PART 6 THE INVISIBLE FORCES
PART 6 THE INVISIBLE FORCES
HOW DOES THE DEVIL PREVENT CHRISTIANS FROM OBTAINING
SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS AND BEING A WITNESS FOR CHRIST?
The Devil wants to inhibit Christians from obtaining the spiritual blessings that God has given them and made available for them to partake of so that they won’t reflect Christlikeness to others.
A summary of some of these blessings is as follows.
- To be transformed in the heart so that the outward expressions in word and deed will resemble the Lord Jesus.
- To grow (to continue to make progress daily) in grace (in being yielded to the ministry of the Holy Spirit, through whom will be produced His spiritual qualities within so that these can be manifest without to others, especially while amid trials and sufferings) and in knowledge (possessing the correct views of Christ in all aspects).
- To appropriate truth as an influencing power.
- To operate in spiritual power that instructs, reforms, elevates, and tranquilizes the soul.
- To identify with Christ in suffering for righteousness’s sake.
- To be inwardly conformed to the likeness of Christ (to his spirit, temper, meekness, submissiveness, unselfish love, devotion, etc.).
- To be daily set apart from sin, dying unto self and to the world, so that he/she may be a blessing to others.
So, how is the Devil able to inhibit Christians from partaking of these spiritual blessings? That’s a good question. As we shall see, the Devil has a few different kinds of weapons at his disposal. The first one that we will look at has the objective of totally destroying the believer.
What do you think this weapon is called?
The first weapon that we will look at that the Devil has at his disposal is persecution. This is identified as such in the book of 1 Peter.
1 Peter 5:8
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:
Peter is instructing believers about a foe who is incessantly out to destroy them. He is called their adversary (of an opponent in a lawsuit), the Devil (one who brings a false charge against another with hostility), who is depicted as a roaring lion (setting out to destroy us by violent opposition, persecution, and death38). that goes to and fro on the earth seeking whom he may devour (utter destruction). This is an allusion to the horrors of the Neronian persecutions in the Roman Coliseum, in which lions mauled and devoured Christians. Satan desires to do the same thing spiritually, i.e., to defeat believers’ testimonies.39
With this in mind, what do the Scriptures reveal to us as to who to look out for in this regard?
A. WORLD LEADERS
Suggested Reading: Daniel Chapter 9 & 10:1-20
The captivity of the Jews under the Babylonians has ended by means of their conquest by Cyrus, king of Persia. Two years earlier, he made a decree to allow for the restoration of the Jews to their homeland in accordance with Daniel’s prayer in the book of Daniel chapter nine. It’s interesting to note that there was a clear admittance by Daniel not only of his own guilt but that of all of Israel in not having obeyed God’s directives. So, he decided not only to admit his own sin but also to declare the sins of the nation to the Lord.
Daniel 9:21 Yea, whiles I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation.
Daniel asked God to remove His fury and anger against the city of Jerusalem while he was praying. What occurred while he was in prayer was a vision. What is a vision? A vision is an altered state of consciousness in which extrasensory audiovisual experiences, usually revelatory in character, are perceived in private by individuals, often prophets or seers. When the vision (as occurring within an earthly setting or may involve apparent out-of-body experiences such as ascents to heaven or descents to the netherworld40) from the Lord came upon him, the angel Gabriel told him about the general state of affairs of the Jews at a significant time later in their future. However, specific information in regard to them in the near future had not yet been disclosed to him. It appeared that the reason for this would be unveiled as we continue to read about this story.
Two years have gone by, and Daniel has a heavy heart. Apparently, only a small number of Jewish exiles had actually returned to their homeland since their release from captivity. There was, also at this time, an issue in regard to the rebuilding of the temple at Jerusalem. The Samaritans (those who were both Jew and Gentile) were refused to be allowed to participate in this rebuild by the Jewish rulers.
Daniel 10:7 And I Daniel alone saw the vision: for the men that were with me saw not the vision; but a great quaking fell upon them, so that they fled to hide themselves.
Daniel, it appears, was still waiting for a reply to his prayer as relating to the state of affairs of his people in regard to their return to their homeland and the temple rebuild. In the hope of receiving a faster response from the Lord, he decided to fast while in mourning (in sadness). After three weeks of fasting had gone by, he received another vision as he was beside a great river called Hiddekel. In this vision, he saw a certain man clothed in linen. The men that were with Daniel didn’t see any man; however, it appeared that they sensed a powerful presence and fled.
Daniel 10:12 Then said he unto me, Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words.
