Presence Is Real
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
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
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.
"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"
Demons tormented individuals physically
in the first century.
"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
"’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.
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.
"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.
"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."
Demonic forces desire to fill our hearts
"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.
"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
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
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
"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.
"'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
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.
"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
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
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.
"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.
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.
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
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.
"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.
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.
"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.
"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)
Throughout the Bible the Christian’s
struggle is seen as a battle against the power of Satan.
"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
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.
"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).