Sermon on spiritual warfare from Matthew 4:1-11
In today’s time of division, we often find ourselves at odds with other people – adversaries with flesh and blood. But the apostle Paul reminds us that our real enemy is spiritual, against Satan and his schemes (Ephesians 6:12). Our primary battle is a spiritual warfare. So what are the devil’s schemes and how can we fight them?
Satan’s schemes are very predictable – he has been using them for a very long time. His main tactics are doubt and distortion. We can see this even from the very beginning, when he used these tactics against Eve. “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1) –The enemy was casting doubt on what God said, and distorting the truth of what God said. And we see immediately that his tactic was successful, because then Eve also distorted what God said, by adding to God’s rule of not eating, saying that they weren’t allowed to touch the fruit either.
As soon as Satan gets us to doubt what God said or to believe a distorted version of what God said, we fall.
The wonderful thing about Jesus is that when we often fall, Jesus never fell for it. The writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus was “tempted as we are, yet without sin” (4:15). So we can look at how Jesus defeated these tactics in order for us to learn how we can deal with them ourselves.
There are three areas in which Jesus was tempted, and we face them In our spiritual warfare, too.
1. Satan tempts us to doubt and distort who we are.
Satan kept using the phrase, “If you are the Son of God…” trying to sow doubt in Jesus’ mind about who he is (Matthew 4:3 and 6). He does the same thing with us. Scripture tells us that those who believe in Jesus are called children of God (Romans 8:16), but we often doubt our identity in Christ in times of vulnerability and weakness. Satan takes advantage of those weakened times to make us doubt and distort who we already are!
2. Satan tempts us to doubt and distort what we are called to do.
Satan challenged Jesus to throw himself off the pinnacle of the temple in what basically amounted to an act of suicide, in order to test whether angels would protect him (4:5-6). The truth is that Jesus actually did come to earth to die, but not this way! It’s a gross distortion of what Jesus was called to do. In the same way, God calls us to make bold choices and do great things for his kingdom, but Satan tempts us to give up, to change course, to doubt God’s calling, to kill our dreams and purposes.
3. Satan tempts us to doubt and distort what we have been given.
Satan showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and offered to give them to Jesus if Jesus would sell him his soul (4:8-9). But Jesus already possessed not only all the kingdoms of earth, but also the kingdom of heaven! How many of us would throw away the mission of God in our lives because we would rather have the trinkets of this world than the keys to the kingdom of heaven!
Our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual enemy in this world. James gives us the key to victory: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you” (James 4:7-8).
Spiritual warfare in a nutshell is simple. All you have to do is repeatedly say no to Satan. He can’t take our refusal and must flee. He cannot keep God’s people down when they know who they are, they know what they are called to do, and they know the incredible inheritance they have already been given.
Read more of The Rev. Charlie Holt’s teachings on Spiritual Warfare in his book The Spirit-Filled Life: All the Fullness of God.
Learn more about the Holy Spirit!