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by Colin Harbinson

Spiritual warfare is a subject of great interest and discussion amongst Christians today. Some would have us believe that because Jesus defeated Satan at Calvary, we need no longer concern ourselves with spiritual warfare - Jesus did it all! Others act as though they believe that the Cross had little or no effect on the powers of darkness, and that it has been largely left to us to defeat Satan!

As always, truth is held in tension. Our understanding of spiritual warfare in the life of the believer must be firmly rooted in our understanding of the definitive victory that Jesus has already won. Anything less is to totally misunderstand the finished work of the Cross. However, Scripture is very clear in the mandate it gives to us as we walk out our faith. We too can have daily victory over the power of the enemy in our lives. He only has authority that we give to him. Our faith is not to be passive or defensive. We are to pull down strongholds with the spiritual weapons at our disposal. The victory of Calvary enables us to defeat the enemy, for without the Cross we would be at Satan's mercy.

A hallmark of truth is its universal application. We can perceive truth in a particular theological or practical framework and fail to make the "connection" with other areas of reality.Like Elisha's servant we need to have our eyes opened, to see beyond physical observation to spiritual reality and practical application. Nowhere is the truth of spiritual warfare more needed or so little understood as in the area of the arts. This sad fact has left artists open to the attacks of the enemy, resulting in many unnecessary casualties. As artists, we struggle with very specific issues in our lives, yet often fail to realize that "our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in heavenly places."In over twenty-five years of involvement in the Arts, the most vital understanding I have gained is of the nature and significance of spiritual warfare, as it relates both to the arts and the artist.

A number of years ago, the leadership of the Academy of Performing Arts received a very powerful picture from the Lord which has undergirded and guided all that we have been involved in ever since. We saw fortified cities on which were written the names of various art forms. Over each city there were principalities and powers, among which were idolatry, pride, independence and impurity. We believe the Lord spoke to us that the arts were His good gifts to be expressed for beauty and glory. We were to pull down these strongholds and see the arts reconciled to God. With this mandate came a warning. We were to make sure that the strongholds over the arts were not strongholds of the enemy in our own lives.

If we did not experience personal victory over idolatry, pride, independence, and impurity, we would not only fail to bring reconciliation, but would ourselves be drawn into these same areas. Many a person has entered the arts with a desire to glorify God through the expression of gifting, and very quickly found themselves far away from Him. If we want to be "salt" and "light" in the culture, we must first of all allow the "salt" of God to cleanse us, and let His "light" shine in us exposing our own darkness.

Unresolved areas in our lives give the enemy a foothold and platform from which to launch his fiery darts. There are many artists who are spiritual casualties because they did not allow God first of all to deal with issues in their lives.

I would like to suggest four practical and proven ways that will help us as artists to effectively walk in victory. We need to know how to discern spiritual strongholds, understand the nature of spiritual authority, walk in the opposite spirit and build our own spiritual citadel.

The discerning of spiritual strongholds is of primary importance. Different locations, cities and nations have their own specific spiritual oppression. As our performing troupes have traveled internationally, they have found themselves facing specific struggles in certain locations. That is the nature of the operation of "spiritual forces of wickedness in heavenly places!" In one city they will face attacks in the area of impurity, in another situation find themselves rising up in pride and arrogance. Instead of passive sightseeing, in new locales, we need to walk the streets in active intercession, asking God to show us the principalities and powers over the city or nation. As God shows us, we can take our authority in the Lord. Biblical battles were won in the spiritual realm before they were won in the natural. Knowing where the enemy will attack, we can prepare ourselves for defensive and offensive action. This principle applies to theatres and performance areas. If Shinto priests are flown from Japan to Broadway prior to the opening of a show, to cleanse the theatre of "negative" influences, how much more we need to be aware of this principle in the realm of our spiritual warfare as artists.

Secondly, we need to understand the nature of our spiritual authority. Victory is not assured by just resisting the enemy. Many try to resist but get nowhere! The reason for failure is that we ignore the full counsel of scripture. Resisting is proceeded by submitting. "Submit yourself to God, resist the devil and he will flee from you." If our lives are not submitted to God, we have no authority whatsoever. We have no power at all. Authority comes out of submission. This principle applies to the God-given accountability structures in our lives. I am not referring to ungodly control, but to Godly accountability. As artists, our biggest need is to be spiritually discipled and have those who love us enough to speak into our lives. We need relationships where we can be open about our struggles and received prayer and encouragement in the Lord.

A third principle is that of walking in the opposite spirit - a "gentle answer turns away wrath." Idolatry is a major stronghold in the arts. Art has the ability to draw away our love for the Lord and focus our affection on itself. The opposite of idolatry is worship. Artists must first of all be worshippers. That sets our focus. If we worship the Lord in spirit and truth, art will never become an idol. Worship must be a "lifestyle" for us. Humility is the opposite of pride. We need humility in our lives and our art. As Franky Schaeffer says in his latest book, "Humility is a vigorous state of being, in which we have a sense of who we are and more importantly, who we are not."

We come against independence by embracing dependence on God and the body of Christ. Even though we are misunderstood and criticized by some, we cannot walk in independence and separation from other believers. Independence is the doorway to deception. We cannot be God's agents of reconciliation in the arts and be unreconciled to His church. We must find a spiritual home where we can give, as well as receive from our brothers and sisters in the Lord.Finally, we are to walk in purity and righteousness, which is the opposite to impurity. In an area where sensuality abounds, we must allow God to deal with roots of impurity in our lives, so that we can "present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto Him."

Walking in the opposite spirit to strongholds in the arts both defines our lifestyles and releases spiritual authority. As artists we need to have a lifestyle of worship, walking in humility and dependence, having "presented our members as instruments of righteous
The fourth principle involves the building of a citadel in our lives. In the Old Testament, a citadel was a fortress built in the center of the city in an elevated place. It contained food and weapons in case the enemy breached the outer wall of the city. From the citadel the citizens could withstand a siege and continue to fight the enemy. As artists, we must have that place in our own lives where we go for spiritual food - a place where we can do spiritual warfare against the attack of the enemy. It is too late to build a citadel in the heat of the battle. It must be built in peace time. One of the great tragedies is that people involve themselves in the arts without building a citadel, without having a solid and growing relationship with the Lord. The result is spiritual genocide.

If I have been strong in the statements I have made, it is only because I love the arts and desire that as artists we truly glorify God in the expression of our gifts. The charge of scripture to "walk in a manner worthy of our calling," must ring loudly in our ears. We need not wallow in our struggles and use the excuse that we walk a difficult path. We are open to specific attacks and temptations, but we do not have to succumb. As artists we are not just called to maintain the status quo, we are called to a much higher task. As we pursue our gifts and calling in God, we will be agents of reconciliation in the arts. As we face the reality of spiritual warfare, we must remind ourselves that "the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the pulling down of strongholds."

Note from the author:
Spiritual strongholds can be described as distortions.

Not to be reproduced without written permission.
c 1989 Colin Harbinson (quotations excepted)

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