A Real Devil and Real Demons in the Bible – Part One

Like Keith wrote in his blog last Thursday, in reading through The Crossing’s Bible Reading Plan so far this year, I too have been struck by how often Satan and/or demons show up in the Bible. Whether reading through Matthew or Acts, or just recently Mark, it’s quite noticeable that Jesus did indeed believe that Satan and demons were very real, and so did the apostles. It is part of the worldview that the Bible reveals to us. But not just in Matthew and Mark and Acts.

We should read the teaching of the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 2, where he is talking about the importance of their forgiving a church member who had repented of his sin. Now, of course, in doing so Paul is only teaching what is in line with the teaching of the gospel. But then he pulls his theological thread a bit more through the needle by adding a warning in v. 11—“in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.”

That’s a strange kind of warning for us moderns. It is not likely to get our attention. But Paul is saying that Satan is an intelligent being who is presently and actively trying to outwit believers by his schemes of destruction. And he’s saying that certainly one of Satan’s schemes is to motivate us into being unforgiving people to those who repent. So—catch this—Paul’s worldview was such where at least one major motivation for us to make sure we are living in line with the truths of the gospel is that if we don’t, we’re being outwitted by Satan’s scheming against us.

But do YOU believe that Satan is trying to outwit YOU by his schemes to coax you into not living in line with the gospel? Is that part of your worldview?

Paul also warns all believers in Ephesians 6:10-12—

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor 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.”

Again, the apostle Paul believed and warned that we’re all targets of the devil’s schemes—schemes that are employed by his spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. And these schemes produce a real struggle for us. And we must learn to take our stand against them in the strength of the Lord and in his mighty power and full armor (which the next five verses describe as basically living by faith in the truth of the gospel found in God’s word and by prayer).

But do you see YOUR life in the context of this struggle against real demonic forces?

If we were to read Paul’s letter in the original Greek in which he wrote it, we would read “the devil” as “the Slanderer.” That’s primarily what the devil’s schemes against us involve—slander. (1) Satan slanders God in our thoughts (as he did with Eve in Genesis 3); (2) Satan slanders others in our thoughts (as Paul warns about in 2 Cor 2:11 and Eph 4:26-27); and (3) Satan slanders us in our thoughts (i.e., “I suck! Who am I kidding!”). Often these thoughts feel like our own thoughts. That’s because Satan usually works his slanderous schemes by giving us first-person thoughts, not second-person thoughts. In other words, his thoughts sound like and feel like our thoughts, and not the thoughts of some alien presence speaking to us.

How often do you think your slanderous thoughts—be they about God or his word, or about others in church, or about the church or church leadership, or about your family or others at work, or about your own faith and spiritual progress or your ability to be used by God in other people’s lives—how often do you think your slanderous thoughts are actually the implanted thoughts of Satan (a demon) trying to outwit you by his slanderous schemes? Do YOU think of sin and slander this way? The Bible does.

So Paul writes in 2 Timothy 2:24-26—

“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.”

This is another of so many biblical passages that teach us that God is the one who grants (produces) any real repentance in someone’s life. God is the one who leads to a knowledge of the truth. God is the one who brings people to their spiritual senses. And God is the one who allows them to escape from the trap of the devil, who takes people captive to do his will.

But God uses the humble, godly manner of speaking and teaching and listening and gentle instruction of his servants to do so. That’s why how we as Christians treat people and talk to people and listen to people and instruct people really matters. It can either be something that hardens people’s hearts even more, and pushes them more into the devil’s trap and captivity, or something that God uses to soften their hearts and they come to their senses and a knowledge of the truth and escape from the devil’s trap and captivity by repentance. All our interactions and conversations really matter!

But we need to catch here that Paul is actually saying that there ARE people in our church and in our lives who have been trapped by the devil and taken captive by him to do his will. That THAT’S a real thing that happens! We’re ministering to people like that at The Crossing, I have no doubt. And it is a warning for every one of US as well—don’t let unrepentant sin remain in your life so that eventually the devil traps you and takes you captive by it to do his will. That’s a real potential for all of us, I believe. Unrepentant sin is a serious threat to us because there is a real devil (and his demons) who is a real threat to us if we suppress the truth that we’ve been shown and lose our spiritual senses and remain unrepentant of our sin. There is a real threat that God will permit us to be taken captive if/when we allow this to happen in our faith and our life.

But do YOU see your life in the context of this real spiritual danger? Is the devil that real in your worldview?

Next week I want to talk about the biblical reality and warnings regarding this a bit more, and I’ll provide a specific prayer that I’ve used for many years to help me stand against the devil’s schemes in my life and in my family, church, friendships, etc.

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