Thursday, June 30, 2005

Faith: Do you believe in Satan?

There's nothing wrong with believing in the personification of evil that we call Satan (Hebrew for adversary, accuser or prosecuting attorney) and his legions of devils. It's scriptural, it's traditional and it sometimes can be inferred through experiences such as spiritual oppression or possession and the chief Christ-centered methods to combat them: intercession, spiritual warfare and exorcism. Most of us, believers or no, are never going to experience anything quite as vivid as a Frank Peretti novel come to life, however.

One problem, I think, is that so many Christians believe in Satan on hearsay or someone else's say-so. Many of those who think of themselves as true believers have little or no experience actually battling evil, because their lives are not truly courageous enough to be a threat to the enemy that would seek to counter their virtuous examples. (Please don't give Satan the credit for your car's breakdown as his personal attack on your virtue of patience.)

Another problem is believers who see Satan under every rock. This is not vigilance for battle, it's trepidation and fear. It's Chicken Little. It's overreaction, it's slapping your skin at every breeze because mosquitoes and flies drive you buggy. Spiritual courage comes from God, yes, but not in a vacuum; it requires two more things: Personal experience and spiritual discernment, or "seeing what is really going on."

A believer is not strong spiritually until he can face what he used to regard as temptation -- a realistic threat to his personal choice for holiness -- unflinching. Not by his own strength but by God's, grown knitted and suffused into his bones.


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