I was born again (in the classical, biblical, evangelical sense) on May 15, 1971. In the context of world history, May 15 was a dull day. Phil Pfister was born that day. He grew up to become an American strength athlete although I had never heard of him until I Googled “May 15, 1971” today. Oh, and “70, Girls, 70” closed on that Saturday at the Broadhurst Theater in New York City after 35 performances. Never heard of it. Phil was born and “70, Girls, 70” closed, and I died to self and was reborn into the Kingdom of God.
Before I had turned one month old in Jesus, I was introduced by my Christian mentors to something they labeled as “spiritual warfare.”
In those days, we battled unseen, but dangerous demons of every sort. We were taught that these spiritual entities were assigned by the Devil himself to attack our lives, harass our spirits, confuse our minds and wreak general destruction among the church and the world alike.
Much of what we were taught was and is indeed true and real. And much of what we engaged in during those early days of Jesus Life was just so much psychic silliness.
I was first taught that spiritual warfare was akin to gladiator-versus-lion in a Roman Empire coliseum or the raw, bare-fisted combat of a spiritual boxing ring. In the early 1970’s, fasting, anointing, screaming at demons, puking up green devils into sandwich bags (after discovering there was an imp behind every fence post and tree) was not only common among many of us “Jesus people”, it was a daily anticipated function of the Jesus life.
Then Loren Cunningham (think YWAM, or Youth With a Mission) showed me the true secret and power of spiritual warfare – (it may be good here to pause long enough to re-read Matthew 5 and 6).
The thing Loren taught that breaks the devil’s strongholds and disrupts his efforts is primarily found in obeying the commands of Jesus. You know, “If you love Me, keep my commands” and “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.” And His Word is enveloped by, drenched in, lubricated with and marked by, love. Indeed, His own word declares that God is, He does not merely possess or reflect or participate in, but God IS love.
The chief command Jesus gave to us is to LOVE. He taught, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” Not, “this is my commandment, that you ‘labor for the Master from the dawn ‘til setting sun’” or that you drag your body across bruising stones in order to prostrate yourself before heaven’s high and holy throne.
Jesus taught that if one would defeat the devil, if we would stymie Satan’s evil agenda, we ought to love as Christ loves us.
Satan can and will argue doctrine with the saints of God (and win!). The devil isn’t stupid as some believers vainly suppose: he knows scripture better than you (and I) do. He has caused the mighty to fall and the powerful to stumble. He has ruined ministries and destroyed the anointed of God. But the one fortress that our enemy cannot penetrate, the wall he cannot surmount is the love of God. And when all the shouting has silenced and when all the methods of warfare have ceased, there remain these three, faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love.
Please note: I am not discounting the appropriateness, power and occasion for casting out demons or cleansing homes and yes, even or especially church buildings too, but I am suggesting that before we begin our war with devils we “put on” the royal and impenetrable robe of love.
To love is to become like the Savior who, because of love gave Himself, “that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
To love like God is to love the unlovely, to love the least of humanity, to love the loser and the liar and the robber and the persecutor and the accuser and the hater and to embrace with a life transformed by the love of God the unworthy and the utterly evil and sinister and devious among us.
Hell has a strategy to defeat every confessing Christian, and that strategy is sadly successful in too many lives. But hell has no weapon, no strategy, it has no offensive or defensive ability to conquer the love of God.
If you want to see the devil discouraged and defeated in your life or in your church, love one another as Christ loved (us) and gave Himself for us.