The Truth about the Devil
- Greg Laurie Senior Pastor, Harvest Christian Fellowship
- 2020 3 Nov
Many people don’t believe the devil is real, but he is. They might think, “Oh please. The devil. Really? Do you actually believe there is a devil?” Yes, I do.
In fact, when you get down to it, the devil is the obvious and logical explanation of the evil that is running rampant in our world today. People wonder why so many horrible things are happening, and they speculate about many different root causes, but they miss this most significant truth: There is a devil, and he is evil. People often do wicked and depraved things because Satan has influence, if not outright control, over them.
Evil is alive in the world. Just read the news for evidence. Even when people are “cultured” and “civilized,” they are capable of so much evil. Germany has always been an amazing nation known for its citizens’ intelligence, culture, music, technology, architecture, and intellectualism. Yet that nation, by and large, followed the lead of Adolf Hitler and killed six million people. They would have killed more if they were allowed to.
That just shows how evil can penetrate any culture. And it can penetrate any life. You can laugh off Satan, but he should be taken seriously.
It seems we fall into two extremes when it comes to the devil. C. S. Lewis summed it up perfectly. He said:
“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about [Satan and his demons]. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.”
That is true. We must never underestimate the devil. He is a sly and skillful foe. He’s had years to perfect his craft.
Here are three truths we need to know about the devil.
1. The devil is not God’s equal.
Sometimes we look at God and the devil like Yin and Yang, or like Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker using the dark side and the light side of the Force—equal but opposing. It is not like that. God is all-powerful and has no equal in the universe. Having said that, the devil (also called Lucifer) has considerable power…but nothing near the power of God.
God is omnipotent (all-powerful), omniscient (all-knowing), and omnipresent (everywhere at the same time). Satan does not have any of those divine attributes.
The devil is not omnipotent. He is a super being with great power—more than any man and most angels—yet he is nowhere near the equal of God.
The devil is not omniscient. He has a powerful intellect and from experience knows many things. He knows more than any human. But only God is all-knowing.
The devil is not omnipresent. He is an individual personality who can only be in one place at one time.
When we say, “The devil is hassling me” or “Satan is tempting me,” that is (most likely) not technically true. It is doubtful that most of us would even register on his radar screen in terms of his coming after us personally. That doesn’t mean we don’t get tempted or hassled. What it means is one of his demons, one of his minions, is sent to tempt you. They are doing his bidding. It is doubtful that the big guy himself is coming after you, but in effect it is the same thing. So when we talk about “the devil” we are often referring to his demonic network. Satan himself can only be in one place at one time.
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2. The devil is working to oppose God’s kingdom, and those who build it.
We need to put on the armor of God. Why? “That you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). The word wiles carries the idea of craftiness, cunning, and deception. The term is used of a wild animal who carefully stalks and then unexpectedly pounces on its prey.
That is what the devil does. He sizes us up for attack. He has his wiles—his strategies that he uses against us. So when the apostle Paul says that we wrestle not against flesh and blood but with powers and principalities, the word wrestle is actually a phrase that describes mortal hand-to-hand combat.
This is not like a gentleman’s boxing match. This is a fight to the death.
That is what we are engaged in with Satan. He wants to stop us from coming to Christ. If we do come to Christ and believe in Him, the devil wants to immobilize us.
I mentioned the devil has a well-developed network of demons doing his dirty work. There are many references in Scripture that refer to the devil and his demons.
In Matthew 12:24, Jesus refers to Satan as Beelzebub and the prince of the demons. Beelzebub means “lord of the flies.” Jesus refers in Matthew 25:41 to “the devil and his angels.” In Revelation 12:7, we read about “the dragon and his angels.” These angels are demons. Demons are fallen angels.
The purpose of demons seems to be twofold. They seek to hinder the purposes of God and to extend the kingdom and power of Satan. In fact, Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 2:18 that he wanted to go to them but that Satan blocked his way. Sometimes that happens. The devil gets in the way.
Paul even mentioned his own personal struggles with demon powers that were allowed by God. Paul said that after his revelation of heaven, there was sent to him a messenger of Satan to humble him—to buffet him. Three times, Paul says, he pleaded with the Lord to take it away. But God said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Listen, when God blesses a person in a powerful and significant way, when God elevates a person to have great influence, you can be sure of this one thing: they are going to experience spiritual attack.
We need to pray for our spiritual leaders. It is very easy to judge them. It is very easy to criticize them. Or sometimes we even envy them. But you don’t know the price they personally pay. You don’t know what they have to face. The enemy attacks them in many ways. Sometimes God will allow these things to keep a person humble and dependent upon God. We need to pray for them as they experience spiritual warfare.
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3. The devil is subject to God’s power.
We’ve talked about what the devil can do. He can hassle you. He can tempt you. Now I am going to tell you what he can’t do. He cannot control you. No Christian should ever say, “The devil made me do it.” The devil can’t make you do anything that you don’t want to do.
If you fell into some sin, don’t say, “The devil made me do it.” Say, “The devil tempted me, and I went for it.” You had a part to play.
Let me say this, however: Though the Christian is surrounded by a wall of protection given by God, the nonbeliever has no wall of protection at all. The nonbeliever is essentially a sitting duck. And when that nonbeliever gets into occultism or mysticism or sometimes even through drugs, it can open the door to demonic influence. You don’t want to do that.
The only power that can stop Satan is Jesus Christ. Nothing else. A crucifix will not stop the devil. Holy water will not stop Satan. A silver bullet will not kill him. Putting garlic around your neck won’t deter him. Those superstitions may work on werewolves and vampires in the movies, but they won’t keep demons away.
The only power Satan respects is the power of Jesus Christ. Let Him be your shield against the fiery arrows of the enemy.
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Greg Laurie is the pastor and founder of the Harvest churches in California and Hawaii and of Harvest Crusades. He is an evangelist, best-selling author and movie producer. His new book Billy Graham: The Man I Knew (Salem Books), released on April 13.