Clarification on Sunday’s Teaching: I (Bruce) would like to offer a brief clarification of my word on Sunday about casualties of spiritual war.
I believe the Bible teaches that there are three general kinds of direct “sources” of the difficulties that come into the lives of believers. One is Satan, who operates with limited but real authority in and through a world not yet entirely under the power of Christ. Hating the work of God through the church, Satan’s primary mission to is “steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10) anything Jesus-related, especially us. His attacks must be understood, resisted, and pre-empted as much as possible through intelligent Spirit-empowered spiritual warfare.
The second source is God Himself, who “prunes” or refines His people through seasons of trial carefully designed not to destroy us but to draw us closer to Him so we bear more kingdom fruit. This action–while often unpleasant for us–is always redemptive in nature. Our appropriate response is to accept this pruning from our loving Father and to choose to continue to obey Him in the new “pruned” context of our lives.
The third source is the God-created law of sowing and reaping that releases negative consequences into human lives and thier environment because of sin. These consequences can come into the lives of even believers; while God sometimes reverses them, often He does not, in which case they become a means of corrective discipline that works through our repentance to conform our character more to the image of Christ. Some see this as equivalent to the “judgments” of God on those who will not believe–that He as the only wise Judge can righteously release. But for believers who experience the results of ongoing sin, His purpose is not destruction but redemption–unlike Satan’s, which is not redemption, but always destruction.
In Sunday’s teaching I was focusing on the satanic cause of difficulty, teaching us never to attribute Satan’s work to God, and calling us to a greater understanding of why this is a reality and how to come to terms with it.
And despite the reality of some satanic success against Christians, Romans 8:28 remains God’s cosmic trump card. Even the works of deepest darkness are overcome by the saving work of Jesus Christ, who causes “all things” to work together for the good of those who love God and are the called according to His purpose.
In this teaching, Bruce explains how to grow in the spiritual warfare skill of “alertness” or “watchfulness.” He uses the ancient near-Eastern culture’s practice of building watchtowers and city walls and stationing guards or sentries on them, whose primary job was to look beyond the fields or city to discern the distant movements of the enemy. Using 1 Peter 5:8 and Eph. 6:18, Bruce shows how spiritual warfare includes the skill of “watching” in the Spirit for enemy movements in order to use our authority in Christ to destroy them at a distance.