Spiritual Warfare: 'Separating Reality from Hype'

Spiritual Warfare

Spiritual Warfare: Separating Reality from the Hype

Spiritual Warfare–it seems Christians either obsess over it and engage in all kinds of antics and hype, or they ignore it because the intellectualization of their theological categories disallows for the reality. The fakery and the hype inoculates the inquiring novice from accepting the real thing. Arid intellectualism leaves believers unequipped to deal with phenomena outside of their worldview. What is genuine spiritual warfare and what is just a bunch of noise and enthusiasm in a meeting?

Casually browse the internet or take a walk through a Christian bookstore. You will see that books covering elements and techniques of spiritual warfare abound like sand fleas on a camel.  The sales allure is because the techniques give adherents a false sense of spiritual significance–it is emotionally intoxicating to think we are “defeating the devil.” We are led to believe that spiritually and invisibly, we are accomplishing great things and that the kingdom of God is marvelously advancing in the “invisible realms,” while nothing on planet earth actually corresponds to the alleged metaphysical progress. If there is an idea that could be more fundamentally Gnostic than that, I don’t know what it is. If you consider the hundreds of thousands, if not hundreds of millions, of Christians who are allegedly “pulling down strongholds” as the result of implementing the techniques in these of books and seminars, it would seem whatever it is that is being done is not very effective.

I have been a Christian a very long time. Pick a category and can you point to any in which things have improved over the last few decades?

  • Marriages: Nope. Divorce rate among believers is the same if not slightly higher than atheists.
  • Children: Nope. 75% of children raised in Christian homes when they turn 21 will never serve the Lord or darken the doors of an organized church
  • Civility: Nope. Our society is the most uncivil in our history.
  • Racial Reconciliation: Nope.
  • Drug addiction: Nope. Opioid epidemic.
  • Violence: Nope. Sex Assaults, murder rates in some cities soaring to all-time highs, gang violence proliferating
  • Churches getting along? Nope. Internal politics, power struggles over control and money, ego in leadership, interpersonal conflicts, inter-church hatred and disunity.

Advocates of the alleged spiritual warfare techniques would have us believe that we “cannot judge with our eyes” and that we just have to persevere. If we do, some great day is surely ahead. That is an intellectual Ponzi scheme: just keep investing, but there is no payday. An eternally unreachable carrot might keep a mule motivated, but it is no way for the ekklesia (the church, the people of God) to operate. 

Rather than perpetuate various Evangelical, Charismatic/Apostolic/Prophetic myths, I think some reconsideration, clarification, and redefinition of many things is in order. 

A handful of believers in Ephesus overturned a city, and as far as we know, they did no “prophetic warfare” against the “spirit of Diana of the Ephesians!”  They did not do spiritual mapping. They did not do “prophetic intercessory” warfare. They simply lived an empowered Christian life in an apostolic dimension of the kingdom.

There has to be more to spiritual warfare than making “prophetic decrees” and “doing war in the invisible heavenlies,” that result in absolutely no visible change on earth over years and years of time

Misunderstanding the difference between demons and principalities and the ekklesia’s engagement with each is part of the reason why real change in time and space is often not realized. This is not the place to do a full unfolding of the important distinction and implications—this is not a treatise on demonology. ( I am not dealing here with individual, introspective and subjective issues surrounding 2 Corinthians 10:5 ff.).

Briefly put: demons (demonic influence) are individually resisted/cast out/”delivered.” An ascendant church displaces principalities.

Our Wrestling, not Your Wrestling

Paul said: WE (first person plural pronoun) wrestle not with flesh blood, but with principalities, etc. He did not say “I” wrestle with principalities and make prophetic declarations against them. Spiritual warfare against principalities is a corporate endeavor through displacement, not an individual endeavor by deliverance. Individual deliverance and heavenly displacement are not the same.

Singing loud and peppy songs (which I enjoy!) and making “prophetic decrees” is trying to do spiritual warfare on the cheap. Spiritual warfare is realized through lives lived incarnationally in a cruciform expression: lives laid down sacrificially, and the transformative power of His resurrected life manifest in a BODY in a geography.

What is Displacement?

