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Penetrating the Darkness

May 2016
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The reality of spiritual warfareI think it is only fitting that on Friday the 13th (as in May 13, 2016) I should write a blog post on spiritual warfare. While almost everything we do in the Christian life has elements of this battle going on at any given time (through temptations and trials), the last time I wrote a blog post specifically on the topic of spiritual warfare was over four years ago on January 18, 2012, titled, Regaining our Balance.”

I’m not sure anymore how seriously this topic is taken within Christian circles today because we are so focused on a Positive Christianity that you’d think we lived on a playground instead of a battlefield (see article titled, 16 Dangers of the Positive Christianity Movement,” by John Burton, published on October 6, 2014 in Charisma News). And we “nice” ourselves to death at our own peril. Yet, the Apostle Paul was very, very clear that we are in a spiritual battle all the days of our lives on this earth. Paul wrote in Ephesians 6:10-18, these very words:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

The Message Bible states these same verses (Ephesians 6:10-18) as follows:

A Fight to the Finish

And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.

Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.

Dr. Jack Hayford has written a book along with his daughter, Rebecca Hayford Bauer, on the topic of spiritual warfare titled, Penetrating the Darkness: Discovering the Power of the Cross Against Unseen Evil,” (2011). Dr. Hayford is the founding pastor of The Church On The Way in Van Nuys, California, where he served as senior pastor for more than three decades. A prolific and best-selling writer, Pastor Hayford is the author (or co-author) of more than fifty books and has composed 500 hymns and choruses, including the internationally known and widely recorded Majesty (see Jack Hayford Ministries for more information). Currently, Dr. Hayford serves as Chancellor of The King’s University (formerly The King’s College and Seminary) in Los Angeles and Dallas, which he founded in 1997. (Quote source here.)

As Dr. Hayford notes at the beginning of Chapter 1 titled, “Rules of Engagement,” praying is at the top of the list of weapons we use when we are engaged in spiritual warfare–which is all of the time. He uses the term “Rules of Engagement” for his first chapter as it “is a military term that defines for commanders and troops when, where and how force will be used.” And he chose this term “to title this chapter, not only because we are setting a framework into place, but also to send a clarion call that when we pray, we are, indeed, engaged in spiritual warfare” (Quote source page 10).

Dr. Hayford continues by stating on pp. 10-11:

The clash of good and evil, of God and Satan, or the Kingdom of God and the powers of darkness is there–there in the Word of God. It is a battle over which some believes have puzzled themselves, saying, “Didn’t Jesus ‘win it all’ at the cross? He said, ‘It is finished.’” Bewildered by that, some have suggested that any mention of spiritual warfare trivializes the cross of Christ, but in fact, that is not the case.

  • The epistles laud the cross and the blood of Christ as having completed salvation’s provision, but they also teach that a spiritual conflict is being engaged in “this present evil age” (Galatians 1:4).
  • The blood of the cross is not only honored, but its power is testified to as the source of authority that equips believers to prevail in this present age-long battle against “that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world.” (Revelation 12:9).
  • All prayer–petition, intercession, supplication and praiseful thanksgiving–is noted as “the weapons of our warfare,” as believers gird for the battle in spiritual armor and take up spiritual weaponry (See 2 Corinthians 10:3-5; Ephesians 6:10-18).

It is vitally important that we understand, as Christians, that we are always engaged in this warfare. As Dr. Hayford notes at the end of this chapter (pp. 13-14):

In a very real sense, the words of the title of this book (“Penetrating the Darkness“) could appropriately be used to provide a subtitle for the Bible. All of the Word of God is a story–from the creation to the Consummation, from the chaotic darkness “upon the face of the deep” to the glories of the eternal city where forever “The Lamb is the Light thereof.”

Today, the Bible’s prophecies of the end times declare the challenge between, on the one hand, the increasing enterprises of vile and dark powers that corrupt humanity, and the inky blackness of hell’s demons surfacing for the final conflict (see 1 Timothy 4:2; 2 Timothy 3:1-5, 13; Revelation 9:1-21). On the other hand are those who answer Christ’s call as the Lord of the Church for us to overcome (see 1 John 5:4-5)!

