Is The Enemy Outsmarting You?

What The Wall can teach us about Spiritual Warfare

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I finally got a chance to watch The Wall (free on Prime if that’s your thing) and couldn’t help but notice the spiritual warfare parallels. This may not be a subject you’re very familiar with, which is fine by Satan. He’d prefer you live in ignorance/arrogance, confident you’re running the show, while he quietly tips the scale, pulls the strings, and destroys your life.

My reason for watching it in the first place was because it’s directed by Doug Liman. He’s the guy behind Edge of Tomorrow which is my favorite film. So it was almost mandatory viewing. Spoiler alert – I loved the ending.

No, trolls, I don’t enjoy the thought of American troops dying, or any soldiers dying for that matter. Few things delight Satan more than watching people kill people, especially in the name of God or some supposedly just cause. Jesus said his kingdom was not of this world, yet our crusades and holy wars live on. Hauerwas was on to something when he said that America’s real religion is war. The cross only makes sense if there’s a bigger and more important story at work; otherwise it’s foolishness. Thankfully, “The foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of foolish plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength.” (1 Corinthians 1:25)  But I digress…

I loved the ending because 1) it wasn’t what most people expected 2) it wasn’t what most people wanted 3) it wasn’t politically correct. How often do you get that in our age of play-it-safe, formulaic Hollywood money grabs?

But there’s another reason the conclusion resonated with me. It reflected reality better than most war flicks I’ve seen. In general, we like to keep our combat stories patriotic: overflowing with can-do optimism, military martyrdom, and righteous zeal. But in The Wall, the “bad guy” wins by outsmarting and outlasting the “good guys”, reminding me of how the Viet Kong persevered in the Vietnam War, or Russia recently hijacked our elections.

When you move beyond pop-culture Christianity and the propagandizing that goes with it, you begin to see how many Christians are actually winning the wrong battles and losing the ones that really matter. When you stand before God one day and give an account, he won’t ask you how dedicated you were to your political party, how successfully you attained the American Dream (read: nightmare), how safe or comfortable or smart or attractive or popular you were. He’ll ask you about love and obedience and faithfulness. He’ll inquire about what you did with what he gave you.

So let’s get to it, shall we? My theme verse for this film is 2 Corinthians 2:11, “in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.” Do you see what this implies? Satan has strategies bent on your destruction. If you are NOT aware of his schemes, odds are you WILL be outsmarted by him. Think about that for a second. The Wall does a brilliant job of illustrating exactly how this happens.

The enemy sniper is educated and experienced. He knows the tools, tactics, language, and protocol of his targets. He’s not stupid or crazy and he has a plan. Sound familiar? Before he was cast out of heaven, Satan was part of the angelic elite. He knows the Bible better than you do. And he pretends to be an angel of light. You might be cooperating with him without even knowing it.

If you are not discerning and alert (1 Peter 5:8), don’t have your armor on (Ephesians 6:10-18), and are not actively taking every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:3-5), odds are you’re gonna get played and/or taken out.

You may have no idea how generational sins are keeping you stuck in destructive patterns. You might not see how bitterness and anger are corroding your soul. You may not notice how your love for food, football, Xbox, or Netflix has turned you into a Christian couch potato, completely ineffectual in the fight. You might be self-righteous without realizing it. You may have allowed our culture’s definition of success to replace God’s. Your endless pursuit of more might be leading you off a cliff. Your non-stop busyness and addiction to achievement could be crowding out all the room for love in your heart. Your secret addictions may be costing you more than you know. The culture war you’re waging might be hurting your witness and hardening your heart. There are so many ways that Satan can trick you, trap you, accuse you, shame you, deceive you, contain you, distract you, and destroy you.

Simply put, if you are not regularly connecting with God and other believers, if you are not consistently praying and reading your Bible, if you are not walking in obedience and engaging in spiritual disciplines and living in love, you are an easy target. You are a Martha or a Pharisee or a tax collector, but you are not a Mary. You are not putting first things first.

It’s true. God loves you and has a great plan for your life. He wants to do amazing things in and through you. But it’s also true that Satan hates you and has a terrible plan for your life and wants to do destructive things in and through you. “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” John 10:10

Don’t let the enemy outsmart you. Put your armor on. Get your mind right. Stay alert. There’s a war on and you may be in the crosshairs.

 

 

 

Are you a Christian POW?

We like to pretend that we can read whatever, watch whatever, play whatever and it doesn’t really matter, so long as we’re not doing it in real life.

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I saw a trailer for the latest Doom game the other day and was saddened/disgusted/shocked by the level of violence.

Thing is I used to play this kind of stuff as a kid. That was before I knew that everything is spiritual. I was a master of compartmentalization. These are Christian activities. These are not. This is my church life. This is my real life. It wasn’t pretty.

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Bloodlust goes way back. The Romans certainly didn’t invent it, but they tried to perfect it. They enjoyed watching their victims die as slowly and painfully as possible and made a public spectacle of it. We’re talking parents staked to the ground and ripped apart by wild dogs while their children are forced to watch before being killed themselves.

This kind of thing still happens today. Sometimes in the physical world; sometimes in the digital.

In another trailer you can actually hear people cheering in the background as the main character decapitates enemies and saws off limbs. It’s one thing to watch it. It’s another to control it. And videogames are all about control. You get to do the killing. You get to enact the revenge. All for the low, low price of 59.99.

There’s endless debate around whether playing violent video games makes one violent. I think the answer, like a lot of things, is “It depends.” It depends on the person, their environment, their experiences, their choices. The world is not black and white as much as the media wants it to be for better ratings.

But this is not about that.

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We like to pretend that we can read whatever, watch whatever, play whatever and it doesn’t really matter, so long as we’re not doing it in real life. So Christians buy Fifty Shades of Grey, view online pornography, and immerse themselves in Doom.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8

Please, please, please, let’s not get into behavior modification. Jesus hated that. The religious leaders were masters of it. God is interested in transforming our hearts and minds, not tweaking our actions. What we do flows from who we are, so God says “Let’s begin there.”

The more yielded we are to the Spirit, the more sensitive we become to the things that grieve him.  What was once okay then is not okay now because God has changed how we think, what we value, how we love.

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The backdrop to all this is that there is an actual war going on between good and evil and we’re caught up in the middle of it. And unfortunately a lot of Christians have become POW’s. Surrendering was easier than fighting. God knows I’ve done it. Maybe you have too.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 2 Corinthians 3:17

Is there anything in your life that you’re putting first over God? Anything you’re rationalizing instead of releasing? Anything you’re holding on to that has a hold on you?

The big lie is that God wants to keep you from the good things in life. The big truth is that God wants to get you in on the best things in life. You’ve trusted him before. You can trust him again.

He loves you and is for you. Receive his freedom today.

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My thoughts on the film, for what they’re worth:

  1. It felt a lot like Training Day, but I loved Training Day so that wasn’t a problem.
  2. The commentary from the row of high school boys behind me added nothing to the feature.
  3. Like the drug cartels, our real enemy wants to fill the world with violence, confusion, chaos, hatred, pride, perversion, and destruction. In contrast, God wants to fill the world with truth, love, justice, peace, order, service, humility, and compassion. We get to join him in being change agents.
  4. I watched it more from the perspective of the task force than the main character. No doubt because I’ve studied leadership, been in leadership, researched elite operations, and shed most of my youthful idealism and naivete about how the world actually works.