Battling Beelzebul


"Lucifer" by Franz von StuckFor we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
—Ephesians 6:12 ESV

Want a surefire indicator that the Holy Spirit is moving in a church?

1. The lowest floor of the church building floods during a rainstorm—and the church is near the top of a hill

2. Cars are vandalized in the church parking lot—and the church is located near the edge of a quiet rural area

3. Someone makes arson threats against the church—and the church is located near the edge of a quiet rural area

Our church meeting last Sunday was powerful. The Holy Spirit was moving in the midst of His people. He’s been moving this way for a while now. In the last few months, we’ve seen amazing healings (including a man with terminal heart disease whose body was so bloated with fluids he could barely move, but he was dancing in church just two days later, cured of his disease and fifty pounds lighter), people are being convicted of sin, the word of God is going out mightily, new people are coming in, we have baptisms about every other week, and on and on.

So, of course, the Enemy takes notice because the last thing he wants is for any of that kind of thing to occur. If you haven’t guessed already, the three assaults listed above happened at my church in the wake of the powerful move of the Lord last week.

Last year, I wrote a widely disseminated post called “The Chthonic Unmentionable” in which I wondered why Evangelicals cringed at the “Devil” part of of the triumvirate of “the world, the flesh, and the Devil.” I’ve been around long enough to know that most Evangelicals will mentally assent to the existence of Satan, but to ascribe to him much more than existence is too much to ask. Better to say nothing and maybe the demons will go away.

Despite Martin Luther’s inkwell and his penchant for aromatic responses when assaulted by Satan, I didn’t hear much more about the demonic growing up until I got involved in an Assemblies of God church. At that point, I wondered why no one had told me anything about this important fact of life. After a personal encounter with a demon-possessed person (mentioned in the link above), I suddenly realized that all those Gospel “stories” about Jesus casting out demons weren’t something that merely happened in Palestine circa 30 AD.

Like C.S. Lewis, I believe there are two mistaken notions about the demonic:

1. We focus on them.

2. We ignore them altogether.

To the first point, I once visited a church that considered Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness akin to The Bible: The Sequel. I saw a guy casting a “demon” out of his chair before he sat down for the meeting. Must’ve had a bad run-in with tack at some earlier point in life and didn’t want to take any chances sitting on anything possibly more evil. What else could explain that kind of fruitcake behavior?

On the other hand, we’ve got folks in the American Church who would take a look at the three negative things that hit my church and its folks this week and sum it up with a shoulder shrug. “Just a string of bad luck,” they would say, or “Horrible coincidence.”

Let me simply say this: The Enemy HATES you. Lucifer and his legions would gleefully destroy your body, your home, your marriage, your children, your church…anything and everything is fair game to them, save for God’s grace on your life. Many Christians do suffer from those attacks; justification does not end our encounters with the demonic! When a marriage goes south in the Christian community, Satan orchestrated that destruction from the first “I do” to the last “This marriage is over! I’m out!”

We’re fools if we don’t take this war seriously—and it is a war. Jesus confessed this to Peter:

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”
—Luke 22:31-34 ESV

Satan wants to sift us. Jesus countered that demand with prayer. All our resolve will not help us one lick unless we put on our blood-bought spiritual armor and walk as warriors against the infernal.

Ephesians 5:18 ends Paul’s admonition concerning defense against the demonic with this command:

praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me….
—Ephesians 6:18-19a ESV, emphasis added

Are we praying in the Spirit that the Lord would destroy the works of the Enemy in our lives and in the lives of Christians around the world? Are we putting a priority on the kind of travailing prayer that Pauls speaks of? Because the chthonic is actively plotting ways to make each and every Christian rue the day he or she confessed Christ. Believe it. They don’t toss up their hands and go, “Oh well, onto the next one.” No, they never stop their assault.

We would do well to remember that the unsaved have no protection at all against the wiles of the Enemy. They are fair game 24/7/365. For this reason, we Christians should never deal smugly with the lost because not only are they under a powerful delusion inspired by Satan, but they live lives perpetually assaulted and have no clue that such a battle rages. I dare any Christian reading this to turn their noses up at the lost in light of this. It’s not just the afterlife that will be a living hell for the lost; it’s a living hell right now. Our response to their plight and to God’s plucking us out of a similar fate should be the same: humility.

We must never take the demonic lightly. Great times of encountering God in power are countered in every way possible by an Enemy who seeks to kill, maim, and destroy. Take that as a corollary.

{Image: Lucifer by Franz von Stuck, 1894}