The workings of the devil and the Spiritual world are an interesting topic nowadays. Some Christian denominations err on the side of ignoring the Spiritual world, considering it only as far as Jesus saving our souls. Our scientific worldview keeps us from acknowledging those things we cannot understand or perceive. We live our lives as though the Holy Spirit and the demons do not exist. Other Christian denominations overemphasize the Spiritual world, requiring people to speak in tongues as a mark of their salvation, looking for a demon under every leaf and attributing all temptations and difficulties in the world to demonic forces. I was raised in the former but spent four years living on an island amongst tribal people who are heavily involved in witchcraft, and thus was exposed to a spiritual realm which I had never seen before, and while I still cringe when people call someone or something demonic, I am much more aware of daily Spiritual warfare.
“Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
– Eph 6.11-12
If we would claim to be Christians, we must acknowledge the Spiritual world. Not only at the level of our souls and Jesus’ intervention for their salvation, but as to the existence of demons. Jesus Himself not only believed in demons, but He talked to them, and exercised authority over them. Scripture is also clear, however, that many times our temptations and trials are a direct result of our own sinful flesh – not the influence of an outside force. We are wicked enough in our own sinful nature to preform many of the sins we do (James 1.13-16).
Satan has been around since the beginning of time. He has had thousands of years to perfect His schemes, and He understands cultures, personalities and how to best work within and against them. He might be more active on the supernatural level in cultures where people are driven by fear and open to believing in miracles, while he might be more active on the academic level in cultures like ours. But all-in-all, the greatest victory he will have is to convince people that their souls are safe when indeed they are not.
Paul wrote a lamentation and instructional letter to the Church he planted at Galatia. The Galatians were not Jews, they were Gentiles. He preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ to them and they believed. After he left, however, Judaizers came in and attempted to convince the Gentiles that they had to be circumcised and obey the Jewish Law on top of their faith in order to be saved, and the Gentiles fell for it. In addressing their spiritual situation, Paul makes an astounding statement:
“However at that time, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again? You observe days and months and seasons and years. I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain.”
– Gal 4.8-11
It is no surprise that Paul would argue that the Galatians, before they heard of Jesus and salvation through Him, were slaves to demons – those spiritual beings who are not gods. They were real beings, by which the Galatians were enslaved, but they were not real gods. They were not God. What is shocking, however, is that Paul would claim that they were returning to slavery to such gods. The Galatians were not returning to witchcraft or idol worship. The Galatians were being tempted by Jews to follow the Law of the Old Covenant. And Paul says that that is demonic, and could possibly prove their faith to be worthless and his efforts in vain.
This is the greatest threat to the Church. There are countless people who not only attend Church, but are the most faithful servants within the Church because they believe that their deeds, their obedience and their piety will save them. They obey the Ten Commandments, they get up and read the Bible in the mornings, they teach Sunday School, share the Gospel with everyone and shovel the parking lot when it snows. They look really good on the outside. But their deeds and actions are not based out of love and desire to please God, their actions are based out of self-righteousness and desire to earn their salvation and put God in their debt.
The reason this is so important is that such a one can look identical to the one who knows and loves God. When we come to God for salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, God takes away our old, wicked hearts and gives us new hearts that love Him, are inclined to Him, and long to serve Him because we love Him (John 14). He give us the gift of the Holy Spirit who convicts us of sin and empowers us to die to sin (John 16.8). He changes us from the inside. But when someone who simply desires to be rescued from Hell reads the Bible, he thinks that if he obeys the Bible then he will be saved by nature of being a good person in His own strength.
Both people obey the Bible. Both people serve the Church. However, one is saved and one is not. And Paul states undeniably that the one who is unsaved is actually enslaved to demons: spiritual forces who are not gods. Satan knows the Bible, he knows the commands of Jesus, and he tricks and deceives many into believing that they are spiritually secure by enslaving them to Jesus’ commands without knowing Jesus, without loving Him.
So let us stop and examine our hearts today. On what foundation are you basing your life and eternity? Jesus has promised that those who have been saved will be sanctified and changed – made more into His image. Are you being changed? Do you obey Jesus? If not, then you need to meet Him. If you do obey Jesus, what is your motivation? What is your drive? Do you find pleasure in the work? Or is it a chore that you enact in order to be a good person and hopefully be saved ultimately? Is the Holy Spirit dwelling within you, enabling you to change and convicting you of sin? Or do you read the Bible and force yourself to comply, against your Spirit? If obedience is not a pleasure, then you need to meet Jesus. Do not let the enemy give you false assurance of your salvation. Do not live life in your own strength, only to be disappointed at judgment day. Examine your heart. Guard your heart. And love Jesus lavishly. Eternity depends on it.
Satan disguises himself as an angel of light, as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He will entice us by what we desire most, he will not look like a threat. He will look beautiful, tempting and alluring. If you want to beat your enemy, you must know his tactics. No one goes into battle without a battle plan. Let’s draw ours up today.