There is a war taking place all around us. This war is unseen by human eyes. It is being fought in the spiritual realm between the gods of this world and the one true God. As the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). This war has been raging since the dawn of time. You and I are at the center of it.
At the beginning of time, humanity was created to enjoy the wonders of this world. We were called to “be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (Genesis 1:28). The earth and all of its glory was made for humankind. We were created to be in relationship with YHWH, the God of gods. We were meant to walk and talk with God. We were meant to see God and basque in His glory. We were meant to be people who knew no sin and lived righteously in the presence of God for all time.
When God created the world, He called everything “Good.” When God made humanity, something very significant separated us from the rest of creation. God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground” (Genesis 1:26). We were made in the “Image of God.” Nothing on this earth has this same characteristic. However, this all changed when we allowed sin to rule our lives.
Before we can continue, we must ask, “What is sin?”. The Bible Project does an excellent job answering this question:
“The Hebrew word khata’ is most commonly translated as “sin.” Khata’ means “to fail” or “to miss the goal,” and the word is not always about morality. So if sin is missing the goal, what’s the goal? When God created humanity in his divine image, he set the goal. Genesis 1:26 captures an interesting statement from God, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, after our likeness,’ reminding us that this single God exists in three different yet undivided persons – Father, Word, and Spirit – inseparable but distinct, forever together in unbreakable love. To be created in the “image of God” like this suggests that humanity’s most essential nature is divine love. Living with love for God and one another and all creation is our primary human goal (emphasis mine). Choosing not to love invites corruption in the goodness of creation, so it is khata’ – sin” (Drimalla & BibleProject Team, 2023).
The first sin entered the “Good” world when the first humans chose to serve themselves rather than trust and follow God. You see, they were given a choice to disobey God and eat the fruit they were told not to eat, or eat the fruit and have their eyes opened and become like God – knowing good and evil (Genesis 3:1-5). Many people believe that the fruit caused sin to enter the world. In actuality, the choice to follow after temptation and disobey God’s command led to sin. From that point on, humanity’s soul would be in a constant state of war between good and evil.
After the fall of humanity from God’s glory, the image we were created in was broken. Think of it like looking at a broken mirror. The image is still there, but it is incomplete and shattered. This means that humanity still has the “good” we were created with but now must contend with the evil of sin. Remember, sin is when we “miss the mark” of doing good. We are born into sin, but it doesn’t mean we must choose to sin. That is where many get confused. We are still given the freedom to choose. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).
The creation story is a visual representation of humanity as a whole. We are all given a choice to take the forbidden fruit and disobey God, or we can trust God, believe in his words, and choose righteousness. Here’s the kicker, we are fighting a war on the enemy’s turf. This means that making righteous choices is more challenging than it sounds. Jesus Christ knew this well. Before he proclaimed himself the Son of God and the world’s savior, he fasted for 40 days in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11). While he was in the wilderness, the devil came to tempt him. Jesus knew that the battle that was being fought was not in the physical realm. The battle was being fought in the spiritual realm. Notice that the devil, a god of this world, came to tempt him. It wasn’t another human. It wasn’t himself. A god of this world was trying to tempt Jesus into sin. Jesus overcame the god of this world by responding to every temptation with the precepts and commands of God.
The wilderness was not the only place where the gods of this world tempted Jesus. When Jesus told his disciples that he would be killed and raised to life on the third day, “Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. ‘Never, Lord!’ he said. ‘This shall never happen to you!’ Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.'” (Matthew 16:22-23). Did you notice that Jesus saw through Peter and focused on the root of the problem? It wasn’t Peter; it was Satan. The god of this world used Peter to tempt Jesus away from being the savior of the world. That battle was an unseen battle between spiritual forces, not physical forces. When Jesus was with us some 2,000 years ago, he knew that the war had nothing to do with the people he was with. The battle was unseen to human eyes, but Jesus was very aware of the unseen.
After Jesus’s interaction with Peter, he turned to his disciples and said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny himself and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26a). Jesus told us exactly what it took to win the unseen war – deny ourselves and follow Him!
You may think, “There is no way I can do all that perfectly!” You’re right. You can’t. Even though the choice is yours, you won’t. This is the power of the unseen war. We are tempted beyond measure by forces much greater than us. The gods of this world flex their power to make it near impossible to do what is good and holy. Their number one goal is to keep you “missing the mark.” Due to our inability to do “good” perfectly, we needed a savior to redeem us from the unseen war by doing what we could not.
Remember, the goal is to live with love for God and one another and all creation. We fail at this when we place ourselves above God and live how we think is right. Jesus Christ came to be what we can’t and to save us from ourselves and the sin we choose to live in. His death on the cross was necessary to repair the broken relationship between God and humanity. Jesus’s death opened the door for us to live in the presence of God once again. You see, Christ’s death didn’t automatically provide salvation for everyone. It offered salvation if WE chose to accept Him as Lord and submit to His authority. Return to the beginning when the first humans were given a choice – surrender to YHWH and follow his precepts, or choose their selfish desires and be removed from God’s presence.
The world’s gods want nothing to do with the salvation that Christ Jesus gave through His sacrifice on the cross. They also want humanity to be blinded to the salvation that was offered by Jesus Christ’s sacrifice. This is why the world is filled with hatred, disease, gluttony, sexual immorality, selfishness, pride, and so much more. These are the powers of the gods of this world, and humanity chooses to focus on their powers rather than the saving grace of Jesus Christ and YHWH. There is a reason there is so much discord and division among humanity.
Here’s the clincher. Sin is a choice. It is a choice to lose the unseen war. It is a choice to fight for the gods of this world. We have been given the opportunity to stand up and fight for the King of kings who has already won the war. We are given a choice to be on the winning side or the losing side. Every time we choose to follow after our selfish desires rather than submit to the ways of YHWH, we choose to be on the losing side. As long as this world is still here, the unseen war will forever be fought.
However, there will be a day when Christ will return and gather unto Himself all who have chosen to live for Him rather than the ways of this world. He will then establish His kingdom forever, and everyone who has chosen to live for the gods of this world will once again be cast out of His presence for eternity. However, there will be no more second chances. Christ’s death and resurrection are the only chance we have at reuniting with YHWH and being in his presence again. If we choose not to believe in Christ Jesus and submit to the authority of God in the time we have been given on this planet, there is no second chance. John, the disciple, quoted Jesus saying, “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out – those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned. By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but Him who sent me” (John 5:28-30). Remember, the “good” we are to do is to “Live with love for God and one another and all creation.”
We must wake up, see the forces at work in this world, and realize that you and I are at the center of this unseen war. If you are just starting to wake up to the deception that the gods of this world keep pushing, and you want to fight for the winning side, start by focusing on these two precepts – Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength; and love your neighbor as you love yourself. This is the starting point. Open your eyes and heart to the one true God, believe in Him, love Him, and remove yourself.
If you have been struggling to stay on the winning side, I encourage you to open the Word of God and drink deeply from it. John wrote, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1-2, 14). Jesus said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God'” (Matthew 4:4). Deny the gods of this world and submit to YHWH.
Drimalla, S., & BibleProject Team. 2023. What Are Sin, Iniquity, and Transgression in the Bible?. https://bibleproject.com/blog/sin-iniquity-and-transgression-in-the-bible/