Summary: I served as an Air Force officer during the Vietnam War, although not stationed in the war zone. Thankfully, that war in Vietnam is over. But each one of us alive today is in a war zone. We’re in daily, relentless combat with our “adversary the devil” (1 Peter 5:8). And his intention, as Jesus warned, is to rob, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). Let me say this clearly, and with the full support of Scripture: There is on this earth no spiritual DMZ — in military terms, no demilitarized zone. Satan and his demons are waging spiritual warfare without ceasing in their effort to keep us away from God and from His Son, the Savior Jesus Christ. Let’s take a look at the problem, and then at God’s wonderful solution that provides you with consistent victory right here on this embattled planet.
There are multitudes on earth today who are in opposition to God and do not obey the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Scripture says that they are trapped in “the snare of the devil” and have “been taken captive by [the devil] to do his will.” Note the military terminology: “taken captive.” That is the desperate plight of those alive today who have chosen to remain outside the saving grace offered by Jesus. They are in captivity, imprisoned in the devil’s snare, and are inclined to do the devil’s will.
Their spiritual father is Satan. Jesus said to those who were rejecting Him that they were of their “father the devil” (John 8:44). When the sorcerer Elymas opposed Paul’s preaching of the Gospel, the apostle said to Elymas, “You are a child of the devil” (Acts 13:8-10). The Scriptures called the wicked sons of the priest Eli “sons of Belial; they knew not the Lord” (1 Samuel 2:12, KJV).
Jesus came from heaven to earth “to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). Spiritually speaking, there are only two types of people: the saved and the lost. The Lord Jesus came to earth, died on the cross for our sins, and rose again and ascended back to heaven. He redeemed mankind from the eternal punishment due to our sins and secured eternal salvation for every human being who would (1) repent to God for their sins and (2) have faith in the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21).
Sadly, though, multitudes lost in sin have rejected the only way of salvation, Jesus Christ. For them there is no demilitarized zone. They remain always imprisoned by their spiritual father the devil and continue as captives to him in the doing of his wicked will in their lives.
Now we turn to those who are saved by faith in Jesus Christ and His blood shed for the forgiveness of our sins (Luke 24:46-47; Romans 3:25, KJV).
In sharp contrast to those who reject the Gospel of Jesus Christ, those who receive Him in faith and sincere repentance for sin become born again sons and daughters of God Almighty (2 Corinthians 6:18). However, the wise Christian must keep in mind that we too still face a spiritual enemy, Satan. For those who are saved, just as for the lost, in this life there is no DMZ, no spiritual demilitarized zone. The devil still wages war against us believers, and we must be diligent to resist his wiles. See what the apostle Peter wrote:
Writing to believers (1:1), the apostle Peter warned us that we face a genuine “enemy the devil.” And he is still on the loose today, seeking to devour us. The symbol Peter uses for Satan is that of a prowling, predatory, man-eating lion. Because of that ever-present devilish warfare against us, the apostle warns us to remain alert and of sober mind. One of the unwisest things a Christian can do is to trivialize the devil and relegate him to the non-Scriptural cartoon representations of him as a little horned imp. He is a real, live, spiritual enemy of unequaled malevolence. His heart’s desire is to devour you. Stay awake and don’t ignore the fact that Satan is alive and has every intention of robbing, killing, and destroying you, as Jesus warned (John 10:10).
The apostle Paul referred to “our struggle… [against] the devil’s schemes.” It's a daily battle, and it’s not just the unbeliever’s struggle; it’s ours too. Some other translations describe our struggle as wrestling, fighting, contending, a battle, a conflict, a warfare. One translation calls it hand-to-hand combat. There’s no spiritual DMZ on earth in this life prior to the Lord’s second coming. The spiritual battle is ongoing for believers and unbelievers alike. Jesus even said to Peter, one of His leading apostles, “Satan has asked to sift each of you [apostles] as wheat” (Luke 22:31, NLT).
But take heart, believers! On the one hand, as we have read above, those who oppose Christ and His Gospel remain in Satan’s snare and are his captives to do his wicked will. By contrast, believers can walk in the victory Jesus has secured over Satan. The apostle Paul wrote of Jesus and His crucifixion that “…having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Colossians 2:15). The born-again believer can walk in victory over all of Satan’s wiles and strategies. Let’s look in Scripture and see how we can do that.
The apostle Paul gives us a number of keys to victorious warfare against “the devil’s schemes.” They start with our determining to be strong in the Lord (not our human abilities) and in His mighty power. It is the Lord who won the victory for us at the cross, and it is in reliance on the Lord that we continue to see victory over the devil. To assist us in the warfare, God has given us spiritual armament and commanded us to fully put it on: the belt of truth … the breastplate of righteousness … the gospel of peace … the shield of faith … the helmet of salvation … the sword of the Spirit (God’s Word) … and prayer.
We can’t be passive with the devil. We must confront him with ongoing, active resistance. James and Peter give us some helpful hints for making that resistance more effective: be submitted to God … draw near to God … be purified from sin … stand firm in the faith.
There are some great mysteries in this chapter, and I don’t claim to know them all. But here we see a great victory over Satan and his fallen angels. The devil had been accusing “our brothers and sisters” nonstop before God (10). But in this remarkable victory, they overcame the devil and his angels by three things that we too can use in our spiritual warfare:
Permit me an opinion here. This verse, personally to me, is the single most powerful weapon I use in spiritual warfare. Jesus taught us to pray to our Father in heaven to “deliver us from the evil one” [it is translated ‘evil one’ in many versions]. I cannot possibly know everything that the devil and his demons are up to. But God knows! And Jesus Himself, the Lord and Savior, taught us to pray this very thing: “Father in heaven, deliver us from the evil one.” I have often encouraged my fellow Christians to memorize this verse and pray it daily.
Not only does our Lord enable us to get the victory over the devil in our own lives, He also gives us power even to cast out demons in those possessed by them. [Note: I do not believe that born-again Christians can be demon-possessed.] I recall a time in Anchorage, Alaska, many years ago. We were called to minister to a lady who was powerfully demon-possessed. She tried to take her life even while we were ministering to her. But exactly as the Lord promised to believers, Jesus empowered us in His name to cast out four demons, and the woman was quickly born again and just as quickly baptized in the Holy Spirit, joyously speaking in tongues, and crying out, “This is what I’ve always wanted!” Yes indeed, Jesus has conquered Satan and has given us the ability to walk in victory over him.
Make up your mind that you will give the devil zero place in your life. Not even a foothold. Put into practice the spiritual weapons and armor we’ve looked at (and others, as the Lord brings Scriptures to your mind). Jesus triumphed over Satan and his demons at the cross. And he has given that victory to all who will come to Him for His “great salvation.”
Thank you, heavenly Father, for your promise of victory through Jesus Christ — including victory over a real devil whose intent is to devour everyone he can. Thank you, Jesus, for the cross, where you triumphed over Satan and over sin openly in the sight of the world. Help us to walk in that victory and to bring it to others in need of your gracious, saving touch.
In closing, I sincerely ask: are you not yet saved by the victorious Savior Jesus? You can come to Jesus right now, be forgiven of all your sins, and become a son or daughter of God Almighty, destined for eternity in His indescribably glorious presence. To be led in a prayer of salvation, please see evangelist Billy Graham’s four steps here.
And to everyone, I exhort you from the heart of God: Fix your eyes and heart on Jesus, draw near to God daily, resist the devil, and he will flee from you. There’s no spiritual DMZ in this life. But you can always be on God’s winning side!
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©2019, James H. Feeney.
Pentecostal Sermons & Bible Studies by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.