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What Demons Can Do to Saints
By Merrill F. Unger
Moody PublishersCopyright © 1991 The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago
All rights reserved.
PRIME TARGET OF THE DEVIL
In an age of accelerated activity of the powers of darkness, the question of the moment is how far Satan and demons can go in working havoc in the people of God. The answer to this problem is pressing in its urgency because of widespread ignorance and uncertainty that exist on the subject among God's people. The rapid spread of occultism in our times has, to some extent, dissipated disbelief in the reality and inworking of demonic forces in the lives of the unregenerate. People who once viewed Satan and evil spirits as figments of the imagination or, at best, hangovers from medieval superstition, are more inclined today to believe in a real devil and demons. These sinister beings are held not only to influence people but actually to indwell them and upon occasion to be exorcized from them.
But strangely enough, while many unsaved people sense the reality and power of the realm of evil supernaturalism, many Christians remain skeptical and naive. Usually believers readily grant the wide range of demonic operation in the unsaved. Yet, often the concept of the extent of satanic and demonic activity in the life of a believer is circumscribed and inadequate. It tends to be theological and theoretical rather than biblical and practical.
The nature of the times in which we live calls for clarification of the precise role Satan and demons may play in the life and experience of a believer. This in turn necessitates a study of the career of Satan and his kingdom of demon helpers. The purpose is to show why these powers of darkness are arrayed against man, particularly against regenerate man.
Facing a Fearful Foe
Although there are many things about Satan and demonic powers that revealed truth does not tell us, one thing is transparently clear. In these sinister spirit personalities, humanity, especially redeemed humanity, has an implacable enemy. This foe is dedicated to alienate man from God and to keep him from Christ's saving grace. When men do believe the gospel, Satan exerts every effort to turn them away from God's will. He knows that once they are saved they are beyond his power insofar as their position before God and their eternal destiny are concerned. So he determines to do them as much damage as he can, seeking to ruin their Christian life and testimony for God.
Satan is relentless and pitiless in his hatred for God and the people of God. What makes the devil a fearful foe is the fact of his great power. This is augmented by the assistance of innumerable fallen angels or demons. Consequently, Satanic forces constitute a mighty, evil spiritual reality to be seriously reckoned with by the entire fallen race, both redeemed and unredeemed.
Actually Satan is the most powerful person in the universe after God. Although he is a creature and a vast gap separates him as such from the Creator, he is the first creature and evidently the most glorious of all creatures. Even though he fell and his glory was corrupted by sin, he is still correctly styled as "his infernal majesty." Dave Breese discusses Satan's ten most believable lies under this apt designation.
Our Lord plainly intimated that Satan is a king and presides over a kingdom (Matthew 12:26). As a potentate reigning over the realm of spiritual darkness, Satan extends his sway over the evil angels or demons. Through these "principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness of this world and wicked spirits in the heavenlies" (Ephesians 6:12), he exerts dominion over the fallen human race. As men open the door to him by sin and rebellion against God, he enters to dominate and enslave.
Why Satan and Demons Oppose Men
The malignity of Satan and his hosts against mankind reaches back to the creation of Lucifer and the angels in dim antiquity. According to intimations given through the prophets Isaiah (14:12-14) and Ezekiel (28:11-19), Satan fell from his original sinless state. When he rebelled against the Creator, Satan drew with him a great number of his angelic colleagues. These apparently became the fallen angels or demons (cf. Revelation 12:7-9).
Satan's fall and the entrance of sin into a hither to sinless universe presented a grave problem. How would the infinitely holy and loving Creator deal with sin and rebellion in His angelic creatures? Would He allow them to go on forever as free and unimprisoned rebels to roam His universe? Or would He institute a plan to bring an end to sin by rigidly isolating sinners?
It was this latter plan of eventually isolating sin and sinners that God had in mind from all eternity. To accomplish it He created man upon the earth. This planet was selected to be man's abode, evidently because sin began here in connection with the fall of Satan and the angels (Genesis 1:2; cf. Job 38:5-7). Here, where sin arose, God would show how He, in His infinite love and holiness, would deal with it and put it down forever.
To this end God created man innocent, but with the power of free choice to obey or disobey his Creator. Satan's malignant subtlety was directed against man because the evil one desired to frustrate the divine plan and enslave the human race. This he accomplished, at least to a degree, by the temptation and fall of man.
But Satan did not fully reckon on God's gracious program of redemption in Christ. He failed to count on its final outcome in effecting his own undoing and that of the rebel angels and wicked men who would follow him (Matthew 25:41; Revelation 20:11-15).
