Summary: Allies and Enemies!

Over the last decade, Frank Peretti has done more to cause Christians to think about the reality of demons than any other author. He wrote several best-selling novels beginning with This Present Darkness. He followed up with Piercing the Darkness. These wildly popular novels explained the trials and tribulations of a small Pastor as being the result of demonic forces who arrayed themselves in opposition to the Gospel. I recommend them as good fiction and even with the hope that they might open your mind to consider the reality of the Devil’s work to frustrate the perfect will of God in this world. A caution is in order! Don’t be foolish like some Christians who read them as fact and organized prayer meetings for the beleaguered Pastor and church in the story! It is a fictional book. But it can help you to think of the spirit realm that while invisible, surrounds us. That is the intent of our text passage.

Turn this morning to Ephesians 6. In your Pew Bible you’ll find the passage on page 1824.

Beginning at v. 10 we read . . .

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (NIV)

It would be a wrong conclusion to think that all of the difficulties in life are directly brought on us by the Devil or demons. Some of our sickness, our poverty, our relationship problems are the result of our own wrong or poor choices. We know, too, that some of our suffering is causes by viruses that infect our cells, bacteria that attack our health, and even genetic coding that makes us prone to different problems.

Yet, we must take seriously the words that I read to you from the Bible about those “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms!” We must not become so seduced by the materialistic explanations of life’s challenges, so that we forget the real and powerful spiritual world that surrounds us and that opposes God’s purposes for us.

Today I want to talk with you about...Angels and Demons [ pray ]

Before we talk about the grim stuff, let’s discuss the bright side.

I find that people are much more open to the possibility of the supernatural and the spiritual than they were 20 years ago. Though many are skeptical of biblical Christianity, I am encouraged that people want to talk about God! There is no place where this renewed interest in things spiritual is more evident than in the prominence of angels. Angels have made a real comeback in the last few years! One of the most popular programs on TV features a trio of angels who step into real life situations and help people to figure out that God is on their side.

Monica, Tess, Andrew, and Gloria capture the attention of millions every Saturday evening for an hour.

Is this portrayal of angelic presence accurate? No, it’s TV.

Do angels really act like a cranky African American woman or a pretty Irish lass? I think not!

Never the less, the fact that a popular program reflects God’s care for the world through the ministry of angels is a good thing.

Are there really angels?

According to the Bible, yes! Scriptures speak often of angels (about 200 times in the New Testament alone), but explains little about them. We are left to read between the lines to know much about them.

The most basic role that angels play is that of messengers of God. The word, “angel” in the New Testament means – “one who brings news.”

The Bible tells us several important things about these messengers that should encourage us in as we engage ourselves in the struggle to influence the world with righteousness and to do battle to defeat evil.

1. Angels are spirit beings.

Hebrews 1:14 “Are not all angels ministering spirits?”(NIV) We do learn that the angels can take on physical form and interact with the physical world, but they are spirit beings without bodies like us.

2. Angels are supernaturally powerful beings.

In the Bible angels are recorded as having opened prison doors, rolled away the stone at the grave of Jesus, and even engaging in war with evil men. In the book of the Revelation, John speaks of angels who “bind Satan,” taking him into custody. God grants them the ability from time to time to even change the course of nature.

Revelation 7:1 After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four

winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree. (NIV) In Psalm 103:20 we read, “Praise the Lord, you angels of his, you mighty creatures who carry out his plans,

listening for each of his commands.”

3. Angels are personal beings.

It is a mistake to think of these spirit beings as impersonal forces like a hurricane, an earthquake, or electricity. They are loving, joyful, intelligent beings who delight in doing the will of God and carrying out His orders in the world as they are sent to do so.

4. Angels are not gods. These beings are created, finite beings lower than God, but superior to us.

5. Angels are not the spirits of people who have died!

A common misconception is that when people die, they become angels. Humans and angels are distinctly different orders in God’s creation. Nowhere in the Bible are we taught that our destiny is to become angels.

