Ways and Means to Keep the Evil One at Bay
We could probably write quite a lot more on demon possession. It is an inexhaustible subject. To that point this will be our last foray which specifically touches on it. We’ll move next week onto more tangible matters for this series on things which goes bump in the night. God is gracious and merciful to us and a thing He warns about in His word is against both an unhealthy obsession with the devil and his ways and spending so much time in them that you actually come to be marked among their number. A danger that police departments monitor all the time with undercover agents is that they do not “turn” in the midst of doing their job, or as Paul warns in Ephesians 5:11 we are to take no part in the works of darkness and that means being wise in our study. It is also a category of theology that probably shouldn’t be majored on by those young in the faith. As we take our leave and enter once more into the fray our focus will be on some of the strategies available to see demonic activity and then how to deal with it in a Biblical manner.
Whenever we talk about the minions of the devil our ideas are far more influenced by Hollywood and the internet than anything noted in the pages of Holy Scripture. The vast majority of that which we would expect to see is extremely rare. No twisting heads and vomiting girls, or superhuman strength on display here. We are much more likely to see the demonic in the deceiving works of the devil’s light than through a straightforward attack. Even Satan knows a fainting flanking maneuver is wiser than an all-out assault on the center of the line. Usually we do not even see it until it has already taken place. There is more truth to the old cartoon trope of the demon on your shoulder whispering sweet things in your ear than a “spirit” controlling you like a robot. A wormtoungue saying who are you going to believe, me, or your lying eyes. Much like other prophets the devil works in the word. He claims to carry with him the testimony of truth and honesty. He convinces by encouragement and encouragers. He leads astray like a pied piper of death. We have much more to fear from well-speakon tellers of the desires of our heart than a crazed maniac shouting insanity. No one was convinced by Hitler who did not already agree with his solutions to the problems of the day. A young man who decides one day he is a young lady is not brought to that place of hope by the conditioning of the media, but through the small leadings of a heart long-since given over to the termination of the image of God. Smooth is the way of destruction, and comfortable is the Good Place of Satan’s design.
Agur in giving warning to his son about the dangers of the loose woman has this to say in Prov. 30:15ff:
The leech has two daughters—Give and Give! There are three things that are never satisfied,
Four never say, “Enough!”: The grave, the barren womb, the earth that is not satisfied with water— and the fire never says, “Enough!” The eye that mocks his father, and scorns obedience to his mother, the ravens of the valley will pick it out, and the young eagles will eat it.
Itheil and Ucal are granted a clear message. The nature of sin and the temptations of the evil one are like a sponge which sucks and sucks and sucks and never gets all the water up off the deck, yet no matter how hard you squeeze its dryness exceeds the Sahara. This quiet, and effective, carrot-leading stick is the real way Satan works in and through demonic possession to get his man.
So what are we to do?
Here is a place where the ordinary means of grace are the solution we all need, because there is great irony in the way demonic activity is the upside-down of the beauty of God’s good plan for keeping us away from the leading of the devil. If we are spending our time filling our hearts with the word of Christ than what room will there be for the little spirit on our left shoulder? Ears taken up with Godly conference and the preaching of His gospel won’t be able to hear the soft, entreating words of this red cherubim. The ways and means of the Lord are neither complicated nor difficult to grasp. They also have the benefit of being the instruments given before man fell into sin in the first place. God’s revelation to Adam, even in the Covenant of Works, was in a sense gracious. While his keeping of it would not have been meritorious, it was still in the sacraments of that season through which he was fed in the strength of truth. His abandonment of the presence and the fountain which never ceaseth gave space for the serpent to lead him and his helpmeet astray.
If we likewise take lightly the sacraments of the new testament it should give us no surprise when sin overwhelms our heart. Refusing by action or inaction to feed on Christ by faith in the bread and the cup is to invite something else to take its place. Likewise the simplicity of the Sabbath and the six days of labor gladly observed gives no room for the devil to do his work. Just like your grandmother warned, idle hands are the devil’s workshop. A person who cavorts with prostitutes instead of preachers can’t be amazed when he develops syphilis. The same can be said for a heart and a soul which tries to eat out of both bowls. Our old man hearts love the food which brings the quick pleasure, and it will lead us to failure of spirit and eternal destruction eventually, as the Lord then grants us the desire of our will, to be with the devil and all his works, which is where we would rather be anyway.
Or as Jesus says to the Scribes in John 8:34, “Jesus answered them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.” and 8:42-45:
Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me.
In closing, demonic possession can too often be the scapegoat for our own weakness. It most certainly has its place in the toolbox of explaining how wicked this world gets at times, but as a wise theologian once said, sinners don’t need Satan’s help to sin. We can do that all on our own.
Blessings in Christ,
Rev. Benjamin Glaser
Pastor, Bethany ARP Church