The Supernatural World

On the book of Job, chapters 1-2…

From award-winning author, Philip Yancey’s, book, The Bible Jesus Read:

“Nowhere else in the Bible are we more clearly informed of a realm beyond our own – one we cannot see but, nonetheless, exists.

“Like Job, we live in ignorance of what is going on ‘behind the curtains.’ Job reminds us that the small history of mankind on this earth takes place within the large drama of the history of the universe. We are foot-soldiers in a spiritual battle with cosmic significance.

“In the words of C.S. Lewis, ‘There is no neutral ground in the universe – every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counter-claimed by Satan.” (Philip Yancey)

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For Those Who Laugh at the Thought of a Real Devil

The Bible is clear: Satan exists,

He is introduced to us in Genesis 3. And, Jesus refers to him repeatedly in the gospels.

Yet, many people – including believers – forget about his relentless pursuit to make us lose our faith or, better yet, prevent us from coming to faith in Christ altogether.

In Matthew 4 and Luke 4, Jesus confronts Satan head-on in the Judean wilderness.

Satan was forced to flee. But he never gave up.

Never.

In his book, When the Enemy Strikes, Charles Stanley asserts,

He showed up again in Nazareth.

He showed up again in the demonically possessed.

He showed up again in public attacks used to assault Jesus’ credibility and authority.

He showed up again in the Garden of Gethsemane.

He showed up again and again pursuing his ultimate goal of enticing Jesus to say no to the Cross.

But Satan failed.  Every time.

So now his fury is directed toward us.

The devil has attacked every person who has ever lived. You and I are no exceptions.

For those who have placed their faith in the risen Christ, the Bible tells us, despite Satan’s relentless attempts to tempt us to live in a discouraged, defeated and worldly state of mind, “we have overwhelming conquered through [Christ] who loves us.”

But for those who laugh at the thought of a real devil…

…he’s laughing at you.

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

The Exorcists – A Word about Demonic Possession

I remember the first time I saw young Linda Blair’s head spin around in the 1973 monster-hit (pun intended), The Exorcist. It scared the you-know-what out of me.

I’ve professed my faith in Christ since then. And that, according to the Bible, changes everything. Powerfully.

The Daily Beast recently published a story on the Vatican’s Exorcist Convention.  You can read the story here.  The article  interests me since the conference has “grown ten fold” since the annual event began in 2004.

Whenever demonic possession is a topic of discussion, almost always what people believe is based not on scripture, but on Hollywood films and/or someone’s creepy story.

Sadly, this applies to many professing Christians as well.

In short, the “father of lies”, as Jesus called him, perpetuates “fake news” wherever demonology is concerned.

Years ago, I was listening to one of my favorite Bible teachers, Chuck Smith.  He wisely said,

We cannot allow experience to become the criteria for truthTruth comes from the Word of God.  Allowing the Word of God to be our final authority frees us from being forced to judge which conflicting human experience is true and which one is false.  So we rest our case on the Word of God.

So, to the Word of God we go….

According to the Bible:

1. Satan is real, making his biblical debut in Genesis, chapter 3, in the form of a serpent. By the way, he makes his exit in Revelation 20:10.

2. Demonic possession is real.  Demons are not the invention of Dante – they are real, sometimes called “wicked…unclean spirits,”   There are a seven passages in the gospels recording specific scenes of Jesus casting out demons.  Most of these scenes are commonly recorded by Matthew, Mark & Luke.  (Interestingly, only the first three gospels mention Jesus exorcising demons.)  Then, there are numerous passages describing, indirectly, Jesus’ authority over demons – as in having “cast seven demons out of Mary Magdelene,” “he also drove out many demons,” etc.  “Professional exorcists” describe dramatic events during exorcising. Are these events possible? Sure – almost anything’s possible. (And Satan, a consummate narcissist, loves the attention.) But, we must always be careful to make scripture – not contemporary stories or Hollywood – our primary authority on this topic.  Although the Bible clearly records the demon-possessed, at times, convulsing,  possessing supernatural strength and even speaking from the possessed individual, not once does it record anyone’s head spinning around. 🙂 Although the origination of demons is ambiguous scripturally, their destiny, according to Jesus, is clear.

3. The Bible never once gives us permission – or even encourage us – to seek Satan out. The old saying, “If you go looking for trouble, chances are you’ll find it,” applies. It is a fool who seeks to pick a fight with our ancient foe, who is a brilliant strategist, master manipulator, and is keenly aware of our many flaws and weaknesses.  Believers tend to forget that Adam and Eve enjoyed a level of intimacy with God that is beyond our comprehension and, yet, were still fooled by the deceptive expertise of the serpent.  Jude, the half-brother of Jesus, records that even the archangel, Michael, chose not to pick a fight with Satan (apart from the Lord’s authority to do so) but rather rebuked him in the name of Jesus Christ.

