and maintain proficiency with our weapons, we do not need to fear. We can face life from a position of strength, assured of our victory in the power of Jesus Christ.

Be Strong in the Lord

Ephesians 6:10-12 (NKJV)
10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

This week our topic has been walking in favor from a position of strength. We first looked at the Hebrew women in the book of Exodus who asked their neighbors for treasure. They neither threatened nor intimidated them but both the Egyptians and the Israelites knew that the Israelites were in a position of strength. Next we looked at the position of strength the church occupies. We have the great commission of Jesus in Matthew 28 and we occupy the high ground of the spirit according to Ephesians 1.

Today’s scripture is an admonition from Paul to walk in the strength Jesus has provided for us. Paul tells us to be strong in the Lord. There are a number of things about these three verses that can help us operate from a position of strength. The first point I want to make is actually from verse 13. The nature of our real enemy makes it certain that we can walk in a position of strength.

Paul lets us know that we are not fighting flesh and blood. It is hard to remember this when it seems that flesh and blood people are the ones against us. It may be your boss, a coworker or even a spouse who seems to be your problem. We must remember that they are not our enemy. That does not mean that people are not responsible for their actions. They certainly are. People make choices and we need to trust God to deal with them. We may have to speak to them as well but our real enemy is not flesh and blood. Paul tells us our real enemies are the devil and those evil spirits that work with him to destroy the plan and people of God.

At first this could seem frightening. There is no reason to be frightened if we remember our lesson from Ephesians 1. We are seated far above these same spirits.

Ephesians 1:20-21 (NKJV) 20 which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.

The devil and his army are very cunning and powerful foes. However, we are stronger than they are. Any believer has the authority to defeat them. This is not true because of our own ability but based on the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. We have the position of strength. Jesus defeated the entities mentioned in Ephesians 6:12 and we walk in that victory.

As Paul begins verse ten he uses the word “finally.” Finally implies that what he is saying now is in light of all that he said to them to this point in the letter. Ephesians is one of the most powerful books in the New Testament. Yesterday we looked at chapter one and saw the position of the church. In Chapter two, we see that the church is not without God in the world. In chapter three, Paul tells us that through the church the fullness of God can be manifested.

In chapter four, we learn of the unity of the spirit and the five-fold ministry and the power of unity in the body of Christ. In chapter five, we look at Godly relationships and marriage. In the beginning of chapter six, we learn about parent child relationships. That brings to the “finally” of chapter six. Though this does not even scratch the surface of revelation in Ephesians, you get the idea. It is in light of all of the revelation in Paul’s letter that he can say be strong in the Lord.

The next thing he says is “brethren.” Paul wants us to know that the ability to be strong is not relegated to special people or particular positions in the church. The strength Paul is speaking of is available to all believers. There is no difference between the ministry and the laity. You can be just as strong in the Lord as I can.

The Greek word for strong used here is significant. It means to make strong or strengthen. Paul is not telling us to “grow up and quit being weak.” He is saying that the Lord wants to give us something. The Lord himself will strengthen us if we trust him. It is not up to us to get stronger, it is up to us to receive and believe the strength that comes from the Lord.

This leads us to the next thought; we should be strong in the Lord. When the Hebrew women went to the Egyptian women and asked for their treasure, what was the source of their strength? It was not in their ability. Their strength was in the covenant they had with the Lord. We have a new and better covenant in Christ. When Paul says to be strong, he is saying that we must stand in the strength of that covenant. If we are thinking in terms of our own spirituality or strength, we will fail. However, when we realize that the devil understands covenant and knows that we have a powerful covenant with Jesus, we can approach our enemy knowing that we are in a position of strength.

The last thing Paul wants us to know is that we can be strong in the “power of his might.” These two words are significant. Power here means dominion. Might, in this context, means ability. We are to be strong in the dominion that comes from the ability of God himself. What are the limits of God’s dominion and ability? I submit to you that there are no limits to them at all.

Look around you today. What kind of opposition are you facing? What are the challenges in your life? I encourage you with the apostle Paul to be strong in the Lord. You are not dealing with flesh and blood. Your enemy is an ancient one who still remembers the defeat he suffered at the hands of Jesus. You stand against him in the same strength that defeated him. He knows that. You must know it as well. When you are convinced of it you will be able to agree with Paul in Romans chapter 8.

Romans 8:31 (NKJV) 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Romans 8:37 (NKJV) 37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

The Source of our Strength

Ephesians 1:19-23 (NKJV) 19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power 20 which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. 22 And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

Yesterday we looked at one of the conditions that led to the favor shown by the Egyptian women on the Israelite women. What we found is that they went to the Egyptians from a position of strength. They did nothing to intimidate or pressure the Egyptian women. They did not have to. The Lord was judging Egypt and the Egyptian women knew it. When the Israelites came to them with their request, they also knew that their God was greater.