What else Daniel observed within this vision was himself being in a deep sleep lying on the ground and hearing the voice of this man’s words, who touched him with his hands, thus causing him to get up upon his knees with the palm of his hands touching the ground. This man proceeded to tell Daniel that he was sent to him in response to the words of his prayer, which he had spoken at the earlier time.
Daniel 10:13 But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia.
What this man or God-fearing angel conveyed to Daniel next is quite unusual, at least to my understanding. It appeared that before this man attempted to convey to Daniel information in regard to Israel’s state of affairs in the near future, he had to confer with the rulers of Persia in this regard. Huh?
While there, he was resisted by a higher-ranking evil angel called the Prince of Persia, who was probably trying to influence this human court in a manner that would be destructive to the returning Jewish exiles and their attempt to rebuild the temple. This man requested the aid of another angel’s assistance called Michael, one of the chief angels, an archangel, who came to his rescue.
What is going on here? Well, what this appears to be talking about is a spiritual battle for the minds of the earthly ruling elite of Persia. Who would have thought that behind the visible was a war that was being engaged in by the invisible hosts of evil and divine good for a rendering by this court in relation to the Jews. Could it be that both of these angels appeared in human form and engaged in a dialogue with these rulers that would affect Israel’s future?
Daniel 10:14 Now I am come to make thee understand what shall befall thy people in the latter days: for yet the vision is for many days.
It appeared that a favorable outcome came forth because this man told Daniel in the vision that he was now going to declare to him the words that would befall his people in the latter days. I thought it interesting that God didn’t use a prophet to convey to him an answer to his prayer but a vision, and in it one of the messenger angels of God.
What I wanted you to be aware of is this. That what we as Christians witness as going on around us is not just happenstance. Our prayers do matter. Am I going to conclude that every time Christians are persecuted by a world leader that this is because of angelic influence? No, but am I also not going to dismiss the idea that this might be the case.
Who else should Christians be on guard for concerning persecution?
B. UNBELIEVERS – THE RELIGIOUS CROWD
Christianity is the only faith that declares there is only one way to get to heaven, and that is by repentance and faith in Christ. Many faiths have different names for their gods. Some will use the name of Jesus, but will not ascribe to Him the correct designation as being God, one of the members of the Trinity who pre-existed time, came to earth in the form of a man, was born of a virgin never having committed one sin, died on a cross to pay for the penalty for all of the sins ever committed by mankind, having forgiven them (wiped away their record), rose again from the dead after three days, and ascended into heaven.
Some will say that He is the Son of God, but not God. Others say that He really didn’t pay the price for the debt of sin owed by mankind and neither did His sacrifice and death on the cross forgive sin. There are those that say He never rose again because there is no proof that He did. And still, there are others who will profess belief in Christ while stating that there is another way to get to heaven; one example of such is by being baptized in water along with the appearance of the Spirit. The result is that some who profess to be Christians are religious unbelievers, never having received the indwelling Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, without the indwelling Spirit a person cannot experience His divine love, divine peace, divine joy etc., and subsequently will not have the assurance of eternal life.
One example of the religious crowd persecuting Christians is found in regard to the next story in the book of Acts.
Suggested Reading: Acts 21:17-40; Chapters 22-26
Acts 21:18, 21 And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present. And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs.
The apostle Paul finally arrived at his sought-out destination, Jerusalem. While there, he met up with the apostle James along with the elders of the church. He told them about what things God had done in regard to the Gentiles by his ministry. They responded by telling him that there were many Jewish Christians that were upset with him because they believed that he had advocated that they should no longer follow their customs.
Was this true?
Paul’s stance concerning the Jews following their customs was two-fold.
First, there was no observance that they could keep under the Law that could procure their salvation.
Secondly, a Christian cannot become spiritually mature by keeping the commands of the Law.
However, he had no objection to the Jews continuing to observe their Jewish Heritage as long as they understood that keeping the commandments of the Law can’t save or sanctify them.
As a way to indicate to the Jewish religious Christians that he was not teaching as such as they had believed, he was instructed to identify himself with four Jewish men who were under a Nazarite vow. He was instructed to pay for their sacrifices and be with them in the temple for their time of purification. Paul agreed to this plan.
All seemed to be going well until certain unbelieving Jews from Asia saw Paul in the temple. They proclaimed to all of the Jews present that here was the man who was forbidding the Jews to practice their customs. This caused an uproar to take place. Paul was apprehended by them and beaten. Fortunately for him, Roman soldiers arrived at the scene and intervened. They took him with them and brought him to a castle in Caesarea for trial.
