If there is anything that is especially challenging to a material-minded civilization such as the one in which we live, it is the inescapable fact that we have been created as spiritual beings.
As evidenced by not only our ability to comprehend abstract and complex themes such as love, freedom, beauty and grace, but also our NEED to articulate and develop them, there is in the human soul a spark that reflects the image of the Giver of that spark — God Himself.
Throughout history, we see the ebb and flow of the manifestations of that spark as our spiritual yearnings lift our eyes from the “mundane” affairs of everyday life and cause us to reflect on eternal things. But therein lies a great danger waiting to ensnare us should we haphazardly plunge into the spiritual world heedless of its various perils. For if it is ultimately lethal to deny spiritual reality, it is also a grave and disastrous matter to turn to spiritual ideas and teachings that masquerade as truth but are, in fact, deceptions.
During our brief visit on planet earth, our pilgrimage through life places us upon a path that has “hiding in the rocks” of our circumstances, a band of robbers ready to attack and place in bondage the unwary (similar to the traveler mentioned in Luke 10:30) – only these are spiritual beings which war with God upon the battlefield of human history.
Although I realize such discussion is often unpleasant and uncomfortable (as well it should be), let us entertain for a moment that there are indeed spiritual forces at work in the world and many of these are not benevolent or benign, but are instead malevolent and cunning. “… For 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).
The forces of evil are not primarily societal ills (although such problems are manifestations of the reality of that evil). The dark powers are not political parties (although it must be said that parties and politicians can be influenced and manipulated by such forces). The “bad guys” in this world are not even other religions (although anything that steers us from the truth of the Gospel is a tool or means to thwart God’s will for our lives). No, the real “bad guys” moving behind the scenes and opposing God’s activity and lordship over His creation are spiritual beings.
The prince of these spiritual beings at war with the God and the eternal hope that we have in Christ is generally referred to in the Scriptures as “the devil.” Satan, as he is also frequently called (which means “accuser” or sometimes “adversary”) delights in our misfortune, gloats in our rebellion against God, and finds his greatest pleasure in our rejection of God’s offer of hope through Jesus. Hence the Biblical admonition to, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8 ESV).
Setting aside what Hollywood may sensationally tell us in our cinemas or even on our television or TiVo screens, chief among the deadly tools that comprise this enemy’s repertoire is the tool of deceit. If he can simply deceive us into not trusting God’s promises, we are a defeated people. If he can trick us into not heeding God’s warnings and loving appeals to turn to Him and repent of our own waywardness, we are a people who are perishing. If he can throw enough of the “dust” of confusion and doubt into the air when the Truth is presented to us, we may hesitate just long enough to miss our windows of grace and remain enslaved to our passions and pride, or worse, shackled to spiritual powers that work to keep us from a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Consider this deceiver’s “modus operandi” throughout the account of the Scriptures and it becomes clear that it is as Jesus declares in John 8:44b, that “…(the devil) was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
Humanity’s initial plummet from his special position in walking with God at the beginning of time was triggered by the crafty guile of this great adversary. “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God actually say, “You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?”’ And the woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.”’ But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil’” (Genesis 3:1-5 ESV).
And so, as our first ancestors hearkened to his voice, they rejected the love and Law of God, ushering in the bitter fruit of that rebellion. And still, though the Lord gracefully did not cast us away, but immediately began the great work of rebuilding connections with His broken creation, the devil continues to attempt to thwart and disturb God’s people, seeking again and again to deceive them into turning aside from God’s will and Word. Though the evil one is largely successful in his purpose to “lead the whole world astray” (Revelation 12:9), and the bitter consequences of such successful deception wrack our planet with pain, take care to simply look to the Truth, trust Him, obey Him, and know that you are secure in your victory.
Do not treat as trivial the spiritual messages constantly beamed your way but consider carefully how the things in which you trust stack up against the truth of Christ. Cultivate a real and abiding relationship with God through the reading of His Bible and through prayer. And as you become a student of God’s Word, “do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1 ESV).
We live in a serious age among conflicting and contradictory philosophies wielded by ancient spiritual powers seeking to lead us astray. Choose wisely then the voices to which you listen. But remember this too, “you are from God and have overcome them, for He Who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4 ESV).
Pastor Thom Mollohan leads Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.