Is it the Devil, or You?

Life is challenging for everyone. Though we may be tempted to attribute it’s difficulties to material lack of some sort, certainly biographies of the rich and famous shoot down our misconceptions that “more” is the prime attribute of happiness. While some ambiguity remains on exactly how the story of The Buddha began to unfold, all of the accounts are somehow centered on a wealthy man destined for greatness in his father’s kingdom. Wanting to preserve his son from the hardships of life, the father forbids his son from penetrating the walls of the utopia he has created for him. Inside he is showered with every pleasure and delight that the world has to offer. Eventually, the son ventures outside of these parameters and is quickly confronted with the reality of suffering in the outside word. His life is never the same. He forsakes the kingdom, the riches, and the prestige in search for spiritual fulfillment and enlightenment. Life isn’t easy for anyone. It is a daily struggle. For the Christian, life is a constant battle between the spirit (the things of God) and the flesh (the sinful desires). I’ve heard many Christians make the claim that Satan is homing in on them continually. They speak of spiritual warfare and the Enemy (Satan) constantly oppressing them in their everyday lives. Perhaps without knowing it, many times we try to justify our failure, or the failures around us, as being the result of Satan lobbing his darts in our direction without rest. “The devil made me do it,” as silly as it sounds, is probably not too far off from where we might be. I recently heard a story from a woman who told about her two sons: one struggling with drugs, the other struggling with his sexuality. A man began to pray for her, and asked God to remove the hand of Satan from this woman’s boys. The way that people pray out loud says a lot about what they believe. Unfortunately, I became extremely distracted by the man’s request for Satan to be removed from the situation, for the simple reason that I couldn’t help but ponder if it was really Satan that was at work here. Perhaps he was referring to Satan’s influence–though the rest of his prayer seemed to indicate Satan’s direct influence in the situation. It raised a question to me, and I raise the question to you: is Satan responsible for all that goes wrong in our lives?

The first thing we need to address is an issue of solipsism: do you really believe that Satan is on the hunt for you in particular? In Satan’s limited attributes (though not as limited as ours), he is unable to be everywhere at once. While the Spirit of God is capable of hovering over the earth in its entirety at once (Gen. 1:2), and nothing decays without his notice (Matt. 10:29), nor does a hair remain unaccounted for (Matt. 10:30), and every object is noticed through his sovereignty (Prov. 16:33), Satan is restricted to roaming the face of the earth (Job 1:7). God’s sovereignty remains, by nature, his own. There is no cosmic struggle between God and Satan, as a dualist might presume. God is alone in his omnipresence. That being said, of all the powerful and influential people on planet earth—what makes you so sure that Satan is going after you? I don’t mean this as an insult; I’m presenting this as food for thought. I mentioned in an earlier post that we should be praying for our world leaders, and this is the precise reason. In Satan’s limited resources (namely, time) his focus is certainly on greater targets than you or I.

A more Biblical thought could be introduced here: it’s entirely possible that evil is done to human beings partially as a result of influential evil beings in an unseen world. If you’re a Christian, you believe in the “unseen world”—the supernatural realm that is connected to the physical realm by a supernatural bridge that only the supernatural can cross. Certainly men and women were tormented by [non-human] evil spirits in Christ’s time (Mark 5:9, Luke 8:2). We wouldn’t necessarily count out the possibility of evil beings playing an influential role in our decisions. Wayne Grudem addresses psychic abilities in this way “A physic might be able to tell me what I had for breakfast by suggestion of a demon. How would a demon know what I had for breakfast? It simply watched me eat it!” While demons are certainly a more libel possibility than Satan himself directly antagonizing us, there’s a third option that I tend to side with in most situations: your heart is partially evil.

Evil is an unpopular word in a world where relativism is prominent. But regardless of popularity, we would certainly say that some actions are evil. Would anyone deny that Hitler was evil? Or that a man that sexually abuses children is evil? The person that sees no evil in these actions serves as a great reminder to lock your doors at night. That being said though, before we start blaming demons or Satan, you might want to take a closer look at yourself. I would be willing to place a statistical percentage on my actions, and say that 99.9% of the wrong things that I do towards myself, and other people, are the strict result of the rebellion in my heart. That rebellion is of course, evil—let’s not try to sugarcoat it in any way. All rebellion towards God must, by nature, be evil, if God in his nature is good, and just, and true. Therefore my heart tends to also side towards what is evil, since by my own nature, I am not intrinsically good, just, and true. And you aren’t either. Remember Paul’s confession in Romans 7?

 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? –Romans 7:15-25

Life is a struggle. Which is why Romans 7:26 is so important: “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.”

Sometimes the Enemy isn’t Satan. Sometimes it isn’t demons. But you might say, “It was Satan in the garden of Eden that tempted Adam and Eve to sin!” That’s true, but it wasn’t Satan who made the decision for Adam and Eve to sin. They did it on their own accord. Ultimately they chose it for themselves. Sometimes the real enemy is you and I. What causes you to do wrong? Is it the devil, or you?

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