Displacement is accomplished when a corporate expression of the ekklesia literally possesses a dimension of life and authority in the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. The “ascended” corporate church fills the heavenlies in the place formerly occupied by the principality. The church’s subjective ascendency, the measure of the stature possessed, not positional spiritual authority, unseats the principality.

Not withstanding issues of what is the true ekklesia, or what is an accurate representation of the ekklesia, there will be and is, a spiritual entity, the Bride in a geography, as small as a local assembly or as large as a city or nation, that can ascend in Christ in a dimension that unseats a prevailing power.

I do not believe this is done through prayer, intercession, and spiritual warfare in the sense we have understood those things. I believe the warfare is the warfare associated with the manifestation of the life of Christ—in, through, and by His cross in the power of His resurrection, in human vessels. That is, I do not pray the victory in. I live it. Every reference to our “victory” in Christ in the New Testament is in the past tense. We do not create a condition of victory by our spiritual calisthenics in a highly emotively charged worship service. We ARE the victory of Christ, incarnationally, in human vessels, in time and space. We appropriate victory, we do not create it through spiritual warfare. 

For example, if there is a principality of poverty over an area, it is not displaced by prophetic decrees and spiritual exercises of various sorts against a “spirit of poverty.” It is displaced by the church in dominion over finances—by individual believers, and collectively the ekklesia, having their finances in order. By being honorable, trustworthy, not cheating, etc. in their interactions with others, and by being radically generous and progressively creative in handling this world’s mammon, this virtue spreads the gospel incarnationally and practically in a geography by the lifestyle of converted of souls. Those souls do not cheat anymore, thereby removing the seat of authority of the principality in them individually, and in the geography “spiritually.” Generosity replaces fear and the love of money. Prosperity replaces poverty. The principality is gone.

Continuing the example, a church in debt and operating out of Babylonian economic values, hoarding money, self-centered in giving (spending over 95% of multi-million dollar budgets on themselves), can do “spiritual warfare prayer and intercession” all day long, make “prophetic decrees and sing warfare praises” until the cows come home, trying to cast down a principality of poverty, but there will be no spiritual authority. Just clanging bells and cymbals—trying to accomplish on the cheap, what only personal and corporate transformation can accomplish.

Here’s another example, you will never remove the influence of a “Jezebelian” (a trendy topic) spirit of control when the leadership in an ekklesia is itself in love with control, money, power, politics, influence, privilege, position, and rank. Everyone I have ever heard railing against a “Jezebelian spirit” has himself, had a problem in that very area. There will be no spiritual authority in whatever city-wide spiritual warfare conferences, and unity conferences we might engage in when the leaders on the platforms of these events, are the biggest perpetrators of the very thing they are supposedly trying to do warfare against!

Spiritual Warfare is lke rats in garbage.

Clean up the garbage, rats go away.

If you wanted to clean up a rat-infested alley in a city, the first thing you would do is clean up the garbage. Remove what the rats feed on and they will leave. We think getting rid of the rats rids us of the problem. It doesn’t. The only reason there is a principality in the first place is because of The Church in abdication, default, weakness, and compromise. When the pillar and ground of all truth defaults, other powers move in.

All nature abhors a vacuum. That’s true spiritually also. So, dominion in the heavenlies is about removing the garbage, not the principality. It is so much easier removing the rats (or thinking we are) than getting down to the wrestling involved with why the garbage is there in the first place.

Jesus said in Matthew 25 that ministering to the widow, the prisoner, and the sick is ministering unto Him. This is ministry that is particularized in time, yet is spiritual in essence. That is the difference between real Christian spiritual warfare and Gnostic metaphysics: particularization in time. This is also the offense of real Christianity.

Christian spirituality is measured in visible things, not invisible, while yet believing in the invisible. Spirituality is measured by the Son of God taking a slave’s towel and washing the feet of his inferiors, not by esoteric mystical experiences. That latter, when the real thing,  are for us to enjoy privately. They are not to be used as a maturity or spirituality metric.

