The senior pastor of Jubilee Christian Center in San Jose, California, tells City News readers in this interview that Christianity is not just a philosophy; it is a battle for your mind, your body, your ministry and your influence.
Apostle Paul said in Ephesians 6:12, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” While the movies and novels portray the fight against the dark as fantasies, the battle in the spiritual world is real.
City News speaks with Dick Bernal, founder and senior pastor of Jubilee Christian Center on spiritual warfare. He tells us find out how Christians can recognize the “rulers of the darkness of this age” and overcome the “spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places”, as spelled out by Paul.
You said during your sermon at City Harvest Church earlier this year that you realized that when you are born again, you are actually born into this war between God and Satan. How did you come to the realization?
The first six months to a year (after I was born again) was a honeymoon. I think God protects us just as we protect our newborn babies. However, after I was called into the ministry, I was in the hospital three times in a month: I fell from a building and a big piece of lumber with nails fell at the same time, hit my head and almost killed me. My pastor said to me: welcome to the world. It was as if the lights came on.
Here’s the deal: if Satan can’t stop you from believing in God, then he’ll want you to believe in a weak God or a distant God. If you go to church, he will rather you go to a church with no power. Once you are in a church where there is power and they teach you the authority of a Christian, all of a sudden, the demons go on an assignment to kill, steal and destroy because now you are a threat to Satan’s kingdom.
I don’t think Satan cares if we go to heaven or hell, he just wants you to have a miserable life when you are here. He wants to be glorified by poverty, crime and addiction. When someone gets delivered, God gets the glory. One of the reasons Satan hates us so much is because we replaced him—we now worship God. Satan hurts God by trying to hurt you, His child. I realized that Christianity is not just a philosophy; it is a battle for your mind, your body, your ministry, your influence. It’s a constant battle against temptation.
You also talked about spiritual strongholds. How do we discover the strongholds over our city?
The way to identify principalities is to look at the culture, tradition, architecture of the city. The prince of the air takes years to develop a stronghold, and culture is the by-product of a stronghold. Society, philosophies, economy—these are all strongholds. If you want to know how it developed, you’ve got to study its history.
The Jews made a mistake with Nebuchadnezzar: they ignored evil. You can ignore evil but evil won’t ignore you. Evil has an agenda; it preys on ignorance or weakness. That is what the Jews did (again years after the exile to Babylon): they moved to Poland and Germany and formed their own little area and synagogue, thinking if they stay out of everybody’s back, other people will do the same. Then along comes Adolf Hitler. It doesn’t work that way: we can’t ignore the devil. You can’t just say “if I don’t think about it, he’ll go away.” He preys on ignorance and superstitions. That is part of stronghold.
Martin Luther wrote about the two greatest dangers of spreading the Gospel: tyranny, and the philosophy that poverty is close to Godliness. He is a Catholic priest but he says tyrants are anti-Christ government and the greatest hindrance of spreading the Gospel is that poverty is good. Poverty is from the devil. What is the by-product of poverty? Crime, starvation, hopelessness—there is no blessing in poverty. Churches don’t educate the people that the devil is real, that he has got an agenda—but we’ve have got weapons to deal with him.
The devil has no arms and no feet, you know that don’t you? We disarm principalities and we defeat (de-feet) him! (laughs)
What must we do/say/think/believe to win the constant battle against the evil one?
When Jesus was tempted, He said (to the devil), “It is written”. It is extremely important that our arsenals be packed with the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. Sword is Word with a “s” in front—it is like “Spirit Word”. That was what Jesus did when He was tempted. Satan always comes at your weakest moment. He did not tempt Jesus on the first day, he tempted Him on the 40th day. He always waits until we are weak and vulnerable, and then he’ll come. That is why it is so important to memorize scriptures and have the Word of God in our hearts. “Logos” is the Word of God, but “Rhema” is something only you possess. Scriptures that we memorize are personal to us, we take ownership of them.
What are your personal spiritual disciplines?
I remind myself that every day is a gift from God. I get up in the morning and do my devotion. I’m constantly working on a book so I stay in the Word. Then, of course, it is helping people. Christianity is not all about me: I don’t go to church just because I want to get my praise on, get the Word. God wants us to filter His life to others so I constantly remind myself to stay humble.
Prayer, Word of God, worshiping God, meditating on the Word, looking for opportunities to help somebody—all these give God glory and keep the devil defeated in your life. Bless those who curse you.
Do children have a part to play in spiritual warfare? How do we train them?
They have to be taught, of course. You teach them the Word, you teach them to pray. When I was a kid I prayed all the time but I wasn’t born again. I’ve always believed in God but I did not have a relationship because I didn’t have any adults to teach me. That is why we need to teach our kids pretty early in church—Sunday school, prayers at home.
My daughters will ask me questions when I’m around. My nephew just died. They never had anyone close to them pass away so now they have to face mortality and all that. The dangers of drugs and alcohol; how people can get addicted very quickly. We have to teach this emerging generation, get them baptized, Spirit-filled and reading the Bible. They are still going to have fun, play their games and be kids—you don’t want to take that away from them—you want them to be able to relate to kids at school, like bring your friends to church, there’s a balance there. You don’t want to be overly religious—be cool but be a Christian, be solid.
How do you reach out if you’re not friends with non-believers? I play golf and my friends who are non-believers tease me; but when they’re in trouble, guess who they call? I think Jesus was so cool that the country people, the religious people, they were all attracted to Jesus. He was just so real, He didn’t come across self-righteous, and that’s a great example of what we want to be. Jesus attracted sinners, we attract church people; we should be attracting sinners too. If we make church too religious then only religious people come. Religious people stayed away from Jesus, the sinners came to Jesus—we’ve got it backwards. We are not marketing Jesus correctly.
You have tremendous energy. What is the one thing you want to do for God before your time ends?
That’s a really good question and I think I know the answer—it is to help the emerging generation of pastors of our sort because so many have got into sin or have given up. The key is not to be a firework, like those on the fourth of July, and flame out. Just keep going, keep going. Good times, bad times, keep going. Marriage problem? Keep going. Children problem? Keep going. Church goes down? Keep going. That’s the key, stay in your lane. Don’t try to get off your lane and try to do something you are not—you won’t last very long because it’s all flesh, there is no anointing there and you’ll burn out. However, if you know what you are called to and who to associate yourself with, then just keep pressing on.
Do you think callings change over time?
Well the Bible says callings are irrevocable, so they would not change totally, but they will evolve, if you will, into different areas of influence. If you are a prophet, you are a prophet; if you are a pastor, you are a pastor. You don’t want to try something because you see someone else doing it and it looks fun. Stay with what you are doing. Just like [basketballer] Michael Jordan playing baseball was really hard to watch, to see a pastor try to be an apostle or prophet, or evangelist try to be a pastor is just not fun to watch. I know people get bored and they want to try something new—they waste a bunch of time and they finally get back to what they were called to do. Sometimes they never get back. Therefore, I try to help them and encourage them to stay the course.