Wisdom as Warfare

Wisdom as Warfare

This morning we will consider wisdom and spiritual warfare. We’ll be starting with wisdom in Proverbs 8, and we’re moving to several other places in scripture. This is more topical in nature. As we look to the reading of God’s word, if you would join me in prayer. O Lord, we do ask that you would shed your light upon us, that being rid of the darkness of our hearts, that we would come into the true light, which is Christ Jesus, who is the light of the world, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen. Beginning in verse 12, I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and I find knowledge and discretion. The fear of the Lord is the hatred of evil, pride and arrogance in the way of evil and perverted speech I hate. I have counsel and sound wisdom. I have insight, I have strength. By me, King Rain and rulers decree what is just. By me, prints as rule and nobles all who govern justly. I love those who love me and those who seek me, diligently find me. The word of the Lord, you please be seated.

If you ever encounter a vampire, our culture has equippeds you with the knowledge to deal with it. Same goes for zombies, wereawolves, poltergeists, and witches. There are a whole host of movie and TV creatures that you have been prepared to handle. And if Narnia, Midler, Earth, Hogwards, and the Land of Oz in real places, you would also be well ahead of the game. Adjudice, DC, and Marvel universes, and you have covered most every supernatural, extraterrestrial, and abnormal circumstance. As all of this is fictional. I wouldn’t spend a whole lot of anxiety worrying about it, or even trying to hone that particular set of skills. What we do see, though, is polls tell us repeatedly, church attendance, belief in Christianity in general is on the decline in America. But belief in the afterlife, angels, ghosts, the supernatural, that has actually increased over the last several years. No doubt, and part of that is due to just the bombardment of Hollywood that’s immersing us in all these kinds of things, but has also increased the confusion by a lot of Christians in these same areas. Christians, along with other religions, have always maintained a belief in the supernatural.

Angels and demonicic beings are a part of God’s creation. But scripture informs us how we’re to navigate such a liminal world between the seen and the unseen. The twin heirs have been either to give too much credit to the supernatural or not nearly enough. And so on one hand, you have people who are very fearful of the unseen and others who are rather agnostic about it. And both of those are the prevailing the types of problems that we see in modern life. But because the Lord has created all things, we are not left with on one hand or materialism on the other. We have been given an approach of life that equips us with an informed faith. What is dualism? It’s the idea that the world is made of two parts, dual: spirit and matter, good and evil, yin and Yang, fill in the blank. And that view has been the oldest and the widest distributed view. Sometimes it’s presented as that cosmic arm wrestling match between God and the devil. Who’s going to win? Back and forth it goes. Materialism is the idea that the world is made up of only material, all physical stuff and nothing supernatural or spiritual.

What adds a layer of confusion to all this is that many people hold to dualism some ways and strict material in another. The same person who might believe in ghosts, read their horoscope, also is the same person who thinks that most all of our problems can only be solved through science and medical technology. Intellectual inconsistency is not something that we’ve done really well as humans. We have maintained this life, and we believe certain things that are contradictory. And all of this lends itself to the air of either too little or too much. We recognize the world, our own flesh, the devil, are present with us, that are influencing us, that are causing the problems around us, the world, the flesh, and the devil. In Ephesians 6, Paul tells us in verse 11, he says, Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, against rulers and authorities, against cosmic powers over this present darkness, against spiritual forces of evil and heavenly places. Paul reminds us that reality consists of the seen and the unseen. There are other spiritual beings in the real world, angelic and demonic.

He’s not giving us a detailed explanation. He’s simply just stating that other forces are at work in our lives. Nor is Paul denying that we struggle with real people. The broad overview. It’s a description, not an absolute statement. Because other places in Scripture, he specifically mentions struggles with people with names that are causing him grief. He’s just saying, There’s a broader world at work here, and you can think too much of these things. You can blame everything that’s wrong on the devil. Christians can over-emphasize these so much they go far beyond the teaching of scripture. There are books, lots of them, but teaching on spiritual mapping, territorial spirits, strategic spiritual warfare, whatever that entails, binding and loosening, naming and claiming. What happens is scripture gets just wrenched out of its context from what it is telling us, and this nonsense is added to it. That in the end, what is created is really fearful Christians who focus on all the wrong things. It causes a great deal of fear. And the devil made me do it, an attitude. And some people can talk about demonic spirits like their sports trading cards. Statistics and information is far more of imagination than anything Biblical.