The most significant act of spiritual warfare is a kind act of love done to or for someone who needs it or doesn’t deserve it. Incarnational love displaces the powers of the air, one human being, one interaction at a time. A  soul who has returned to Father, ravages darkness, not shouting and hollering in a meeting. That’s because that soul has been, and will continue to be, (God help us) transformed. A life has been removed from a spiritual domain of darkness and translated into the kingdom of the Dear Son. When many transformed individuals come together and live a transformed life, there will be no place for any spiritual principality to have dominion: family, ekklesia, city, state, or nation. We will have wrestled against principalities and . . . won.


Copyright 2018 Dr. Stephen R. Crosby, www.stevecrosby.org. Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references.  For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact stephrcrosby@gmail.com.
This ministry is sustained by the freewill offerings of those who partner with us and believe in the message of a radical grace in a new covenant understanding. If this article has been a blessing to you, would you prayerfully consider making a tax-deductible contribution through our Paypal button to help? Thank you and God bless you.

43 comments on “Spiritual Warfare: 'Separating Reality from Hype'

  1. This makes so much sense. We finally had to hire an exterminator to get rid of the mouse infestation in our house. The first thing he did was look for their food source. I had put all the food in the pantry in plastic bins already, but he found a spilled bag of grass seed in a dark corner of the shed beside the house. We seldom used the shed, so we never noticed. He said he could keep laying traps and putting out poison, but as long as we were feeding them they would keep coming back. Had we been more diligent in “occupying” the shed they would have been deprived of their source. Of course! They are gone now.
    I have felt something was off with the “spiritual warfare” practices I have seen and have been reluctant to join in. (I noticed that for many of these well-intentioned folks circumstances often became worse and they became more fearful, suspicious and preoccupied with dark stuff.) Thank you for articulating what I could not.

  2. Now I know why it didn’t work when I tried to cast out the demon of caffein from the kitchen and still couldn’t sleep after drinking three cups of coffee.
    Seriously, you’ve hit on a truth that relates to every aspect of life in Christ: every evil substitute/imposter is displaced by his presence when we subject ourselves to his governance in our own lives individually and corporately. “And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.”

    • Amen, and Amen. Thanks David. We so unnecessarily complicate things that are very plain. It’s just not very stimulating sometimes. Living life in reality is not as exciting as a super-charged meeting. The former actually works, the latter is spiritual Disneyland.

  3. true enough , take away the counterfiet christianity , and persue righteousness , to much distraction in the ‘image’ of christianity , rather than in faith toward god , ditch the image

  4. What a relief! Finally someone telling us how to put the myth to rest in a credible, biblical manner. Thank you for Truth, Steve!

  5. By the second paragraph, I was looking to call you. “Some one had to say it an it gotta be Crosby” you would have made a good “all-rounder cricketer” if you were from these parts. you can Bat, Pitch and field. I agree 1000% and have been saying this a while in my society, yet the antics continue.

    When will we realise that what we’ve been doing isn’t working in this and many other areas. Blessings to you

  6. Well Stephen, if your passion is to change minds and lives with the truth you write and speak you are doing a spectacular job as I feel changed and more free with every article I read. Bless you Brother.

  7. If Jesus defeated the principalities and power triumphing over them in His cross…it seems to me that there is no need nor scriptural mandate to “make war” again. Perhaps we are to be more than conquerors through Christ. The battle has already been won….I believe that we are to conquer but to occupy as an occupational force! We need not make war on the “powers of darkness” especially in light of the fact that “all authority is given unto me in heaven AND on earth”. If ALL authority is His in HEAVEN and ON EARTH there is not need for us to attempt to re-take what which already belongs to Him. You need not conquer or push back the darkness. By definition darkness IS the absence of light….just turn on the lightQ! Be the light in this dark world. Our enemy is not the power of darkness nor the prince of darkness.

    To paraphrase a popular saying, “All the is necessary for darkness to triumph is for us to withhold the light. Let us individually and them together in concert be the light. It is time to grow up and stop trying to utilize means, methods, mantras, formulas, spells etc., to try to accomplish that which Jesus has already accomplished.

    Good word Steve. thanks…very stimulating..

