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Satan’s Presence Is Real

1 Peter 5:8-9

Jim Davis

Satan’s presence in our world is real. The Bible clearly teaches that our struggle to live righteously is a struggle against the dark forces of Satan that seeks to rule us. It is a struggle against the powerful rulers of darkness.

The causes of our sinful failures reach far beyond the boundaries of self-control. We hear so much about self-control today that we dismiss our sinful failures as merely failures to control ourselves. It is a grave mistake to reduce Christian living to a matter of self-control. This shrinks a godly life to the level of a mere fleshly pursuit. Christianity reaches far beyond a self-improvement struggle.

1 Peter 5:8-11
"Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen" (NIV).

Peter mentions the importance of self-control in these verses, but in the biblical context self-control is a fruit of the Spirit that grows out of relying on the power of God to defeat Satan (Galatians 5:22-26). It goes beyond the worldly concept of self-control, which is solely dependent upon the power of the flesh controlling self or empowering self. A fleshly self-control approach to Christian living  confines our struggles to merely a fleshly effort independent of God's help. We must see that our struggles are struggles against satanic forces. This will open our eyes to the need of the supernatural power of God to overcome.

Peter makes it clear that Satan is prowling around like a lion seeking to devour us. The New Testament makes it abundantly clear that our struggles are against Satan rather than flesh and blood (2 Corinthians 10:1-5). When we were baptized into Christ we were translated out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God's Son (Colossians 1:13, 14) But the king of the kingdom of darkness still seeks to rule our lives as we strive to live in the kingdom of light. Our sinful failures are a matter of Satan’s control over us.

Different Types of Demonic Activity

I believe our battles would be much easier if we could understand that our battles are Satan’s attempt to take control of our lives. The demonic forces prevalent in Christ’s time are very much a part of our modern world. They may manifest themselves differently, but they are as real for us.

Demons literally possessed human bodies in the first century.

Luke 4:40-41
"When the sun was setting, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them. Moreover, demons came out of many people, shouting, "You are the Son of God!" But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew he was the Christ" (NIV).

Demons tormented individuals physically in the first century.

Luke 8:26-33
"They sailed to the region of the Gerasenes, which is across the lake from Galilee. When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, ‘What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don't torture me!’ For Jesus had commanded the evil spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places.

"Jesus asked him, ‘What is your name?’

"’Legion,’ he replied, because many demons had gone into him. And they begged him repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss.

"A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into them, and he gave them permission. When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned" (NIV).

Satan’s activity is not limited to this type of demon possession. Satan can enter our lives so subtly that he is unnoticed by others and ourselves.

Luke 22:1-6
Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus, for they were afraid of the people. Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. They were delighted and agreed to give him money. He consented, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present. NIV

Satan’s messenger tormented Paul.

2 Corinthians 12:7-9
"To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’" (NIV).

Today demonic spirits are still at work seeking to torment Christians.

1 Timothy 4:1
"The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons" (NIV).

Today demonic spirits are at work seeking to destroy the plans we have to serve God.

1 Thessalonians 2:18
"For we wanted to come to you-certainly I, Paul, did, again and again-but Satan stopped us" (NIV).

Today demonic spirits seek to destroy the plans God has for the church by substituting human plans for God’s plan.

Matthew 16:21-23
"From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life."

"Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. ‘Never, Lord!’ he said. ‘This shall never happen to you!’

"Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men’" (NIV).

Satan was telling Peter to save himself at all cost. Satan tells us to sacrifice duty to self-interest, the cause of Christ to personal convenience. He tells us to substitute God’s plan with our plan.

Satan seeks to sift us like wheat.

Luke 22:31-32
"Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers." NIV

Demonic forces desire to fill our hearts with evil.

Acts 5:3
"Then Peter said, ‘Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land?’" (NIV).

Jesus’ intercession for the disciples also extends to all of us who believe on him through their message. The means that the evil one is still out to get us.

