This may be controversial in terms of the illustration I’ll use, but I find the illustration has explanatory power. I think our real problem isn’t how darkness has adapted, but how believers have changed (i.e., their thinking). I’ll try and explain. I just posted this over on the Faithlife Group for Lexham Press. It’s off-the-cuff in many respects since it’s forum material, but it seemed worth posting here as well.
I was asked a few weeks ago in Arkansas how the material of the Unseen Realm helps us with our mission as Christians. I’ve been asked that many times. I told the lady who asked about this that I didn’t see ANY institution being the answer to the world’s problems — not government, not the institutional church, nor institutional Christian ministries. The answer is CHRISTIANS. If we honestly had a vision for who we are, by God’s providential design (imager-members of God’s family-council, participating with him and his unseen imagers in advancing the kingdom (releasing the lost from the lies their spiritual overlords have told them — human and non-human), the world we change. It’s winning hearts and minds through sacrifice — like the apostles did. It’s really BELIEVING that this world isn’t our home and then acting like it. It’s taking risks and letting providence guide us, believing that what we do is part of an intelligent plan that we cannot see, but that God is rolling out — person to person.
My controversial illustration was ISIS. Every member of ISIS is single-minded. They are the Borg, for Star Trek fans. Their first thought every day is advancing their agenda. Their last thought every night is what they’ll do tomorrow to advance their agenda. Their vision of what they want the world to be never goes away, never changes, is always the center. Any individual interest is secondary.
How many Christians really think and live like that when it comes to the kingdom of God? Not enough.
THAT mindset, motivated by the love of Christ, belief in the reality of our hereafter destiny, and confidence that God will use any service of ours to further his end, is, in my view, how spiritual warfare ought to get done, and how it was done in the first century or so. The vision was CONSUMING. Our vision of the kingdom (at least in the West it seems) is peripheral. We don’t see the vision, and so we can’t believe in it, and so we lack power — we fail to assert the power that is already there over darkness, to convince people by our words and actions and sacrificial sharing of our resources and time that the lord of the dead (Satan) is powerless over those in Christ (so let’s act like this life isn’t our real life), that the gospel can heal the self-destructive things we do (something “accelerated” by the Watchers / fallen sons of God in Jewish and earliest church theology), and that the authority of the gods of the nations, put in place by Yahweh as a punishment at Babel has been revoked — and the nations (Gentiles) are now being called back (commanded to return) to the family of God through the seed (Christ) of Yahweh’s inheritance – Israel (cf. Deut 32:8-9; Gen 12:1-3; Paul in Acts 17, and the range of passages where Paul — for some reason! — links the resurrection to the defeat of those fallen gods). Believers in the first century BELIEVED these things, and those things changed the way we live. We don’t believe we have cosmic role to play because we don’t believe in the cosmic arena in which the game is being played. We have lots of sincere Christians who are, basically, believing skeptics. And that affects how they think about their own lives, which in turn affects their vision.
Anyway, that’s my two cents. It’s about vision and abandonment to that vision. Doing what you do every day, no matter how small, to move the mission toward its goal, one person at a time, and believing God incorporates such obedience into his end game. 13 men had that in the first century, and they turned the world upside down (Acts 17:6). We have the same truth and the same Spirit, but we lack the person-to-person, day-to-day obsession with being salt and light in the way that ISIS wants what it wants (and I for one believe they aren’t acting alone — they are part of what is ultimately a spiritual war).