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As a biblical scholar I’m prone to only read scholarly works produced under peer review and highbrow academic publishers. The focus of my own work for both the academy and the person in the pew has largely been the supernatural worldview of the Bible. Consequently, when I was approached by Mark to read the manuscript of Win Your War, I was drawn out of my scholarly bubble by the twofold goal he and his wife, Grace, sought to accomplish in the book: to convince Christians that they need to embrace the reality of the supernatural world and to process every area of the Christian life (every personal “war”) in accord with that belief.
The implication, of course, is that being conformed to the image of Christ involves more than the daily struggle to turn from self-destructive behavior, character flaws, and human evil. It also means believing that there are intelligent evil forces at work that not only impede the process of our growth in becoming more like Jesus but seek to manipulate our thinking and behavior to undermine our joy and usefulness to God. In short, God has enemies, and His enemies are our enemies—and they are not passive.
This may sound odd to some readers. How does it make sense to tell Christians that they need to embrace the supernatural? Don’t Christians believe in God, that Jesus was God in the flesh, and that God the Holy Spirit resides within? Don’t they believe what happened on the cross super- naturally resulted in the forgiveness of sin and everlasting life to all who believe that God sent Jesus for those purposes?
The answer put forth by Mark and Grace is straightforward. For many Christians, belief in the supernatural ends with the points of doctrine noted above. Affirming the reality of intelligent evil the way it is portrayed in the Bible—where supernatural agents of darkness actively participate in misdirecting our thoughts and behavior to self-destruction, unbelief, and apathy—isn’t on the table for many Christians in the modern Western world, driven by “enlightened” rationalism.
The unfortunate reality is that many Christians are selectively super- natural in their outlook, a stance that not only denies biblical authority on a range of ideas but anesthetizes believers as to what’s really happening to them and their churches on social, cultural, and geopolitical levels. Most believers don’t realize that demons occupy a low status in the pecking order of supernatural darkness. It’s no accident that the Book of Daniel includes supernatural intelligences in the operations of empires (Daniel 10’s “princes”). It’s also no coincidence that Paul’s vocabulary for intelligent evil (rulers, principalities, powers, thrones, etc.) follows suit—the terms are common ones for geographical dominion.
This is not to endorse a cartoonish view of spiritual warfare, a term that has become a buzzword in certain circles of Christianity. Mark and Grace are not finding demons under every rock (nor every church, corporate, or governmental board). While they refer to some truly strange supernatural incidents in their lives, they are quite clear from the outset that Win Your War is not about baptizing Hollywood’s portrayals of the supernatural. Biblically speaking (and when we discuss supernatural darkness, we should indeed be speaking biblically), spiritual warfare should not be defined as soliciting angels, engaging in shouting matches with supernatural powers, or blaming our failures on demons. Rather, spiritual warfare is fundamentally about the conflict between two kingdoms, a conflict within and without for every true Christian, whether he or she discerns that or not. Followers of Jesus win their spiritual war when they spread the gospel, protect the gospel against false teaching, and live out the gospel by becoming more conformed to the loving, sacrificial character of Jesus.
Not surprisingly, these things are encapsulated in the last words of Jesus before He ascended to heaven (Matt. 28:18–20). It follows, then, that these are the things the supernatural powers of darkness fear, for they grow the kingdom of God and are the catalyst for the Lord’s return. As the apostle Paul so eloquently noted, when the gospel spreads to the nations, the moment of the kingdom’s consummation draws closer (Rom. 11:25–27; cf. Gal 3:7–9, 26–29). Believers weren’t tasked by Jesus with “ghost-busting” in His name. We are instead supposed to be making disciples of all nations. But doing that requires each of us to be a useful and effective believer. The powers of supernatural darkness are on the clock, and they know it. We must win our spiritual war to do our part. This is why we face supernatural opposition.
Win Your War is a pastoral plea that needs to take hold in the hearts and minds of serious believers in every church that preaches the gospel. My hope is that Win Your War will prod readers toward realizing that the powers of darkness are real and that they work to influence our thinking and behavior to distract us from fulfilling—and enjoying—our lives in Christ and our kingdom tasks.
—Dr. Michael S. Heiser
PhD, Hebrew Bible and Semitic Studies
Executive Director, Awakening School of Theology and Ministry
Author, The Unseen Realm, Angels, and Supernatural