“Don’t Put That on Satan!”: Spiritual Warfare vs. Personal Responsibility

LunchThe situation is this: It’s about 1:25 pm and you and a friend are enjoying a nice bowl of vanilla ice cream as the perfect finale to a fabulous lunch date that started at 12 noon when all of a sudden her phone rings. It’s her job.

“I told them I was going out,” she retorts, irritated to see her office number on the caller ID. “I’m sorry. Hold on one minute,” she tells you.

“Hello?!”

After a minute or two of “Huh?” “What about Sharon?” and “This is not fair!” it’s apparent that her call has not gone well. She hangs up and spits out her favorite spiritual warfare trifecta: “The devil is a lie! Satan, I rebuke you! The blood of Jesus!!!”

When she catches her breath, she goes on to tell you that she’s been “let go” by her employer. Evidently, they want to enforce the rules about one hour lunches and this is her third infraction this month.

While this blatant tale may be a bit of a stretch (just a bit), it does help us think about the contrast between spiritual warfare and personal responsibility.

To be sure, the spiritual world is real and has more bearing on our world than we know. The Bible says: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). Satan is not just a figment of our imaginations nor is he a low-grade pest that causes you to lose your keys every now and then. Your foe is a thieving, murdering, lying destroyer (John 10:10) bent on waging war against God and everything God loves, especially His children, each of whom bears his image and likeness. Imagine, when Satan sees us, its like he’s looking at a reflection of the righteous God Who is His enemy and judge and who will one day cast him into the lake of fire—it’s no wonder Satan hates us.

Today, it’s common to see Satan depicted in movies as a smooth, cool character who uses wit and charm to beguile the weak-minded but you’d better read your Bible! Satan is described as one who, as a hunting lion, lurks and watches us, strategically choosing the best time to destroy our lives (1 Pet. 5:8). You are no match for Satan on your own. In fact, even the archangel Michael did not attempt to subdue the mighty Satan in his own strength. (Jude 1:9)

So, where does that leave you? If Satan is so big and bad, how can you stand a chance?

Look to the approach of Michael for a clue: But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” To defeat Satan you must call and depend on the only One Who can render Satan defeated—the Lord Jesus Christ! (Jude 1:9).

But wait a minute, before we go casting out demons and pleading the blood of Jesus, there’s a pandemic pollution of spiritual warfare that negates the reality of personal responsibility. Think again about the lady in our example. She is out 25 minutes past her lunch hour and this is her third infraction this month yet she’s rebuking the devil?! I think not!

God has set certain universal laws into operation. That’s why every ball you toss up comes back down—gravity. That’s why sticks, stones and words all hurt (life and death are in the power of the tongue). Another truth of our world is that we are free moral agents and our actions have responsibilities.

If we minimize the negative impact of our own decisions and magnify the role of the devil in every less-than-ideal situation in our lives, we are likely to blame the devil for everything when the devil is nowhere to be found in our situation.

Sometimes, your biggest enemy is you!

The sooner you accept this truth, the sooner you can get out of your own way and begin being effective in the things God has called you to do and be. Once you start down the road of fruit-bearing, you can be sure “Ole Slew Foot” will come calling. Then it’s time to employ the weapons of spiritual warfare to enforce the dominance of the Kingdom of Light over the kingdom of darkness.

Roland Hairston

Roland Hairston loves God and loves people. He wrestles with ideas about life, faith, leadership and church and wields strategy, technology and communications to move people to action. As Publisher of Gospel Today, Roland has the joy of sharing information, inspiration, education and empowerment with the world.

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