It is true that I am an ordinary, weak human being, but I don’t use human plans and methods to win my battles. I use God’s mighty weapons, not those made by men, to knock down the devil’s strongholds. These weapons can break down every proud argument against God and every wall that can be built to keep men from finding him. [2 Corinthians 10:3-5a (TLB)]
Since Jesus blessed the meek in the Sermon on the Mount, I doubt He would have been a fan of mixed martial arts or cage fighting. Yet, as I walked into the sanctuary, I looked up and saw a large cage fashioned of chain-link fencing. Looking at my program, I saw that we were starting a series on “Cage Fighting.” Instead of fighting one another, however, we would be battling Satan. Instead of blocking our opponent’s punches and kicks, we’d be blocking Satan’s jabs of temptation, sin, shame, guilt, doubt, fear, anger and unforgiveness. Instead of allowing Satan to keep us locked in his strongholds, we would use God’s weapons to fight our way out of his cage.
Seeing that cage and thinking of hand-to-hand combat reminded me of the second book in C.S. Lewis’ space trilogy, Perelandra, in which good and evil actually come to blows. Elwin Ransom arrives on the sinless world of Perelandra and meets the innocent Tinidril, Perelandra’s first woman. As Eden once was, Perelandra had been untouched by sin. Instead of Eden’s serpent, the demonic Professor Weston tries to tempt the ingenuous Tinidril into defying God’s one prohibition. Weston (while petty and spiteful out of the woman’s earshot) uses all sorts of brilliant yet convoluted arguments to seduce her into disobedience. He suggests that obedience sometimes means disobedience and that her rebellion would actually please God by demonstrating her strength and independence. Feeling out-argued and inadequate, Ransom despairs. If Weston succeeds, he knows there will be another tragic fall into sin and a ruinous end to the paradise. A divine voice then tells this ordinary mortal man to physically fight the tempter. After a night of debate with God, the reluctant Ransom attacks the enemy bare-handed. This is a fight without referee, time limit or rules; it is a lengthy no-holds-barred battle to the bitter end. Fortunately, Ransom succeeds…for the time being. Lewis’ next book in the trilogy reminds us that evil never stops trying to overpower good.
While a skilled fighter, Satan is no gentleman and doesn’t abide by the Marquess of Queensberry boxing rules. Like Weston, he fights dirty and is a blatant liar. One of Satan’s tactics is to take advantage when his opponent is unprotected or exhausted. He didn’t come to Jesus when our Lord was well-rested and well-fed; he came when Jesus was alone, weary and hungry in the wilderness. Satan is devious and, like all experienced liars, often adds a bit of truth to his lies and then twists it to his advantage. When tempting Jesus in the wilderness, he quotes a Bible verse to support his position that Jesus would be protected when jumping off the temple’s roof. Moreover, Satan, like any accomplished fighter, tries to trick us into making foolish mistakes or underestimating him. He offered Jesus the quick and easy way to the kingdoms of the world (no crucifixion required) if only He would bow down before Satan. Satan entices us to lower our guard or take the easy punch so he can knock us down with a left jab we don’t see coming. Every time Satan tossed a punch, however, Jesus wisely countered the blows with verses from Scripture. He won the battle in the wilderness but, like the evil in Lewis’ trilogy, Satan is never satisfied. Luke’s gospel tells us that he intended to return at the next opportunity.
The apostle Paul tells us to wear the armor of God when battling Satan. Truth, righteousness, the peace of God, faith and salvation are our defensive weapons. As Ransom learned, however, the best defense is an offense. Rather than fists, our offensive weapon is a sword—the word of God. Fighting the powers of Satan is like face-to-face combat; it’s not easy and may leave us battered but, dressed in God’s armor and carrying his sword, we can defeat the enemy. Unlike Ransom, we must never hesitate to do battle with the forces of evil. Unlike Tinidril, we have no Ransom to do our fighting for us. Then again, perhaps we do in the way of Jesus who gave his life as our ransom. With the power of His Holy Spirit and carrying His sword, we can fight our way out of the enemy’s stronghold.
Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. [Ephesians 6:13-17 (NLT)]
For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many. [Matthew 20:28 (NLT)]
(Unfortunately, my summary of Perelandra doesn’t do this book justice. Please read it for yourselves.)