4. Lastly, no church or denomination need “authorize you” to cast out a demon should that moment ever present itself.  With humble respect to my Catholic friends, attending a conference is not necessary to be equipped to face Satan.  Further, should that encounter ever arise, it will not be necessary to call a Catholic priest – since the Bible clearly states all believers are priests. Believers were “authorized” the very nano-second Christ took up residence inside of you. We’re told not only that Jesus cast out demons, but that he gave authority to his followers to do the same. Just as his followers were given authority over Satan, so are we today. James, the half-brother of Jesus, wrote that “demons tremble” at the mere thought of Jesus. And it’s on Christ’s authority – and his authority alone – we are able to command evil spirits. (Luke records an unsettling, if not comical, story in Acts 19:13-16 of those foolish enough to face Satan without Christ’s authority.) Additionally, contrary to how it’s portrayed in movies, note that every single time Jesus cast out a demon there was no lengthy “street fight between good and evil” – not even with the “legion” of demons.  Jesus commanded. And the terrified demons immediately obeyed (sometimes pleading for their lives). As I mentioned above, never go looking for a fight with the devil. But, bought with Christ’s blood and filled with the Holy Spirit, we don’t have to run away from one either.

I’ve been asked, “Can a Christian be possessed?” I usually smile and reply, “Oh, but Christians are possessed.”  I continue, “The Bible tells us we’re possessed – by the Holy Spirit, which is God, himself. We’ve been purchased – ‘bought with a price’, Paul wrote. And that price is the precious blood of Jesus Christ. We can’t be ‘re-possessed.’ We’re ‘off the market.’ Besides, no demon would ever even attempt to possess us – they’re terrified of Who lives and reigns in us.”

Jesus said, “Satan has no hold on me.” Neither does he have a hold on us – God’s children.

I once visited with a former satanic high priest who had finally professed his faith in Christ. He told me,

“Nick, I saw evil on a very powerful scale while I served Satan in the priesthood. But I must confess: never – I mean, never – did I behold real power – terrifying power – until I met the almighty Christ.”

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

Would You Recognize the Devil if You Saw Him?

Some time back, I was reading part of a work by 16th century theologian, Ignatius of Loyola. The quote below gave me pause and prompted the question: Would you recognize the devil is you saw him?  I believe many Christians do not.

“The enemy…makes a tour of inspection of our virtues…Where he finds us *weakest and most defective*…he attacks at that point…little by little, he tries to achieve his own purposes, by dragging the soul down to his secret designs and corrupt purposes.” (Ignatius of Loyola, 1491-1556; writing of the subtle, systematic, almost unnoticed wiles of the devil)

In his book, Peace With God, Billy Graham writes in response to the erroneous impression that the devil is some sort of fiendish imp with horns, a pitchfork and a pointed tail.

“The truth is that the devil is a creature of vastly superior intelligence, a mighty gifted spirit of [vast] resources… His reasoning is brilliant, his plans ingenious, his logic well-nigh irrefutable.  God’s mighty adversary is no bungling creature with horns and a tail – he is a prince of lofty stature, [possessing] craft and cunning, able to take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself, able to turn every situation to his own advantage.”

The truth of these quotes notwithstanding, the devil is not merely a defeated foe – he is a soundly defeated foe. (The margin of victory wasn’t even close.)  “We overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us,” Paul wrote.  Likewise, John (the disciple and eye-witness of Christ) wrote, “You are from God and have overcome [the devil], for [Christ] who is in you is greater than [the devil] who is in the world.”

I could go on and quote numerous other scriptural references regarding the defeat of, and the impending doom of satan, but the primary purpose of this brief blog is to simply remind believers that the enemy doesn’t usually approach us by surprise, startling us.  No, instead, he comes disguised as “an angel of light,” making himself appear attractive, safe & harmless.  The former atheist, and author of the brilliant Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis, described the tactics of the enemy as a “gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” Case in point, when Genesis, chapter 3, begins we pick up with what appears to be mid-conversation between Eve and the serpent.  I speculate that the serpent has been cultivating Eve’s trust and companionship for some time, earning her ear and trust.  I heard a preacher once say, “Satan will take years, if necessary, to bring a believer down.”

As believers, not once are we instructed to walk in fear (“God did not give us a spirit of fear”), looking for a demon behind every door.  Instead, we’re instructed to boldly walk in the truth of our victory in Christ’s death and resurrection while in a continual state of awareness:  Be alert and of sober mind,” Peter warned. “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”   Why?  So that we might not be “unaware of the devil’s schemes.”

One last sobering thought…

There are two accounts of the wilderness temptation recorded in the Gospels:  Matthew and Luke both record the story.  However, only Luke adds this statement, “And when the devil had ended every temptation [to Jesus], he departed from him until an opportune time.”

If satan had no plans of leaving Jesus alone, what makes us think we are any different?

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

“Then Satan stood against Israel…”

The above phrase is from 1 Chronicles 21:1. We have an enemy – his name is Satan. He’d like for you to forget that. Why? Because you can’t fight an enemy you don’t know exists.

But our enemy he most certainly is.