    PS…I don’t think that poverty is a “spirit” but a consequence! It has been said that among the early saints that they rose above poverty for “there was no need among them”. How did they defeat such a formidable spirit? Perhaps it was not as a result of effective intercessions but changed enlightened hearts and renewed minds that led to sharing, caring, giving and unselfishness love. Let us forget the pursuit of so called principles of spiritual warfare ala, Von Clausewitz,m & Sun Tzu and the pursuit of spiritualized worldly principles of war. No need to fight. Jesus. has conquered! Jesus has come! Come into us Lord – fill us and make us to shine.

  8. I for one can speak from experience, o’yes, I attacked, decreed, interceeded, fasted etc… to remove whatever the flavour of the day is or was, only to have the Lord say to me, “Why are you fighting a fight that has already been won.” needless to say that stop me in the very breath of anymore hammer swinging from my mouth that very instance. I needed to repent, plain and simple. We as humans try in our own frailty so hard to be righteous in our own strength as we know. When I find myself swinging the hammer again, it is only one thing, help my unbelief and help to walk our your way of life. I like what Paul said, “that I may attain the knowledge of his resurrection”. The very key, and Paul knew it, everything is in HIS resurrection, we just need to receive it, breath it, and LIVE it. Out of it flows life and life more abundantly. I find more and more as I work out my salvation, the answers are right in front of me, and John 1 on wisdom, gets me alot farther in life and changes around me, than swinging the good o’l hammer into something that is already defeated.

    • Not sure if you are signed up to get follow-up comments or not, but are you the same Brian Harrison from Blackfoot, ID that used to come minister at Grace Training Center in Post Falls, ID. You spoke a prophetic word to me back in 1999 that was very life-changing and powerful! Bless you, brother.

  9. Quote; “demons are cast out of individuals. An ascendant church displaces principalities.”

    Steve> Good word brother. This will probably make a few religious rats nervous, but the truth is, it hardly scratches the surface of rubbage that contaminates our lives and worlds. A good place to start cleaning house is with our own garbage that continues to overpower the aroma of the sweet Rose of Sharon in our midst. In most situations {Spiritual FaBreeze} would not enough to mask the scent of putrefied flesh.

    Too be honest with you, I can count in one hand the number of people that I know who even believe in deliverance or displacement anymore. Many of them do not really believe in heaven, hell or eternal retribution. Some believe that the devil is a non issue, and while their marriages and families are going to Hell in a hand basket, they are involved with several nefarious activities that could lead to strong delusion. It is appalling to see how man spiritual leaders who socially imbibe alcohol or smoke cigars and pipes on a regular basis. Now, I realize that these things may not be cause for concern if done in moderation; but I am seeing an unhealthy trend emerge that is reason for concern in young and immature believers. However, when something becomes public, social and important, it is usually something that is being used to medicate and cover a deeper problem.

    With that being said, I come from a long line of drunkard, womanizers and pleasure seekers. It is easier for me to spot a potential problem in the post modern Ekklesia than others, and I hope to be able to effectively help people who are tormented by addictive and abusive personality disorders.

  10. Hee hee hee…….I love you, SC! I reckon as soon as we learn to submit to His government in our midst we’ll be able to demonstrate His authority!

  11. This is powerful Steve and it sets the record strait on so many levels. I believe in spiritual warfare- the Bible calls it the wisdom of God and He expects his people to display it. At the heart of God’s wisdom is the cross. Jesus said that unless we were willing to die, he basically had nothing to teach us… “you cannot be my disciple.” The spiritual dynamics of displacement are supernatural and are real but they happen as God’s people believe in His resurrection and because of that belief are willing to embrace the cross in every day life.

  12. Hey Steve,
    Again a very profound post. Steve, you hit the nail on the head when it comes to all the gyrations, meeting, spiritual mapping, etc.. it is all just an easy way to justify that we are battling the enemy in some nebulous way. Again, just a substitute for the real work of removing the garbage. No one wants to get their hands dirty, and, God forbid that a CEO from a religious establishment get his or her hands dirty!! The body coming together and living the life of the incarnate Christ where we affirm, provide for and,
    care for the widows and orphans in our sphere of influence allows for the darkness to be overcome by light (I love what George said). It is ekklesia: life springing forth from unity and spreading outward. I love the “out of your belly will flow rivers of living waters” metaphor. Full, rich, abundant life in the middle of wasteland. Blessings to you my brother.

