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

As weird as it seems for us moderns, Satan and his demons are a biblical reality. Reading through the gospel accounts (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), you can’t avoid the fact that Jesus unquestionably believed in the reality of Satan and demons, and he taught and warned about their reality to his followers. There are simply too many places to cite them all here, but a few passages in just Matthew alone are 8:28-34; 10:1, 8; 12:43-45; 13:19 (see parallel account in Mark 4:15); 17:18; 25:41. So take a look for yourself.

Last week I discussed a few key passages in the letters written by the apostle Paul that tell us, as believers, to be aware of and warned by and active in resisting the very real efforts of demonic spirits to ensnare us and destroy us, and those to whom we minister. Read that first if you missed it.

The very real presence of Satan and his demons are a sobering and critical fact for you and me as we live out our faith. They are part of the reality we tend to overlook because of our materialistic way of seeing the world. But we ignore them and their intelligent schemes to our own serious peril.

But do YOU believe that? Is that part of YOUR worldview—your view of the Christian faith? Do you believe what God is telling you—warning you—in his word?

The apostle Peter quotes Proverbs 3:34, and warns believers in 1 Peter 5:5-9—

“All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith….”

Here the apostle Peter is clearly saying that our pride and our anxiety and our spiritual apathy open a window in our lives for the devil (and his demonic forces) to devour us in some real way. And, it’s also true, that our pride, anxiety, and spiritual apathy may be key indicators that we’re already being devoured or ensnared in some way. He depicts the devil (the Greek word the New Testament authors used for “the devil” means “the Slanderer”) as prowling around your life like a hungry lion, looking for a way to devour or ensnare you, or a way to use you to devour someone else.

And he ensnares and devours primarily through slander. First, he slanders God and his word and his will in your thoughts. This is always the ultimate cause of anxiety in our lives. We’re failing to trust that God is always sovereign over all things in our lives, and we’re failing to trust in the goodness of God’s will for us in some way.

Second, he slanders others in your thoughts (your spouse, your church, your friends, your co-workers, etc.). This is the result of pride in our lives. Beyond not seeing who God truly is, and who we truly are, pride is also emphasizing and dwelling on and condemning and being offended by the failings and shortcomings and sins of others. Pride is our aspiration to rise above others so we look better. Pride makes us feel justified in our accusations and qualms and quarrels and our anger and resentment and defensiveness and unforgiveness and lack of grace toward others. Pride makes us easily offended by others. Pride prevents us from being able to overlook an offense and makes us dwell on and hurt by every perceived insult. And pride gets energized in our lives by our slanderous thoughts toward others—thoughts often breathed into our minds by the Slanderer.

And third, he slanders us in our thoughts. This is often a cause of our spiritual apathy. We only see our shortcomings and failures of faith and our repeated sin, so that we become cynical of our own spiritual growth and joy in the gospel. The gospel seems unreal to us because of our failing to see its fruit in our lives. Our efforts of belief and obedience in the past seemed pointless, so we gave up. But that’s because the Slanderer has deceived us. We stopped seeing that there really was growth and joy at times—that we really did have faith that was slowly changing our lives—but we gave up the fight of faith that all Christians must persevere in. And we let spiritual apathy rob us of what we had/have in Christ. We’ve let ourselves be ensnared by the Slanderer.

Are there areas in these three ways that the devil slanders where you’re letting yourself be ensnared by the Slanderer? Or do you not believe in a real devil and real demonic spirits speaking slanderous thoughts in your mind and heart.

So, Peter says, (1) humble yourself under God’s mighty hand, (2) cast all your anxiety on God because he cares for you, and (3) be alert and sober minded—be spiritually awake—to this reality. That’s how we resist the devil.

But make no mistake, there IS a devil and he IS presently scheming to ensnare and devour you in very real and painful ways. And he will crawl in any open windows of your pride, or your anxiety, or your spiritual apathy. And you won’t even know he did it. You’ll just think that God let you down in some way, or it’s someone else’s fault that let you down in some way, or that you just suck. Period. That’s what the Slanderer does. Are you letting him?

So James quotes the same Proverb that Peter did when he writes in James 4:6-8—

“That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’ Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you.”

Like Peter, James is telling us that our unchecked pride gives the devil an open window to our lives. But when we submit ourselves to God—when we stop doubting God’s sovereignty and stop rejecting God’s perfect will for our lives—we are then able also to resist the devil and his slanderous schemes. We’ll find that Satan will be more and more de-clawed in his slanderous accusations, and God will draw nearer and nearer to us in real ways. This is the crux of how we fight in this very real spiritual warfare we’re all in—the spiritual struggle God tells us about and warns us about in so many biblical passages. We must aggressively submit to God and his will and aggressively resist the devil and his slander by drawing near to God daily and believing his promises to us in Christ and resisting slander in all its deceptive forms.

A very powerful and practical way to fight your spiritual warfare:
Many years ago, I started praying daily through a prayer that I found and have adapted from several books I read on spiritual warfare. I now call it “A Daily Prayer,” because we need to intentionally submit to God and resist the devil on a daily basis. I would suggest to you that you pray this prayer now and then—even daily for a while—but especially if or when you feel like you’re going through spiritual struggles in your life or your family’s lives. There are places in this prayer where you can intercede for others, especially for your family members. And it would be awesome if members of The Crossing used this to intercede for our church community and its pastors and staff. I highly recommend that you get alone somewhere where you can pray through this pray aloud. That will help your concentration, and also help you engage more aggressively in your fighting this spiritual warfare. Note that there is intentional repetition in this prayer. That is to help you focus better on crucial areas of submission to God and resistance of the devil’s typical schemes.

You can view this prayer here, or you can right click here to download a pdf version.

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