Hello, and welcome back to our series on Spiritual Warfare and Missions (SWAM). If you missed the first couple of posts you really should click here to read them first. And be reminded that this series is based on the book by Jerry Rankin and Ed Stetzer called Spiritual Warfare and Missions.
In this chapter, Rankin and Stetzer begin by making the point that at the end of all that God does is His purpose to be glorified. Everything that He does is for this purpose. They point to Isaiah 45:22-23, which was quoted by Paul in Philippians 2:10-11.
“Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: To me, every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.”
And this is accomplished through the work of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). Followers of Jesus are commissioned to make disciples in every people, tongue, tribe, and nation. These disciples see and savour the glory of God. They are captivated by it and are committed to making that glory known in their neighbourhoods and to the ends of the earth.
But the enemy of God has deceived and led multitudes astray with false religions and pagan worldviews. These are tribal religions, Hindus, the unreligious, Muslims, and Buddhists (read this post about the THUMB people). Rankin states that his experience of working with Muslims in Indonesia, Buddhists in Thailand, and Hindus in India leaves no doubt that an adversary of the kingdom of God is leading the world astray as they put their hope in futile traditions. He has seen the empty ritual of cultural Catholics in the Philippines and Latin America and the multitudes in Africa still in bondage to the superstitions of their ancestors. Without question, God is not the source of any form of worship that does not exalt and lift up the name of Jesus. At His name, every knee will bow in submission and every tongue will proclaim His Lordship, all to the worship and glory of God the Father.
Satan has free reign in the hearts and cultures that have rejected or never heard of the hope that can be found only in Jesus Christ. He uses godless rulers, government authorities, legal restrictions, and social pressures to maintain his dominion and deprive God of being glorified among the peoples of the world. “We know that we are of God, and the whole world is under the sway of the evil one” (1 John 5:19).
If his strategies prove to be vulnerable, his backup plan is to work among God’s people to create indifference and laziness. Instead of pressing the battle with conscientious urgency, Satan has readily convinced Christians that missions is optional or that it is the responsibility of only an elite few who have a special mystical call to serve as missionaries. Regardless, it appears the strategies of our enemy have been successful as we see the realities of a lost world and the daunting barriers to proclaiming the gospel today.
Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it in abundance” (John 10:10). We know this applies to those who have come to faith in acknowledging Him as Saviour and Lord. But we must not subtly be led to embrace an egocentric faith that is just for us. God’s purpose is that the whole world would find and experience that abundant life in Christ which would be to the praise of His glory. Jesus preceded that statement by alerting us to the thief who comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy (John 10:10). Not only does Satan try to keep the individual from coming to faith in Christ, but he also tempts the Christian to forfeit the abundant life. He works to rob our understanding of the peace and joy we have been given, destroy our assurance of blessings, and cause us to doubt Christ’s power in us through inflicting carnal behaviour and filling our minds with doubts and worry. Satan does all of this for one purpose - to deny God of the praise and glory from our lives. Likewise, the thief is intent on robbing God of His glory among the nations by destroying our witness and barricading the cultures against the light of the world.
The reality is that there is an enemy of the kingdom of God who is intent on depriving God of His praise and glory among the nations. He works subtly in darkness and anonymity to defeat the individual Christian, distort the mission of the church, and divert God’s people from their calling to proclaim His salvation and declare His glory among the nations. God’s Word alerts us to this enemy and admonishes us to be alert to his devious schemes; we are told to stand firm against his deception, resist temptation, and claim the victory that has already been assured. It is a victory rooted in God’s character, won for us by Christ’s resurrection, and manifested by the Spirit’s indwelling presence in the church. God’s praise and glory is our supreme priority and proclaiming and displaying it is our greatest privilege.
Paul was convinced that God wanted him to go to Thessalonica to minister and share the gospel, but he said, “So we wanted to come to you - even I, Paul, time and again - but Satan hindered us” (1 Thess. 2:18). There are sins of commission - what we do that is wrong and should not do - but there are also sins of omission. These are the things we should do but fail to carry out. Satan often opposes the will of God being done by simply dissuading us from doing what we ought to do. We are going to see that this tactic may be his most effective strategy to delay God’s kingdom reaching the nations and His being glorified to the ends of the earth - simply hindering us from being obedient to what God has called us to do as His people.
Reflect on what is receiving worship in your life other than Jesus. What receives the greatest intentional focus of your time, energy, and resources? What are you willing to make time for when time is very tight?
What is Satan’s greatest tactic in your life? Pride? Fear? Busyness? Indifference? Ask God to reveal Satan’s strongholds in your life and ask Him to break them so you will be more active in His mission.
How might God want to adjust your perspective about worship? How could a renewed sense of worship change your activity in the mission of God?