1. Met a witch this week
2. Read a story this week of Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani never practiced the Muslim faith and converted to Christianity at age 19, becoming a pastor later. But the courts say that since his mother and father were practicing Muslims, he must recant his Christian faith or die. So far, in three court appearances, he has refused to do so – risking execution at any moment. The Iranian Supreme Court often acts quickly in administering the death penalty.
According to a report, when asked by judges to “repent,” Yousef replied: “Repent, What should I return to? To the blasphemy that I had before my faith in Christ?”
The judges replied: “To the religion of your ancestors – Islam.” To which Yousef replied: “I cannot.”
Our culture is obsessed with two realities. Hollywood is intrigued by the idea of invisible spiritual powers. Many examples could be brought to the surface, but an example would be “The Exorcism of Emily Rose.” When a younger girl called Emily Rose dies, everyone puts blame on the exorcism which was performed on her by Father Moore prior to her death. The priest is arrested on suspicion of murder. The trail begins with lawyer Erin Bruner representing Moore, but it is not going to be easy, as no one wants to believe what Father Moore says is true.
A second cultural observation is that we also have a deep concern about systemic evil and global poverty. We live in a society that uses the word evil increasingly. We frequently hear of the ‘axis of evil’ or the outcry over ‘evil’ paedophiles living in our communities. We use the word a lot. But what do we really mean by it? And where does the evil we speak of come from.
For many, evil is simply the absence of good, rather than a force to be stood against. It is hard to believe in a force or person who is deliberately intent on evil. But the bible is clear – directly, or indirectly behind our own evil desires and the temptations of the world is evil personified – the devil himself.
Why this series: 2 Cor 2:11: in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.
1. Who is the devil?
The word devil comes from the Greek work ‘diabolos’ which is a translation of the Hebrew word Satan. The Old Testament itself doesn’t give us much information to go on as to who Satan is, but it hints that he is a fallen angel who rebelled against God.
Paul, in Ephesians, speaks of the devils work like this:
“Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
He and his work is not to be underestimated. He is a scheming (v11), evil and powerful being and needs to be recognised as such and stood up to.
2. But why should we believe in the existence of the devil? Bible makes his personal existence very clear.
Jesus personal experience
Jesus himself was tempted by the devil. Matthew, Mark and Luke all record this confrontation when Jesus is in the desert at the very beginning of his ministry. After a 40 day fast, the devil tempts Jesus to act in a way that would deny God as God and worship the devil. The account is clearly a conversation and confrontation with a personal force of evil that each of the writers call the devil.
Tormenting individual people; both Christians and non-Christians alike
Peter tells us that the devil “prowls around like a lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)
Here we can think of Mark 5 and the man “possessed” by a legion of demons. There is no doubt as we read a text like this that the demonic beings can invade individual persons.
But, there is one assumption that I want to briefly deconstruct and that is the idea that a Christian can never be possessed (the word used in Mark 5:15).
The common way Christians have talked about this issue is: “A Christian can’t be demon possessed, because we are possessed by God’s Spirit.” I want to suggest that no one is ever literally completely “possessed” by a demon, but what we often have called “demon possession” should be referred to as a person being “demonized.”
The literal rendering of the original language of Greek is “one-being-demonized OR having a demon.”
And yes, it’s true that a Christian is possessed by the Holy Spirit, however, in our fallen world with bodies that are still corrupted by sin, no one is exempt from the threats of demonisation. Sometimes we might call this “oppression”.
The difference is, that if we have a relationship with Jesus, we know how to overcome the powers of darkness – by allowing the life of Jesus to live in and through us!
Disrupting God’s intended pattern for nature
The second area that the powers distort God’s creation is through the disruption of nature. One place where we get a glimpse of this is in the story of Jesus’ rebuking of the storm in Mark chapter 4. Without turning there, it’s helpful to note a couple of things from the story.
First, is that the “sea” in the mind of a first century Jew came to symbolize the dark uncontrollable forces of evil.
Second, Jesus “rebukes” the storm, in the same way that he “rebukes” evil spirits when individuals are liberated from the bondage of demonization.
What we have in Mark 4 is a picture of how Satanic Evil is behind the distortion of weather patterns in our world. Keeping this in mind, we need to understand that when a natural disaster happens in our world, it’s not a matter of “God’s will,” but rather this is an attempt by the Demonic Powers to corrupt God’s plan for nature. The Demonic powers are what influence the cosmic imbalances we face.
Influencing and manipulating nations, institutions, and systems that cause social injustice
In the ancient world, it was believed that behind the rulers and kings, there was a direct influence from either the powers of good (God and his angels), or the powers of evil.
We find multiple examples of this throughout the Old Testament. In Daniel 10.12-13 we get a glimpse of this type of systemic spiritual influence (this will concept will be unpacked out of Ephesians with greater detail). Apparently in this situation there was a “spirit prince” who was blocking the work of God in the area of Persia. The system of Government in Persia was being manipulated or influenced by demonic powers. This is one of many examples of this idea of there being or demonic powers that are what we might call: institutional.
Their goal seems to be to disrupt governments and organizations from doing good in the world, and helping them lean towards evil. This doesn’t mean that the various people who are part of such an organisation or government or system are themselves being personally “demonised” (although this can be the case at times); but that the ethos of certain situations collectively can cause evil in systems that are unjust. I submit to you that there is a deeper influence in these situations than we often realise.
So, the evil fallen powers or demons are personal, they corrupt nature, and they tilt systems toward evil.
3. Warning: We mustn’t get carried away and become obsessed by him.
C.S.Lewis: “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 and a magician with the same delight.”
Most of us disbelieve in him – leaving ourselves unguarded towards him. But some people have an excessive and unhealthy interest.
There is a real interest in palm-reading, Ouija boards, ‘channelling’ (consulting the dead), astrology and horoscopes, witchcraft and occult powers. Because of the danger of these things and their opposition to the good work of God the Bible forbids them (Deut 18:12). If we have been involved in these things, we can be forgiven. We will need to repent and destroy things associated with it such as cards, books magazines etc.
But Christians can also have an unhealthy interest. There are books that speak – not about the good things of God, but spend their time predicting what the devil is going to do. Sometimes we put anything that we don’t like down to the devil – even at times some good things that God has done. We need to be careful of this and not give him too much airtime in our minds.