As he was being led up the stairs of the castle, he was allowed to address the Jews that had just inflicted harm on him in order to give a defense for himself. In his defense, he stated that he is a Jew who had been under the tutelage of the famous Jewish teacher of the Law, Gamaliel. Following this exhortation, he recounted his journey to Damascus, the purpose of which was so that hopefully, he would find Christians and bring them back to Jerusalem in order that they might be punished. After which, he talked about his conversion to Christ and subsequent return to Jerusalem. These Jews, after deciding that they had heard enough, restated their sentiment that he should be killed. The chief captain of the Roman soldiers decided to bring him into the castle, intending to inflict more punishment on him with the hope of learning what he had actually done to provoke the Jews in this manner.
Paul remained in this castle/prison for a few years until a man named Festus Porcius, succeeded Felix (60 AD) as procurator (an employee of the Roman emperor in civil affairs, especially in finance and taxes, in the management of imperial estates and properties, and in governing minor provinces.) of Judea. A few weeks after he had entered this office, the case of Paul, then remaining still a prisoner at Caesarea, was reported to him. The high priest was allowed with some of the other accusers of Paul to come to Caesarea before Festus to testify against him but none of what they said about him could be proved. Following this, Festus asked Paul if he would like to go with him to Jerusalem to be judged there; but Paul refused, saying that he had done nothing to deserve a sentence of death. Being a roman citizen, he proceeded to appeal his case to Caesar in Rome.
On the following day, Festus heard Paul defend himself in the presence of Herod Agrippa II (the son of Herod Agrippa I and the great-grandson of Herod the Great who was appointed by the Roman Emperor Claudius as ruler of Abilene, which is part of Galilee, along with Iturea, and Trachonitis) along with the accompaniment of his sister Bernice. Paul stated that he was a member of the Pharisees, which was the strictest religious sect of the Jews in doctrine and morality.
Acts 26:20 But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.
He went on to say that he was commissioned by the chief priests to have Christians be placed in prison and giving consent that they should be killed. However, when Jesus made himself known to him, as he was on his way to Damascus, he believed in Him as the promised Messiah/Savior, who was raised from the dead and was now sitting as the right hand of God the Father. Instead of continuing to persecute Christians, he was now commissioned to find unbelievers, to enlighten and instruct them, and to turn them not only from the darkness of paganism and sin to the light and purity of the gospel but also from the dominion of Satan, so that they might receive purification of the heart and heirship among the saints.
Acts 26:21 For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me.
Then Paul declared further that it was because of these occurrences that the Jews sought to kill him. Herod, after having listened to Paul didn’t find anything in his defense worthy of death or bonds and would have set him free had he not appealed his case unto Caesar. In consequence of this appeal, Paul was sent to Rome for trial.
Think of it, here are the very Jews to whom Christ came as their Messiah and was rejected by them, but when given another chance by one of His messengers to respond favorably to the gospel, they rejected Him again. This is religion at all its finest. Kill those who bring a message of abundant life. Religion advocates its followers to keep on worshipping God in one’s own power, by one’s own merit, with hopefully desiring that they eventually win His favor.
There is one more group of people that I believe will shock you when you find out who they are, who will also persecute believers. I bet that you will never guess who these are?
C. FELLOW BORN-AGAIN CHRISTIANS
Say it is not so. I have to admit that when I began to notice this, it was quite disturbing. In the early days of the Christian church, the Jewish apostles would go into the Jewish synagogues and proclaim the gospel of Christ. Eventually, the synagogue doors became closed to them. They didn’t go into the synagogue and hear the rabbi teach on the Mosaic Law, and then as they walked out after the worship service was over, proclaim what the rabbi said was a good message. This is the dilemma that I found myself in when I was conducting a Sunday morning service where I live.
Some of the Christians who attended were also attending other faiths whose messages were centered on ritual and ceremony. Their mindset was that if they stayed in said church, then God would use them to proclaim the gospel of Christ to the church members in His time and in His manner. I looked at this in a totally different light. By staying in a religious church, I expressed that what would eventually happen to them is that they would become religious. The pure gospel of repentance of sins to God the Father and belief in his Son for salvation will be changed to another gospel that involved some act of human merit.
