"We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, but we are spiritual beings having a human experience."--Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
"There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition. It lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call . . . The Twilight Zone."
Every Friday night during the early 1960s I would listen to Rod Serling voice those words as he introduced his television program "The Twilight Zone." The anthology series dealt with that "middle ground" where the visible and invisible forces in the universe intersected with one another.
Each week ordinary people would discover that "fifth dimension" of reality that invaded their everyday experiences. Those of us who grew up watching "The Twilight Zone" will always remember the episodes about the airline passenger who looks out his window one stormy night and sees a demonic creature on the wing destroying the engines, the customer who realizes that the mannequins in a department store were once human beings, or the father who discovers that his life is a motion picture, and he is only an actor on a set playing his part.
Beyond the natural entertainment value of the show, the appeal of "The Twilight Zone" (and the other sci-fi programs that it spawned) is that it taps into the instinct we all have that there is something more to life that what we can see or measure. How else do we explain . . .
The coincidences in life that cannot be attributed to mere chance.
The intuitive feelings we experience that turn out to be correct.
The random impulses we feel to do something completely out of character.
The sensations we have when we are alone that we are not alone.
Rod Serling was right . . . there is another world that is beyond human comprehension. This other world is as vast as space and as timeless as eternity. This other world is the spirit world. It is the realm in which God, Satan, angels, and demons reside. And whether you realize it or not, it is the reality that is responsible for most of the struggles you experience every day of your life.
Although this other world is invisible and immeasurable, it is in truth more real and certainly more permanent than the visible world in which we currently exist. The Bible assures us that one day everything that we can see, feel, and touch will be consumed by fire. All that will remain will be our spirits which will be given a new body to inhabit and a new heaven and earth in which to reside for all eternity. As one writer says, "We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, but we are spiritual beings having a human experience."1
I realize that not everyone accepts that proposition. Admittedly, it is difficult to believe in something that is not empirically verifiable. One writer imagines a discussion between a set of twins in their mother's womb the day before they are born:
"You know," one says, "there's a whole world out there--grassy meadows and snowy mountains, splashing streams and waterfalls, horses and dogs and cats and whales and giraffes. There are skyscrapers and cities and people like us--only much bigger--playing games like football and baseball and volleyball and going to the beach."
"Are you crazy?" the other twin responds. "That's just wishful thinking. Everybody knows that there's no such thing as life after birth."2
Such a limited perspective is the by-product of naturalism which is often--and erroneously-- equated with "science." A naturalist is one who believes that "nature is all that there is." He is convinced that only what is visible and measurable is real. His worldview leaves no room for the supernatural, which by definition refers to those things which are "above, beyond, or in addition to" the natural-- that which can be seen and measured.
Unfortunately for the naturalist, science itself has demonstrated the inherent weakness in his perspective. For example, only recently in man's long history have we discovered the reality of germs, atoms, and electricity--all of which have been present in the universe since creation. Just because man was not able to see or measure those realities for thousands or perhaps millions of years, did it make them any less real? To limit reality to that which is visible and measurable leads to a kind of tunnel vision that unnecessarily limits our ability to see the world--as well as our own life--as it really is.
Nikos Kazanitzakis describes two artists who engaged in a contest to see who could most accurately paint a picture portraying the visible world.
"Now I shall prove to you that I am the best," said the first artist, pointing to a curtain which he had painted.
"Well, draw back the curtain and let us see the picture" the second artist requested.
"The curtain IS the picture" replied the first painter with a laugh.3
Behind the curtain of our visible existence is a world more real and more enduring than the one we can see. But what is that world like? And what is our place in that world?
