God defeated Satan on the Cross. But although Satan is defeated, God has not yet removed him from creation. Satan still fights against God and His people. Satan’s prime target on planet Earth is individual believers, local churches, and the worldwide church. In this session, we’ll look at our battle with Satan, and how – through the resources that God provides for us, and through our obedience to God – we may live a life of victory over Satan.
We’ll also look at the history of the worldwide Church from the first century AD to the present time. Throughout its history, the Church has always faced attack from Satan. And there have been times when the Church has fallen into error and moral decline. But God is sovereign. We’ll see how he led many people to bring restoration to the Church. And we’ll see how, in recent centuries, God has brought revival to His people in many places. Though the Church still faces attack from Satan, and persecution in many places, our own period of history is an unprecedented time of opportunity for the Church and the Gospel!
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Leader’s Guide for group study
This Group Study Guide contains three questions, with Bible passages to read, together with some notes to help the group leader to guide the discussion.
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Although Satan is defeated, God hasn’t yet removed him from creation. Satan still fights against God and His people. We believers are in a battle against Satan.
Satan is cunning. He is “the deceiver of the whole world” (Revelation 12.9). We face deception, sabotage, subversion. Satan blurs the line between truth and error. He tempts us to compromise with worldly things. He targets our weaknesses. He lays false trails to try to take us off course and waste our gifts and resources.
Paul pictures us believers as Roman soldiers. He writes: “Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” (Ephesians 6.11). The armour is a picture of the spiritual resources that God has given to us in Christ.
●We’re to stand “having fastened on the belt of truth” (6.14). The “truth” here is God’s truth as revealed in the gospel (Ephesians 1.13, 4.21). And it’s to be outworked in our lives. We’re to live lives that are consistent with the truth of the gospel (see 2 John 4, 3 John 4).
●We must put on “the breastplate of righteousness” (6.14). We must put on “the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4.24 NIV). We must live righteous, godly lives.
●We’re to have our feet properly shod with “the readiness given by the gospel of peace” (6.15 – the gospel of peace is language drawn from Isaiah 52.7). What is the gospel of peace? Ephesians 2.14-18 shows us – Jesus has created in Himself a new humanity that is at peace with God. We’re to understand this gospel of peace and allow that gospel to shape our thinking and our lives. And we’re to proclaim that gospel through our lips and our lives.
●We must grasp “the shield of faith” (6.16 and compare 1 John 5.4-5). Resolute confidence in God’s power and faithfulness to us will quench Satan’s assaults and temptations.
●We must put on “the helmet of salvation” (6.17) – the firm assurance that God has saved us – that He has rescued us from Satan’s dominion, raised us with Christ and seated us with Him in heavenly places (Ephesians 2.4-7).
●We must use “the sword of the Spirit” (6.17). We must take hold of God’s word – “the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation” (Ephesians 1.13), and speak God’s truth – to ourselves as well as to others – in the power of His Spirit. That means we must know God’s truth. And so we must know what God says in the Bible – something we look at in the third question.
Paul emphasises the word “stand” (Ephesians 6.11,13-14). It’s vital to remember that Jesus Christ has already defeated Satan. We believers share in Christ’s victory. We must stand firm in the victory Jesus has given us. We must remember that Satan can no longer accuse us (Romans 8.1,31-34, Revelation 12.10-11). And we’re to refuse Satan even the smallest foothold in our lives or in the life of our church.
Paul concludes: “pray in the Spirit on all occasions” (6.18 NIV). Prayer is central to our warfare – both individually and as a local church.
A key battleground is the daily routine of ordinary life. Day by day we must learn to trust God fully, and obey Him in everything – in the small things, and the things that other people don’t see, as well as in the big things. That’s where our victory must first be won.
Finally, two key points about soldiers are these:
●Soldiers are under orders. We, too, need to learn how to obey God – just as Jesus Himself did (see John 4.34, 6.38, 8.29, Matthew 26.39). Submitting to God is vital if we are to resist the Devil (compare James 4.7).
●Soldiers work as a team. The lone Christian, like the lone soldier, is at great risk. Teamwork, and ‘looking out’ for one another, are essential to any military operation. They’re essential to our spiritual warfare, too. We need to gather together often with other believers (see Hebrews 10.25). We’re to support one another in all kinds of ways. For example, we’re to teach and admonish one another (Colossians 3.16), encourage and build one another up (1 Thessalonians 5.11), and pray for one another (James 5.16). All this will strengthen us in our battle against Satan – as individuals and as a church.
In Old Testament times priests worshipped and served God in His Tabernacle and in the Temple. Now we, God’s people, are the Temple! His Spirit lives in us. As God’s priests, we may live in His presence and worship and serve Him all the time.
A key duty of the Old Testament priests was to offer sacrifices. That’s what we’re to do as well (1 Peter 2.5). What sacrifices do we offer? Jesus provides our answer. He offered His Father obedience – unhesitating, heartfelt obedience (see Matthew 26.39, John 4.34, 6.38, 8.29). We’re to offer God our obedience, too. We’re to serve and glorify Him. This can outwork in so many ways – for example, praise and thanksgiving to God (Hebrews 13.15); or “to do good and to share” (Hebrews 13.16, and compare Philippians 4.18). And when we serve and minister to others, we are also fulfilling a priestly ministry. Our priestly role includes praying for others, too (see Ephesians 6.18, 1 Timothy 2.1).
And as God’s holy priesthood, we’re to bring His blessings to this broken world. God is blessing “all peoples on earth” (Genesis 12.3 NIV), just as He promised Abraham. The blessing of Abraham (see Acts 3.25-26, Galatians 3.14) is repentance, and the salvation provided by Jesus the Messiah.
God has given us the Bible to help bring us to maturity in understanding and in holiness. Reading and knowing the Bible, understanding what it says – and obeying what God tells us in it – is vital for our spiritual growth. How can we help ourselves, and encourage others, to read and understand it more?
●Setting aside time each day to read it. It would help to use one of the many Bible reading plans available that will take us through the whole Bible in a set period of time (for example, 3 years).
●Using some Bible helps. There is a huge range of good Bible helps – for example, overviews, commentaries, concordances, word studies, dictionaries and handbooks – available both in print and online, to help us understand the Bible better.
●Memorising the Bible. This is hugely beneficial. As we do so, we will find our minds will be increasingly filled with God’s truth; sinful and unhelpful thoughts will be pushed out of our minds, and we’ll be protected against Satan’s lies. It will help us to meditate at any time on God’s truth. And God’s Spirit will increasingly bring Scriptures to our minds and speak to us through them. There are a huge range of tools available, such as ‘phone apps, that can help us to memorise Bible passages.
●Hearing the Bible being read out loud in our gatherings. Paul tells Timothy: “devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, . . . .” (1 Timothy 4.13). It’s really important to have portions of the Scripture read out regularly and clearly in our church gatherings. And we need to gather regularly with God’s people to hear it being read, and explained.
●Reading and studying the Bible with others. It is a great encouragement and support to read and study the Bible with others in twos or threes, and in Home Groups. Even if we don’t find it possible to meet with others regularly, there is still value in teaming up with one or two others, studying the same passages together, and communicating what God has shown us – things we want to share, as well as things we don’t understand and need help with, via text or a messaging service.
CREDITS ► Text copyright © 2017 Robert Gordon Betts ► Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ► Scripture quotations marked ‘NIV’ are taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.