“He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.”
– Luke 11:23
Back in the mid-1980s, Christian author Frank Peretti published a novel that rattled a lot of Christians—including me. The novel, “This Present Darkness,” is set in the small college town of
. In the story, the chief editor of the
local newspaper and the pastor of the town’s struggling church discover
something very unnerving: Ashton is a ground zero for a flood of demonic
activity. Thousands of demons are flying overhead and lurking in shadows,
steering the course of events in their little town. Like puppeteers, these
demons are pulling nonChristians’ strings to get them to do exactly what Satan
wants them to do. Ashton
In one scene I don’t think I’ll ever forget, a demon hovers over someone’s head, sticks his bony little finger through his skull, and stirs his thoughts. As a teenager, that image just about gave me nightmares. In his book, Frank Peretti shared vivid and imaginative ideas of what demonic activity might look like in the invisible realm. And even though it was a fictional story, it opened a lot of Christians’ minds to the reality of spiritual warfare.
Jesus understood spiritual warfare better than anyone. At the very beginning of his ministry, freshly baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus went mano-a-mano with Satan himself. He spent 40 days and 40 nights in the desert battling Satan’s temptations, overcoming every one of them with the Word of God lifted up in prayer. Over the next three years of his earthly ministry, Jesus encountered demons time and time again. And in Luke 11:23, Jesus makes it clear that it is impossible to be on the fence in spiritual warfare: “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.”
In verses 24-26, Jesus tells of a demon who, for whatever reason, vacates a man’s soul. The demon wanders the desert looking for rest and doesn’t find it. So, he decides to return to the man he left. “When [the demon] arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order” (v. 25). In other words, the man had cleaned up his act since the demon left him. Perhaps he got off drugs, stopped cheating on his wife, and got himself a steady job. But his soul was empty because he still hadn’t invited the Spirit of Jesus Christ into his life.
In the parable, Jesus continues: “Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first” (vs. 25-26). In other words, the demon said to himself, “Easy smeezy! I’ll grab seven of my buddies, and the eight of us will have no problem storming the gates to this man’s soul and moving right back in.” The demons did just that, and as time passed, the man’s condition was worse than ever. What happened? Well, let me share three lessons that William Barclay draws from Jesus’ illustration:
#1: You can’t leave a man’s soul EMPTY. In our pride we think we have so much willpower against Satan’s attacks. We think we can sit on the sidelines of the great spiritual war and not take sides. We think we can leave our souls empty. But we can’t. If we don’t freely choose to join Jesus’ team and ask him to fill our hearts, whether we like it or not, Satan will drag us onto his team, and he will fill our hearts. If God is not in the driver’s seat of your life, one way or another, Satan will be in the driver’s seat.
#2: It’s not real religion if it’s nothing but NEGATIVES. The man in Jesus’ illustration thought that getting rid of the demon was all it took to be in a good place. The evil was gone. So, life must be good … right? No. It doesn’t work that way. Good isn’t simply the absence of bad. True religion does include the negative—NOT doing certain things. But it can’t be boiled down to a list of “Thou shalt nots.” Far too many nonChristians in our community have been given the impression that Christianity is just an oppressive list of “don’ts.” But Christianity is so much more. It’s not just about expelling the evil. It’s about being filled with our good Savior and penetrating this world with his mercy and grace and love and goodness.
#3: The best way to avoid evil is to do good. I don’t know about you, but I find that I’m not nearly as mean to people when I’m being nice to people. My actions tend to steer clear of evil when I’m busy doing what is good. My thoughts don’t wander off in depressed or bitter or lustful directions when I’m keeping myself busy doing God’s work. In James 1:27, God’s word tells us, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: To look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
You and I must choose a side: Either Jesus Christ’s side or Satan’s side. And the word of the Lord is this: “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.” In other words, “Trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, and he will come inside you and fill your heart and your soul. And when he does, you will be full of God, and there will be no room for the enemy.” So, choose Jesus. Be filled with Jesus. Obey his word, and you will be blessed.
"Holy Huldah: Lessons You Should Never Forget from Bible Characters You've Never Heard Of." For more information, visit www.YourVictorvilleChurch.com, and join us for our Worship Celebration Sundays at 10 a.m.