I believe that we must also realize that we are in a position of strength not weakness. There are many forces in the world today trying to marginalize and minimize the church. They do not mind if we worship the way we believe is right as long as we stay out of view. However, we do not have to submit to this. We are the ones who are in the stronger position.

In Egypt, the Egyptians knew that Israel was strong because God was judging their nation. Today, we may not see the same kind of judgment on the world around us. They may not recognize our strength. We are not under the same kind of covenant that Israel was. Their covenant was largely physical with spiritual implications. Our covenant is primary spiritual with physical implications. We may not see our strength as clearly in the natural, but we are much stronger in the spirit then Israel was in Egypt. Look at the words of Jesus.

John 18:36 (NKJV) 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.”

We live in the Kingdom that Jesus brought to the earth. His kingdom authority was not of this world and neither is ours. He tells the representative of the most powerful nation of his day that if his kingdom were a worldly kingdom his servants would keep him from being delivered to the Jews in the first place. There is an interesting implication here.

Jesus tells Pilot that even the mighty Roman army would not be strong enough to stand against his kingdom and its power if it were a worldly kingdom. Pilot did not see the power Jesus was speaking of, but Jesus knew it was there. He knew that he could call on that spiritual power and it would deliver him even in this natural world. He chose not to do so because it was not the will of God. The power of the Kingdom of God was about to exert its authority in the realm of the spirit over the devil. This was more important than Jesus’ physical deliverance.

I want to point out something in the story that underscores my point about favor coming to those who know they are in a position of strength. Jesus was about to be crucified at the will of God. Nothing could stop that not even the Roman Governor. However, look at these verses.

John 18:38-39 (NKJV) 38 Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, “I find no fault in Him at all. 39 “But you have a custom that I should release someone to you at the Passover. Do you therefore want me to release to you the King of the Jews?”

Pilot gave Jesus favor. He could not get him released because God needed him to be crucified, but Pilot tried the best he could to release him. Pilot was not intimidated in the natural by Jesus’ spiritual kingdom, but he saw something in Jesus that made him want to give him favor. Part of what he saw was Jesus’ strength under pressure. Jesus knew he was in a position of strength and that influenced Pilot. That is what I believe the church needs to be like.

What is the source of our position of strength? It is not our wealth. It is not our political power. It is not the excellence of our presentation of the gospel or polished organization of our churches and ministries. The world has far more and is far better in all these areas. Our strength flows from the same place Jesus’ strength did. It flows from the covenant relationship we have with the Lord and it works in the spirit to bring about the will of God in the natural world. This includes giving us favor when we need it.

Today’s scripture gives us a powerful picture of our position of strength. Our position in the spirit is quite different from our natural position. In the natural, we may be the “low man on the totem pole” but in the spirit, we are seated in heavenly places. We are far above all of the enemies that we really fight. This is not just a poetic statement, it is the position that we occupy in the spirit.

This is true because we are “in Christ Jesus.” When we were born again, we became part of the body of Christ. Every part of my body is in me. If I am in the house, my hand is in the house. If I am out in the yard, my arm is in the yard. If I travel to Africa, my brain does not stay in America. With all deference to the poetic language of the song, it is quite impossible for me to “leave my heart in San Francisco” if I am in New York. I am sure you get my point.

It is sometimes hard for us to grasp that the spirit world is the place of real strength, but it is. It is hard to grasp the fact that we can be in one position in the natural but quite another position in the spirit. However, that is exactly what we see in Jesus before Pilot. He was there and about to be crucified. However, he was also safe in the arms of his Father’s will. He would have to endure some extreme things in the natural but in the end he would be victorious. His victory would not just be for himself but for all mankind.

We are spiritually in Christ Jesus. Yesterday we pointed to Matthew 28:18-19 and the commission he gave us to preach the Gospel. Therefore, we are in a position of strength because he gave us authority. That authority was won when Jesus defeated the devil in spiritual combat. Today we see that our position of strength also flows from where we are in the spirit. We are above the enemy.

Any army knows strength flows from the high ground. In today’s warfare, the high ground is not even on the ground. The army that wins controls the skies with airpower. The United States military is able to win any warfare fought between armies because of its overwhelming air superiority. As long as the various air components of the US military can operate, the ground forces know they are in a position of strength. They have the high ground.

We are seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. You cannot get much higher than that! These verses also tell us of the exceeding greatness of his power at work for us who believe. Everything Jesus did he did for the church “which is his body the fullness of him who fills all in all.”

As you go through your day remember that you are in a position of strength. You have the high ground in the spirit. You are seated with Jesus in heavenly places and you have the great power of God on your side.

Strength

Exodus 12:35-36 (NKJV) 35 Now the children of Israel had done according to the word of Moses, and they had asked from the Egyptians articles of silver, articles of gold, and clothing. 36 And the LORD had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they granted them what they requested. Thus they plundered the Egyptians.

