Monday, November 18, 2013

Knowledge To Overcome Satan

        To overcome the demonic, an understanding of Satan’s character is in order.

First, Satan and his evil demonic entourage are created (Cf. Psalm 148: 2,5; Colossians 1: 16) and real (Zechariah 3: 1-2; Job 1: 6; Matthew 8: 16; Luke 11: 15; Acts 19: 12; Revelation 16: 14) spiritual beings. The Bible speaks of Satan and his entourage of being real, as it does of God, Jesus, Disciples of Christ etc. If Satan is real, we should hold to the following truths:
(1) Satan is not a myth (Liberal Christian theologian Rudolph Bultmann claimed that Satan and Hell are myths.1).
(2) Satan is not to be depersonalized. (Christian existentialist theologian Paul Tillich depersonalized Satan, claiming that the ‘demonic’ is a characterization of powerful social forces and structures.2)
Second, demons can:
(1) …inflict disease (Matthew 12: 22; Mark 1: 26, 9:17, 20, 25; Luke 9: 39; Acts 8: 7.
(2) …oppose spiritual progress of believers (Ephesians 6: 12) through lies (John 8: 44), deception (Revelation 12: 9), murder (Psalm 106: 37), and blind people to gospel (2 Corinthians 4: 4; Galatians 4: 8). The demons also use temptation, doubt, guilt, fear, confusion, sickness, envy, slander, pride to prevent Christians from being effective witnesses.
(3) …observe the occurrences and derive conclusions from those observations. So the demons know our preferences, private sins etc by virtue of them being territorial (cf. 1 Peter 5:8).
Third, are demons the sole root cause for all the sins of the world? Yes and No! Yes, because we are tempted by the devil. ‘No’ because we have a role to play – our freewill (sinful nature) manipulated by the demonic leads us to sin.

How does human freewill and the demonic play a role in sin or merely getting us into troublesome situations with life? A simple example to illustrate the unholy alliance between man and Satan to cause trouble in man’s life could be taken from the perspective of health. Health is a desired goal of human life, but sickness, resulting from workaholism, conflicts with health (unhealthy and untimely eating resulting in sickness). If we are workaholics and consequently lose our health, we are to be blamed. A possible resolution to this problem is to take intentional steps to overcome our health problems through proper lifestyle. These intentional resolutions are in our domain. The act of being a workaholic and failure to take intentional decisions towards wellness is man’s shortcoming. It’s evident that man has an unquestionable role to play in sin and troubles. Therefore man cannot say that all his problems are because of Satan, implying he is innocent of any transgression.

Of course the Satan plays a role in this situation when he dissuades us from persisting with our intentional resolutions by casting doubts and fear into our minds. “Don’t you have a task to complete before you exit?” could be his simple yet tempting remark into our minds. When we succumb to this satanic temptation, we stay back at work, and are delayed to meet our other obligations. So we remain workaholics and continue to lose our health. This is a case in point of Satan ruining man with his doubts.

Similarly, if a person is dejected about an unforeseen suffering in his life (death of a loved one or unpredicted loss of job), then he could indulge in alcohol. Dejection can be dealt without resorting to alcohol. The permanent cure for dejection is the Lord, so one ought to approach God - ‘throne of grace’ - for deliverance from dejection / sadness (Matthew 11: 28). Instead, if the person approaches Satan - ‘the throne of grave’ (Satan in the mask of alcohol) - he will continue to plunge into more darkness, despair and sin. Satan brings crisis into human life, but man ought to decide whether he will be with God or with Satan.

Some may argue that Satan’s ignorance of our thoughts is a sufficient reason to believe his impotency to transmit thoughts into human mind. Alternatively, if Satan does not know our thoughts, how can he transmit thoughts into our minds? This by itself is not a tenable thought.

Imagine two friends in conversation. Neither of them knows the thoughts of the other. But both can transmit thoughts into the other. For example, one person may inform his friend that he watched a captivating movie. The statement “watched a captivating movie,” in actuality, is a transmitted thought about that movie. Prior to the conversation, the thought that the movie was captivating was nonexistent in the mind of the friend. After the conversation, the friend leaves with a thought that the movie is captivating. Therefore, ignorance of another’s thought is not a sufficient reason to be unable to transmit thoughts into another mind.

The episode between the serpent and Eve (Genesis 3) is an affirmation to Satan’s communication with man. Although Satan does not know the thoughts of man, he can communicate his thoughts into the mind of man (John 13:2). Satan can communicate to us directly, as a good angel communicates to man (Luke 2:10: if a good angel can communicate to man, the evil angel can also communicate with man). Satan can communicate to us through others.

So sin/evil is caused by the devil and he causes it either independently (Job 1: 19, 2: 7) or by manipulating man’s freewill. However, while we overcome Satan, we ought to be sure to discern the cause for our suffering (sin).

Blaming Satan and focusing solely on him is not always the best remedy to overcome Satan. The best remedy is to properly diagnose the cause of the problem. We need to simultaneously overcome our innate problems and Satan. Satan is the primary cause of sins and troubles but we do have a role to play and that we ought not to forget.

We are now aware that Satan and his evil angels are real and factual. Depersonalizing and/or thinking of Satan and his angels as myths are false beliefs.3 Therefore we cannot negate the reality of spiritual warfare. When Satan is real, he is in constant conflict with God and HIS children. The danger in negating spiritual warfare is to focus on a non-existent cause and will result in continuance of pain. In other words, headache ought to be treated with medicine(s) that cures headache and not a medicine that cures Hepatitis.

How then do we overcome Satan? A concise yet an adequate solution is found in Ephesians 6: 10-11, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil…” (NASB, Emphasis mine).  

If we are to be strong in the Lord, it is mandatory for us to remain in Christ always. We should be equipped with the following:

(1) Remaining in Christ includes learning God’s Word. While learning God’s Word, we earnestly seek the Spirit of God to illumine our hearts, so that we remain within the confines of truth. It is common knowledge that Christ refuted the evil one with the Word of God. Our response ought to be similar.

(2) Remaining in Christ includes prayer. Praying continually and acting in the power of God defuses demonic situations (cf. Mark 9: 29).

Learning, applying God’s Word and remaining in prayer enables one to discern between the right and the wrong and good and the evil (cf. 1 John 4: 1-6). These are aspects that should be absolutely governed by the Holy Spirit. The believer develops his discernment as he grows in the Lord (cf. Deuteronomy 28:9; Colossians 1: 9-10).

There is however one crucial aspect that Christians normally tend to overlook, which is the mind. The Satan strives to gain supremacy over the Christian’s mind. The Christian’s mind is where spiritual battles are won and lost. Romans 12:2 says that the renewal of our mind and our spiritual transformation are intricately connected. If our minds are not renewed through proper worship, our spiritual transformation will be delayed and harmful.

How then do we renew our minds? The sole possessions of our mind are God and HIS Word – HIS truth, HIS righteousness, the gospel, faith in HIM, and the knowledge of our salvation (cf. Luke 11: 21-26; Ephesians 6: 14-18). Very minimally, we are to reject thoughts that are from Satan and retain thoughts from God. We recognize satanic thoughts for they act against God and HIS Word. So we take every thought and commit it to the authority of Christ (cf. 2 Corinthians 10: 5).

Philippians 4: 8-9 offers a wise conclusion to overcome Satan, “Here is a last piece of advice. If you believe in goodness and if you value the approval of God, fix your minds on the things which are holy and right and pure and beautiful and good. Model your conduct on what you have learned from me, on what I have told you and shown you, and you will find the God of peace will be with you” (J.B Phillips New Testament). Amen.

1 Rudolf Bultmann, “New Testament and Mythology,” in Kerygma and Myth, p5.
2 Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology, vol 2, p27.
3 Removing Satan from reality poses many complications (e.g. how does one explain the cause of sin / moral evils?). Many scholars have postulated theories of depersonalization (Tillich) and demythologization (Bultmann), but each of these theories has serious pitfalls and fails to reasonably defend itself. Bultmannian program of demythologization, although replaced neoorthodoxy, is a constricted view that failed to defend itself against the likes of theologian Ernst Käsemann (a pupil of Bultmann) and the biblical testimony (E.g. Demythologizing Christ’s resurrection contradicts 1 Corinthians 15:12-19). Bultmann’s personal thought, words and world, dethrones God from HIS Word and enthrones the perennially sinful man’s subjective thoughts into God’s Word. 

No comments: