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Monday, January 31, 2011

Satan is Still Not a Myth

There is an old song in contemporary Christian music that you might have heard of, called "No One Believes in Me Anymore (Satan's Boast)."  It was written and recorded by singer/songwriter Keith Green on his album For Him Who Has Ears to Hear.  I was thinking about it earlier, and did a little surfing on the internet for it.  There, I heard it connected to C.S. Lewis' classic novel, The Screwtape Letters, which is a sort of fictional advice guide on how to deceive mankind.

Both work on the same principle, in that they point out the supernatural origin of the wickedness and trouble we encounter in this life, as well as how Satan and his followers try to ascribe the trouble they make to more "natural" and acceptable origins.  It is difficult for many people to think of actual evil spirits roaming about, deceiving people and stirring up individuals against others.  It's so much easier to think that people have come up with trouble on their own, or that there is a scientific or statistical reason for the disruption.

On the other hand, more and more people are becoming interested in paranormal activities, and are especially fascinated with powers of darkness and things that cause fear.  It seems that it is glamorous, in some people's minds, to seek out and dabble in such powerful spiritual forces.  Fear, pain, and uncertainty are often portrayed as desirable qualities in modern fiction and movies.  Even so, most people who are curious about these things still have an attitude of disbelief, seeming to think these powerful forces of darkness can be harnessed and used like parlor tricks, and therefore they are more fun than serious.

Christians fall somewhere between these two extremes of belief.  They acknowledge the existence of supernatural darkness and spiritual evil, and they know that the power there is no laughing matter.  On the other hand, they don't seek after or glorify wicked supernatural beings, nor do they give them undue authority over their own lives.

The Christian View of Demonic Powers

Christians believe that our enemies are not the ones that we see, but rather what lies behind the people we see.  The Bible says, "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places," (Ephesians 6:12 KJV).  To add some insight into this verse, I'd like to point out that, until fairly recently in world history, most tribes and nations had a national religion, usually involving the worship and fearful appeasement of one or more demonic powers.  These powers, which spoke through priests and "prophets," would direct kings to go to war, make laws, and so forth.  So what Paul was saying, as his audience understood it, was that our real enemy is not kings and nations, or indeed any individual in power, but the wicked spirits which direct their thinking and actions.

So what am I suggesting?  Demon gods and goddesses are real and powerful?  Well, I suppose on some level they are.  The powers of darkness, whatever they wish to call themselves, have the real power to cause harm, and they love getting attention and controlling people through fear.  However, before they start gathering glamorous or even fearsome qualities in my readers' eyes, I must underscore that they are not real gods or goddesses.  They do not have ultimate power.  In fact, they, like human beings, absolutely must bow before the power of God.  Even Satan had to go ask permission from God before he could torment Job (Job 1: 6-12; 2: 1-7).

The real power we should fear and obey is God, who is more powerful than any of these spiritual beings we might encounter.  Unlike all of these dark supernatural forces, God is kind, not arrogant and mean.  He doesn't make our way hard; in fact, He has given us a way out of the trouble we have caused for ourselves, through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ (see Hebrews 9: 11-15).  In fact, those who have been restored into fellowship with God through Christ no longer have the need to be literally afraid of God.

On the other hand, those who defy God have every reason to fear His punishment (read my old post, The Fear of the Lord, for more on this).  They are also still under the torment of Satan and his wicked forces (Matthew 12: 43-45).

Power Over Spiritual Forces of Evil

Those who are followers of Christ do not need to fear the spiritual forces of evil, even though they know that they exist and are powerful.  Although the Bible says that God has made mankind "a little lower than the heavenly beings" (Psalm 8: 5 NIV 2011), God protects His children.  God has also given His followers a weapon that is powerful and effective against Satan and his dark forces--the power of His Holy Name (Matthew 28: 18; Luke 10: 17).

Christians don't have superpowers, nor are any of them significant enough in their own right to bind evil spirits by their own strength (Acts 19: 13-18).  They have the authority to rebuke evil spirits and have their command obeyed because they do so in Jesus' name.  In other words, it is not their own power that does these things, but rather the one who sent them--the one who backs that name with authority and the power to enforce the command.

Think of it this way.  In modern terms, if I told you to do something, "because, I, Rachel, said so," I would be laughed to scorn (unless, of course, I was your mother and you knew I always enforced what I said with punishment).  However, if I said you had to do it, "by the power vested in me by the government of the United States," you might be more inclined to do it, because that name means something, and it has authority behind it.  Likewise, if Christians do things, or ask for something, according to God's will and by the power of His name, those commands have authority and backing by God.  In fact, God defends His name zealously, maintaining its authority before men and the forces of evil who try to profane it (Ezekiel 36: 22).  God rises to the challenge when Satan defies His name.

So here is the summary of all of this: "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you," (James 4:7 NIV 2011).  Satan is no myth, although his trouble-making is easier as long as that lie is perpetuated.  However, if we have the power of God in our lives because we have fully submitted to God, we don't need to fear Satan's power.  In fact, when we have submitted ourselves to God, we understand that when we resist the devil, he flees, not from us, but rather from the God who defends us.

Food for thought, folks.  Until next time, this is me reminding you to stay savvy, and resist the devil!