The Invisible Battle
With so many TV shows, movies and books delving into the supernatural world, there are lots of different ideas floating around about God, the Devil, angels and demons. But few paint an accurate picture of the spiritual battleground the Bible talks about. Campus Life thought it would be a good idea to shed some light on the subject. So we went to Calvin Miller, a professor at Beeson Divinity School and author of the book Disarming the Darkness, for answers to our spiritual warfare questions.
What exactly is spiritual warfare?
I see spiritual warfare as the conflict between good and evil as it relates to the life of the Christian. We've all seen the comic strip characters of a man trying to make a decision while there's a little devil on his right shoulder and a little angel on his left.
I think that picture is pretty accurate. We generally do have to make our decisions in life between two influences, between two very different viewpoints. God and the Devil are always wrangling over our souls, each trying to claim them with their agenda.
In this ongoing battle, we are responsible for our decisions. Every good decision must be made in Christ's name, for it gives pleasure to God. In James 1:17 God is called the giver of "every good and perfect gift," while the Devil is called the "father of lies" (John 8:44). We are to serve God and say no to the Devil.
So who is the Devil, anyway, and how did he come to exist?
Well, we see him in the book of Genesis—in the Garden at the beginning of time. But you really have to go to other passages in Scripture to learn where the Devil came from (Isaiah 14, Ezekiel 28:15-18, Revelation 12 and others).
Basically, he was once one of the important angels. But then he decided he wanted his own share of heaven. So he rebelled against God, and as a result was thrown out of heaven, along with the angels who followed him.
He's called by different names throughout the Bible, one of them being Satan. In Hebrew this name means "accuser," which says a lot about who he is. The Devil's main objective is to attack and destroy. As 1 Peter 5:8 says, he "prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour."
What are some of the most important things we need to understand about Satan and spiritual warfare?
I think the number one thing to recognize is that Satan is out to claim the world as his own. Second, he is out to stand against everything God endorses. God wants people to do good; Satan doesn't. God wants a teenager to have a pure life; Satan wants her to have an immoral life.
The surest defense against Satan, I believe, is to welcome Christ's reign in our hearts. The heart is only big enough for one throne, and only one can rule there at a time. It's either going to be Christ or Satan. So, if Christ has full access to our lives, Satan will not find much place there.
What would it look like to welcome Satan onto the "throne of our hearts"? Because I don't think most people do that intentionally.
I don't think they necessarily do either. I think very few people ever get up in the morning and say, "I'm going to hate God today." But I think a lot of people get up day after day and go about their business as usual, never thinking about God, which really has the same effect. It's what I call "practical atheism."