The Apostle Paul wrote “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked” (Ephesians 2:1-2 ESV). We were spiritually “dead” people walking, or to allude to the AMC TV series, we were “The Walking Dead.” We were zombies.
When the Bible describes this mindless existence as the “walking dead” (Ephesians 2:2), it is referring to a spiritual deadness. Sin, our moral failures and disobedience to God’s law, caused us to be dead to God, dead to spiritual things.
“You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil — the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature” (Ephesians 2:2-3 NLT). We were not necessarily possessed, but we were being controlled, employed by Satan for his war against God.
Later in his letter to the Ephesians, Paul picks up the battle and writes, “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). It is not a physical battle, but it is a battle for control. Satan wants to control you in his war on God.
The battle to lose weight, stop smoking, break a habit or overcome sin is really a battle for control: who or what will we allow to control us? Our desires influence us (Ephesians 2:3), and Satan is able to manipulate those desires to conspire against us. Paul candidly shared his internal struggles when he confessed, “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate… I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it” (Romans 7:15,19-20). Even Paul faced internal and external battles!
Examples in nature
To underscore the reality of this battle, God gives us illustrations of it in nature with the Jewel Wasp. This small emerald-colored wasp hunts down a cockroach three times its size and stings the cockroach in just the right spot to disable the roach’s flight or fight mechanism. The wasp stings the roach again causing it to become lethargic and constantly groom itself. The roach’s thinking is hazy, and it is totally consumed with self. The wasp goes away to build a nice nest and comes back to invite the roach for dinner. The wasp bites off a piece of one of the roach’s antennae and sucks out a little blood (nest building is hard work). She then leads the cockroach back to its new nest, using the antennae as a leash. The compliant cockroach thinks that dinner sounds good, but doesn’t realize he will be on the menu.
Once safely back in the nest, the wasp plants a larva on the belly of the roach. The larva begins to feed on the roach, from the inside out, one organ at a time, allowing it to live for eight more days with a pretty big tummy ache. Eventually the larva has become a fully formed wasp and leaves the empty cockroach shell behind as evidence of the homicide.
Stings of life
A fairly macabre story, at least from the roach’s perspective; yet, that is similar to how Satan controls us. We are stung by experiences where our expectations aren’t fulfilled. A parent leaves us, we suffer abuse or someone we care about hurts us; Satan twists our interpretation of those experiences to lead us to believe that God either didn’t care or was powerless to intervene. With that one sting, we begin to be led down a path to bondage. Another sting, another emotional wound, and we become focused on self, appearance, success or any other substitute for God. Satan now has us on a leash; we feel powerless, like we are being eaten alive and the emotional pain is intolerable. We try to numb the pain through the pursuit of pleasure, possessions, power or any escape the world has to offer.
Prescription for healing
Are you a zombie? Are you really living? How do you know? The Good News is that Jesus overcame death to bring you real life. You no longer need to be controlled by your past; the truth of God’s Word can set you free. By surrendering to Him and recognizing that you are spiritually dead, in need of a Savior, you become “born again” (John 3). This new life (2 Corinthians 5:17) begins a process of healing those wounds on the soul. God gives us His Spirit and the Bible to demonstrate His truth and love, the prescription for healing. Are you ready to leave Zombieland?
This article is excerpted from a forthcoming book, Zombie: Are You Really Living? Tye Riter is the executive pastor of Reveal Fellowship. He blogs regularly at www.zombie-warfare.com