    • It is ekklesia: life springing forth from unity and spreading outward. I love the “out of your belly will flow rivers of living waters” metaphor. Full, rich, abundant life in the middle of wasteland.

      Beautifully spoken Craig…a sea of the pure love of God in the middle of this wasteland…not a mirage but in reality pure living water. May we truly in our corporiety become that oasis in the desert so that those who are thirsty may see and come and taste the water of life that they may never thirst again.

  13. I live in a heavily demonically infested area just on the outskirts of East St. Louis. Several years ago we tapped in to a major outpouring of Gods Spirit. We had always been an outreach type of ministry. As a result of going out in Gods power we saw many crack houses, bars closed and drug dealers saved. A major change took place and the environment of the area was impacted drastically. At this time I also oversaw several inner city ministries experiencing the same sort of success.

    Now while all this was happening a well known prayer group came in to town telling us that.unless they bound the area principality over the local (largest) Indian mound in North America, that we could not do what was already happening. We were told that unless we came under this groups decrees and plans this area would never be changed.

    We then informed them that they were to late and to look around, ask the people and see what has happened.They informed us that we were all ignorant of Gods will and marked by all the groups they were affiliated with. We either needed to side with them or else. Unfortunately many in the region highly respected us and some them. This caused many to divide from them. This was never my desire, nor Christs, but this soon got out of control. I became so grieved over the spiritual pride I saw. take place. I have since that time gotten many to reconcile even though I have felt even stronger this was not Gods way as you have posted. It just seemed so sad that one main theme they say they had was “unity” (as long as you were under them).

  14. Right on! I have been struck with the armor of God being DEFENSIVE:
    Ephesians 6:11-13(NET) Clothe yourselves with the full armor of God so that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. For this reason, take up the full armor of God so that you may be able to stand your ground on the evil day, and having done everything, to stand.
    All the use I’ve heard before played with putting each piece at a time and going out on the attack, but a closer look item-by-item shows they could well be aspects of recognizing our position in Christ. I have more at:

  15. Great post Steve – I agree people get way too hyped up about spiritual warfare. Being a spiritual Rambo is not the answer, the pumped up loud declarations is not the answer.

    Love your point about the people of God, the “we”, displacing the principalities. Yes, cleaning up the garbage will cause the rats to leave.

    I have always taught people that you do not fight the darkness, you simply turn on the light. It is my experience and theology that light and love are the best spiritual warfare weapons.

    The best spiritual warriors are those who are intimate with Jesus – they have close relationship and because of that walk and live in authority. John 15 is a great lesson about all that is gained through abiding in Christ, and also is clear in telling us that apart from Him you can do nothing.

    Bless you – and keep shinning the light and sharing the love


  16. I have watched in amazment while many strive to “expand my sphere of inuence by making strategic alliances and in doing so cooperate with apostolic allignment.” There is no awareness of The Indwelling Christ via the prophesied, blood bought and glorious New Covenant of grace we have been born again into.I agree compltely with this blog. Jesus, our High Priest of The New Covenat, along with the call of our Priesthood; ministering unto The Lord, will produce organic Body life and the resulting pure and enduring Jesus movement revival!

  17. I just stumbled here looking for something else. This is something I’ve been seriously wrestling with and confused about really just having this inkling something isn’t right. I’ve started to land exactly here – there is a difference between the two [demons/principalities] and there is a difference in dealing with them….in fact, on the principality I was landing on similar thoughts – it’s incarnational in the life of believers. I’m so glad I found this – it gives me something more to investigate exiting out of the charismatic nightmare I’ve come to know.

      • Thank you. I am wondering if you have any more in-depth teaching on this particular topic? The teaching space referenced here doesn’t look like it, but I could be missing it.

        • I have written on the matter off and on over the years but nothing “dedicated” to this topic. I would suggest searching this page with “warfare” and any blog I may have done will pop up. Other than that, I do not have a specific “teaching” per se.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *