The Reality & Personality of Evil
It is immediately apparent that the Apostle Paul believes in the reality and personality of evil. Someone has said that one of the finest acts of strategy that Satan performs is to convince people that he doesn’t exist. So why do I believe in Satan?
Jesus Warned Us
I believe in a personal, real devil because Jesus warned us about him. In fact, almost all of the clear teaching that we have comes from Jesus’ lips. Jesus is quite specific about the reality and personality of evil as well as the dangers in many passages in the New Testament, including John 8, John 12, Mark 4 and Luke 22. The temptation of Jesus is a prime example of the reality of the devil. Where do you think we found out about the temptation? We didn’t get it from Luke, Matthew or Satan. We got it from Jesus…who didn’t waste words. When Jesus speaks, the wise believer will listen. And not only from Jesus, the whole of the Bible witnesses to the reality of Satan. There are a lot of things I don’t like about the Scriptures, one of the major ones is the doctrine of Satan.
The temptation of Jesus is a prime example of the reality of the devil.
Another reason I believe in Satan is existential. He is alive and well in our lives today. We’re a sophisticated age enmeshed in technology and science. But if that’s the case, why are so many being drawn into the occult? Evil is a present reality. It proposes a clear and present danger to the body of Christ.
Without the existence of Satan but with a logical mind, we have a problem. How do you explain Hitler, Dachau and Auschwitz? What about 9/11? What about war? In every major culture in the history of mankind, there has been the understanding of a great dichotomy that exists in our universe. A great split. A great flaw. Love and hate. Good and evil. In earlier cultures, good gods and bad gods. It took the biblical Judeo-Christian tradition to bring it into perspective. Satan is personal and real. If you believe in God and if you are logical, you believe in that reality.
In My Own Life
I have also experienced the reality and personality of evil in my own life. I have seen Satan walking down the city streets. I have seen Satan in a drunk’s bottle. I have seen Satan smiling as crowds lined up for an “adult movie.” I have seen Satan’s writing in the words of a hate letter. I have seen Satan in the hurt, emptiness and frustration of humanity. Sometimes, late at night when I can’t sleep, I have seen Satan in the fear, anger and guilt of my own life.
How Does Satan Operate?
Satan has many tricks or “wiles” (as it is expressed in Scripture). Satan doesn’t come up and introduce himself with, “Hi, I’m Satan and I’m going to destroy you.” Of course not. Satan comes as a mysterious stranger, as one who cares and understands, and as one who’s willing to listen. Then he attacks.
The Bible calls Satan the Tempter. Satan is an accuser before God and an accuser to us. Have you ever, after you’ve had a mountaintop experience and then sinned, had the thought, “If you’re really a Christian, you wouldn’t have done that”? You didn’t get that from God. In the Bible, Jesus calls Satan a liar. Have you heard the slander that comes from Christians about other Christians? Have you heard the anger, bitterness and lies that rail against the truths of God? Someone has said that the devil tempts youth with beauty, the ambitious with power and the rich with gold. Satan is crafty. He always says, “Take what you want…and pay for it later.”
A Supernatural Battle
According to Paul, the battle in which we, as Christians, are engaged is not psychological, monetary, social or administrative. Our battle is supernatural. Years ago in seminary I learned administration and pastoral counseling. I did my clinical work at a mental hospital. I learned so many things, yet nobody taught me how to pray. Nobody taught me how to get on my knees and storm the gates of heaven.
Take a look at the supernatural battle in Judges 7. Gideon went out to fight against the Midianites with 32,000 men. Even with 32,000 men, it was not enough…but God told him that it was too many and for him to cut it down. So Gideon asked anybody who was afraid to leave…and he ended up with 10,000 men remaining. Gideon said, “All right, guys, this is not very many, but we’ll go up against them.” God had other plans and had Gideon test them again, this time by how they drank water. Finally, it was down to 300 men. If I were Gideon at that point I would have been scared and tempted to leave too. The key verse (Judges 7:9) is “That same night the Lord said to Gideon, ‘Arise, go down against the camp; for I have given it into your hands…’” That is the battle supernatural.
We Have Already Won the Battle
As human, finite creatures, we have lost the battle, but as children of the King, we have already won it. Why? Because of 1 John 4:4, “He [Christ] who is in you, is greater than he [Satan] who is in the world.” Many Christians believe that Satan is sovereign, not God. Many Christians look under their beds for demons, seeing demons in every facet of their lives. To them, I offer a reminder. Satan does nothing except by the permission of the Sovereign God. God is in control of the supernatural battle.
Many Christians believe that Satan is sovereign, not God.
James 4:7 teaches, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” Why is that? It is not because we’re so smart or have the power. It is because, on the cross, Christ already won the battle.
When I was growing up, there was a neighborhood bully a few years older than me. He had me “in his sights.” The bully one day came into my yard…and I was scared to death. After a few very long seconds, I decided that the only way to win this thing was to stand up against him, so I started to move towards him. The bully was scared. In fact, he began to tremble all over. I said to myself, Man, I’m really something! Then I turned around and noticed my father, having heard all the noise, standing behind me on the front porch. It is the same way for us. As believers, we have all the power of the universe at our disposal. The dragon has been slain.
Time to Draw Away
Read Matthew 4:1-11 & 1 Peter 5:6-11
What struggle in your life can you attribute to Satan? Your sovereign Father God has already won that particular supernatural battle and all your other battles—past, present and future. That is what the cross is all about. It is God’s ultimate victory…out of love for you.