6. Angels are sent to be the Believers ally in the struggle against sin, evil, and the darkness of Satan.

Psalm 91:11-14 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways;

12 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.

13 You will tread upon the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

Hebrews 1:14

Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?

In some mysterious way, God directs His angels to be our guardians from time to time. However, the popular idea that each of us has an angel watching over him at all times, is not based in the Bible. If that were true, then we would be hard pressed to understand why some of us die in tragic accidents or at the hands of cruel murderers. What the Bible does teach is that God sends, in His plan and purpose, angels to guide us towards His will and to help us when we are under spiritual attack.

The role of angels is captured for us in a brief passage in the NT. It is the story of Mary’s visitation. In Luke 1, you recall the story. God sent Gabriel to bring a young girl named Mary the astonishing news that she was going to bear the Messiah. This angel appears to her, scaring her nearly to death, and announces her pregnancy, even though she had never had sexual relations with Joseph to whom she was engaged. The angel gives the message, encourages her, and explains the purpose of God before he leaves her. The difficult experience that she was about to go through was made more acceptable by the ministry of an angel.

What does this information have to do with us?

We need to be aware of the angels in our lives. When we worship we join with angels in worship. We do not err if we ask the Father to grant us angelic presence as we deal with specific dangers. We should know that angels can witness our obedience or lack thereof even in secret.

Hebrews 13:2 Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!

Now let’s take a look at the darker side of this spiritual realm that surrounds us.

The Bible also teaches us that we contend with demons. This subject makes many of us uncomfortable. It may seem to be a throwback to medieval superstitions. However, a person cannot read the Bible as the Word of God without accepting the reality of demons.

A major part of Jesus Christ’s ministry was given to confronting demonic powers and releasing people from the control and/or influence of demons. If we deny that demons exist, we discredit Jesus and His good news. He told us that one of the signs of His kingdom was the overthrow of demonic powers.

Matthew 12:22 Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. -- 28 if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. (NIV)

I cannot read of the wickedness of humanity or the cruelty that men are capable of visiting on each other without believing in the reality of wicked spirits called demons. The atrocities of the Nazi regime, the horror of My Lai in Vietnam, the slaughter of millions in Rwanda, the viciousness of the Serbs in Bosnia, the cold brutality of young men devoted to Islam who crashed airliners into tall buildings... these are not simply the work of twisted minds. This kind of evil is masterminded and orchestrated by people who are controlled by the agents of the Devil, the demons who delight in destruction and death.

The Devil and his demons ARE AT WORK, but they prefer that we not see them most of the time. They are content to work through people and situations to do their work of destruction.

The Bible is not clear as to the origin of demons, but hints that they were angels who left their service of God during a rebellion in Heaven led by Satan. We read in Revelation 12:7-9

And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. 8 But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. 9 The great dragon was hurled down -- that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. (NIV)

Like angels, demons are spiritual beings. Jesus referred to them often as “evil spirits.” They serve Satan’s purposes, opposing the work and will of God in the world. They are powerful beings who can and do impact our lives. How?

A. They inflict disease and physical suffering.

Matthew 17:14-18 A man approached Jesus and knelt before him. 15 "Lord, have mercy on my son," he said. "He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. 16 I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.” . . . “Bring the boy here to me." 18 Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed from that moment. (NIV)

B. They cause mental torment.

C. They incite to war, violence, and cruelty.

D. They are the power behind false religions.

E. They tempt and seduce Believers to forsake the service of God.

1 Timothy 4:1 The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. (NIV)

We need to understand the power and influence of demons. To ignore them or to disbelieve their existence gives them a fairly free hand in our lives. Our text reminds us to be strong in the Lord and to be mindful of our spiritual foes. {Ephesians 6:10-12} Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. ... take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, . . against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (NIV)

Yet, the Bible assures us of our victory so we need not have undue fear.

James 4:7-8 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (NIV)

A key question that many Believers ask about demons is this: Can we be possessed?

It is not a silly question. It is best answered by understanding the way in which we are influenced by the spiritual realm. Every person, Christian and non-Christian, is influenced by the demons in the world. The influence that they have over a person’s life ranges from the ordinary temptations at one end of the scale to near total control at the other end. Demons work on us to cause fear, doubt, despair, lust, greed, and hatred all the time. They attempt to skew our perception of reality and the work of God. That is part and parcel of being a Christian.

The Word tells us that we should not be dismayed when we feel tempted. {1 Corinthians 10:13}

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. (NIV)

What we need to know is this: when a person is filled with the Holy Spirit of God the ability of demons to influence his life is curtailed. That is the point of the armor of God passage of Ephesians 6 which we studied last week.

As we put on Christ, His truth, His righteousness, His peace, and live in His presence... demons are defeated at every level in our lives! If we choose to live disobediently in willful sin, we create gaps in our defense becoming vulnerable to increasing levels of demonic influence. That is why the Word warns us {Ephesians 4:27} “do not give the devil a foothold.” (NIV)

We need to learn how to exercise the spiritual authority that belongs to us in Christ Jesus. I hear some misguided Believers rebuking and binding Satan and demons constantly. It is like an incantation that they mutter over and over. What’s wrong with that? Two things:

a. As Christians our focus is not Satan or demons, it is Christ! And,

b. It is not our primary business to go around yelling at demons, real or imagined!

Our authority does not need to be trumpeted all that often. Being grounded in Christ and filled with praise gives us the power and authority that we need most of the time. You do not need to rebuke demons when you begin your day, but you definitely should offer up prayerful thanksgiving for your salvation and invite the Spirit of God to fill up your emotions, your intellect, and your will. Our authority is primarily in attitude: a Christ-centered attitude.

*ill.- Real leaders who exercise authority do so without screaming, yelling, or reminding others of their

rank or position. IF a person has to resort to that, he is usually on shaky ground all ready!

Demons know when YOU KNOW who you are in Christ and when you are full of the power of the Holy Spirit and they know when you’re not! The NT has a story that is rather humorous, but the lesson is serious one!

Acts 19:13-18

A team of Jews who were traveling from town to town casting out evil spirits tried to use the name of the Lord Jesus. The incantation they used was this: “I command you by Jesus, whom Paul preaches, to come out!” Seven sons of Sceva, a leading priest, were doing this.

But when they tried it on a man possessed by an evil spirit, the spirit replied, “I know Jesus, and I know Paul. But who are you?”

And he leaped on them and attacked them with such violence that they fled from the house, naked and badly injured. The story of what happened spread quickly all through Ephesus, to Jews and Greeks alike. A solemn fear descended on the city, and the name of the Lord Jesus was greatly honored.

Many who became believers confessed their sinful practices.

To be sure, there will be times when POWER ENCOUNTERS take place. You may run up against a person who is full of evil, what we mind call, possessed. In such encounters there is a place for taking authority, speaking to the demon in the name of Jesus, and binding that evil spirit from further destruction. Even in these moments, the Christian should never forget that his authority comes only from Jesus Christ. No demon is intimidated by our feeble blustering and bluffs. If we shift from the authority of Christ to our own strength, we will find ourselves powerless in the face of evil.

Our primary call is to make the Kingdom of God known. How?

The Bible tells us in 1 Peter 2:9-18 . I won’t read the entire passage, just excerpts.

“ But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. . . I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. . . Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.”

Since we have been delivered from the kingdom of darkness into the light of Christ, let’s live in the light. His light shining in us will dispel the darkness. A Christ-centered Christian will be so much more joyful, so much more contented, so much more loving.

The spiritual realm is real. Learn to discern. Ask God to teach you by His Word and by His Spirit to see the effects of Satan and his messengers in the world so that you will be effective in confronting and defeating evil.

Thank God for the messengers of His kingdom as well, the angels sent to serve us. I think you and I do well to invite God to give us angels of protection, but be careful not to pray to angels! They strictly forbade any one from that practice in the Bible.

Finally, live in the Spirit! Allow the bright Light of Jesus to shine through you and you will be an effective agent of the Kingdom of heaven.