John 17:15-21
"My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me" (NIV).

Self-control Leaves Us Helpless

Viewing our struggles as a matter of self-control always turns our battles into an egotistical battle with self. If we put ourselves in competition with ourselves as we seek to beat our past performance all we do is beat up on ourselves. When we fail in these egotistical battles with self it usually leaves us in deep dark depression suffused with a spirit of gloom and misery. This results because we see it as a battle against ourselves. If we believe that self defeats us, how can we keep from despising ourselves?

Relying upon self-control leaves us vulnerable to Satan’s attacks. When Paul addresses husbands and wives concerning their sexual relations, he warns them not to depend upon self-control.

1 Corinthians 7:4-6
"Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control" (NIV).

Jesus warned Peter that the spirit within us is willing, but the flesh is weak. The flesh cannot empower my spiritual life.

Mark 14:37-38
"Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. ‘Simon,’ he said to Peter, ‘are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak’" (NIV).

Peter discovered this reality when he denied Christ. His spirit was willing to confess Christ, but his flesh was too weak. The same thing happens to us when we rely upon self-control to live a Christian life.

Paul’s thorn in his flesh was an admission of his inability to overcome through self-control.

We Must Call Upon the Power of God

The gospel of Christ is designed to meet the demonic forces of our world. The Gospel of Christ is designed to turn our lives from the power of Satan to the power of God. Paul was called by Christ to turn the Gentiles from the power of Satan to the power of God.

Acts 26:15-18
"'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,' the Lord replied. 'Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you. 17 I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them 18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.' NIV

It is amazing that God called Paul, a murder, to preach about the power of God to the Gentiles. It is even more amazing that God gave a man tormented by a messenger from the pits of Hell the power to accomplish his plans in spite of his weaknesses. But it certainly ought to give each of us the courage to face our demons as we hear God’s call.

Trying to handle Satan on my own just sets me up for a fall. This is why legalism fails. Legalism is an effort to clean up my own life without depending upon the power of God. It is an effort to make myself presentable to God, but it is doomed for failure. Paul tried the self-help of legalism and ended up a murder. It is encouraging to understand that this legalist turned Christian had to depend upon the power of God’s grace as a demon from Hell tormented his life by constantly exposing his weakness. It was a constant reminder that his salvation was dependent upon God and not his own efforts. He was learning the absolute need for God’s saving grace.

Paul’s example gives the weakest Christian hope.

Self-help without the power of God may leave us in a worse condition. Ridding my life of demonic influence requires more than just cleaning up my act. Cleaning up my act through human effort doesn’t bring lasting results. How many times have you tried to clean up your act; it goes great for a short while, but eventually you seem to end up where you started.

Luke 11:24-26
"When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, 'I will return to the house I left.' When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first" (NIV).

Each time I fail it becomes harder and harder to face as it turns into an egotistical battle with self. When doing right becomes an egotistical battle with self, what happens to our egos when we fail? I may end up thinking that I am no good!

This feeling tends to drive us in many directions. Initially, we may just try harder, which usually drives us further away from God as we seek to solve our own problems. We may try to punish ourselves for our failures. We do this by beating up on ourselves psychologically. We may try to escape from our failures through superficial occupation that redirects our mind to take our focus off of our problems. We may turn to the entertainment world, television, cyberspace, and drugs or to some other fantasy world of our own choosing. I may totally focus on an area of my life where I excel in effort forget my weaknesses.

Satan doesn’t care what we worship as long as we don’t worship God.

We may even use religious practices as a way of escape. I believe this is why it is so hard to teach the religious world the truth. Even religion has become a way of escape. Satan is perfectly willing to have a person confess Christianity as long as he/she does not practice it.

Escapism leaves us weak and helpless. If I use escapism as a means to deal with my problems, I will not mature. If I spend twenty years escaping before I decide to face my problems, I may be fifty-five years old as I try deal with the problems of a thirty-five year old or be thirty-five with the emotional maturity of a sixteen year old.

