Dealing With The Devil

One of my favorite books is called Lord Foulgrin’s Letters and it is written by a guy named Randy Alcorn. It’s a fictional book that chronicles the letters that a demon lord is writing to one of the demons under him. These letters are instructions on how to deceive and tempt a man in an effort to destroy his family and ultimately his soul.

As obviously fictional as this book is it is very thought provoking. In one part of the book the main human, who is lost, open’s his mothers Bible to Ephesians 6:10 and reads about the need to put on the whole armor of God. This upsets the demon Foulgrin because he says it’s in the demon’s best interest if humans don’t take them seriously. He said that it is to the demons advantage when humans, who he calls sludge bags, live and act as if this world was all there is.

That idea really stuck in my head. The Bible clearly talks about demons and angels. The Bible tells us that there is an unseen spiritual world. Yet we rarely think about it. The Bible describes Satan as a tempter (Matt 4:3), a roaring lion seeking someone to devour (1 Pet 5:8) and the god of this world who blinds the mind of the lost to keep them from seeing the truth of the Gospel (2 Cor 4:3-4).

The Bible also tells us that Satan can appear as an angel of light and that he can inspire false teachers to appear as teachers of the truth (2 Cor 11:13-15). The Bible says that he is a liar and the father of lies (Jn 8:44). Jesus describes him as a thief that comes to steal, kill and destroy (Jn 10:10). The Bible also tells us that when Satan rebelled against God he lured a third of the angels to rebel with him (Rev 12:4).

The Bible tells us that Satan uses deceitful methods and strategies deceive and destroy human beings (Eph 6:11). The Bible reminds us that our struggle is not against people, but against wicked spiritual enemies (Eph 6:12). Finally, the Bible tells us that after his rebellion Satan was cast out of heaven and has come to earth with great wrath (Rev 12:7-12).

From this we learn some things that counter popular teaching about Satan and demons. For instance Satan is not the ruler of hell who torments those who go there. Hell is not Satan’s dominion. Instead hell will be the final prison and punishment for Satan and his demons (Matt 25:41, Rev 20:10). Until then he roams the earth seeking to destroy as many lives and souls as he can.

Satan not a goat hoofed, red being with horns and a pitchfork. That guy would stand out in a crowd and we would be able to pick him out easily. We also know that those who teach Satanism and other funky cults aren’t the only teachers in his grip. Instead, Satan’s teachers are like wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matt 7:15). In other words they will look, act and talk a lot like Christians while actually being wolves who are seeking to destroy and devour the true sheep.

Finally we know that this spiritual element to the world around us is real. It’s not the subject of fairy tells and fantasy. Satan is a real being of great power and absolute evil. Demons are real beings and not myths. This means that there really are people who are influenced by demons. If we have a high view of Scripture this also means that there may well be people who are demon possessed.

Since Scripture can be trusted, then we must accept that these things are absolutely true. However there is a balance that we must maintain. One of my favorite quotes on this comes from C.S. Lewis. He said, “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.” Foulgrin quotes this in Alcorn’s book and says, “Either extreme works to our advantage.” He says that if we disbelieve in their existence then it allows them to roam and work more freely among us. He says that if we take an unhealthy interest in them we are focused on them and not “the Carpenter.”

So how do we deal with the devil?

Be Wise.

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. (1 Peter 5:8-9 NKJV)

When I was a kid, I loved horror movies. I watched them all the time. Now however I don’t spend too much time watching horror flicks. There are a couple of different reasons for this. One is I’m getting too old to stay up all night afraid because the boogey men in the movies are coming to get me. The other reason is that horror movies often reveal my lack of compassion and mercy.

How many years in a row do the counselors at Camp Crystal Lake have be chopped up into little bitty pieces before people stop going there? Who really picks up hitchhikers at 2 in the morning on long deserted highways? I find myself talking to the movie characters and saying thing like, “Oh c’mon! Well you deserve to die.”

The people in horror movies will do the stupidest things and then look surprised while the killer chops them up into little pieces. Even though we aren’t in a horror movie, we often do the same types of things when it comes to Satan.

We are specifically warned to be sober and vigilant because our enemy is roaming around the world looking for a victim to devour. Be wise. Don’t live like fools when it comes to your enemy.

Submit to Christ and Resist the Devil.

Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” James 4:7 (NKJV)

While we must choose to submit to Christ everyday, I don’t believe that James is speaking of a daily general submission here. I believe that James is saying that during a time of temptation we must submit to Christ by resisting the temptation offered while looking for the way of escape that God has provided. The Bible promises that God always provides us with a way of escape from sinful temptations.

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NKJV)

God will not allow you to be tempted beyond your ability to resist it. He will also always provide you with a way to escape the temptation without sinning. But you must choose to submit to God’s way of escape. When you do this you will always find the way of escape and the devil will flee

Draw closer to Christ.

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” James 4:8 (NKJV)

I am convinced of is that no one that is extremely close to Christ jumps headlong into sin. I don’t think we make huge jumps into Satan’s hands. Instead I think it happens in small increments that begin with pulling away from Christ. The book of Hebrews talks about our need to listen very carefully to the Word of God so that we don’t drift away from it (Heb 2:1).

The picture of drifting away from the faith ought to haunt us. It’s not the idea of making a huge and decisive step away from Christ. Instead it is the idea of a slow but consistent progression away from Christ. The word translated as drift often carried with it the idea of carelessness. It’s not so much the idea that we reject Scripture and Christ. Instead it’s the idea that we begin to become careless about taking earnest heed to the faith, to Scripture and to Christ, and we begin a slow steady drift away from Christ. This drifting makes us more susceptible to Satan’s attacks.

John Piper says, “We must remember this: there is no standing still in the Christian life. Either we are advancing toward salvation, or we are drifting away to destruction…There are two possibilities in Hebrews 2:1-3: Either we give heed to the Word of the Lord (vv. 13), or we drift away from it. There is no sitting still in the river of indifference. Its current runs downstream to the falls. Therefore, verse 3 asks, “How shall we escape [God’s just retribution] if we neglect such a great salvation?” Neglecting our great salvation means not giving heed to what has been revealed by the Son (Heb. 1:2), not setting our attention on Jesus (Heb. 3:112:2). The result will be drifting away from the Word and therefore away from salvation.”[1]

The way to combat drift is to be very intentional about drawing near to Christ. Some practical things we can do to draw near to Christ are to study the Scriptures, spend adequate time in prayer, gather with other believers to worship Christ and fast. All of these things will draw you closer to God. The key to these things drawing us closer to God is that they are done consistently. Generally if something is to have a positive impact on our lives it must be done consistently over a period of time.

I find very little evidence in Scripture that believers are supposed to be binding and rebuking Satan and demons. You find that language frequently in books about spiritual warfare but you find it very infrequently in the Bible. Instead, we are be wise, submit to Christ, resist the devil and draw closer to Christ. Christ is our victory over Satan. From what I see in Scripture, there is incredible power in the name and person of Jesus and very little in manmade formulas.


[1] John Piper, Brothers We Are Not Professionals

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