CS Lewis wrote these words in the preface of The Screwtape Letters: “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. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors, and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.”
Our society is in a strange place when it comes to the devils. Some “Christians” offer a condescending laugh when they read the biblical stories about demons. These folks are quick to explain away the ancient superstitions involving demons. Other “Christians” seem to be looking for demons behind every bush. I once rode in the car with a woman who blamed demons for her faulty ignition, red lights, and traffic jams.
Other “Christians” are like me. They take the biblical stories about demons at face value, and they do not believe the Bible is filled with ancient superstitions. However, their day to day life in the United States is mostly “un-demonic.”
On the unspiritual side of things, maybe we’ve watched too many horror movies, and we’ve allowed Hollywood to shape our demonology more than the Bible itself. On the spiritual side of things, maybe we’ve heard a few stories from missionaries about demonic possession or demonic encounters. But here in the good old U S of A? We rarely experience anything like what Jesus experienced when he encountered a legion of demons controlling two naked men in a cemetery (Mark 5:1-20). Nor can we relate to someone like Saint Anthony (see picture above) who reportedly did battle against the demonic forces in the desert.
So maybe you’re like me. You believe what the Bible says, but when it talks about demons you struggle with application to your own life. If that’s you, I want you to understand that you DO need to beware of demons. I’m not telling you to watch out for spinning heads or naked men in the cemetery. I am telling you to open your eyes to the reality that as Christians, we are in the midst of a spiritual battle. Consider these passages:
- Luke 22:3 says that Satan entered Judas. Judas was a man who spent time with God-fearing-folks. Judas was also a man who loved money enough that he secretly stole from Jesus (John 12:5-6). Judas unrepentantly gave himself over to the sin of greed, and ultimately gave his life over to the influence of Satan himself. He wasn’t running around naked, cutting his flesh, breaking chains, and screaming in horror. He was making secret, evil, calculated decisions to betray Jesus to his enemies.
- Ephesians 4:26-27 is a warning. Paul warns the believers in Ephesus that giving anger and bitterness a home will result in giving Satan a foothold. That’s frightening. There’s no sorcery or magic here, nor is there a seance or divination. The Ephesians were famous for that sort of spiritual attempt to control evil. But the spectacular isn’t Paul’s focus. He just wants them to know that harboring anger and bitterness in your heart gives the devil himself a foothold in your life.
- Acts 5:1-11 is a sad story. Ananias and Sapphira, members of the church in Jerusalem, sold a piece of land. Like Barnabas, they wanted to give money to their church. Like Barnabas, they told everyone they gave all the money they received for the land back to the church. Unlike Barnabas, they secretly kept some of the money even though they publicly said they gave it all. Peter called them on their sin, and God killed both Ananias and Sapphira for their wickedness. Peter summed up the situation by saying Satan had filled their heart to lie to the Holy Spirit.
- 1 Peter 5:8 says Satan himself prowls around like a roaring lion seeking people to devour. The enemy wants to destroy your life, your marriage, your family, your reputation, your career, and your church.
Greed and anger may not seem like sins that invite the forces of evil into your life. But if you listen to the Bible, you realize that any unrepentant sin in your life can open your soul to the destructive power of demonic forces. Paul calls these beings “principalities and powers.” And his admonition is simple. Put on the full armor of God that you may stand in the evil day, always remembering to pray in the Spirit (Ephesians 6:10-20).
Originally published February 15, 2016 on landoncoleman.com.