Jesus cryptically told Simon Peter and the rest of his twelve disciples, “…Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat.” (Lk 22:31)

Paul reminds us, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Eph 6:12)

Matthew & Luke both record Satan standing against Jesus, Himself. (Matthew 4 & Luke 4).

My friends, never forget we have an enemy. His name is Satan. And he wants to not simply maim or cripple us – he wants to destroy us. “Be alert and of sober mind,” Peter wrote, “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)

Satan wants to devour your hope, your peace, your marriage, your family, your attitude,…and most of all your faith in Christ. As he did with Israel, he “stands against” you in all areas related to your faith in Christ.

But there is hope!

The Cross – and the Empty Tomb! This changed everything!!

Now, because Christ, through our faith, makes his home in us, John, the disciple, wrote, “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome [the spirits of darkness], because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4) The Greek word for “overcome” here means, literally, “conquer.”

This is why Paul, writer of most of the New Testament, asserted, “We are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37) Through faith in Christ, we not only “conquer” the enemy, we obliterate him. It’s no wonder Satan would rather go unnoticed in our lives.

So, be continually mindful of two biblical truths: (1) you have an enemy who wants to destroy you; his name is Satan, and (2) Satan is a soundly conquered foe. Because of the Cross and the Empty Tomb, we are more than conquerors though Christ who loved us.

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

Bottom Feeders

The night before he was crucified, Jesus, using the imagery of vineyards, told his disciples, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-dresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he *prunes*, that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:1-2)

This passage haunts me to a degree.

I do want to obey Christ, but I reminded that all believers will, at varied times in ones’ life, be “pruned.”

The word “prune” here literally means ” to cleanse.” It’s the “cutting away of dead wood which is the removal of hindrances that drain spiritual life from a believer.” And God’s “pruning”, albeit necessary to our spiritual health, sometimes hurts.

I have two Crepe Myrtles in my front yard. Every Spring I have to prune both the trunks and the branches, removing those twigs that would hinder & drain nutrients the trees need to bloom properly. Some of those twigs are located at the base of the trunk. I call them “bottom feeders.”

Are there “bottom feeders” (habits, unforgiveness, anger, pride, relationship etc.) in your life hindering you from loving Christ? Satan would love to drain every last drop of our commitment to Christ, leaving us always short of spiritual health.

Soli Deo Gloria, nick

Homeless Demons

[Jesus said],“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’  And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order.  Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first.”  Luke 11:24-26

There are dozens of sermons in this passage.  Allow me to briefly focus on just one: the security & authority one has in Christ.

First of all, this passage must not be taken out of the context of the canon of Scripture.  One who has professed their faith in the risen Christ cannot be demon-possessed (cf. 1 Cor. 6:19-20; Eph. 1:13-14)  A believer is already “possessed” – by the Holy Spirit.  John MacArthur rightly comments on this passage:  “When a demon is defeated by the power of Christ, the soul vacated by the power of darkness is taken over by Christ.”

It should be noted that the principles taught by Jesus in this passage apply without restriction to a non-believer.  This truth is sobering. The torment of evil spirits can be manifested in chronic anger, bitterness, a critical spirit, unforgiveness, pride, sexual addiction, lying, disrespect for authority, fear, etc.  For the non-believer, to try and “will” these self-destructive habits away can, indeed, lead to momentary improvement.  But, according to Jesus, the relief is merely temporalChrist, the Bible tells us, is the only “cure” for sin.  (cf. Romans 8:1)  A demon is not afraid of “a house swept and put in order.”  A demon, on the other hand, is terrified of a “house” possessed by the risen Christ.  (cf. James 2:19)

For the believer, as previously stated, the Bible is clear:  we cannot be demon-possessed.  However, the enemy is no fool.  As Billy Graham purports, satan is a strategic genius.  As such, demonic oppression is quite common and can be manifested in the very self-destructive habits mentioned above.  New Testament scholar, Dr. David Garland, comments, “Demons…do whatever they can to neutralize” and twist biblical truth in a believer’s life.  The difference between a believer and a non-believer, when in this state, is profound.  For the believer, all that is required is a conscious re-focusing on the truth: God’s Word.  Jesus said, the truth sets us free.  Paul wrote, “For we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.”  In sum, satan has no hold on believers.  He only wants to make us think he does.  The enemy’s best and most used weapon, after all, is deception.

If you’ve never placed your faith in the risen Christ, please consider His claims.  Honestly investigate the historicity of Jesus and the reliability of the Gospels. 1  Consider the evidence.  Make your own decisions based on the evidence.  Consider Him who loves you so much that He died a horrific death on a wooden cross, then, three days later, authenticated His claims about Himself by rising again.

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.”  The Apostle Paul  (1 Cor. 15:3-4)

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

1 Two very good, very readable books on the topic of evidence for the Christian faith were written by former atheists:  More Than a Carpenter, by Josh & Sean McDowell;  The Case for Christ, by Lee Strobel.   A third book, a little harder to read, but a classic, is Mere Christianity  by C.S. Lewis, also a former atheist.