Rankin speaks out on spiritual warfare
ST. CHARLES – Jerry Rankin, president of the International Mission Board (IMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), warned participants at a West Africa Summit Nov. 2 at First Baptist Church here that they were entering Satan’s world, where he has absolute dominion and power.
Rankin spoke on spiritual warfare as attendees made plans to evangelize people groups of West Africa for Christ. His message was a condensed version of the one he normally delivers to missionaries who are in the final stages of preparation before going to the field.
The conference drew attendance from 114 churches in Missouri and 18 other states. Its purpose was to mobilize churches to be personally involved in the evangelization of specific people groups in West Africa.
In the course of his presentation, Rankin explained that the IMB’s way of approaching missions has changed over the years. Formerly, efforts were made to establish missionaries in various countries. More recently, mission efforts have been focused on reaching specific people groups who have never heard the Gospel.
Rankin said Satan wants to keep those people groups hidden and obscured. “They are the dominion of Satan, where Christ is not known.”
“Demons knew who Jesus was. They never questioned His authority,” said Rankin, who witnessed demon possession during the 23 years he and his wife served as missionaries in Indonesia and Thailand. “Satan has used our culture to disguise the reality [of his forces].”
He said that Christians have misperceptions about the powers of Satan, but that Satan’s only real power is “speaking into our minds. He has no other power beyond that except as permitted by God.” Rankin noted that every biblical reference to dealing with the devil is in the context of victory.
“What is God’s purpose among the nations?” he asked, then answered, “To be glorified among the nations, to be exalted to the ends of the earth. Satan wants to keep all the nations from worshiping and praising Him.”
In reference to the people of West Africa, he said, “They’re so spiritually destitute and hungry, but admitting this is the truth and Jesus is the only way…what do you have to acknowledge about your grandparents, parents and ancestors who missed it? To acknowledge all your history and culture is wrong and they are in hell…is hard to do.”
Therefore, the resistance is formidable, he concluded, and likened West Africa to the hard soil in the parable of the sower in Matthew 13.
He described the enemy as “the devil against us, the world around us, the flesh within us,” but reminded that God has given us the victory, citing Gal. 5:17 in the context of verses 16 and 18.
Rankin then identified some of Satan’s fiery darts, with cautions to be aware of his schemes, his tactics, and the way he works. These included:
• doubt, rather than believing what God’s word has given to us in Christ;
• fear, whose antidote is to take every thought captive and constantly focus on the truth and reality of God’s word; and
Rankin assured his hearers that anyone who presumes to introduce the kingdom of God into West Africa will encounter adversity. The victory, he said, is in praising the Lord in every situation, which takes the attention off the circumstances and focuses on the Lord.
“When conflict breaks out and you go home, what does that do to your witness?” he asked. “But when they see you suffer, that is an opportunity for you to reflect the reality of your faith in a way that is more effective than you would otherwise have.
“God is not concerned about our comfort, our safety. God is concerned for His glory among the nations.”
Rankin listed six steps to victory in spiritual warfare: faith to believe the Word of God unto victory in Jesus Christ; renewing of the mind so that Satan cannot distort the Word; commitment to Christ, which means staying on the offensive and walking in the Spirit; walking in obedience, or righteousness; being in Christ, Who is our victory; and love.
“Jesus summarizes the whole law as love,” Rankin said. “Love is God’s nature. It is the ultimate victory in spiritual warfare because Satan is not capable of understanding love.
“The warfare is real. The enemy is real. But Christ has given us the victory.”