Whole subsets of demons who hit us with particular sins, from demons of addiction and lust, demons of apathy, demons of depression to, not kidding, demons of high blood pressure and things of that nature. The question comes is, where does this come from? It’s more informed by the occult than it is the Bible. It’s more informed by this larger world of imagination and constant bombardment of films and books and TVs that filter its way into our thinking, and it produces a lot of fear. We can focus on those things. The reason so is because when you are fearful about something, extra information about it seems to remove some of that fear because you know more about it. Others, it’s just spiritual pride. I have secret inside knowledge that the rest of you don’t. I’m on the inside track, you’re not. Now, the other error is making too little of these influences. When it comes to speaking of evil, our age prefers to use medical categories rather than the moral ones. We’re always trying to find natural causes for why people do bad things. Not evil, they must be find some reason for this. When we think of natural causes, we only think of what is seen in the material world, and it flatly denies the unseen.

It denies the spiritual, the supernatural. If natural causes are all that exist, then natural answers are all that are available. And that’s the problem. More science, more psychology, more sociology, then we will fix all of our problems. Now, these are all good gifts of God. I’m not speaking against them at all. I’m speaking against the sole use of those gifts. Think of how anemic those answers are by themselves. With everything that we’ve seen, the Western world has a hard time accounting for real evil, human trafficking, genocide, sustain and systematic cruelty, abuse. Have these gone away because we’ve given people more money? We’ve educated them better. We’ve done a better job in terms of sociology? No, actually, they’re worse. We have a worse problem today with all that we’ve done. It hasn’t gotten better. The worst acts of humanity have been done by some of the best educated, well-to-do people with flourishing governments. The 20th century, you can map that out in all kinds of ways. It has not gotten better. The demonic has an influence in the world around us, particularly, scripture tells us through lies and accusations. And they add to the common misery of humanity, the world, the flesh, and the devil.

They all have a part to play. Ephesians 2, Paul tells us, as for you, you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and the ruler of the kingdom of the air and the Spirit who is now at work and those who are disobedient. The ways of this world often gets referred to as the Spirit of the age, ideas that seem to catch hold of a nation, a generation that make everyone else wonder why they’ve lost their mind. These things change over time. There are things you look back on and you go, Why would anyone believe that? In the same way, there are things that are happening to us that later generations or other Christians around the world look at and go, Why on Earth is this even plausible? Uncertain to you people? You put boys and girls locker rooms and girls and boys locker room, and you point out the obvious problems, you’re shouted down as a bigot and a hate-monger. You’re like, How does that happen? The spirit of an age. Think about the absolute vehemence of those who hold to the right of killing an unborn child.

The anger and the vehemence is so strong. You’re like, Why? Why is that so intense with something that’s so abominable, encouraging women to celebrate their abortions? The fires of our sins, their ars, get fanned by the devil and his minions. They add gas to our flame. Then another one, how do you explain 2,000 years or more of hatred towards Jewish people? That’s been a mystery to me because nobody is accused of being anti-Norrisian on a global scale. Think about it. What other group has been singled out? I mean, they’re not Pogroms against Latinos that are taking place. What has there been for this long that this hatred, this anti-Semitism? I think Satan hates the role that they have had in God’s redemptive history. And so you see that. You see the combination of our sins fanned into flames with something of this demonic. And again, it changes over time. There’s real evil. There’s real forces of darkness that comprise of Satan and demonic beings. Well, what are we to do against such foes? If we’re not to overemphasize it, if we’re not to under-emphasize it? How do we live an ordinary life in a supernatural world?

Living in this tension between the seen and the unseen is a challenge. It takes wisdom. Proverbs 8:12 says, I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and I find knowledge and discretion. See, biblical wisdom is the skill or the art of living godly. Wisdom combines both the intellect, what we know, along with the practical, what we do. Verse 13 says, The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and of the evil and perverted speech, I hate. See, Biblical wisdom hates what is evil. It stands against pride. It stands against arrogance. Wisdom leads us in resisting the evil one and our temptations. Back in Ephesians 6:11, Paul tells us, Stand against the schemes of the devil. In Paul’s language, to stand is to put on the fullness of Christ. We read in 1 Peter 5, Be sober minded, be watchful. Your adversary, the devil, prouds on like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him firm in the faith. And from the Book of James, this is sometimes referred to as the Proverbs of the New Testament, James 4:7, Submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. What one writer said it this way, To submit to God means to place ourselves under His Lordship, and therefore to commit ourselves to obey Him and all things.

