This past week I was troubled by the ease Satan exerted in influencing those who were following Jesus Christ, in the New Testament. I want to clarify that I am not writing of being tempted or being demonized (possessed) by an unclean spirit or demolishing a stronghold, even though the discipline for combating our topic (the ease of Satan influencing followers of Christ) will certainly bear fruit in these areas of spiritual.
My proposition is as follows…
- The scriptures illustrate Satan can easily enter into influencing a follower of Christ, even when that follower thinks they are on the narrow road.
- The scriptures reveal how ignorant followers of Christ can be when Satan is influencing them or one of our number.
- The word of God reveals the place Satan enters our life in order to influence us and subsequently the discipline needed to cut off his access.
ONE MOMENT GOOD AND THE NEXT BAD?
In Matthew’s gospel chapter 16 we see perhaps one of the most polarizing turn of events in the entirety of scripture. First we see Jesus commending Peter and proclaiming a profound truth.
Matthew 16:16-18 (NKJV) Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.
Here we see Jesus pronouncing blessing over Peter’s life for believing the revelation the Father gave him concerning Jesus. Subsequently Jesus proclaims Satan’s kingdom will never prevail against church. Fantastic!!! Peter must have been on top of the world. Yet in spite of this wonderful commendation from our Savior, Peter was about to have a very cold bucket of water dumped on his head, in a rebuke from our Master only a few verses later…
Matthew 16:21-23 (NKJV) From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”
In looking at the other two records of this encounter in the Gospel’s of Mark and Luke we find that, Jesus rebuke of Peter was directly on the heels of His commendation of the disciple.
It is clear that Satan was influencing Peter, for Jesus said to Peter “Get behind me Satan!” What is not apparent is how Peter went from being influenced by the Holy Spirit to being influenced by Satan in such a short time frame. Two things must be noted as we move forward… 1) None one but Jesus filled with the Holy Spirit, on this occasion, was aware that Peter was being influenced by Satan. 2) We must be careful following moments of great revelation; for Satan will look to minimize the effect of the revelation moving forward.
SATAN ENTERS JUDAS
Let us now move to consider Judas Iscariot. John’s Gospel 13:18-29 gives us some enlightening and scary details concerning his betrayal of our Savior. In this passage Jesus is asked to identify the one whom would betray Him. Jesus tells John it would be the one who he gives a piece of bread to directly. Judas is of course that man, but consider what the scripture reveals further…
John 13:27-29 (NKJV) Now after the piece of bread, Satan entered him. Then Jesus said to him, “What you do, do quickly.” But no one at the table knew for what reason He said this to him. For some thought, because Judas had the money-box, that Jesus had said to him, “Buy those things we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor.
The word for “entered” in the Greek language means ‘to enter into or to or go through”. The meaning is fairly plain, yet Judas was primed earlier by the enemy to do this very thing, as recorded in John 13:2 where it the word of God tells us Satan had already put the thought of betraying Jesus in Judas heart. Luke’s Gospel gets more specific concerning how the thought got into Judas heart.
Luke 22:3 (NKJV) Then Satan entered Judas, surnamed Iscariot, who was numbered among the twelve.
Note that the word “entered” is the same Greek word used in John’s Gospel. Two things are again apparent from Judas being influenced by Satan that mirror Peter’s encounter 1) Although under Satan’s direct influence, he does not appear to other to be normal, not demonized to any degree. He has no violent and crazy behavior, no naked running around, or growling, or self violence. Judas appears to be normal. 2) Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit without measure is the only one that is aware.
WE CAN’T BE FOOLED LIKE THEM CAN WE?
I realize even asking the question above will ….
- Stir some to scoff at the notion of Satan influencing those who are redeemed contrary to God’s will, who are supposed to have the Holy Spirit .
- Effect those blissfully ignorant to the unseen spiritual battle raging all around us little if at all.
- Stimulate some to find a demon behind every rock in explaining “attack”, failures” or events contrary to their liking.
All three of the above notions are in error, and sadly in this writers experience are the dominant practical theological positions in our contemporary Christian culture. In our day and age, where it would appear the signs of time (Spoken of by Jesus in Matthew 24) are exploding across the world, Christians in our nation are living relatively shallow spiritual lives, unaware of deeper spiritual reality.
One need only to see the violent brutality, audacious sexual immorality, and the redefinition of humanity being portrayed in media and acted out in public view, to understand the American society has become almost reprobate. It is no longer a stretch to see the “land of the free” and the “home of the brave” has become “a dwelling place for demons, a prison for every foul spirit” (Revelation 18:2).