When we think about the apostles of the early church mission, their mission was to proclaim the gospel of Christ and help the newly converted rely on the ministry of the Holy Spirit. They were not interested in rules or ceremonies, and neither did they decide to settle for that. There were repeated warnings in the Epistles, the book of Acts, and the book of Revelation to watch out for those teachers, which focused on human philosophy, which focused on performing good works of the flesh, which focused on human merit for obtaining God’s favor, which focused on adhering to the commands of the Mosaic Law, and which proclaimed that salvation could be obtained through obedience to church traditions.
I was told by one member of the assembly that I was no longer teaching Christ after I made the proclamation to beware of religion. This reminded me of something Paul said to the born-again believers at Philippi.
Let’s go to the book of Philippians.
Suggested Reading: Philippians 3:17-19
The apostle Paul was instructing the brethren to become fellow imitators of him and to fix their attention on those believers who walk in such a manner as they have us for the right example.
18 For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:
He says that there are many Christians, who live as the enemies of the cross (of the death) of Christ. There are two schools of thought as to whom Paus was referring to. Some say that they are Judaizers (Christian Jews) who taught that an unbeliever is made righteous by the observance of the Levitical sacrifices. Others say that they are Christian Greeks of Epicurean tendencies. The Epicureans represented a Greek school of philosophy, which taught that the satisfaction of the physical appetites was the highest aim of man. They had allowed their Christian liberty to degenerate into licentiousness. They did not understand God's grace and thus thought lightly of continuing in sin.41 Based on the way they chose to live, this destroyed the meaning of Christ’s death on the cross.
19 Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.
No matter who Paul was referring to, he goes on to say this about them, whose end (inevitable outcome) is that they will suffer destruction; whose God is their belly (worshipping their own appetites, sexual gratifications, and self-indulgences; who live with not any reference to eternity; … but only to eat, drink, and be merry42), whose glory is in their shame (being proud of sensuality and carnality, but these things are what they should be ashamed of43) and who mind earthly things (to depend on earthly things to gain favor with God; their whole study and attention are taken up with earthly matters44; they were holding on to earthly rituals and beliefs that God had given to Israel, and they were opposing the heavenly blessings that the Christian has in Christ45).
Paul was shedding tears in regard to these believers. How sad it is to have the indwelling Holy Spirit and not enjoy His presence, teaching, and guidance. How sad it is to continue to live according to the dictates of the flesh instead of the dictates of the Spirit. How sad it is to reveal the same life you lived before you were saved, after having received newness of life. How sad it is not to be able to have spiritual fellowship with these believers in Christ.
I hope you will remember that the Devil has many weapons at his disposal to disrupt our walk with God.
There is another weapon that the Devil uses to severely inhibit believers in their walk with God? This weapon is rejected by many as being figments of one’s imaginations.
So, what is a projection?
This was something I was totally unaware of when I became a Christian. I initially became aware of what this was when I went on staff for a church that was located in my hometown. This church provided housing for its members. On one particular evening, I knelt down to pray in my bedroom. As I was offering up prayer, all of a sudden, an image of a particular person appeared from my past, who I was associated with, in let’s say, a sexual way. This interrupted my prayer, and I have to admit that I was quite alarmed by this. As I thought about what had just happened, I realized this was a projection from the forces of evil trying to inhibit me from continuing on in prayer.
I would reclassify this and call it an evil projection.
So, what is an evil projection?
An evil projection is something that comes into the mind, which could come in the form of an image of someone with whom we had some kind of engagement in regard to sin, or thoughts that try to stimulate us to think evil about someone else that have no basis in fact, or thoughts relating to a regretful action that we had committed against someone in the past, or thoughts relating to a regretful action that we wish we could have prevented from happening.
How do we know whether this projection came from the satanic forces of evil or whether this was triggered by someone or some situation we had just encountered? Sometimes the distinction isn’t always clear. However, if a projection occurs when you are occupied with prayer, praise, or studying the Word, this could be a pretty good indication that the forces of evil are trying to inhibit you in your walk with God.
Is there a scriptural basis for this?
There is. Let’s go to Ephesians 6.
Suggested Reading: Ephesians 6:10-16
12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
The apostle Paul considers every Christian as being engaged in warfare against numerous, powerful, and subtle foes. Their leader, the Devil, uses his wiles (his methods; the different means, plans, schemes, and machinations which he uses to deceive, entrap, enslave, and ruin the souls of men46) against believers.
16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
One of the methods he uses against them is called the fiery darts of the wicked (the evil one). There are a number of ways to describe fiery darts.