Although this parallel world is invisible to the naked eye, as well as the most powerful microscope or telescope, we do possess an instrument that allows us peek behind the curtain. Through the lens of the Bible, we discover that there is an unseen war raging between the forces of good and evil. One writer describes that conflict this way:
The truth to which all these [elements] point. . . is the truth that God's good creation has in fact been seized by hostile, evil cosmic forces that are seeking to destroy God's beneficent plan for the cosmos . . . The general assumption of both the Old and New Testaments is that the earth is virtually engulfed by cosmic forces of destruction, and that evil and suffering are ultimately due to this diabolical siege . . . God waged war against these forces, however, and through the person of Jesus Christ has now secured the overthrow of this cosmic army. The church as the body of Christ has been called to be a decisive means by which this final overthrow is to be carried out.4
In the next chapter we will discover the origin of this cosmic seizure of "God's good creation," as well as its ultimate outcome.
But why do those of us who may be worrying about surviving the next round of lay-offs at work, making our mortgage payment next month, or navigating our children through adolescence need to concern ourselves with some unseen spiritual war?
Do you remember years ago on September 11, 2001, when the first jet slammed into the World Trade Center in New York City? I was drinking my final cup of coffee before work when the morning news program I was watching was interrupted to broadcast live pictures of a gaping hole in the world's tallest building. The commentators speculated endlessly about the cause of the "accident." When told about the crash, then President George W. Bush was reported to have said, "That's one bad pilot!"
Many of us felt the same way. If indeed the crash had been caused by pilot error, perhaps the remedy for future accidents would have been to order remedial training for pilots, better navigation systems installed in planes, or more skilled air traffic controllers at airports.
But we soon discovered that this was no accident. When another plane crashed into the second tower, we immediately knew that America was under attack from a hostile force. For the first time in more than a hundred years, an enemy had attacked us on our own continent, forcing us to quickly formulate a strategy for defeating this new adversary. Knowing the source of a problem is crucial for developing a strategy to combat that problem. A navigational accident demands one response. A hostile strike requires a completely different strategy.
Every day our world is invaded by what are commonly thought to be random events . . . and we respond accordingly:
Please understand, I am all for marriage seminars, drug education, accountability groups, conflict resolution, and psychiatric medication when necessary. But what if the source of our problems is something more than just random events? What if the explanation for the problems that assault us regularly is something other than "stuff happens"? What if we are indeed under enemy attack? Would we change our strategy--or at least adapt it--to confront such a reality?
The Bible allows us to lift the curtain of our visible existence so that we can see the world as it really is. Through the lens of Scripture we discover not only that there is an unseen world . . . but it is a world at war. In perhaps the seminal passage in the New Testament about this spiritual conflict the apostle Paul writes:
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 6:12).
Notice Paul's use of the personal pronoun "our." This war is not just a spat between two cosmic forces that has little to do with us. We cannot shrug our shoulders when we read about it and say "I don't have a dog in that fight" (a favorite Texan expression). We do have a stake in this battle. Why?
Whether you realize it or not, you are living in the crossfire of this spiritual war. As a friend of mine writes, "We Christians are not living on this earth as carefree tourists. We are soldiers on raw, pagan soil. Everywhere around us the battle rages."5
Those who dismiss such words as being "over the top", "sensationalistic", or simply secondary to "more important spiritual realities" do so to their own detriment. The late pastor Martyn Lloyd Jones wrote . . .
Not to realize that you are in a conflict means one thing only, and it is that you are so hopelessly defeated, and so "knocked out" as it were, that you do not even know it--you are completely defeated by the devil. Anyone who is not aware of a fight and a conflict in a spiritual sense is in a drugged and hazardous condition.6
Admittedly, most Christians are not aware of this intense battle in which we are engaged. Although we regularly witness the fallout of the enemy's assaults all around us--broken marriages, wayward children, divided churches, inexplicable acts of violence--we fail to connect the dots and understand the source of much of our conflicts.
There is a war that is raging around us . . . as well as within us. Every Christian is a walking battlefield.7 Pastor Steve Lawson describes the war within our hearts this way . . .