In spite of these things being evident, the church is still stuck in lethargy and self-focused individual congregation building. With breakneck pace fellowships split over almost anything, where the opposition parties both proclaim divine right for their preference. It seems they have never read James admonition/rebuke “But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, sensual demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exists, confusion and every evil thing are there” (James 3:14-16). Even a cursory read of James epistle makes clear that the readers following satanic and subtle wisdom of the kingdom of darkness led to division in the body of Christ.
This influence from Satan’s kingdom also halted their preaching of the Gospel in the community of lost men, as they exchanged the great commission, for catering to those “lost” who would come to their meetings and fund their operations. View the landscape of Christianity in this nation. When was the last time a Christian knocked at your door with the intention of sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ? In Contrast when was the last time you saw a sign for a “VBS” or “outreach event” or some beneficial program around the churches of your town?
Some would declare that only the Jehovah’s Witness and Mormons door knock. This may be true in our time, but that does not make it any less a biblical command. On the other hand, claiming that other solid churches are doing outreach as described above, is certainly not a justifiable reason for continuing its practice, no matter what the effect.
The above mentioned thinking is the way Satan plants counter biblical thought. Counter biblical thought leads to actions that take us from the will of God. The scriptures declare abundantly in the New Testament how easily Satan can move into our influence, through the warnings and admonitions to be on guard. Below are only a few.
1 Peter 5:8-9 (NKJV) Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.
Paul relates how Satan influences the church when the Gospel is overly complex…
2 Corinthians 11:3-4 (NKJV) But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted—you may well put up with it!
And still further the word of God declares…
2 Corinthians 11:14-15 (NKJV) And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.
Part of our defense, beyond being sober and vigilant, is the supernatural power of God through the gifts of the spirit described in I Corinthians 13, especially the “discerning of spirits” (I Corinthians 12:10). This gift of the Spirit is given for the purpose of discerning the spirit of antichrist entering in among the saints (I John 4:1-3). When the church has not recognized Satan’s often hidden influence, individual bondage ensues, God’s will is hindered by those of His own household and the unity of the church is at risk.
2 Timothy 2:23-26 (NKJV) But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.
HOW WE CUT OFF SATAN ENTERING OUR INFLUENCE
Matthew 16:24-25 (NKJV) Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it,
Jesus speaks these words directly following His rebuke of Peter, which reveals how Satan entered into his influence Peter’s influence. They also reveal how Satan entered Judas life and ours for the purpose of influencing us. The place of entry is when we are protecting SELF! When we are looking to protect self with all its interests, entitlements, preferences, and wants, we are on fertile ground for corruption through satanic influence. Therefore we are called not just to DENY the grosser desires of our baser nature, but to practice self-denial, in all areas of our life. This is not to be ascetic but to learn to trust the Lord for His direction and permission for our good and His glory.
Secondly we must recognize the need to be about the work of the Lord Jesus exclusively, as much as possible, wherever we are in our lives.
As a follower of Jesus our shopping is no longer for our needs, our work no longer to obtain provision, our rest no longer to fill our need for excitement or even rest; they are to be platforms for our being filled with the Holy Spirit, for the purpose of proclaiming Christ Jesus the Messiah. This is what it means to “take up your cross and follow Jesus. This necessary discipline in our lives leads us to the third necessary element in cutting off Satan’s entering our influence: being filled with the Holy Spirit.
Ephesians 5:18 admonishes us to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Most of my readers will say “Amen” to that declaration, but many misunderstand what it means in practical reality. Contrary to popular opion being filled with the Holy Spiritd does not generally happen the moment a person is saved and sealed, although it could (as was Cornelius household in Acts 10:34-44).
*[Consider the progression of the disciples from sealed to filled: John 20:22-23; Luke 24:45, 49; Acts 1:4,8, 2:4, 4:31, 8:15-17, 10:34-43, 19:1-7; Ephesians 5:18)]
Being filled with the Holy Spirit is to be the ongoing and miraculously powered sharing of the divine nature (II Peter 1:4), where we live in the fulfillment of what Jesus declares in John 7:37-38. This state of Christian life is like having a mighty river of resurrection power animating our obedience to God’s word. This is blessed union with Christ Jesus through the Holy Spirit fullness, whereby we do these things and greater, as we walk as He walked. In this fullness the promise of power over all the enemy becomes practical and real. It is in this state that we are the least vulnerable.
*[REMEMBER vulnerable does not mean invulnerable. Peter even after being filled with the Holy Spirit fell to satanic influence through respecting persons and legalism]
How are you growing in self-denial, walking in the Great Commission to proclaim Christ wherever you are walking? Are you being filled to overflowing with the Spirit? We have not more time to dally in dipping our toes in, we must dive into the ocean of God’s fullness. We must cut off Satan’s entering our influence. Too much is at stake!!!