Do the demons know who you are? Sometimes when we consider the problem of evil, suffering in the world and the reality of Satan, we forget that he is a finite being. God is everywhere, at all times. Satan is a created being, and can only be in one place at one time. Satan is not God’s equal and opposite force, He is an instrument created by God for a specific purpose. And while God has given him power for the moment, the battle is already won. Satan has been defeated and the end has already been written. He knows that his eternity lies in Hell, as Scripture teaches.
God is not up in Heaven wringing His hands, wondering how everything will turn out. He is not surprised at anything that happens, because He is sovereign over everything that happens. Satan has to ask permission to test us and try us (Luke 22.31).
Knowing that his time is limited and his power mediated by God, Satan purposefully utilizes his time and demons to his best advantage. Reflecting on that reality, I am reminded this morning of the seven sons of Sceva:
God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were even carried from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out. But also some of the Jewish exorcists, who went from place to place, attempted to name over those who had the evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, “I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches.” Seven sons of one Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. And the evil spirit answered and said to them, “I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” And the man, in whom was the evil spirit, leaped on them and subdued all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. This became known to all, both Jews and Greeks, who lived in Ephesus; and fear fell upon them all and the name of the Lord Jesus was being magnified.
– Acts 19.11-17
The demon recognized Jesus as the ultimate authority, and he knew of Paul and the movement of the kingdom that God was doing through him. But these guys were posers. They had no relationship with God through Jesus, and they were trying to exercise authority over the demons by proclaiming His name alone. And the demons knew that the power and authority of Jesus was not resting within these guys. “Who are you?” And then he beat them silly and ripped off their clothes.
To me, there is a bit of humor in this story. It sounds cartoonish, because it is rare to see seven grown men be beaten up by one, forced to run from the house naked. Or maybe it sounds Jason Bourn-ish. Except Jason Bourn would have to be the bad guy.
But let’s consider some of the depths here. Have you ever read the Screwtape Letters? The premise of the book is a master demon mentoring his understudy on how best to distract and destroy a human. There are some people who will fall into the big sins like murder, embezzlement and grandiose failures. But the average Joe will be keen to withstand those temptations. And the enemy knows this truth. So the plan of attack is to neutralize our impact by distraction. Sometimes it is is minor sins like greed and discontentment. Sometimes we get distracted by good deeds like feeding the poor and raking leaves. And I believe the greatest scheme of the devil is to teach a false Christianity. If people can be led to believe that raising their hands during a service will secure them eternally, without them ever meeting Christ, then the greatest of all deceptions is perpetrated.
The seven sons of Sceva were not intentionally posers. They wanted the power of Jesus. They clearly wanted it for the wrong reasons, but they were attracted to Jesus because of the ability to work miracles that Paul possessed. So they approached a demon-possessed man and attempted to exorcise it in the name of Jesus. Now, these guys were exorcists by trade, so they were familiar with the interaction, but it still takes some guts to walk into that situation.
So my question is this: do the demons know you? Are you impacting the kingdom such that you are a threat to their efforts? Or are you neutralized by infatuation with the world, with materialism or with good deeds? Have you been assured of a false salvation? Are you banking on a prayer that you said when you were five years old to secure your eternity? Or are you walking daily in the life and power of Jesus Christ? Do you know yourself well enough to know the temptations and distractions that will make you become ineffective eternally? Do you know the schemes and the wiles of the enemy well enough to stand guard?
Satan is not everywhere. He will only invest his time and energy where he can have the most impact. Chances are extremely high that you have never been personally attacked by him. You probably have been attacked or influenced by one of his demons, but once he has deceived and neutralized you, he need not exert himself more on you.
So let’s get busy. Let’s understand our own weaknesses, and let’s learn his craftiness. Let’s remember that the only thing that matters eternally is our relationship with God through Jesus Christ, and our primary and ultimate mandate is to let others know of the forgiveness that is available through grace. Let’s get on the front lines of the battle and stand with the power and authority of Christ so that when we do come to the confrontation, we are not overtaken and flee naked and beaten up.