Many people would agree with me when I say that this past election was the most intense (and by intense, I mean brutal) political season my generation has witnessed yet. During that time I kept most of my opinions to myself, but many of my observations were troubling. The division, disrespectful comments, and blatant hatred caused my heart to ache. I expected some of this conduct from people of the world, but absolutely nothing could prepare me to witness this behavior from those who know and love the same God I serve. My prayers shifted from the election; I honed in on the Church and her heart toward people who look, act, and think nothing like her.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:10-12, NASB)
Paul encouraged the church at Ephesus to remain strong so that they would be well armored to stand against the schemes of the devil. Satan is not a person; we don’t duke it out with an actual physical being, but Paul says we will stand up against his schemes. The dictionary defines a scheme as a plan, an underhanded plot. What, then, is Satan’s major underhanded plan against the kingdom of God? He wants us to turn on each other rather than fighting against his evil powers. If the devil can get us to destroy one another, then he won’t have to! When we attack one another, we are literally doing the devil’s job for him. We become an accomplice to the kingdom of darkness when we operate in any spirit that opposes God’s holy nature.
What Would Jesus Do?
In Matthew 16, we see Jesus telling His disciples about His horrible death, His burial, and His glorious resurrection. Then, something interesting happens.
Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get [thee] behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interest, but man’s.” (Matthew 16:22-23, NASB; also recorded in Mark 8:33)
Can you imagine how Peter must have felt to hear such a response from the Lord? To add a little context to what was happening, Jesus had just asked the disciples who they thought He was. Peter was the one to whom God revealed that Jesus was the Son of God. Jesus then marvels at this, and blesses Peter, spiritually promoting Peter as the rock of His church (Matthew 16:17-19). It’s after this that Jesus goes on to tell the disciples about God’s plan for the salvation and redemption of the world through His death. Peter, probably feeling pretty great about himself after Jesus’ affirmation, decides to stand up and defend the Lord. How often do we try to prevent that which God has ordained for “righteousness” sake? Peter probably thought he was exhibiting the sort of stance Jesus would be proud of. How wrong Pete was.
Jesus, in His perfect knowledge and wisdom, knows that He is being faced with a scheme in disguise of a caring disciple. Jesus does something remarkable! He doesn’t scold Peter, judge him, or even address him. He addresses Satan: the spirit or principality that was attempting to come against God’s plan for the salvation of humanity. Of course, Peter doesn’t know that when He was expressing His strong assertion he was being used as an accomplice to speak against what God had ordained. Jesus knew this, but he didn’t attack Peter; He attacked the spirit.
Too often Christians are anxious to attack one another for the sake of righteousness or because we think our efforts will impress Jesus. But, we must ask ourselves, are we cooperating with God’s spirit of love or with Satan’s spirit of division? We must fight against principalities and powers by wearing the armor of God, using the fruits of the Spirit, and spending much time in intentional prayer. Rather than judging the less fortunate, why don’t we attack the spirit of poverty? Rather than despising homosexual people, why don’t we attack the spirit of sexual immorality? Rather than attacking the President or other elected officials, why not attack the spirits of darkness that come against the Church? If you find yourself frustrated with certain things or people, channel that frustration to its rightful place! Be frustrated with Satan and his grip on our generation. Be frustrated with the power of darkness that cannot be attributed to one person’s name or face or skin color. Be frustrated about the lies being told to helpless and hopeless people. We are supposed to be full of compassion. As long as we keep attacking people, we are losing. The fight is SPIRITUAL. We have to combat demonic forces. By the power of the Holy Spirit, Christians have the power to wage spiritual warfare against the kingdom of darkness, unless we fall for the scheme of Satan, get distracted and kill each other.
We are the army of the Lord. We should fight against the powers of darkness with Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as our General. However, if we allow Satan to distract us, rather than advancing toward enemy, we’ll begin to aim our swords at each other. When that happens, Christians are left bleeding and dying — at the hand of their own brother or sister! — and the enemy can laugh as we defeat ourselves. Refuse to be a puppet manipulated by the devil to destroy people Jesus died for.
Love is a mighty weapon. When we begin to love what God loves (people) and hate what God hates (the kingdom of darkness), then we will never be confused as a member of Satan’s army. We must stop destroying our troops, and begin waging war against the devil… together!
He won’t know what hit him.