The devil is not a cartoon figure with horns and a little pitchfork. He’s much more real than that. Our newspapers and history books are enough to convince us of his existence – when we read about rape, murder, torture, kidnappings, school and church shootings, and countless other atrocities, it’s all too easy to believe in the existence of evil. When Paul spoke about him in the Bible, he said, “Put on the full armour 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.” Resisting evil is spiritual warfare against cunning, powerful forces that are out to destroy, but that’s no reason to despair, because God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and His plans are for good for His people. He’s given us knowledge, armour, and weapons for the fight.
We know that the devil operates by sowing doubt. Questions like, “Did God really say that?” (Gen 3:3) “Are you really God’s child?” (Matt 4:6) “Would it really be so bad?” “What’s the harm anyway,” or “As long as no-one knows…” He works to separate us from God and from each other, sowing resentment, offence, and unforgiveness in our hearts, working to make us feel unheard by God or unworthy of His love. He wants us to be ashamed and hide our sins from each other, shrinking back from the light of God’s presence. He wants to break our relationship with our loving Father!
Ultimately, it all tends towards the destruction of the good things God has created, like joy, peace, and unity between His people, and worst of all, destruction of our relationship with Him. Thank God for His refuge and provision that protects us from the devil’s schemes!
Colossians 1:13 puts it like this: “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.” The darkness – whatever it was, whether addictions, habits, or patterns in our past – has no hold over us any more! We belong to the kingdom of light – the Light of the World, in fact! In the dark, Satan (which means “accuser”) rules, but in the light, Jesus is King! Any power that held us before, Jesus defeated when He died on the cross. If you’ve ever heard of or seen someone whose life underwent a radical transformation when they were saved, then you know the power of Jesus. You know what it means to belong to a different kingdom.
The devil is defeated, but he’s trying to wrest back his victory. There will come a day when he’s defeated once and for all – when Jesus returns. That day hasn’t happened yet, so the devil is, for now, a conquered foe who’s still trying to subvert the work of Jesus in the world, and in us. And when we come to Jesus, there may be some things that we are not set free from right away – it might be a process. But whether we are still fighting them or not, we serve a greater master, and we are free in Him. And when Jesus returns, evil will be no more.
Until that day, verses like Ephesians 6:13-17 give us tools for defending ourselves. It reads, “Therefore put on the full armour 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 round your waist …’
So first, we reject the “father of lies,” (a term the Bible uses for Satan), and we surround ourselves with Jesus, who is the Truth. Keeping our eyes on Him, we are not taken in by lies and deceit.
Second, we keep ourselves in right relationship – we, ‘Put on the breastplate of righteousness’ — verse 14. Righteousness can be described as “right relationship with God and people.” That means when sin inevitably creeps in, we need to be quick to confess it to God and repent. It’s also good to have a person we can talk to – it doesn’t have to be the world, but one or two people who we can be real and open with about our sins, and who we trust to give good advice and keep us accountable for our actions.
Then Ephesians 6:15 says, ‘… and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.’ We need to be ready to declare the truth of God, and to live the lifestyle that comes with that truth – to serve, and to love, and to be ready to be obedient to God.
Verse 16 continues, ‘In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.’ Faith means keeping on trusting, even when times are hard and everything seems to be going against us – to keep believing and trusting in God. Often, this requires us tapping into the next tip, ‘Put on the helmet of salvation.’ Salvation — the best modern word to translate salvation would be ‘freedom’. But the battle is won or lost in our minds.
The last part of our armour, in verse 17, is the “sword of the Spirit,” which is the Bible. It was scripture that Jesus used to defend Himself when Satan came to tempt Him, and it’s scripture that points us to the truth, often convicts us, gives wisdom, and strengthens us in hard times. So we need to spend time studying and getting to know the scripture!
Isn’t it fascinating that there’s no piece of armour mentioned in this passage for the back? Maybe that’s because we’re not supposed to be running away. Rom 12:21 tells us, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” This is an instruction to fight, and right after giving us our armour, Ephesians gives us a weapon: “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.”
Jesus preached the good news, and transformed society. We are invited to overcome evil with good – in our thoughts, families, finances, workplaces – wherever! The powers of evil have been defeated by Jesus, and will be extinguished by Him when He returns. We are free to overcome evil, past and present, with the goodness and greatness of God.