Whether you saw it in the news first thing this morning or you heard about it in a conversation a few moments ago, it doesn’t take long to encounter the reality of spiritual warfare that rages around you. There seems to be no quiet moment in the battle, at least for those who are intentionally engaged. And all too often we tend to glance at our fellow Christian soldiers in dismay and huddle tightly together as the world seems to grow darker and sin appears to rise victorious.
But is this the picture of spiritual warfare the Bible paints?
Let’s recall the words that Jesus spoke to Peter when the disciple recognized He was the Son of God:
“…on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18).
What does it mean the gates of hades will not prevail against the church?
Christian, it means you can break out of your fearful defensive huddle. You have no need to protect yourself from gates. The gates are shut against the church to keep it out. God’s church is besieging, not being besieged by, the forces of darkness.
Ponder that for a moment. What Jesus says here can completely transform our mindsets when we think of how we engage in spiritual warfare, and the fresh perspective is invigorating. Just as light shines in darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it (John 1:5), the church Jesus built is an active force that attacks, overcomes, and thwarts the domain of sin. It has erected its strongest gates against the church but to no avail.
With this perspective fresh in mind, how do Christians engage on the offensive? How do we emerge from our spiritual foxholes and charge sword-first against the gates of hades?
There are two commands we must follow.
First, we are to exercise dominion.
Then God said,
“Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Genesis 1:26).
Then God blessed them, and God said to them,
“Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:28).
Built into the design for humanity is God’s intention for us to have dominion over the world He created. Christians who are obedient to God will never live idle lives. We are never told by God to do nothing. Our minds and bodies were created to be active and positive forces on the world around us.
How do we exercise dominion? Dominion implies active involvement and responsibility. The world was supposed to thrive under our care, and not just nature. Having dominion in a sinful world means we are to act as representatives of God’s authority wherever we find ourselves.
A Christian craftsman does their work with all their might, knowing that every leaky faucet fixed, every car repaired, every bathroom tile evenly placed is part of furthering the kingdom of God. Christian nurses, politicians, writers, electricians, stay-at-home parents – no matter what we find ourselves doing we press against the gates of hades, and before we sleep at night we plant the flag of the kingdom of God, marking the territory newly brought into the dominion of light that day.
The second command – make disciples.
And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying,
“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen (Matthew 28:18-20 NKJV).
How do we make disciples? The most popular answer is preaching and being a missionary, but obviously, those vocational callings aren’t for every Christian.
We must seek to influence the people in our circles. We must have relationships with people, not content to be isolated. We must be in a position so that what God pours into us overflows to others. For many of us, the best and most important place to start is in our own homes, with our spouses, children, or grandchildren. There might be people in your local church who need a godly influence in their lives on a one-on-one level.
It may be tempting to think discipling someone is just a good thing to do – maybe helping someone build good spiritual habits or avoid mistakes you’ve made in the past. But no, it goes beyond that. Discipling was the final command from Jesus during His time on Earth, and that places immense importance on it. When you make a disciple, you are striking a blow at the gates of hades.
The Bible has a way of ripping off the mask of mundanity from our lives and revealing the real eternal weight that exists in every moment. Christian, look past your normal everyday life and see it for what it truly is. No more huddling in fear. You are marching with an advancing heavenly army towards the black gates of sin, armed with battering rams, glittering weapons, hardened armor, and engines of warfare. The gates are shuttered against the onslaught, but it’s no use. The King has decreed that the gates will not prevail against His army. They are doomed to fall, and you are expected to play your part in the siege.