Summary: Interesting things happen when the devil shows up at church
The Devil at Church
* This story occurs in the normal flow of the life pattern of our Lord. He has just given the call to the fisherman to ‘follow me’ and now, in a very normal pattern for Him, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath to teach. This man who was possessed by an unclean spirit (demon-possessed) was in attendance. It would seem that this man had lucid periods in his life or he would not have been admitted. (If we make an application today we understand that those who are controlled by Satan do indeed have lucid moments where they are not recognized. Jesus referred to them as “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”)
* Quite likely, this was not this man’s first trip into the synagogue. Perhaps he had been there several times with no incident. Yet, when God showed up he showed out. It took the presence of God to evoke such a response from him. All too often this is the way if happens. Church (as we call it) goes on with little or no response. Then God shows up and when He shows up, all bets are off. The very presence of God is enough to cause a reaction from Satan. Consider three lessons from this:
1. The Attraction to the Devil – Here are the religious people getting together ostensibly to worship God, so why in the world would Satan want to have ‘his unclean spirit (a demon) at church? What would be the attraction? Why would he even want to be there? Think about it;
a. He’s always been religious. He is monotheistic which means that he knows & believes there is only one God- James tells us this. While he is opposed to Christianity (living like Christ), he is not opposed to “churchianity”. He loves to see people gather who are insincere about their worship. Where a crowd shows us (for whatever reason), the devil wants to be close by because he loves meetings.
b. He’s always looking for easy prey to deceive. When you consider this ‘demon possessed’ man & consider the myriad of other reported demon-possessions in the Bible, it is easy to know that the devil wants to control people. If he can get you before God does, then he can control you. The people who are easy to control are those who are not already under God’s control. I think this is what happened to Judas, Agrippa, and others. Satan wants us to ‘think’ that he knows best & sadly many believe his lie. He is seeking to possess the lost & oppress the saved. If you are an authentic believer wants to sift you. This is what Jesus told Peter that the devil wanted to do. He will not be happy as long as you have any spiritual life left in you. He shows up at church to see who’s vulnerable, deceivable, & controllable.
c. He’s always seeking worship. – Above everything else, he desires your worship. It was evident in Isaiah 14 when he rebelled against God, it was evident in Matthew 4 when he tempted Jesus, it continue to be evident in the Revelation where he still desires to be worshipped. Candidly, we worship him every time we give him first place in our lives. He puts temptations in our lives to pulls us away from God & toward him. We worship him when we give in to him at that moment bow down to him – and that is what he wants. This is his attraction to church meetings.
2. The Aim of the Devil – or better said, “Why does he hope to accomplish in here?”
A) He wants to undo what God does. When God shows up, Satan wants to be close at hand to try to explain away God’s workings. Have you ever wondered why we seem to see so little of the miraculous deliverances or the glorious changes in lives? It is because of our unbelief. Satan worms his way into churches, our services, and our hearts planting the seed of unbelief that a ‘miracle could happen here’ & again, we believe the lie. Our lack of belief limits our Lord. The saddest verse is Matthew 13:58 which says, “And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief.” God acts to develop our belief & the devil to destroy our belief. That’s why he’s here!
B) He wants to place doubt in the minds of people. Where clear & truthful teaching occurs, the devil will try to counter it by placing doubts in the minds of the listeners. Satan is the great counterfeiter! He is that little voice inside your head which says, “It’s not that important” or “That’s not right” or “The Bible says, but I believe.” It is in this way that Satan has us ‘missing’ Matthew 6:33- “Seek first the Kingdom of God.” Just stop there & admit that we have missed this mark.