We have been studying favor given by God to his people. We began with the children of Israel during the Exodus from Egypt. The Lord instructed Moses to tell the Israelite women to go to their neighbors and ask them for articles of “silver, Gold and clothing.” God promised to give the Israelites favor with the Egyptians. In today’s verse, we see the fulfillment of this promise.

It is important to remember that they did not get these things through intimidation or threat. God gave them favor and the Egyptian women simply complied. The Israelites did not remind the Egyptians of the plagues and tell them if they did not do as they asked they would get worse. They simply asked and God moved on the Egyptian women to give them what they asked for. This is favor and that is what I believe the Lord wants to do for his church today.

Although this favor did not come via threat or intimidation, the Israelites were asking from a position of strength. We know that they made this request in response to the direction of Moses, so the request was made sometime during the plagues. We do not know at what point because today’s verse says the Israelites “had done” what Moses directed which means it was in the past. However, there can be no question that they went at some point in the process of the judgment of Egypt.

When the Israelite women went to the Egyptian woman, I do not believe they went with the attitude of slavery. They did not go begging for these things. They simply went and asked the Egyptians to give them what God commanded them to ask for. When they asked it was from a position of strength. They did not use the plagues, but the Egyptian women were completely aware of them. They knew that the God of the Israelites was powerful. There was no need for threats or intimidation. The Israelites were stronger because of their God. They knew it and the Egyptians knew it.

I do not believe the church will walk in favor if we live from a position of weakness. The world tries to intimidate the church of Jesus Christ. Media most often tends to portray Christianity as either weak or radically intolerant. Often we are portrayed as both. There is an effort among some in government to eliminate Christian influence. In the United States under the guise of separation of church and state, we are told that anything overtly Christian has no place in the public forum. Under the guise of tolerance, we are told that any public display of faith is in bad taste because it will offend those who disagree. The only ones no one seems to worry about offending are the Christians.

These tactics are designed to keep us weak. I am not advocating political activism or some kind of Christian intimidation tactic. Just as the Israelite women did not need them, neither do we. It is not really important that the world think we are strong. That is God’s business just as it was in the day of the Exodus. What is important is that we know our strength and where it comes from. It is important that we approach the world from a position of inward strength. It is important that we do not allow the world to intimidate us into cowering in a corner. It is important that we walk in the confidence that comes from our relationship to Jesus.

I am reminded of a story from the days of Christian martyrdom in Rome. It seems that as the Christians were being burned at the stake, they sang hymns to God. The powers of the world were in the process of killing these people. As they sang, they demonstrated where the real strength was. In America today we are not facing these kinds of trials. However, we should face the trials we do endure, as well as life itself, in the same strength that they faced death.

As I was preparing this message, I felt the Lord spoke something to me. He said, “My church is asking permission when I have given them authority.” I am not talking about breaking the law or having the wrong attitude at work. I am talking about the inward sense that we do not really have the right to do what God has commissioned us to do. I am talking about that spirit of intimidation that says we have no right in the public debate. I am talking about allowing those who would portray us in an untrue light to go unchallenged because we are “just religious people.”

Matthew 28:18-19 (NKJV) 18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

The world may not recognize this scripture as true, but it is important that we do. When Jesus made this statement, he had just defeated Satan and all of his cohorts. This was not some theoretical boast on the part of Jesus. He had earned the right to say it in combat. This was not a physical combat. If you just saw the natural death of Jesus, it could be said that he lost that fight. However, he won the spiritual battle when he was raised from the dead. The real power is in the spirit both then and now.

Jesus tells the world, the church and the devil that he is now the spiritual power in the earth. Then he tells us to go into the world and preach the gospel. Was he saying to go intimidated? No, he was not. Were we to ask permission? No! Look at the words of Jesus in Matthew 16.

Matthew 16:18-19 (NKJV) 18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. 19 And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

Jesus sent us in a position of strength. This strength is not in the flesh but in the spirit. Nevertheless, it is real. Jesus is the dominant spiritual force in the earth today. When we stand before the world, we must do so knowing this is true. I believe that is how the Israelite women felt when they went to the Egyptians. The Egyptians responded to the move of God to give them favor, partly because they came to them in a position of strength.

If you are a born again Christian, you are in a position of spiritual strength. Do not let the devil intimidate you. Jesus defeated him in his death, burial and resurrection. You need to remember that and remind the devil of it as often as you remind yourself. Do not be intimidated by people. When you talk to someone about the Lord, remember that you are the one in the position of strength. If you are right and they are wrong, you are bound for eternity in heaven and they are bound for the opposite. Does their ridicule really matter?

What are you facing today? You face it from a position of strength. You are a child of God and all of heaven is behind you. You do not need to threaten or try to intimidate. Those with real strength do not need to do that. You do need to rise up in faith, walk with your head held high and be proud that you are a Christian and serve the Living God.