I am sorry. Really, I am. When I planned this series and looked around for resources and guidance, I thought, “No problem! I know about this!” I had a number of friends in college who were well versed in spiritual warfare and spent a good bit of time with charismatics and pentecostal, as I sought to make clear God’s calling in my life. I value their friendship to this day. But as I have read and researched each week I have been convicted by how lax I have grown. I think it is fair to say, I apologize on behalf of my clergy brothers and sisters as well. It is far to easy steer clear of the topic of devil’s work. This week, has made some things very clear so today I intend to remedy, in part, where I have fallen short
To begin, in my mind and experience there is no better counsel in the practical application of the Biblical message than are contained in the words of Rev. John Wesley. In regards to the nature and work of the enemy, Wesley knew all too well the work of the devil and of demons. Not only by his study of scripture but by experience and study of humanity.
The prophet Isaiah in 14:12-14 describes “the morning star, son of the dawn’ as the one who first proclaimed to the one who said, “I will make myself the Most High.” In the John’s Book of Revelation 12:7-9, the devil is described as “the dragon; that ancient serpent” who, together with his angels sought to battle with Michael and his angels but was defeated and cast down. In his Explanatory Notes on the New Testament, John Wesley puts the words of 1 John in an important light for us to keep in mind, “that is, [the devil] was the first sinner in the universe and has continued to sin ever since.” You cannot come up with an original sin. There is an expert at this work. The devil can do it better (remember what I said the first week: we are not equal to the devil).
Our journey of faith begins at the moment we come to believe, that God truly loves us and has healed the great wound which sin has inflicted on us so we can believe in Jesus Christ. Jesus’ blood healed that wound. But this great wound in our being was caused by Satan when his suggestions raised unbelief in Eve. John Wesley described unbelief as the “first work” of Satan, and we know it only too well. But even so, Jesus defeated this first work of Satan.
But Mr. Wesley observes that Satan had another work, his grandest work: that of pride; or I call it, self-idolatry (see Sermon 38,4. “Caution Against Bigotry). The devil and his demons work to make us think WE ARE THE CENTER; but remember this is no original idea either, it started with the devil remember? You and I are not going to usurp him. Jesus strikes at the root of this self-idolatry so we might humble ourselves. As we look to Jesus, believe in Jesus, it is he who destroys our love of the world. “As Satan turned the heart of [humanity] from the Creator to the creature, so the Son of God turns [our] heart back again from the creature to the Creator,” writes Rev. Wesley (Sermon 62, “The End of Christ’s Coming, see also Sermon 42, “Satan’s Devices”).
Both Old and New Testament give us a picture of the work of the devil, but what of demons? As noted in Revelation, they are described as fallen angels who do the work of the devil in this world. Their work in the world can be narrowed down to three focus areas:
- Demons inflict SUFFERING. In Mark’s gospel (5;2-8) we see the demon known as “Legion” causing a man to cut himself with stones. In Matthew 17:15-18, a man’s son is possessed by a demon who causes him to have seizures. Our bodies weak and frail. Not every disease or sickness is demon inspired but clearly some are.
- Demons LURE you from God. Paul warns Timothy of a day when Christians will abandon their faith because of “things taught by demons” (1 Timothy 4:1). I have heard things I’d like to believe are true, things that would make life less messy. Be warned, the demonic are in the midst of some of these teachings.
- Demons sow FEAR. To the Roman church (Romans 8) and to Timothy (2 Tim. 1:6-7), Paul reminds his readers, God does not give a spirit of fear. God’s Spirit gives us 1) Assurance of salvation and 2) Power, love and a sound mind (sound similar to last week?) Where does fear come from then? Point the finger at the enemy. (see Craig Groeschel at www.lifechurch.tv)
How do we face the enemy? Well, I’ve been building on this each week. This is the third week, so lets touch base on what I’ve said before and get us to what we need to know today.
First, we are to put on the armor of God and STAND FIRM. We are to give no ground to Satan and the demonic. Secondly, we are to be SINGULAR IN THOUGHT with the MIND OF CHRIST: We are to be done with SIN in our lives. The militant Christian must recognize the enemy is coming after us, to cause unbelief and raise up self-idolatry. So today, when we do face the enemy, we are to fight with God’s AUTHORITY not by our power. James makes it clear: “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.( James 4:7-8)” When Jesus sent out the disciples in Matthew 10, the Bible says clearly the Jesus, “gave them authority to drive out evil spirits.” On our own we don’t have what it takes to fight the devil and the demons but the war is already won! We are on the side of the victor so stand firm!
Remember the first work of the devil. It is unbelief. If there is one thing the devil despises more than anything is to see a church forming a single minded purpose of helping others believe in Jesus Christ. Satan and his fallen angels will be about the work of causing you to doubt. Satan could care less that you just show up and are present in church. Many people come to church who don’t believe. You are no threat. But what if you start to pray? What if you give financially? What if you respond to an appeal to serve? And hell forbid, you witness to others about what Jesus has done in your life!
MAY I ASK? Consider for a moment the three ways demons cause us to journey toward unbelief. Which one do you find yourself struggling with the most? Do you find it hard to resist? If so, are you singular in thought? Have you put on God's armor? Are you trying to battle Satan or are you standing firm? Remember, there is only one Christ and you are not him! Let that bring you peace and focus on battling the enemy one element at a time.