Deep within the hidden recesses of the human heart, a bloodless battle is being fought--a life-and-death struggle for the soul. This intense spiritual warfare is raging between God and Satan upon the invisible battlefields of our hearts. As long as we are upon this earth, every square inch of space and every split second of time in our lives is an arena of war.
This battle is relentless and ruthless. It stalks us like prey. It tracks us down like a wild animal. It finds us no matter where we go. There is no escaping this war. We can't run from it. We can't hide from it.
There is no neutral ground in this conflict. No truce can be called. No cease-fire negotiated. No peace treaty signed. No white flag waved. No demilitarized zone entered.8
In case you think that all this talk of "spiritual warfare" is symptomatic of some kind of spiritual paranoia, consider the numerous passages in the Bible that utilize the imagery of war to describe our existence on earth. The first allusion to Christ in the Bible is that of an injured warrior (Genesis 3:15), and the final picture of Christ in the Bible is that of a conquering soldier who returns to earth to reclaim His kingdom (Revelation 19).
Between the first and second coming of Christ, His followers are described as foot soldiers who are fighting for the establishment of His kingdom on the foreign soil of planet earth:
For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:4-5)
Put on the full armor of God, that you may 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 6:11-12).
But I thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier . . . (Philippians 2:25)
This command I entrust to you, Timothy . . . that you might fight the good fight (1 Timothy 1:17)
Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier (2 Timothy 2:3-4).
At some point, we need to decide whether or not we believe--really believe--that the biblical worldview is correct. If we are convinced that the Bible is God's Word, then we must conclude that we are living in the crossfire of a great cosmic battle.
Furthermore, we cannot claim neutrality in this war. "I'm a lover not a fighter" is no excuse for passivity. There is no safe place on the sidelines for us to sit out the battle until the "all clear" signal is sounded. Jesus made it clear that there was no allowance for conscientious objectors in this war when He said, "He who is not with Me is against me." (Luke 11:23).
I remember singing this rousing little chorus when I was a youngster in Sunday School . . .
I may never march in the infantry,
Ride in the Calvary,
Shoot the artillery.
I may never zoom o'er the enemy,
But I'm in the Lord's Army, Yes, Sir!
Behind that simple song is a profound truth: you and I have been drafted to serve in a life and death battle for the future of the universe. Understanding that our Commander-in-Chief has enlisted us to serve in this cosmic war helps us to remember our purpose in life, keeps us from needless distractions that would hinder our service to God, and encourages us to fight with every ounce of energy that we have so that when our tour of duty is completed we, like the apostle Paul, can say . . .
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved his appearing (2 Timothy 4:7-8).
But beyond some future reward for our service to God, there is a more immediate reason to awaken from our "drugged and unconscious state" and comprehend the spiritual war in which we are engaged.
As a Christian you are in the crosshairs of the enemy's artillery. Whether you believe that you are living in the middle of a cosmic war between God and Satan is really immaterial to the devil. In fact, he prefers that you stay oblivious to the real battle that is raging in the universe and your place in that battle.
Like any combatant, Satan always operates more efficiently in the darkness than in the light. He has placed a giant "X" on your back and has marked you for destruction. The less aware you are of his goal, the more certain he is of success.
Regardless of your level of awareness, you do have an enemy who is intent on destroying you. The apostle Peter does not warn us to "be on the alert, be of sober spirit for God's adversary the devil prowls about." Instead, Peter describes Satan as "your adversary the devil" (I Peter 5:8).
Frankly, this is one of the consequences of becoming a Christian that is rarely discussed. Before you became a believer, you were part of Satan's kingdom. You were his indentured servant and existed to serve his purpose.
But when you trusted in Christ as your Savior, you were delivered "from the domain of darkness, and transferred . . . to the kingdom of His beloved Son" (Colossians 1:13). You have been freed from Satan's tyrannical reign and maniacal plan for your life. That's the good news.
The not so good news is that as part of God's Kingdom, His enemies have become your enemies. God's chief antagonist is now your chief adversary. One writer vividly describes the conflict this way . . .