To resist means to stand against. We stand against the devil’s purposes. And the result is that when you are operating from God’s wisdom, operating from an allegiance to the Lord, we will not live under the devil’s authority. He flees in the sense that he is routed by your obedience. What would have been a victory for him has been turned into a defeat. Proverbs goes on in 8:14, I have counsel and sound wisdom. I have insight. I have strength. Knowing the character of God, walking skillfully in His ways, allows you to navigate life. Resisting evil and the evil one, it comes in developing a godly character. The Old Testament is entirely unique in that it is completely monotheistic, one God. The Lord alone is God, and no one is like Him. He is God. There’s no dualism, there’s no cosmic battle with the demonic. God is not on their level. He’s their creator. This is completely unique in world history, in world religions, ancient writings, from Egyptian, Hirooglyphics to Mayan carvings to Babylonian clay tablets. They all speak of this ongoing influence of devils and demons. Between the power struggles of the gods of good and evil, and people are just left in the middle of that, scrambling with these greater forces that are constantly knocking them around.

Not so the Bible. In comparison, the Old Testament speak very little about demonic spirits. There’s an acknowledgment to be sure, but very little information is given. The Bible is radically God-centered. The Lord does not share the stage with cosmic forces that are locked in continuous battle with Him. The history is known, the days are numbered. He’s victorious. And we are told that we’re accountable for our actions. We can never take the defense of the devil who made me do it. Nor is there any effort made to take on demonic spirits. I put this quote in your bulletins from David Paulison. He said, Spiritual warfare is the blood, sweat, and tears of dying to oneself and listening to God. Those who draw near to God in repentant faith encounter the power who enables them to live in obedient faith. Spiritual warfare, the blood, the sweat, and tears of dying to self and listening to God. This is the Proverbs. This is wisdom. 8:15, By me, wisdom, king’s reign, and ruler’s decree, what is just, by me, princess’s rule and nobles all who govern justly. I love those who love me, those who seek me, diligently find me.

See, God’s way of protecting His people is with His wisdom. It’s open to everyone. It’s not given for a special class of people who figured it out, who follow the enlightened path, the secret journey, and they now have this inside knowledge. No, God is saying, Hey, my wisdom is for any who come. I will teach you how to live life in the world that I have made. It’s open and available, and it’s a means of our protection. And so I say, Well, what about Jesus? In the Gospels, he regularly is confronting and casting out demons. 1 John 3:8 tells us, The reason the son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. Amen. It’s wonderful. There were certainly power encounters with the coming of Jesus. The miracles, the exicisms were all demonstrations of who Jesus was and the nature of His mission. To a far lesser degree, we see this with the apostles. But think about it. Jesus walked on water, commanded the weather. He fed 4,000 people, 5,000 people with a few fish and bread. He filled fishing nets to bursting. He spoke with God’s authority to people. He forgave sins.

He gave sight to the blind. He raised the dead. He died for our sins, and the third day, He was raised. He alone is the God man. And even in his encounters with demons, there is no great wrestling on his part. They were subservient to his commands. He spoke and they obeyed. The one and the only place where we see a demon named comes after Jesus had already commanded it to lead, Mark 5. So he’s already on the way out, and Jesus asked his name. He said legion, which legion is not really a name, it’s a number. It’s a description. And that is given for the benefit of those who are watching and help explain this large number of pigs that were rushed into the water and drowned by the thousands. Jesus wasn’t trying to control by finding out a name. He had control from the very beginning. That type of practice is from the occult. In Ephesians 6, when Paul speaks about putting on the armor of God, hes refers to what he has already said in his letter. Walking in unity is putting on the armor of God. Trusting in the completed work of Jesus is putting on the armor of God.