Satan in Scripture revelation is presented as irremediably confirmed in rebellion against God. He is also portrayed as unchangeably dedicated to doing as much damage as possible to mankind, especially the redeemed. His attack upon the saints is relentless and implacable. He opposes them as he opposed Christ when Christ was upon the earth. The saints represent his ultimate destruction, as Christ does, because they are united to Christ and share His triumph over him and his hosts (1 Corinthians 12:12; Ephesians 1:20-23; Revelation 20:1-3, 10).
The saints must realize that they are the bull's-eye, as it were, against which Satan and his demon helpers aim their most fiery darts. They constitute Satan's deadliest foes and the greatest threat to his authority and power. This is why saints dare not be oblivious of Satan's malignity nor "ignorant of his devices" (2 Corinthians 3:11).
It is high time for believers to see Satan and demonic powers in their true light and full Scripture perspective. The age of the demon or the era of the occult in which we find ourselves is no time to be naive concerning the powers of darkness. To deny the reality of Satan and demons has little appeal these days. Such a conclusion may satisfy a naturalistic theorist; however, it carries little weight with a man who gives the Scriptures credence or who honestly faces the facts of life.
On the other hand, many who hold Scripture in high esteem and respect its testimony concerning Satan and demons, in actual practice entertain a concept of these forces that is theoretical rather than scriptural and practical, especially as far as demons are concerned. Today many believers simply do not face the issue of the degree to which demonic powers can take over in their lives if they open the door to them.
There is, in fact, a strong tendency among many Christians to be naive concerning their arch foe, Satan, and his demon assistants. This is especially so in relation to the question of demonism as it may affect the saint. Such a situation is perilous, for to be ignorant or misinformed on this subject is weighted with dire risks. This becomes apparent when the Christian warrior realizes that he is the target of demonic strategy and attack.
In its spiritual conflict, the church of Christ must obviously be knowledgeable about its foes. In wars on the human plane, military strategists are keenly aware of the necessity of knowing the enemy. Accordingly, they employ intricate networks of intelligence and counterintelligence. Missions involving espionage are frequently as crucial to winning a war as actual battles. Without intelligence of the enemy's strength and position, the results of any military encounter would be highly dubious. Yet believers sometimes display an obvious disinterest in what the Bible reveals about Satan and demons. Or, what is even worse, they manifest a morbid fear of such a study. This apathy or dread is almost as perilous as the opposite extreme of fanatical occupation with evil. Such extremists ride demonism as a hobby, seeing demons in everybody and everything. Obviously these aberrations are a delight to Satan. They prove the subtlety of his stratagems by which he outwits his opponents and gains advantage over them.
The only sane approach is to know the enemy. Only as his wiles are laid bare will the believer be able to anticipate and outmaneuver him. Satan's chief tactics are to hide his identity and his assaults. The Christian must recognize him and anticipate his moves.
Only as the believer knows the powers of darkness will he be able to win against them in his superior position and strength in Christ. The rampant demon activity of these last days (1 Timothy 4:1) issues a clarion call to every friend of Christ: "Know your foe!"
What The Devil Fears Most
Although Satan's foes do not always know their enemy, one thing is sure. Satan always knows his foes. He is thoroughly acquainted with them and is quite aware of those who fall to his strategies and are consequently comparatively harmless. He also knows those who recognize and count on their position in Christ and who find and fulfill God's will for their lives. These saints are what the devil fears most, for they constitute the deadliest threat to his plans and ambitions.
It is against the latter group of saints that Satan launches his most subtle attacks. Protected with the full armor of God, they are endued with God's full power and have complete victory over Satan and his minions. Therefore Satan does his best to lure them away from trusting in the impregnable fortress of their position in Christ.
The evil one delights to see a saint become occupied with what he is or does in himself rather than with what he is or does in his position in Christ. This is tantamount to leaving the protection of the mighty fortress God has provided in Christ for the perils of the unprotected open field.
Exposed and unprotected in this manner, the Christian arouses little terror as far as Satan and demonic powers are concerned. And little wonder! The Christian is a pushover for evil powers when he tries to face them in his own strength. It is the omnipotent power of God that Satan dreads, and that power only becomes available to the believer as he counts on what Christ has done for him and is waiting to do through him in response to his faith.
This attitude of confidence in what he is in union with Christ expresses itself in what the believer thinks, says, and does. In this radiant atmosphere of faith in his crucified, risen, and ascended Lord, the believer's every thought, word, or deed becomes a terror to the enemy. Whether he prays, witnesses, worships, or just discharges the everyday duties of life, the believer who centers his faith in His divine Savior and what he is in Him is the one thing that causes the powers of darkness to tremble.
