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Chapter 06

Encountering Jesus in Spiritual Warfare

Danny Seay

Friday, January 19, 2024



In chapter six of Encounters with Jesus, Keller demonstrates that Christ is with us in the spiritual conflict we are engaged in and all of the trials and struggles that this causes. He does this by examining Jesus’ own struggle with spiritual conflict at the beginning of his earthly ministry and concludes that we can learn much from his encounter. Keller explores three areas: who the enemy is, where the enemy attacks, and how we are to fight. 

The Enemy

While the obvious answer to this question is Satan himself, this area is much more complex than we might first expect. In the temptation account of Jesus, Satan is undoubtedly the enemy seeking to lead Jesus into sin through various situations. However, in our lives, Satan's tools of destruction and deception are many. Summed up simply, Satan has the entirety of a fallen world to throw at God’s people. First, he has other spiritual forces at his disposal who share his desire to blind men to the truth of the gospel. He also employs the evil works and actions of sinful men, as well as the evil and corrupt effects of sinful and broken systems throughout the world. Lastly, Satan has a final advantage over us that he did not have over Christ, our original sin natures that constantly call to us. We must be vigilant in our watch for all of these threats.  

The Front:

If Satan and all the evil he can muster against us is the enemy, our next question must be where are we under attack? Satan shows his favorite tactic in his statement to Christ “if you are really the son of God, then do ….” Satan’s desire and goal was to attack Jesus’ identity as God’s son, the very truth of the gospel and his tactic with us is no different. For those who are far from the truth of God, Satan aims to keep them blind. For those who have heard it, Satan seeks to make them think salvation is works based and beyond their merit. For those in Christ who know the truth, Satan seeks to cause us to doubt the validity of the gospel and shake our hope in God. He has been calling God’s word into question from the very beginning and today he is still up to his old tricks. 

The Defense for the Fight

Since Satan’s course of attack is to call the truth into question, Keller rightly reasons that we must stand firm on the very truth he assaults.  Jesus provides the best example of this defense in his own temptation narrative by his use of scripture, which is the foundation of truth. In each of the three confrontations with Satan, Jesus responds with a quotation from the mosaic law in Deuteronomy. This example serves two purposes. First, it directly assaults Satan’s lies with the truth and reveals the falsehoods that they are. However, secondly, when scripture is used as a defense, it not only reveals Satan’s falsehood, but it also confirms the truth in our heart. This confirmation of truth is one of the avenues God uses to make us look more like Jesus in our process of sanctification. Finally, Keller concludes that we have one final line of defense, and it is a powerful one: Jesus himself. Since Christ has gone through every temptation common to man (1 Cor 10:13, Heb 4:15), we can be confident that he is aware of our struggle and is interceding and aiding us in the fight.  

Something True

The world is full of evil.

While God’s original creation was not this way, because of Satan’s temptation of mankind and their subsequent fall, everything in creation is sinful and broken. We don’t have to look very hard at ourselves to confirm this truth. We are predisposed to serve ourselves, often at the expense of others. We desire pleasure, wealth, power or a combination of all three because that is what our hearts are bent towards. And even after God’s gracious saving work takes place and transforms the desires of our heart towards him and away from our sinful urges, we are still assaulted by other spiritual evil, namely Satan himself. 

Satan will assault God’s image bearers.

Keller rightly reminds us that none of God’s people are spared from spiritual attack. If Jesus, the only person who in his own power could resist sinful desires, came under the spiritual assault of Satan, does it not stand to reason that we will also most certainly find ourselves in the devil’s crosshairs? Keller sums up Matthew’s conclusion when he says “No one is exempt from trials and tribulations” (pg 107). Job gives us further evidence that even the most righteous of God’s saints will come under attack. In fact, Keller argues that these assaults are a part of God’s divine providence and that he uses them to shape us into “something great” (pg 107).

Something to Wrestle with 

God’s spirit leads us into the wilderness for our good. 

Though it is difficult to wrap our minds around, Keller argues that not only is God sovereign over these forces that Satan uses to attack us, but he often uses them both to craft and transform us more into the christian he would have us to be, as well as for the benefit of others. If we’re honest, many of us have gone through extremely difficult circumstances in the past only to be able to look back in the present and see how God used it to transform us into a follower with much greater patience, faith, trust, or compassion for others. Keller also cites both the examples of Job and Christ’s sufferings and temptations as events which have helped all of God’s people throughout time (pg 110). He argues that God, in his far-reaching wisdom, has similar purposes in our own suffering, some of which we will only see and understand on the other side of eternity. 

Satan’s evil extends to institutions and systems.

One area of sin and brokenness I often struggle to identify is the evil systems and institutions that cause the suffering and turmoil of others. Keller cites systems of racial inequality and hate in the 1940s and 70s that respectively led to the genocide of Jewish people in Europe and the exclusion of Black people from economic and political positions in the south (pg 115). He acknowledges that individuals are culpable for their own sin and that these institutions were home to many sinners. Many more individuals simply lived in these systems without evil intent in their heart and were carried along by the institution’s evil. While many of us are quick to identify and condemn the evil that existed in these systems 50 and 80 years behind us, we are slower to see the injustice and evil caused by systems and institutions in our own modern day. 

Something to do

-Be assured of your identity

One vital takeaway from Keller’s chapter six is that we must know and stand confidently in our identity as children of God. There are many factors that flow from this identity status. A few of the major ones include: 

  • We are saved by grace, not works. We should not boast, and our salvation is secure.

  • We are viewed by God on Christ’s merits, not our own. We do not earn our salvation.

  • We are loved by God. This does not change when we sin or fall short.

  • We are co-heirs with Christ, adopted as God’s children.

  • We share in Christ’s sufferings, so trials should be expected.

  • If we share in Christ’s sufferings, we shall also share in his rewards. 

These are only a few, but they say a lot about our status as God’s children. And these statements and truths are the very ground that Satan attacks. So know and stand firm in the truth of the gospel. 

-Know what God’s Word says: Read, Reflect, Memorize 

One of the best ways we can do this is by staying consistently in God’s word. However, regular reading, while a great starting place, is not enough. We must contemplate and meditate the truth that is contained in the scriptures. It is the deep reflection that leads to the heart transformation Keller referenced. It is only a heart saturated with Scripture that can respond to Satan’s attacks with scripture. The best way we can do this is by internalizing the bible through memorization. If this isn’t something you have as a regular discipline, consider asking your cell group partner to memorize a verse with you over the next week. 

Questions for Discussion

  1. Where do you see evil at work in the world? Think broadly in scope first (world, nation, etc.) and then more narrow (in your workplace, community, etc.). 

  2. Can you identify evil institutions and systems other than the ones listed above?

  3. Have you experienced assaults from Satan and his forces before? If so, what form did it take? If not, have you ever seen others go through this?

  4. How have spiritually dark times been used by God to make you look more like Christ?

  5. Do you make regular bible reading a consistent practice? What about scripture memorization? Try memorizing Hebrews 4:15 “ For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”

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