God now has an enemy . . . and so do we. Man is not born into a sitcom or a soap opera; he is born into a world at war. This is not "Home Improvement"; it's "Saving Private Ryan." There will be many, many battles to fight on many different battlefields.9
Before you get discouraged and think, "I'm not sure I'm up to the fight" you should know that Satan is already a conquered opponent. In the next chapter we will discover how and when his defeat occurred. Nevertheless, in spite of the certainty of Satan's ultimate demise, he is still a powerful adversary who can inflict great harm. He has the capability of . . .
Perhaps you are one of those people who are understandably skeptical about the whole subject of spiritual warfare. You believe in the existence of Satan. You are aware of the reality of demons. You sense there is a battle going on between the forces of good and evil. You would like to protect yourself and your loved ones from Satan's assaults.
But you are not sure what, if anything, you can do about it. And you sure don't want to engage in anything "weird" like trying to exorcise demons from your friends and family members. Spinning heads, levitating bodies, and creepy voices are beyond your comfort zone. You don't want to be one of those people who attributes every problem in life from cancer to hangnails to "satanic attacks." Carrying a giant cross or wearing a string of garlic to ward off the evil spirits isn't for you.
If you have some of those reservations about the subject of spiritual warfare, then this book is for you. Christians tend to go to one of two extremes when it comes to the subject of spiritual warfare. Those who are unaware and, therefore, unprepared to fight the very real battle that Satan is waging against them are destined to become "spiritual road kill."
However, others become so fixated on Satan and his minions that they become "demon-obsessed." Pastor Kent Hughes recounts a spiritual revival that touched a number of professional families in a large city years ago. These doctors, lawyers, and business executives gained a new interest in Bible study, their marriages were being restored, and there churches were being energized by their spiritual fervor. But some of the leadership of this renewal movement became fascinated by the subject of spiritual warfare and started giving more attention to the work of Satan against them than the work of Christ for them.
One night their group became convinced that demons had inhabited the dining room chandelier where they were meeting. They concluded their Bible study by disassembling the light fixture so that they could take the parts of the chandelier and bury them in different parts of the city. Not long afterwards, some of the group's children were seen running down the street shouting, "The devil is going to get us, the devil is going to get us."10
Satan is just as pleased by those who exalt him as by those who ignore him. In his classic work THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS, C. S. Lewis observes . . .
There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They [Satan and his demons] are equally pleased by both errors.11
SPIRIT WARS is written for those of you who may be unaware-- or just wary of-- the subject of spiritual warfare. In our journey together we will seek to be both intensely biblical and extremely practical as we discover what we can do to protect our faith, our family, and our future from the powerful attacks of our enemy. But even though Satan and his forces are real and really powerful, we need not fear them, nor do we need to become obsessed with them.
Author Neil Anderson compares the world of Satan and his demons to the world of germs. We know that germs, though invisible, are all around us. They inhabit our food, our water, our air, and other people with whom we come in contact. Some people are absolutely phobic about germs and spend their lives trying to insulate themselves from any contact with them.
But the right diet, appropriate rest and exercise, and practicing some simple principles of hygiene will protect you from most infections. You do not have to obsess about germs to be free from them. Yet, without an awareness of these microbes--and the ways to protect yourselves from them--you would be more prone to illness and even death.12
Yes, we need to exercise balance in our understanding of this complex subject of spiritual warfare. But please do not equate "balance" with "passive." As the ancient warrior Sun Tzu observed:
The art of war is of vital importance . . . . It is a matter of life and death, a road to either to safety or to ruin. Hence, under no circumstances can it be ignored.13
You are in the middle of an invisible, though very real, war.
The stakes are high.
Your enemy is skilled, armed, and determined.
The possibility of losing everything important to you is real.
You must be aware of and prepared for the fight.
In the pages that follow, we will discover how you can win the greatest battle of your life.