It is true, according to the old adage, that "the devil trembles when he sees the weakest saint upon his knees." But it is just as true that he and his cohorts tremble when they see the weakest saint in any activity of the Christian life, where he puts his faith in his all-victorious Lord, for then that saint becomes their strongest foe. The powers of darkness stand in awful fear and dread of Him who "spoiled principalities and powers" and who "made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it" (Colossians 2:15).
They experience that same fear and dread of any believer who will dare by faith to count on his union with his all-victorious Lord. Such a believer becomes Satan's prime target. All hell's artillery is hurled against him, because he constitutes the deadliest enemy the powers of darkness possess.CHAPTER 2
LOOK OUT FOR SATAN'S TRICKS!
Satan is a trickster, a deceiver, a dangerous prevaricator. Although he manifests his deception toward all mankind, he directs his cleverest tricks and most wily deception against redeemed humanity. The more spiritual and victorious the believer, the more subtle and vehement are the Satanic and demonic assaults against him.
Scripture calls these cunning artifices "wiles." "Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil" (Ephesians 6: 11; italics added*). The Greek word is methodia, from which we get our word "method," usually with a good connotation. But as used of Satan, the word is evil in its meaning and denotes "a deceitful scheme" or "treacherous artifice."
Satan is full of deceptive tricks because his whole purpose is to delude the believer. Having failed to keep him in blindness and unbelief concerning the gospel of God's grace, he tries the next best ruse by employing every strategy his perverted wisdom can conjure up to divert the believer from God's Word and will.
As a fisherman uses a lure to draw a fish to a hidden hook and as a hunter conceals a trap for the unwary animal, Satan lays his snares for God's child. His ultimate purpose is to divert worship and service away from God toward himself. Failing this, he resorts to every conceivable device to cripple a believer's effectiveness in witness and service for God. He does not stop until he and his demon helpers have either utterly despoiled the believer or else cut short his physical life by premature death (1 John 5:16).
Trick 1: "Worship Me, Not God!"
Satan's oldest and "most deadly game" is to divert man's worship from God, directing it instead toward other "gods" and ultimately toward himself. This crafty device is the expression of Satan's original and all-consuming passion to make himself "like the Most High" (Isaiah 14:14; NASB). This basic motive of blasphemous self-exaltation is revealed in the record of his first sin, which was the beginning of sin in an originally sinless universe. It reappears three times in scriptural revelation, and "these disclosures stand out like milestones in Satan's career."
When Satan confronted the first Adam in Eden, Satan was ready to foist upon Adam his own unholy ideal of proud self-promotion. "You will be like God" (Genesis 3:5; NASB). Daringly, when he confronted the last Adam, whom he well knew to be God incarnate, he manifested the same desire to usurp the place of God. His suggestion was utterly blasphemous: "If you worship ... me" (Luke 4:7; NASB).
Satan's motive will be fully laid bare when the man of sin, the terrible Antichrist, "opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God" (2 Thessalonians 2:4; NASB).
Satan's game of making himself like God has many subtle variations. It displays itself in the various forms of idolatry. It appears in the worship of other gods, self, the world, the flesh, or in its ultimate form, the worship of Satan himself.
Today satanism is a growing cult. Actual churches of Satan, openly dedicated to worshiping the devil, are springing up here and there in America and around the world. One such church in San Francisco was founded in 1967 by Anton LaVey.
Satanism, moreover, is not an empty fad but, rather, a sinister spiritual reality. Satan has power, and he offers to share that power with those who will worship him. But it is an evil power, for it is a power that is apart from God and actually in opposition to God. It may offer results that on the surface appear to be good, such as physical healing, a way out from drug addiction or alcoholism, or the occult ability to effect miracles (magic) or to foretell the future.
But the apparent good is only an attractive bait to bind the victim with crueler chains and to supply a new "high" that in the end will prove a new low in the life of the Satan-shackled person.
If Satan had the immense effrontery to offer this alluring route to power and glory to the Lord of heaven, dare we presume for one moment that he will not play this nefarious game with our Lord's own here on earth?
In fact, in one form or another, Satan and his demon helpers are constantly trying to foist this trick upon believers. Through halo-crowned idolatry the devil seeks to turn Christians away from complete allegiance to God to some form of devotion to another object of worship, some other "god" under the guise of some thing or person, notably one's own self.
So rampant is this peril that the apostle John warns the children of God to be ever on the alert against it. Constantly the believer must be aware of this wile of the devil. The apostle John realized how God's people are continually assaulted by Satan with this trick. His somber warning rings out: "Little children, guard yourselves from idols" (1 John 5:21; NASB).
Excerpted from What Demons Can Do to Saints by Merrill F. Unger. Copyright © 1991 The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
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