The darkness is deepening–but the Word of God sounds a trumpet blast of faith-inspiring promise: Where sin abounds, grace much more abounds! It is the grace that flows from the cross and the grand that flowed to each of us who have met the Savior there. And it is also the same grace, filling and overflowing each of us who open to those overflowing “streams of living water,” that is available to every believer who will receive that full endowment of the Holy Spirit Jesus prophesied. It is the “river” that is provides power to live for Christ, to grow in the Word and prayer, and power to follow the Kingdom’s King–Jesus–as He leads us to “stand, therefore,” becoming equipped for battle.

In Chapter 2 titled, “The Gift of the Kingdom,” Dr. Hayford clearly explains the Kingdom of God, which was a constant theme Jesus preached about and was contained in the lessons He taught (p. 15):

He [Jesus] came proclaiming the power and presence of the Kingdom as the ‘entry’ of God’s will and rule, here to impact every situation. He applied Kingdom grace and power regarding every need or circumstance: health and healing, sin and forgiveness, human relationships, personal character, human failure, divine provision and His call for us to grow in Faith. His message at every point was to give hope. He came to bring “life abundantly”–life at a new dimension–both present and future. And He offered the gift of a Kingdom to all who would accept it–a dual offer of salvation, to birth us into the Kingdom, and the gift of partnership, to enable us as “citizens” to extend His Kingdom into all the world. So when He stood on the shores of Galilee, or taught on the Temple grounds in Jerusalem, He proclaimed His message with a sin-shattering, life-transforming possibility (pp. 15-16).

Continuing in the same chapter a few pages further (pp. 20-21), Dr. Hayford states:

As His redeemed, we are called beyond “being saved” to enter the school of discipleship with Jesus, first by opening to an empowering encounter with the Holy Spirit. That baptism with the Spirit includes the availability of diving power to assist us in our living, our growth, our praying, our worship, our labors, our–well, you name it! The Holy Spirit has come to glorify Christ–to cause the fullness of Jesus’ person and purpose to increase and graciously impact others around the beyond us where we live and for all that we pray (see Ephesians 3:16-19).

Further, when Kingdom truth about Kingdom rule is understood, not only does the beauty and wonder of Jesus’ call to our partnership become dynamic; the clarity of a sound understanding about our source of power and privilege in His name will not become muddled or muddied by pride, arrogance or any confusion about our authority as granted by God within His ultimate and unlimited sovereignty. We will find security as well as emboldened authority in Christ as the grandeur of God’s almightiness–His love, holiness, wisdom, power and grace is seen as ours in which to partner and to partake.

So come with me, and let us as redeemed sons and daughters, come with humility to learn His works and ways that now invite us to rule with Him through Christ and His cross.

A stunning proposition, wouldn’t you say?

Jesus Christ is the same Hebrews 13v8In Chapter 3 titled, “Back to Basics,” Dr. Hayford writes about the foundation of prayer using the example of Jesus’ life and ministry and how He taught his disciples that the power of the Kingdom life flows through prayer (p. 31). He presents four “practicals” that should be a part of our daily devotional time: (1) Present yourself (pp. 34-36; (2) Present your heart (pp.36-38); (3) Present your day (pp. 38-40); and (4) Present your “reach” (influence) (pp. 40-46). And he ends this chapter with these words:

Keep pressing in! While you are learning, keep pressing forward, and never let the liar discourage your spirit. We can be tempted to think about daily prayer the same way that we do New Year’s resolutions. We get excited about the newness of what the Lord is working in our lives, and pray three days in a row. Then something comes up and we miss a day. If we miss two more days, we feel as though we are back down to zero again! It is as if we were scoring points and now we are behind. That is absolutely a lie of the devil. When we miss a day, all that happens is the we missed a day; it does not annul the days when we did pray.

Learning the habit o daily devotional prayer will take time. But it is step one in learning to penetrate the darkness through prayer. As growing disciples, we build that foundation of daily prayer. But there will also be times that the Lord calls us to deeper dimensions of prayer. Scripture talks about other kinds of prayer through which we can extend the light and life of His Kingdom (pp. 46-47).

It goes without saying that this blog post would be exceedingly lengthy if I continued to give a brief description of all eleven chapters. The remaining chapters are titled, (4) Intercession 101; (5) Intercession Practicum; (6) It’s Only by the Blood; (7) A Binding Contract; (8) Breaking Loose; (9) Engaging in Battle; (10) Invasion of Life; and (11) We Shall Do Valiantly. There are also two appendixes: Appendix A: A Prayer for Receiving Christ as Lord and Savior; and Appendix B: A Prayer for Inviting the Lord to Fill You with the Holy Spirit.