They can be referred to as:
- Considerations darted into the mind… sometimes, they start up suddenly in the mind, even in the middle of holy exercises.47
- Lies, blasphemous thoughts, hateful thoughts about others, doubts, and burning desires for sin.48
There is also something more about them that the believer should know.
- Come suddenly, as arrows sped from a bow.
- Come from unexpected quarters, as arrows shot suddenly from an enemy in ambush.
- Pierce, and penetrate, and torment the soul, as arrows would that are on fire.
- Set the soul on fire, and kindle the worst passions, as fiery darts do to a ship or a camp against which they are sent.49
Are there any other weapons that are left at the Devil’s disposal?
There is one more.
BY FALSE TEACHING
I believe that this is one of the Devil’s most successful weapons, which he uses to prevent people from getting saved and stunt the growth of born-again Christians. For the unbeliever, he offers a myriad of gods to believe in, proclaiming that all roads lead to the same place. For the believer, he tries to obscure any reliance on the ministry of the Holy Spirit. He does this by advocating through his messengers (his false teachers) that the believer is still responsible for observing some of the commands of the Mosaic Law, which was given to the Jews as a schoolmaster (a tutor) in order to bring them to Christ. He also obscures their reliance on the ministry of the Holy Spirit by using teachers who advocate religious freedom (the freedom to engage in the sins of the flesh e.g., adultery, fornication, homosexuality, rape, lesbianism, polygamy, incest, slander, lying, extortion, etc.) as being allowances of their liberty in Christ.
Let’s take a look at an example as to how the Devil uses this weapon of false teaching against believers.
Suggested Reading: 2 Corinthians 11:3-20
3 But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
The Devil, as he beguiled (deceived) Eve in the Garden of Eden, desires to corrupt the minds of believers as to their single-hearted faith in Christ.
4 For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.
He does this in three ways:
- By preaching another Jesus.
This refers to His identity. The Devil has no issue with any religion or teaching that proclaims that Jesus is a prophet, teacher, angel, Michael the archangel, or even the Son of God, as long as He is not referred to as being God come in the flesh who is one of the members of the Trinity; the other two members being God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.
- By receiving another spirit.
He desires that the spirit of human perception (self-promotion, self-direction, self-satisfaction) be that which characterizes the teachings of those who are in the leadership positions of the church so that this same spirit also characterizes the perception of its members.
- By accepting another gospel.
The Devil’s gospel is to support the sentiment that all roads lead to the same place. Teachings are encouraged, which center around the ideas that Jesus’ payment for sin has no value; Jesus was not raised from the dead; no one goes to hell; Jesus is not God come in the flesh; there is no need for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit; human merit will secure a person’s eternal destiny, and self-satisfying sinful desires are to be condoned.
13 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.
His false apostles (those who claim to have divine authority) are deceitful workers (imposters) whose motives are to get personal gain by capturing converts. They offer an admixture of the Mosaic Law and grace. Instead of being empowered by the Holy Spirit, they emphasize do’s and don’ts, which they proclaim will please God. They masquerade, meaning that they advocate a change on the outside but not on the inside. Some will even teach that you can live the way you want as long as you follow the protocols of their church (e.g., tithe; volunteer for church activities; observe certain days of the year; etc.).
14-15 And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.
Furthermore, they masquerade as the ministers of righteousness (gentleman of the cloth; agents of good). This should not be a surprise because Satan himself is a pseudo emissary persuading men to do things under the name of religion. Therefore, it is nothing so great that Satan’s agents are faithful and upright (morally), whose works are works of deception.
It’s unfortunate today that there are many Christians who have become a new creation but are attending churches that don’t preach the gospel and instead advocate that it is by means of doing good deeds that will procure favor with God. They believe that the basis for securing entrance into heaven is by being subjected to or partaking in some kind of human action (e.g., water baptism, communion, observing sacraments, attending holy days, tithing, keeping the 7th day Sabbath, etc.). Pleasing God is relegated to adhering to patterns of outward observance. Fellowship with Him by means of the ministry of the Holy Spirit is substituted by engaging in church activities that have a godly tradition. Church becomes a social gathering with a godly slant with minimal or no impact of divine power.
So, now that you are aware as to the weapons that the Devil uses against believers in order to inflict bodily harm, even death; that distort their mental reasoning by means of projections; that confuse by means of false teachings, how is the Christian able to fight against each of them? Follow me to the next chapter, and we will find out.
40International Standard Bible Encyclopedia Pc Study Bible version 5, 2005, 07 April 2015 ˂http://www.biblesoft.com>.
45The Bible Exposition.
48The Bible Exposition.
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