“Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.“ —Ephesians 6:11-13
Paul wrote, “…Stand against the schemes of the devil.” But what are the devil’s schemes? And what does it look like to stand against them?
A while ago, I stumbled on a video where two college kids who have a weblog called the “DET Satan Club” were addressing the Christian internet and in their video they said, “You Christians love to see pictures of your precious Jesus…suffering on the cross. You love it. But we are satanists. We desecrate what you love by creating images of Jesus in comfortable positions…like Jesus in a bubble bath…”
Well, I don’t know what those college kids were thinking, but I think what comes out in that video, even just in those few words, is quite insightful regarding the schemes of the devil.
Just think about it for a moment:
If satan were to really see our demise…wouldn’t he try to convince us that Jesus is comfortable in this fallen world and with this fallen world, and we as His Body should be too?
And wouldn’t satan try to make us comfortable by keeping us from contemplating Jesus Christ and Him crucified; for according to Paul, it was there on the cross that God, in Christ Jesus, exposed and disarmed the principalities and powers. It was there that the First became last and forgave every debt and destroyed the dominion of satan’s lies.
So, when you stop and think about it for a moment, isn’t that a common lie we hear from satan? “Don’t take up your cross. Just relax and take a bubble bath?” Now, of course, I’m not saying there’s never a time to rest, and I’m certainly not saying that Jesus wouldn’t have appreciated a good bubble bath from time to time. I think the lie comes in when we believe we should just sit back and focus only on making ourselves comfortable rather than following the way of Jesus— Love Incarnate, who laid down His life for all.
So, Paul wrote, “…stand against the schemes of the devil,” and he continues, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
But what does wrestling “not against flesh and blood but against world forces of this darkness…” look like?
You’ll remember that when Paul came to Ephesus, he baptized twelve people in the Holy Spirit and then taught for two years and three months in the synagogue and then in the hall of Tyrannus. During that time, God did extraordinary miracles at the hands of Paul so that people were healed and evil spirits were cast out.
So, Paul wrestled by doing what Jesus told His followers to do and what Jesus had prophesied they would do. He was “making disciples and baptizing them” (Matt. 28:19) and, through trusting in Jesus, he was also “doing the works that Jesus did; and even greater works than He did”(John 14:12).
Then seven Jewish magicians tried to cast out a demon saying, “We command you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches.” The demon replies, “Jesus I know and Paul I know about but who are you?” (Do you see? It’s not “what” you know but “Who” you know. Knowing about someone isn’t the same as knowing them through relationship.”) The demoniac then overpowers the seven Jewish magicians, and they all run out of the house naked, stripped of their fig leaves, their religious deeds, and their magic.
Well, seeing what happened to the seven Jewish magician-priests, the people of Ephesus burned about eight million dollars worth of magic books, which undoubtedly affected the economy of Ephesus—“the principalities and powers.”
In Acts 19:23 we read that a silversmith named Demetrius grew furious and started a riot because Demetrius made silver shrines to the goddess Artemis:
Acts 19:25-34 & 20:1
So Demetrius said to his fellow craftsmen, “Men, you know that from the business we have our wealth. And you see and hear that not only is Ephesus but in almost all of Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods.
Demetrius continues. And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship.” When they heard this they were enraged and were crying out, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”
Now, remember, this wasn’t just their religion, but their society, their economy. They probably had some sort of guild and were bound together by covenants and oaths. This is how they made their living, how they made their life.
So the city was filled with the confusion, and they rushed together into the theater Paul wished to go in among the crowd, the disciples would not let him…Now some cried out one thing, some another, for the assembly was in confusion,
And that’s the way it is with the “principalities and powers.” They try to use worldly logic: “It’s only common sense.” “Look out for number one.” “The strong survive.” “You’ve got to make something of yourself.” “It’s what everyone does.” “It’s the way of the world.” “Get real.” But what is really real?
…for about two hours they all cried out with one voice, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”
Finally, the town clerk quieted the crowd by reminding them that they could all get arrested for rioting.
Just think about all that! That’s quite a wrestling match that Paul was starting to have with the principalities and powers of this present darkness!
Do you see? The devil wants us all to believe that with the strength of our hands we can make gods; that with your religious good deeds we can make ourselves God. When we go and make disciples and trust Jesus we wrestle these lies and it begins to expose the lies that surround us—the Light begins to penetrate the darkness.
So do you a scheme of the devil here?
If he can keep us in a bubble bath rather than taking up our cross, by convincing us of the importance of protecting our economy, our business, our stability, he can keep us from exposing those same lies all around us.
The idea that we can make our lives stable, that we can control our surroundings is ultimately a lie; it’s the same lie that the serpent told Adam and Eve in the garden.
So,“…we wrestle against the powers and principalities of this world?” And how do we do it? By taking up the whole armor of God, that we may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.
Well, what does that look like? Certainly not a bubble bath.
Paul wrote to the Philippians: “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage: rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philip. 2:5-8).
1 Peter 4:1-2 says, “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, ARM yourselves [like putting on armor] with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.”
And so we read at the very end of that story:
“After the uproar ceased, Paul sent for the disciples, and after encouraging them, he said farewell and departed for Macedonia.”
And that’s kind of anticlimactic . . . I mean Paul seems to have access to all this power, (healing people and driving out demons) but he doesn’t use that power in ways we would expect. He doesn’t mobilize his crowd or call down fire from heaven upon Demetrius.
Apart from the miracles, he just preaches the Word in weakness and lets them turn him into their scapegoat, and moves on to the next place “arming himself” with the mind of Christ. It kind of seems like he lost…and yet…2000 years later, I don’t know of anyone that worships “Artemis of the Ephesians.”
Just think of it; Jesus had all that power but apart from the miracles, He just preached the Word in weakness and then He let the Jews literally turn Him into their scapegoat–their sacrificial lamb.
On the cross, He cried, “Father forgive.”
On the cross, God in Christ Jesus exposed and disarmed the “principalities and powers.”
On the cross, the ruler of this world was cast out.
On the cross, Christ romances all people to Himself.
This devotional was prepared by Kimberly Weynen, Peter Hiett’s assistant. It is a compilation of several devotional thoughts from Kimberly and excerpts from Peter’s sermon titled: “Get Real (a what or a who)” To read, watch or listen to the sermon in its entirety click here: Get Real and Renounce the Kingdom of Lies
*Discussion questions are available here: Discussion Questions “Get Real (and renounce the kingdom of lies)