There is one more chapter, Chapter 9 titled “Engaging in Battle,” that I want to make mention of as it is so important for us in understanding our real enemy. Dr. Hayford opens up the chapter with the following story on pp. 141-142:

I really enjoy watching movies about our nation’s  history, both documentaries and historical fiction. One time I was watching “The Patriot” and was struck by one particular scene. In case you have never seen this movie, it is set in the time period of the Revolutionary Way. The main character is a widower with seven children. Having fought in a previous conflict, he knows the horrors of war, and now his main goal is to keep his family out of the war. Thus he plays it safe and refuses to take a stand; he is now pledged to peace at any cost. His older sons are anxious to fight, anxious to engage the enemy, anxious to take the stand their father refuses to take. But though they argue and pressure him, he remains firm in his resolve: “I will not engage the enemy for the safety of my family.”

But the enemy comes and find him.

This man tries at one point to be humanitarian to some injured Colonial soldiers. Just then he turns around to see the Redcoats marching through his fields to his home. Enraged at his kindness to their enemy, the British soldiers shoot all the Colonial wounded, take the man’s oldest son captive and set fire to his home. In an instant, his life has changed, and he has no choice but to enter the battle.

Sometimes we do the same thing when it comes to our Adversary, the devil. We act as though if we play fair, the devil will leave us alone. But we need to come to grips with the fact that the devil is not just some little character that sits on our shoulders telling us to steal the cookie out of the cookie jar. He is vicious, relentless and completely committed to the destruction of humankind. Like the man in the movie, we can go about our lives and refuse to take a stand, but the point will arrive when the battle comes to us (pp. 141-142).

Yes, it will . . . when we aren’t expecting it the battle will come to us anyway. Dr. Hayford then goes on to explain how the “effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16 KJV)–The Message version words it this way: “The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with” (p. 143). He then goes into the story of the prophet Elijah. Elijah faces many incredibly tough battles. Dr. Hayford states the following about Elijah (pp. 148-149):

The description of Elijah is one of a man who was subject to life’s passions as we are. He was not immune to depression, despair or despondency. I am sometimes convinced that Elijah was the kind of guy who woke up irritable some mornings. In fact, we could easily draw the conclusion that he woke up irritable every morning! Elijah even describes himself to the Lord as “very zealous” (1 Kings 19:10). The Hebrew word used there literally means “to envy, be jealous, be envious, be zealous.” Elijah was passionate about God, blunt in how he addressed people, and well, kind of quirky. We see a lot of these same attributes in John the Baptist, who, Scripture tells us, came in the spirit of Elijah. Bottom line–these guys did not give you the warm fuzzies.

When James [author of the “effectual fervent prayer” verse cited above and the Book of James in the New Testament] refers to this prophet, he makes clear that Elijah’s prayer of faith was not based upon superhuman transcendence of the flesh and its weaknesses. He did not walk around radiating imaginary holiness, robed in white and making wise and powerful utterances. He was a man subject to the same feelings and emotions that we experience. And it is this same “ordinary guy” who Scripture says prayed and no rain fell for three and a half years. When he prayed again, rain fell.

This is who James chooses to illustrate how effectual fervent prayer works. The New Testament application of this dramatic Old Testament story should come as no surprise to any of us. Living on this side of the cross, we sometimes forget we are living in the continuum of God’s workings. God has always been God; He has always been at work. As surely as Abraham looked ahead and rejoiced to see Jesus’ day (see John 8:56), we can look back and access the promise of God’s past workings. The Bible tells us that “Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Every lesson and work of God that we see in His timeline of redemptive history can be applied to our own lives. The life of Elijah is just one example of the miracle workings of God that can be claimed by any of His children. It is Elijah’s story; it is James’ story; and it is designed to become my story, and your story, too.

And that’s good news! If you are interested in ordering Penetrating the Darkness,” is it available at this link on Amazon.com. It is also available at Jack Hayford Ministries at this link.

Spiritual warfare is very, very real. We cannot take it lightly or think that we are immune to it. And don’t wait for the enemy to come and find you. But even if you do, remember who to turn to even in your darkest hours. . . .

Jesus Christ is the same . . .

Yesterday, today . . .

And forever . . . .

YouTube Video: “Backseat Driver” by TobyMac:

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