James Meehan - Is Spiritual Warfare Real?
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500 years before the time of Jesus, a Chinese military genius named Sun Tzu wrote about the importance of knowing your enemy when you are in a fight. And in the 1980s, GI Joe taught us that knowing is half the battle, which is why we're starting a new Bible Nerd series titled, "Jesus versus the Devil, the Flesh, and the World". Because for 2000 years, Christians have identified those things, the devil, the flesh, and the world as the three great enemies that are waging war against our souls.
So each week of this series, we're going to learn, how our enemies attack us, and we're going to see how Jesus defended against those attacks so that we could learn from him. Now, the big idea for this new series is that spiritual disciplines are spiritual warfare. Spiritual disciplines are spiritual warfare. So let's define those terms. First of all, spiritual disciplines, what are those? They are the habits and practices that help us become like Jesus. And spiritual warfare is the battle between good and evil that isn't fought with swords and shields but is primarily fought with truth and lies.
Now, if you're feeling extra nerdy, then we would recommend you check out the book "Live No Lies" by author, John Mark Comer. It is the best book on spiritual warfare I've ever read, and was a huge inspiration for this series. This week, we are starting with Jesus versus the Devil. Now, the first thing we've gotta understand is that the devil is real and he is against us. And because that's the case, the question then becomes, what do we do? Well, as followers of Jesus, as Bible Nerds, we learn from Jesus, and in three out of the four gospels, we read about a time where Jesus went toe to toe with the devil and he came out on top. We'll be reading the version of these events found in the book of Luke in 4:1-13. As we do, I want you to pay attention to two things. First, how does the devil attack Jesus? And then second, as we're reading, pay attention to how Jesus defends against those attacks.
So starting in Luke 4:1, we read that, "Then Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan River. He was led by the Spirit in the wilderness where he was tempted by the devil for 40 days. Jesus ate nothing all that time and became very hungry. Then the devil said to him, 'If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become a loaf of bread.' But Jesus told him, 'No, the Scriptures say, "People do not live by bread alone".' Then the devil took him up and revealed to him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 'I will give you the glory of these kingdoms and authority over them,' the devil said, 'because they are mine to give to anyone I please, and I will give it all to you if you will worship me.' But Jesus replied, 'The Scriptures say, "You must worship the Lord, your God and serve only him".' Then the devil took him to Jerusalem to the highest point of the temple, and he said, 'If you are the Son of God, jump off.' For the Scriptures say, 'He will order his angels to protect and guard you, and they will hold you up with their hands. So you won't even hurt your foot on a stone.' But Jesus responded, 'The Scriptures also say, "You must not test the Lord, your God".' When the devil had finished tempting Jesus, he left him until the next opportunity came".
So back to those two questions, the first, how does the devil attack Jesus? And then second, how does Jesus defend against those attacks? So how did the devil attack Jesus? He attacked his identity and targeted his desires with lies and deception. He attacked his identity by saying, "If you are the Son of God," and then he targeted his desires by saying, "tell this stone to become a loaf of bread". You see, this tactic is the same tactic that the devil always uses. He attacks our identity as sons and daughters of God, and he targets our desires with lies and deception. He does it here with Jesus, he did it with Adam and Eve in the garden, and he does the same thing with you and me. He attacks our identity by targeting our desires with lies and deception.
And in this story, he repeats this same thing two more times. First, he starts with targeting Jesus' desire to be fed because, you know, Jesus had been fasting for 40 days, and at that point, I'm sure he was pretty hungry. Then he targets Jesus's desire to bring all of humanity back to God, through trusting in him by offering him all the kingdoms of this world. And then, finally, the devil targets Jesus's desire to be protected from harm, a desire that all of us as human beings have. Because the thing that Jesus knew was that his mission was going to cost him his life. So how does the devil attack us? He doesn't come at us typically with an army of demons or horrific diseases or even catastrophic disasters. No, he attacks our identity, he targets our desires and he does it with deceptive ideas. So how does Jesus defend against these attacks?
This brings us back to the big idea of this series, that spiritual disciplines are spiritual warfare. So what spiritual disciplines did Jesus use in his encounters with the devil? The first thing that Jesus did was he fasted, right? He gave up food for a period of time to help him grow closer to God. We read at the very beginning of this story that, "Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, he returned from the Jordan River, he was led by the spirit in the wilderness where he was tempted by the devil for 40 days. He ate nothing all that time and he became very hungry".
So what did Jesus do? He fasted, which is a practice that invites the Holy Spirit to help us say no to something we want, food, so we can say yes to something we want even more, growing closer to God and becoming more like Jesus. And when Jesus was fasting for 40 days, that didn't make him weaker, it actually made him stronger. The second thing that Jesus did was he practiced scripture memorization, right? He's studied the Bible so well that he can remember God's word by heart. And what we know about the devil is that he attacks us with lies and deception. This is why we have to know the truth of God's word to defend against those attacks. And every time the devil attacked Jesus, Jesus responded by quoting the Bible. In verse 4, Jesus responds to the devil by saying, "No, the Scriptures say". In verse 8, he replies, "The Scriptures say".
In verse 12, Jesus responded, "The Scriptures also say". He was really consistent about going back to the truth of God's word, to defend against the deceptive ideas of the devil. So then how do we, as human beings, fight against the devil? Well, we remember the big idea that spiritual disciplines are spiritual warfare. So we make God's words our words, by studying the Bible consistently and memorizing scripture because that's exactly what Jesus did. He responded to the lies of the devil with the truth of God. The second thing that we do is we make Jesus' habits our habits by practicing spiritual disciplines, specifically fasting and abstinence. What are those things?
Well, fasting, we already talked about, is giving up food for a period of time so that we can grow closer to God. And an abstinence is giving up something else for a period of time so that we can grow closer to God. And what I would recommend to you is just pick a day, one day a week for the next several weeks, where you don't eat until dinner time, and do it as a way to grow closer to God. When you start to feel those cravings for food, let that be a prompting to pray. And then when it comes to this practice of abstinence, giving something else up so that you can grow closer to God, my recommendation would be to pick the thing that you spend the most time doing that isn't helping you grow in your relationship with Jesus, and give that up for two weeks. For me, I'm giving up YouTube because, goodness gracious, I can spend way too many hours watching pointless videos on YouTube.
Now most of the time, it's about either working out or video games, because those are my hobbies. But even though it's enjoyable, what I know it's getting in the way of is making time for what matters most, growing closer to Jesus and taking care of my family. And I wanna make that a priority. Now, whatever that thing might be for you, we'd actually love to be able to pray with you as you make that decision and you commit to giving it up for a period of weeks. So comment down below what it is that you're going to give up so that we can pray with you and support you along the way.
So to recap everything that we've talked about today, there are these three enemies, the devil, the flesh, and the world, that are at war with us, trying to corrupt our souls. But thankfully, because of Jesus, we can stand strong in our fight against those enemies by practicing these spiritual disciplines, these habits of Jesus that make us more like Jesus. And what we saw in today's scripture was that Jesus, through memorizing the Bible and through fasting, was able to resist the attacks of the devil, and his Holy Spirit is inside of us to give us the power to do the exact same thing. And so, as we continue on in this series, we're going to learn more and more what it looks like for us to make the words of God, our words, and to make the habits of Jesus, our habits. Until then, take care and stay nerdy.