Husbands love your wives, children obey your parents, putting on the armor of God. Forgiving those who have sinned against you, putting on the armor of God. I think one of the reasons some groups are always trying to find the sensational and the exciting and spiritual warfare is because of the dislike for the ordinary way of walking in faith. Not only is it ordinary, it is difficult and demanding. What am I to do with people I struggle with? With people I don’t like? You lay down your life for them, you die to yourself, and you serve. Is there another answer? No. That’s hard. Loving your enemies is a supernatural work of God’s grace and power. Are. You just have to read the headlines to know that it’s not something we do. The hostilities, the anger, the wars that we have between groups of people who can’t simply forgive one another. It’s a supernatural work of God. The power of the cross on display. Trusting in your identity in Christ when the devil is whispering in your ear that you’re a dirtbag, that’s an act of God’s supernatural grace, of His power. When you are alone and no one else is seeing, and you resist temptation because you’re a new creature in Christ, that’s because of the empowerment of the Holy Spirit in you, and that’s warfare.

We have a real enemy who does seek to destroy us, but we have a greater champion who fills our hearts with hope. Colossians 2, Paul says, And you who were dead in your trespasses, God made alive, together with Him, having forgiven all your sins. You were dead, but now you’re alive in Jesus, who made you dead your sins. How did God take care of that problem? Paul goes on by canceling the record of death that stood against us with all of its legal demands, he set it aside, nailing it to the cross. That formal charge that stands against us because of our sin has been canceled objectively in the cross of Christ. The power and the penalty of sin is broken. But Paul doesn’t stop there. He goes on in verse 15, He, Jesus, disarmed the rulers and authorities, speaking of spiritual forces, and put them to open shame by triumphing over them. He subjected them to open shame by triumphing over them. How are we to survive in a world filled with hostile forces? Jesus. Plain and simple. And that tendency of the heart, at times, to move towards pride, somehow, because we know things, because we do things, or we’re walking correctly for a few hours, we think of how great we are.

And Satan whispers in our ear of how great we are and how easy it is to stand above everyone else with a phariseical heart. And then when everything comes crashing down and we’re miserable, he tells us we’re pawned scone. We shouldn’t even be here. Who do you think you are that you can come before a holy God and be accepted by Him? Jesus comes and deals a death blow to both of us. Us. You are far more loved and accepting than you could ever imagine, and you are far more sinful and loathsome than you could ever consider. And Jesus comes in the midst of that, and He elevates us. The back of sin has been broken. The shame that comes with it is gone. The powers and the rulers of the demonic forces, that has been undone by Jesus. We don’t live in fear of that, nor do we live in ignorance of that. We don’t have fear. We don’t have an apathy. We have a sound-mindedness of living out an ordinary life of wisdom. Because an ordinary life of wisdom from God is developing a character that looks like Jesus. When you read the Proverbs and it talks about the wise person, when it talks about what does this look like, that looks like Jesus.

That’s how God has equipped us to navigate life in a world that is filled with things we don’t see. We walk and look like Jesus. His Spirit dwells in us. There’s nothing out there that can overcome the power of Christ. There’s no cosmic wrestling match. He is one. All things are going to their appointed end, and in this little short period, that we feel the intensity of the battle, to be sure, the victory has already been declared. I don’t have to take on all these extra things and try to know them and understand them and work around and be extra spiritual. I’m as spiritual as I’m ever going to be because of the Holy Spirit who dwells in me. Because our names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. That’s where our securitys comes from. There’s nothing out there that you can’t face and handle because of Jesus in you. And it may include suffering. It may include severe problems that come along, but He’s right there. He hasn’t left us or forsaken us. We come and we walk in the ordinary way of following after Him, putting our faith, our dependence, and our obedience in Christ alone.

Pray with me. Father, as we come before you, we all see and know places in our hearts, Father, where we doubt you and your goodness. Father, we see the things around us, and we can be overwhelmed by them. And Lord, we pray that you would not only forgive us of our doubt, our lack of faith in you, but, Lord, that you would also increase it. Help us to see with the eyes of faith beyond what’s in front of us, to the glory and the grandeur of Jesus. Father, that you would continue to show us our great worth in Him, His completed and final work. And Lord, we do pray that you would keep us from temptation, that you would keep us from the schemes of the evil one, that you would set our path on the path of knowledge and discernment and wisdom, that our character would reflect your character. And this we pray and ask through Jesus, our risen Lord, Amen. Would you please stand together as we sing a mighty Fortress.

Disclaimer: Automated Sermon Transcription