The opposite happens when I succeed in certain areas of my life as I start to think, "You know I am pretty good." Pride in my accomplishments solely made through personal strength alone sets me up for another failure—pride always leads to destruction.

Satan is not as black as he is painted. In fact, he is more like us than we care to admit.

I have a conflict as I seek to understand how God can leave me impaled with a weakness while empowering me to live for him. God’s grace is indeed strange—it leaves me exposed to my weakness to make me strong. I don’t want you to misunderstand this—this is no excuse for me to revel in my weakness.

I must rely upon the power of God to defeat the efforts of Satan.

Romans 16:19-20
"Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I am full of joy over you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.

"The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet" (NIV).

Remember!! Paul’s strength was discovered in his weakness. Discovering the source of his real strength required him to focus on his weakness through the power of God’s grace.

Living Under the Authority of Christ

Christianity is designed to get me to face Satan head-on through the power and authority of the risen Christ. Earlier we read a scripture where Jesus gave the demons permission to enter into the herd of pigs—this reveals to us the power Christ has over the demons. The demons also recognized Christ authority and power.

Defeating Satan is dependent upon us living under the authority of Christ. Jesus sent seventy-two disciples out to preach. Jesus gave them power over the demonic forces against them.

Luke 10:17-20
The seventy-two returned with joy and said, "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name."

He replied, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven’" (NIV).

Jesus gave them power over the forces of Hell, but he told them to rejoice because their names were already written in heaven. Jesus was warning them not to take pride in their accomplishments, but in what God had done for them. If I take pride in what God has empowered me to do I set myself up for failure. The Corinthians took pride in their gifts and forgot the source of their powerful gifts. They were failing miserably as they allowed God given gifts to inflate their egos. Satan is lurking around every corner looking for an opportunity to enter our lives. If he can get me to use what God has given me for my own glory he has succeeded.

When the Bible says that Christ has all authority it also means that he has all power. You can’t have all authority without having all power.

Matthew 28:17-20
"When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (NIV).

The key to living as a Christian is living under the authority of Christ as we allow the Spirit of God to lead us. Only the Spirit of truth can introduce us to the power of God as it leads us to recognize the error of our ways. We must also allow God’s Spirit to point out our weak tendencies.

John 17:15-21
My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me" (NIV).

The Holy Spirit’s work is to guide us into all truth.

John 14:15-18
"If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever- the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you" (NIV).

Jesus promised his disciples that the Holy Spirit would be with them forever. The same Spirit of truth is with us today as we seek to receive the teaching of the apostles. When we follow the instruction of the Holy Scripture we live under the authoritative power of Jesus Christ. Testing our thoughts and attitudes in the light of Scripture is the only way we can know that we are following Christ.

John 8:31-32
"To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free’" (NIV).

Christ authority is discovered through the wisdom of God. We can ask God for the wisdom to make application of the apostles teaching (James 1:5)

Conclusion:

Throughout the Bible the Christian’s struggle is seen as a battle against the power of Satan.

Revelation 2:9-10
"I know your afflictions and your poverty-yet you are rich! I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life" (NIV).

Victory over Satan begins when I understand that victory can only be had in Jesus Christ. When God places raises us up in Christ he clothes us with Christ’s righteousness. When he looks at us through the righteousness of Christ he doesn’t see us as bad people because we have failed. He sees us as victors because we have accepted Christ’s victory over Satan for ourselves.

When we are baptized into Christ we assured of victory through Christ.

Colossians 1:9-14
"For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins" (NIV).

I believe that this is what Jesus had in mind when he told the seventy-two disciples to rejoice because their names had been written in heaven.

We need to understand the importance of being baptism in the name of Jesus (Acts 2:38). Baptism into Christ brings us under his powerful authority as he lifts us above all the dark powers of the universe (Ephesians 2:18-22).

 

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